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How to Do Intelligent Lead Nurturing

Intelligent lead nurturing has evolved from drip email marketing—and is rapidly replacing it. Drip email campaigns are static, blind to prospect behavioral signals, and are one-size-fits-all. Intelligent lead nurturing listens to prospect signals and responds appropriately, uses dynamic logic, and gives personalized suggestions. It takes into account buyer personas, buyer stages, and buyer product interest (“3 profiling programs to rule them all!”), using whatever categorizations lead to more effective marketing—marketing that fits both the prospect and the marketer.

Why you should do it

With the evolution of marketing automation, drip email campaigns have become outdated. They are built with a uniform flow in mind, set up for an ideal prospect’s journey that moves at a consistent pace. It’s an ineffective approach—because it is based on the assumption that all leads have the same problems or product interests, are educated along the buying process at the same pace, or don’t know what you’re planning to tell them.

Intelligent lead nurturing solves the problems of drip email campaigns by giving leads content at a pace appropriate to their hunger for knowledge. It offers prospects content they have not already consumed. And it more effectively educates prospects on their way down the funnel to your specific solution.

How to do it

First, you need to determine which segmentation and marketing will be most appropriate for your company, audience, and marketing automation database. Here are some common big buckets you should consider:

  • Buyer personas
  • Product interest (if you have different product lines in your company)
  • Region (if you have unique messaging for different geographical areas)
  • Buying stage

Here’s what we recommend to our B2B technology clients:

Start with one or two buyer personas. Write your emails so as to guide the prospect along the learning journey to solve a specific problem. Remember that when someone is just starting this journey, they don’t care about your product. They are looking for a solution to their problems. This is the conversation you need to lead. Not “my product is great,” but “my product can help you solve your problem.”

Create just one or two buyer persona tracks. For B2B technology companies, it will most likely include a business buyer and a technology buyer. These two types of buyers approach the process of solving a problem very differently. Create a buyer persona content map to break down these two viewpoints into three groups:

  • Awareness of a problem (early-stage buying cycle)
  • Research on how to solve that problem (mid-stage buying cycle)
  • Consideration of which solution is the best for their situation (late-stage buying cycle)

Develop and curate your content with this matrix in mind:

Use a win-win approach for content. At each point in the cycle, your content needs to educate and inform prospects about their issues and how to solve them. Think about the nature of their problem and why it exists. How can they start fixing it? Your goal is to anticipate the questions they have with content that answers their questions. This needs to be a win-win situation: they get the information they need, while you accelerate their sales cycle from Awareness to Research to Consideration to (hopefully) a decision to purchase your solution.

Showcase your carefully crafted content with emails that reflect the same attention to detail.

Ask yourself:

  • Does the subject line grab attention?
  • Is the email easy to read?
  • Does it get to the point quickly and elegantly?
  • Will it help prospects answer a frequently asked question or address a knowledge gap?

Personalize your lead nurturing program. Once you craft your emails, you can implement your own intelligent lead nurturing program. Set up transition rules between nurture streams to see when a lead’s segmentation changes. When someone gives strong Consideration signs, it’s time to start sending them Consideration-level content.

At this point, consider offering up a conversation with someone at your company to ensure that the information you are offering is valuable while minimizing the necessary commitment for the conversation. This could be an evaluation offer.

Intelligent lead nurturing 2.0 and beyond

Once you have your initial lead nurturing program up and running, you can expand your nurture streams to match your segmentation. When a prospect shows interest in a specific product, geography, or other segments, you can set up a lead nurturing track that provides a more specific path for that buying journey.

Think of this as a “choose your own adventure” roadmap. As prospects self-select which emails to open and take action on, which areas of your website to visit, and which offers to take you up on, they tell you more about what they are looking for and you can tailor your lead nurturing program to them.

Beyond basic lead nurturing tracks, here are some other ways you can further target your content to specific buyer needs.

  • Buyer persona profiling comes from a few things: well-crafted progressive profiling questions, data enrichment on an individual’s role and title, and website and email activity that is persona-targeted. This information can further inform your lead nurturing tracks.
  • Product interest/pain-point profiling can be derived from web and email activities combined with social listening. Product interest and pain points are two sides of the same coin. Product interest is what you, as a marketer of your company, might consider the important interest buckets. A pain point is the prospect’s side of that same consideration. Remember that your focus should be on the challenges your prospects face. Our recommendation—keep the pain points front and center.
  • Buyer stage scoring, which takes into account where prospects are in the buying cycle, based on how they interact with content that is targeted to specific buyer stages, such as pricing pages or office locations.

You can set up your marketing automation system to combine the calculated values of buyer persona profiling, product interest/pain-point profiling, and buyer stage scoring to move prospects into more granular nurture programs that don’t interrupt their progression in the buying journey. For example, a prospect may be deep into the research phase when his actions reveal his pain points are best addressed with a specific product line. Your lead nurturing system should move him into a nurture track for that product at the research stage, rather than starting him over at the awareness stage.

Intelligent lead nurturing can be as complex or streamlined as your marketing needs require. Start with the basics, pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, and grow from there.

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