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Beyond “Just Checking In:” How to Build Effective Nurture Campaigns

By Jackie Walts

How many times have you gotten this email from a sales person: Hi _____, I’m just checking in to see if . . . blah, blah, blah. This is typically a second email, one that follows an introductory or sales communication that you didn’t respond to. It usually has a familiar tone, breezily presuming you just forgot to hold up your end of a relationship that doesn’t yet exist. This is what passes for a “nurture” email in many demand gen organizations. But that’s not nurturing. In fact, it’s just a waste of everyone’s time.

It will not come as a shock to you that not every lead you generate is qualified, informed and ready to buy. In fact, in most cases, they’re not. But they could be, if you nurture them in the right way. An effective nurture campaign does not simply pepper the prospect with check ins. It informs, engages and gets leads ready for sales. Here are some tips for doing it right:

1. Segment new leads.

Brand new leads gave you their contact information so they could learn something — particularly if they responded to an educational content offer or attended an event. Don’t expect them to book a meeting or buy something right off the bat. With these prospects you want to continue to educate them and build a relationship to get them to the point where they might want to talk — or buy.

2. Segment prospects who need to be won back.

These are the people that started to engage with your sales team and chose not to buy, or took the first call and then just went cold. Rather than just leaving them in an endlessly spinning cycle of “checking in,” your goal here is to get them re-engaged.

3. Segment for relevance.

A generic newsletter to the entire database is not nurturing. In addition to breaking your nurture segments down by level of engagement, also consider industry, size of company, product fit or anything other segmentation that gives you something to say that is uniquely meaningful.

4. Figure out what to say.

If you haven’t already, map out the buyer’s journey. Document the obstacles your prospect is encountering along the way, and what information they need to get past them. Then create a content strategy to take them from the day they identify as a lead to the day they buy. This helps you get a handle on how long the buying cycle is to make sure your nurture streams have enough touches. If people buy quickly, a few emails will do it. If you have a six month decision cycle, you’ll need a lot of content.

5. Plan a mix of content.

Don’t stress over content format. Keep it simple. Not everything has to be brand new or fancy. Consider blogs, cheat sheets and infographics. As long as it’s well executed, relevant and gets response, you’re fine. The truth is, your audience is busy and if every offer is a 45-minute webinar or a half hour read, they won’t respond, simply because they don’t have the time.

6. Create a nurture map.

This should document how folks come into nurture, move down the pipe and get handed off to sales. Don’t overcomplicate it. Typically, there are three nurture stages — “Education” (where prospects don’t know much about the problem your company solves and want to learn); “Investigate” (where they want to know why they should consider your solution); and “Selection” (where they’re ready to make a buying decision).

7. Determine your triggers.

To move prospects from one stage to the next, either move them based on engagement metrics, or use lead scoring. If you want folks to move faster towards a sale, add in accelerator emails. These are a second send to the same prospect with a related, richer offer or the chance to meet with a rep. If they engage, they can vault ahead and move more quickly to becoming a sales ready lead.

8. Always address WIIFM.

The whole point of nurture is to build on a relationship, so every single touch must clearly show them the WIIFM: “What’s In It For Me.” Does your email copy give a reason for the recipient to care? Have you been crystal clear about what you want them to do? Here’s a quick WIIFM test: Count how many times in your copy you say “I” or “we.” If it’s a lot, and a lot more than you say “you,” rethink your approach, putting yourself in your prospect’s shoes. Ditto if you find yourself using the words “checking in.” These should never, ever be used in a nurture campaign.

About Jackie Walts

Jackie Walts is a demand generation consultant with over 20 years of specializing in helping companies kick off or refine lead generation programs. Her clients include Autodesk, Ridecell, Cognoa, Viansa Winery and Marketo.

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