Question 13: What are the keys to successful nurture campaigns?

Here's a quick list of five:

1. A clear, powerful, and unique core value proposition (CVP). Your CVP answers "Why should I buy your product instead of a comparable product from one of your competitors?"

2. Evidential support for your value proposition. Facts, figures, data, quotes from experts and customers, and other specific data that proves what you say and demonstrates that you have a truly unique solution to your prospect's problem.

3. A valuable offer to initiate the conversation. You provide something of value (report, Webinar, video, etc.) that aligns with your value proposition and has enough value for a prospect to agree to engage in a digital conversation with you (your "opt-in").

4. A clear understanding of prospects' buying (thought) process and the associated sticking points for each stage of the buying process. Once they opt in, the conversation begins. You'll provide valuable content that moves them through the buying process and relieves the sticking points.

5. A steady hand. Nurture campaigns don't run themselves; they require constant maintenance, adjustment, and review. You're constantly watching what people do, and then trying to understand why they did (or didn't) do it, and what that might mean.

Think of a nurture campaign as a whole series of value propositions, where you accumulate what we call "micro-yeses." At each step, your prospect is asking...

  • Why should I open and read this email instead of all my other messages?
  • Why should I click on the link in this email and potentially waste my valuable time?
  • Why should I accept your offer (for a report, video, etc.), when my time might be better spent elsewhere?

With every action or inaction, you're evaluating what they did, why they took that particular action or inaction, and what it might mean. Then, you adjust your nurture campaign accordingly.

Tool You Can Use

Print out this handy one-page Value Proposition Map to test your value proposition.

* * *

Question 14: Can you provide an example of a typical nurture sequence?

Although you should address every situation with fresh eyes, you should follow some basic guidelines when creating an initial nurture sequence. Lead nurturing is an organic process.

Start with a basic series, watch the behavior of leads closely, and then fine-tune and adjust the nurture as necessary.

It's an ongoing process that takes some time every month to analyze, evaluate, and adjust. At times, you may replace entire messages and reports, at other times you may make subtle adjustments, and at other times still you may send out one-off broadcast messages to specific segments because of noticeable trends.

Everything you do, however, should tie back to...

  • A core value proposition that identifies a unique value of the product to the prospect
  • The customer buying process

Look at every email, every report, every video, every blog post, and every piece of content as a completely separate and critical point in the decision tree.

That is, every piece of content is a place where the prospect can say yes or no.

Thus, before you complete any content piece, ask: Why should (prospect/lead) open/read/download this as opposed to spending their valuable time elsewhere?

The answer to that vital question depends on...

  • The timing of messages. You've seen through this series how sending too many messages too quickly can dramatically reduce the open/read rate, even when the audience has a keen interest in the subject.
  • Where they are in the buying process. Too much, too soon... and you'll lose them. Too little, too late... and you'll lose them.
  • How badly they want a solution. You can't create desire. However, you can accentuate, accelerate, and promote a desire they already have.

Tool You Can Use

To help you understand how to create a "starter" nurture sequence, we put together this document: Building a Starter Nurture Sequence. It's a step-by-step guide that will help you to build your initial lead nurture sequence and give you a solid foundation from which you can build an even stronger program.

* * *

Question 15: How do I select a marketing automation vendor?

With all that we've said, we haven't pointed you to any specific marketing automation platform. There are, quite literally, more than a hundred software systems that claim to be (or are) marketing automation platforms.

You've likely heard like Marketo, Pardot, Manticore, and Eloqua. Some of you are familiar with Hubspot, which is primarily geared toward inbound marketing. We've used Act-On for various "tools you can use" in this series of articles.

Before I say anything about selecting a system, let me say this: The marketing automation system is the easy part. It's just a "machine" that does what you tell it to do. Tell it to do the wrong (or ineffective) things, and that's exactly what it does. Start with bad data (wrong contact info, wrong person, etc.), and you'll get equally bad results.

Before you evaluate marketing automation platforms, you need to understand what you need the system to do for you. That means you need to know your product's value proposition, your customer buying cycle, what constitutes a sales-ready lead, and how you want to communicate the status of leads to your sales team. Given those parameters, you can begin the evaluation process.

Evaluating and Comparing Vendors

I'll make this easy for you. Download the Raab 2012 B2B Marketing Automation Vendor Selection Tool (VEST). It draws on nearly 200 data points for 22 B2B marketing automation vendors. The list price is only $795, and it's well worth the cost. The guide is actually more up to date than many of the vendors' websites.

We've created a short video that walks you through the tool.

You'll quickly see why I strongly suggest that you determine your needs first. It's unlikely that you'll need all the features available of the top-end systems. It's quite possible that you can do everything you need with a lower-cost system.

You can view details about each company, compare up to three vendors, and add your own custom weighting to different features. You can see how the vendor handles campaign management, campaign flow, scoring, and about 200 other data points.

We'd be happy to walk you through the evaluation.

Tools You Can Use

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Lead-Nurturing and Marketing Automation: 15 Key Questions Answered (Questions 13-15)

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Sid Smith is lead copywriter and marketing automation specialist for Albertson Performance Group. Sid has written on topics ranging from flex circuits to motherhood, but gets a real kick out of putting together the puzzle pieces of complex marketing automation strategies. Reach him via