Moving Nurture Beyond Email

Moving Nurture Beyond Email

September 2022 | Digital Marketing

There is more to nurture than email. Increase engagement by building a cross-channel marketing engine that runs on the schedule of your audience.

Marketing nurture is very much an established tactic. Its place in the B2B marketing ecosystem has remained unchallenged for the past decade. Other tactics and strategies have risen to complement it, but few question the importance of nurture campaigns within an overall demand generation model. However, the value being delivered by individual nurture campaigns is still very much in question.

All too often, an analysis of underperforming nurture campaigns leads to a discussion around content and data. Agencies will blame poor quality data, while field marketers bemoan a lack of content to entice prospective buyers. The question of whether nurture campaigns are using the right channels often remains absent from the debate.

For many marketers, nurture remains intrinsically linked with email. Sure, you might build a website or landing page to complement the campaign, but email remains the primary mechanism for pushing content to the audience. Additional tactics are seen as a mechanism for collecting new contacts to feed the campaign, rather than as a method for serving nurture content once those contacts are in your database.

The trouble with email is that more than half of your audience is unable or unwilling to receive it. People are much more hesitant about providing their personal details to companies than in the past, and a new wave of GDPR-inspired data protection legislation is making it hard to use that personal information once collected. For many marketers, email requires the collection of explicit opt-ins. This is a challenge even for those marketers that use legitimate interest or soft opt-in to communicate with prospects that have recently engaged with their brand. Soft opt-in often leads to high unsubscribe rates. Today's prospects only want to receive marketing emails on their terms, not yours.

Building a self-service nurture experience is the first step to overcoming the limitations of email nurture. It requires creating a dedicated nurture hub with all the campaign content on a single page. The key here is to remove dead-ends and encourage content bingeing. Every asset should include a link to the next asset, and registration should be a one-time action only required when the content has enough value to justify an immediate follow-up.

The aim here is to imitate Netflix in terms of design and layout, as well as in the use of website personalisation. Don't go for the co-branding approach to personalisation. Contacts don't want to see the name of their company plastered over the nurture website. This creates awkward questions and can result in legal complaints about the unauthorised use of trademarks in certain sectors. Instead, personalise the highlighted content to the role and industry of the person viewing the page. Relevancy is vital, and the more specific the content, the more likely you are to get engagement.

Using AI to dynamically adjust the recommended next asset based on the assets previously consumed is a great approach. This is an area where the major content marketing platforms and leading CMS vendors are investing heavily, precisely because of the impact it has on overall content consumption. Indeed, content recommendation was one of the earliest applications of AI in marketing, and as a result, it has developed into the most mature use of the technology. Personalising the next asset links generally leads to more accurate content pairing than the traditional manual approach precisely because it dynamically adjusts the user journey along tracks that have worked in the past.

However, there is more to nurture than just publishing content to a microsite. Nurture campaigns are effective when they push content to the places people most want to engage with it at a time when it's convenient for them to read it. That's why email has been historically so central to nurturing, because it places the content in the recipient's inbox at a time that people are ready to be distracted from their day-to-day workload.

Complement email with social or advertising outreach. Offering similar content across multiple channels increases your chances of generating engagement. Particularly using some of the more personalised advertising tactics available on LinkedIn and Facebook. Sponsored Inmails and Conversation ads have a definite place in the advertising mix for those contacts that can't be reached through first-party email.

The key is a coordinated outbound marketing program that targets accounts that have shown engagement. Quickly identify the best channel to reach each account, and use it to execute a nurture stream of between four and six touches. Those contacts that show continued engagement can continue to the next phase of the customer journey. Those that don't should be kept warm through a light program of introductory content until they're ready to engage. It's not possible to force nurture engagement. You just need to have the right content available for when prospects do show interest in a particular topic or solution.

Banner Photo by Hussain Zidhan / Unsplash

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