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Agile Computing: Blog Post

Strategy Beyond the Send

One-off content offers just don't build engagement.

Strategy for B2B lead nurturing is often treated as more of an after thought—if it's thought of at all. I'm not sure exactly why, as the whole point of lead nurturing is to extend the initial attention you've caught across the buying process until the prospect is in a sales-ready state.

People talk about the components of nurturing, email campaigns, messaging, content, even touch frequency and reaching deeper across potential customer companies, and more. But when I ask them what their overall plan for prospect progression is, they seem stymied.

Like it'll just happen if they keep sending some message or newsletter every month without regard for where prospects are in their buying process, what they know or what they have yet to learn.

That's leaving a lot to chance. One-off sends aren't really the essence of building a relationship. That type of program is just putting information in front of someone multiple times and hoping you hit them when they're focused on whatever message you send that day.

For example:

Send 1: A newsletter with new product launch info, a customer spotlight using the beta version and an invitation to download a 3rd party expertise white paper.

Send 2: Email with link to a thought leadership article about the benefits of using one of your legacy products.

Send 3: Invitation to a webinar about how bundling your products together provides increasing scales of efficiency.

Do you see any storyline building? [other than focused on what the company wants to promote] Well, according to research, much of marketing communication is based on the company's product strategy, not prospect needs. Most websites are updated only when new products are launched, or when company positioning changes - excepting press and event areas.

That said, marketers seem to have enough success with this "chance" approach that the outcomes they're getting seem good enough.

But, are they? Really?

I think we can do better. I think that for sales to actually trust marketing that the prospects they hand over to sales need to be sales-ready. And marketing must have established higher levels of credibility for their companies than ever before during the pre-sales process.

Let's face it, content marketing is a big deal. Sourcing information online is how buyers in complex sales decide how to choose through learning about the options and ideas available to solve their problems. Based on the quality of those interactions, they decide who to partner with to get the outcomes they want. As more and more companies embrace the power of content marketing and create better, more customer-focused content, it's going to become more challenging to stand out.

By integrating the components of customer focus, content development, and technology with a strategic approach, you'll find it easier to differentiate your company based on your strengths and expertise.

Instead of talking, thinking and planning around the components of interactive marketing, you need to think about the whole of it—the strategy beyond the send. You need to think progressively, like your prospects do when they set out to solve a problem. One step leads to another...and another...

Here's an exercise to help you start planning a progressive nurturing approach:

  1. Think about one problem your products solve that's key to your prospects.

  2. Define that problem from your customer's perspective.

  3. List the questions they'll have and what they need to know in order to make a decision. (If you can address this to segments, all the better.)

  4. Review your options for content that addresses these concerns.

  5. Rate the Q&A for priority (take a stab and refine as you go)

  6. Create an editorial calendar based on the priority list you just created.

Do not aim for perfection. It won't happen, so give it up now.

Just get started. Monitor prospect response and behavior and make adjustments. You'll likely find gaps over time where you missed a thought leap. Create content to fill them and keep going.

Create an overview for your salespeople so they know the story you're telling. What questions and answers did you brainstorm that fall into the sales activity realm? Create content for your salespeople to use that keeps your storyline going. In fact, involve sales in the brainstorming and your chances of more closely matching the storyline to your prospect's experience of solving the problem will get better.

The key point is that marketing has to think beyond one send at a time to nurture effectively. Marketing is not an exercise in utilizing components, it's a pro-active effort to coordinate the effectiveness of their use across the prospect's experience of solving a problem.

More Stories By Ardath Albee

Ardath Albee, CEO & B2B Marketing Strategist of her firm Marketing Interactions, helps companies with complex sales increase and quantify marketing effectiveness by developing and executing interactive eMarketing strategies driven by compelling content.

Her book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, was published by McGraw-Hill.

Her articles and blog posts have been used for university ezines, published in CRM Today, Selling Power, Rain Today and Enterprise CRM News. Marketing Profs has incorporated her blog posts into a number of their "Get to The Point" newsletters.

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