Designing a Personalised Nurture

Designing a Personalised Nurture

July 2018 | Digital Marketing

Every successful event is run across multiple channels. So why do many nurture campaigns still rely exclusively on outbound email?

Much has been written about the importance of strong personalisation. For many, this means maximising the use of profile data in campaigns, either by explicitly including it in the content being presented or by customising the content to fit the information in the profile. An entire industry has developed around personalising website content based on geographic, demographic and firmographic information.

However, there is much more to personalisation than just the contents of the visitor profile or contact record. Effective personalisation is about responding to the activity of each individual with the right content at the right time. People are notoriously bad at articulating what they actually want, Steve Jobs built the world's most successful company off the back of that belief. For Marketers, this means It is much more effective to segment campaigns by responding to buying signals than by blasting everyone who meets a particular demographic criteria.

Achieving the Ideal

This is what email nurture was supposed to be about - building a dynamic engagement engine that reacts to a particular set of buying signals by automatically sending a relevant communication at the right timeframe. Nurturing has never been about scale. It is instead a method of achieving one to one personalisation in a B2B environment.

This ideal is something few companies have achieved because it requires a very data-driven approach, backed by a strong tech stack and constant evolution. Doing it well at scale is extremely difficult, so many companies opt-out of the challenge altogether, and design email nurtures as a linear campaign instead. They might set up an automated feeder for new leads to enter the campaign, thus making it always on. Yet it is still a regular campaign, just with stale content because you set it to last year and don't have the budget to refresh it. Companies are beginning to discover that this approach requires a lot of care and constant attention, so increasingly are reducing the scope of their email nurture programs.

Instead, online content marketing programs are taking up the slack. This is a false dichotomy. Your nurture campaigns should be as omni-channel as your events or your promotions. Every successful event is promoted across every successful channel. The same is true of nurtures.

Online Journeys

A good nurture journey starts on the web, but not on your website. Your website is a sales tool, and one that your leads know about and can find on their own. You don't need to link to it unless you're actively talking about product.

The second common mistake is to use your content hub as the landing page for social campaigns, or paid media. For one thing, your content hub is probably part of your website. It also includes all your content, not just the one the lead clicked through to see. Content hubs have traditionally suffered from the problem that they're too unfocused. There's no obvious priority to the content and no clear content, so confused visitors end up consuming nothing. You will have designed a nurture journey, with assets displayed in a desired order.

The standard Pathfactory or Uberflip user experiences are a good example to follow. The great thing about these tools is the fact that you can present the content straight away and then have your secondary content alongside, but not be distracted from the current asset. You can even time the related content list in these roles to appear only once the visitor has been on the page for a few seconds.

This is a good middle ground between the chaos of a content hub and the rigidity of email nurture, particularly if you also include a link back to your full content library for those who want to see more. The goal here is to facilitate binge consumption to the point where someone qualifies as a lead and gets a sales call.

Few people will get to this point on the first visit. This means you need a method for getting people back, once they leave your content and get on with their day. If they filled in a form, you'll have sent them an auto-responder email with links to the next content stream, and a sales trigger. If they opted-in, add them to a nurture which prompts them to complete the stream and then move to the next one.

Generate Repeat Engagement

Email nurtures have always suffered from the issue that the recipient has no possibility of choosing what they consume and when. The prospects schedule is entirely dictated by you. In a world of time poor executives and fully booked calendars, this simply isn't sustainable as the primary touch point in a marketing campaign. Instead, your email is a re-engagement strategy, to get previous visitors back into your nurture program.

For colder prospects, social and contextual advertising are a much better method of outreach. Retargeting works well here as a mechanism for promoting new content streams to people who have consumed a previous stream. Unlike with email, there is less scope to promote subsequent content in the stream they've just consumed. This avoids the Amazon effect, named after the online retailer's early retargeting efforts which involved showing ads for the last item the user viewed on their site. This annoyed people who had already made a decision not to purchase the product in question. Do remember that retargeting requires consent under GDPR, as it involves sharing personal data with a third party.

When designing your nurtures always remember the defining principle of data protection legislation - one that will be familiar to Marketers everywhere. The customer is king. They decide who has their data and how it is used.

This affects marketers more than anybody else. If your contact wants to be nurtured online, then you need to provide that experience to them. Far too many brands have been failing in that respect. However, for many people email is still one of the preferred methods of engaging with brands they trust. The ROI on email hasn't changed, if anything, it's got better. However, companies need to be more intelligent about what they send prospects. The decision about what to send in an outbound nurture requires complex data analysis to identify actual journeys and adjusting the experience accordingly. Technology is in the process of making this much easier.

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.