I was browsing through the latest Alert from CustomerThink.com called The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing (click the appropriate box) sponsored by Marketo. I just wanted to touch on something that was mentioned in a sidebar because I think it’s important. We nurture leads for the purpose of building trust so when they approach a point where they have identified a need, they more readily associated us with the solution. In order to get to that point, your content and timing need to be consistent and relevant.
To quote “Lead nurturing is not:
- Sending out an e-newsletter on a semi-regular basis
- Randomly calling leads every six weeks to see if they are ready to buy
- Blasting your entire database with a new case study
- Offering content that promotes your company’s products and services and does not take into account your prospects interests or needs at their stage of buying
How can you tell? Ask yourself if the information you’re providing will be useful to them even if they never buy from you.“
This is all good advice; but I have to ask whether the silo of marketing in your business has the capability to…
- Determine customer groups’ unmet needs
- Determine what stage of the buying cycle (or awareness cycle) a company is in – relative to the unmet needs
- Independently create content that a potential customer would find valuable even if they don’t purchase from you.
How often do we find websites and blogs where the byline is clearly by someone who has little or no expertise in the topic they are covering? I get contacted frequently by these folks to be interviewed (I know many of you do to) on topics that are often convoluted; based on some new hot buzz phrase. What about your internal marketing team? Are the bylines from marketing associates, or do you take the time to tap the experience of your corporate intellect?
Sadly, in the rush to meet activity-based marketing metrics, it is often more expedient (and good for your career) to push out mass volumes of homogenous messaging related to products; or whatever other content can be quickly copied and pasted. I’ve said it before, be careful what you measure or you’ll never accomplish what you are really hoping to.
It actually gets to the point where people believe the sky will fall if they turn this fire hose off! Maybe sales would go up.
To get this done properly, the Marketing Dept. cannot act alone. In the real world, teams naturally form to solve problems. Only in the corporate world are they defined by function or location. If your teams are designed to naturally fulfill a purpose specifically related to a customer’s unmet needs (or a group of customers with similar unmet needs), they will look more like the lifecycle of the customer, and less like a management hierarchy (horizontal vs vertical).
Each functional representative of the team will bring resources from their discipline. Each team member will act as both an internal supplier and an internal customer – with respect to other team members. Marketing will provide qualified leads to Sales; Sales will provide constructive feedback to marketing; Sales will provide orders to be fulfilled; the fulfillment team member will provide constructive feedback to sales (and ultimately to marketing). And so on – it’s a continuous improvement feedback loop and used very effectively in the Lean world (no, not Lean startups, we’re not trying to fail fast here, we’re trying to succeed).
If you’re going to nurture prospects correctly, skip the marketing associate but don’t just get an expert from deep in your organization and ask them to write a one-off blog, or develop a few articles to sprinkle out to leads; design a system within your organization so that everyone learns and adapts. Design teams to work within the system purposely designed for each customer group (or market segment) that are cross-functional. Align your marketing to these teams and groups and use their evolving knowledge of their customers to better understand your leads and prospects. In fact, the team (of functional representatives) should be integrated into every aspect of marketing, sales, fulfillment and customer service.
Stop! I’m not talking about the Executive “team.” Go!
How can anyone be expected to build a nurture campaign(s) when they live in the vacuum of a typical mid-market marketing department? Can one-off connections between marketers and subject matter experts build a cohesive, yet dynamic experience for those leads you are nurturing? Can it be consistent if ad hoc efforts are continually tested in full scale production and results fail to wow? Can it be relevant if it was built once and put into the marketing engine forever? If that sounds like a bad idea, it probably is.
There is a lot more to nurturing leads than automating the process, imaginating (yea, I made that up just like Disney made up Imagineers) content and using worksheets designed to feed into a specific technology capability. Currently, technology is still aligned to convenient segmentation methods like demographics. If only everyone between the ages of 20 and 45 had the same needs, we could just punch a button and be done with it. I’ve got an idea (whoops), let’s segment around customer needs!
In other words, don’t just sit around and come up with ideas and then use convenient segmentation just because the world has aligned themselves to it. It may sound like harder work to implement new (or ignored) methods for understanding the problems customers are trying to solve; but continually failing to connect your message to their need has got to be more stressful in the long run. It just sounds painful to me; especially when you’re in the fulfillment world waiting for leads to convert to customers.
Just stop nurturing leads with your silly ideas and perhaps the technology world will finally realign itself to something useful…for all of us, not just them.
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.