In last week’s blog post, I talked about the power of lead scoring in the world of automation and inbound marketing. This week, I’m going to talk about another powerful tactic in the world of inbound marketing and marketing automation – the nurture program.
What is a nurture program?
Well, I should think you’re familiar with the word “nurture” – to care for and protect someone or something, while it grows. And that’s exactly what a nurture program is designed to do – it’s a system of predefined, mostly automated actions and marketing activities that is designed to care for a contact or lead as they grow into a customer. Imagine for a minute that you are a gardener, and your leads are a greenhouse full of tomato plants. If you wanted to grow the tastiest, juiciest tomatoes, they need constant care. They need watering, protecting from insects, a nice temperature. If you had many greenhouses and many plants to look after, an enterprising gardener might put it in automated watering systems and temperature controls to maintain the perfect environment for their tomatoes, without having to be constantly monitoring and maintaining themselves. And there’s the perfect analogy for a nurture program – setting up automated systems to care for your tomatoes – sorry, leads – while you get on with other stuff.
(Does anyone else really fancy a BLT now?)
What does a nurture program involve?
Right, back to marketing. Mostly, a nurture program will be focused on and tailored to a particular group of contacts. You’ll usually design a nurture program around a specific funnel, helping to move the lead smoothly along the buyer’s journey while keeping them highly engaged with you. You can do this using a number of tactics, which include targeted content, follow-ups, personalisation and multi-channel nurturing, to name a but a few. This essentially means engaging your contacts with highly targeted and personalised messaging across various platforms, and with marketing automation, your system can do all the work for you.
So what does a nurture program look like in practice?
Designing a nurture program
A nurture program is at its core, a workflow – a set of automated processes that are performed under conditions you set. Here’s an example.
I’ve set up a business where customers can receive a monthly supply of tomatoes (sorry, we’re back on tomatoes again). I’ve designed a funnel for signing up customers to a monthly subscription. My funnel looks like this:
I want to make sure that as many people as possible sign up for a one month trial, and after their one month trial, become customers. So I design a nurture program targeted at people who have registered for the eBook download – 20+ tomato recipe ideas.
Whenever I’m designing a nurture program, I like to start out by mapping it out, firstly using a trusty whiteboard, then with some kind of flowchart software. Draw.io is a great free tool which saves to Google Drive. Skipping the whiteboard step (my writing gets a bit scrawly when I’m feeling creative), we might get something that looks like this.
Although it doesn’t look like it – this is a pretty simple nurture program. It starts off with the lead filling in the form requesting the eBook download. This will trigger an autoresponder with a link to download the eBook. There will then be a wait period of 3 days (to give the lead some breathing room!). Then we reach our first decision point – has the lead downloaded the eBook? If the system determines that yes, they have, they will be sent a personalised email, asking whether they found the recipes useful, and asking – would you like a free trial of our monthly subscription? If they haven’t downloaded their eBook, they’ll be sent a reminder email that it’s waiting for them. This process continues until each lead has either been signed up for a monthly subscription, or we’ve decided they’re disengaged and we’re going to leave them alone (this is just as important!).
To really smash it and get your customers onboarded, you’d want to design another nurture program to guide your trial subscribers through their first month, demonstrating value and making the decision to push the button on a paid subscription almost a no-brainer. This could include weekly recipes, tips on storing tomatoes, and even “manual” touch points like a check-in call from your sales team (you can facilitate this using internal reminders within in your marketing automation system – fire off a reminder email to the salesperson to give the customer a call). You can read a bit more about delighting your customers with marketing automation in this post.
As I didn’t want to go too deep and create a crazily complex flowchart, I’ve only touched on some of the ways you can design a nurture program here. The primary communication method in my program is email – but you can factor in social media, pay-per-click advertising and retargeting, or “human” activities like phone calls and social selling too. You can even utilise website personalisation, if you’re running all the right ABM software.
I hope this post has gone some way to demystify nurture programs for you. On the face of it, it can seem a bit complex, but really it’s about keeping engaged with your potential customers throughout the buyer’s journey, demonstrating value and making their decision to part with their hard-earned cash that much easier. An important note however, is getting the balance right between keeping up a good level of communication, and – to put it bluntly – driving them nuts. This is something which comes with time, experience and experimentation – you’ll find the parameters which work for your sales cycle and your customers.
If you’d like to understand more about how marketing automation could help your business, get in touch.