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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistThu, Jun 11, 2015 8 min read

How Inbound Marketing Prevents Lead-Nurturing Spaghetti

Lead Nurturing SpaghettiYou’re 100% bought into the idea of inbound marketing and the concept of nurturing your leads until their pain becomes acute. And, you’ve proven that you’re the safe choice.

Now, you have to create the nurturing campaigns and strategic workflows required to deliver this ongoing education and inspiration, ensuring that your prospects have a remarkable experience in the process.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds, and without a plan, you’re going to end up with a huge set of nurturing campaigns that don’t follow any formula, don’t improve over time and don’t deliver on their value proposition of actually nurturing leads down and out of the sales funnel.

So, how do you prevent your company from ending up with a big bowl of intertwined emails that don’t make sense to anyone and are extremely difficult to manage (also known as lead-nurturing spaghetti)?

Start Slow And Proceed With Caution

The fastest way to find yourself saddled with this challenging plate of intertwined nurturing campaigns is to start doing them for every action on your website. Before you know it, you have 12 campaigns, but they're not being deployed properly and your prospects are getting multiple emails and mixed messages.

Instead, go slow! Start with a single campaign. Keep it simple. Deploy one email after the prospect's action, another one three days later and a third one three days after that. Yes, three is a magic number when it comes to inbound marketing. Don’t ask me why – it just is.

Let that campaign run for at least two weeks before you consider adding another or adjusting this one. If people are opening the email and clicking through consistently across all three emails, think about adding a similar campaign for the rest of your content. Make sure you have an overall strategy set up before you expand to campaigns for all content.  

Create A Lead-Nurturing Strategy

Let’s talk about strategy. You know we’re a "strategy before tactics" shop, and we're big believers in using marketing strategy to guide execution. Resist the urge to jump in and get your lead nurturing set up before you have a high-level game plan. For instance, managing these campaigns is tricky if you don’t set up a naming convention for all of the emails. Trust me, we've made this mistake, and cleaning it up is much worse than setting it up right the first time.

Decide up front what criteria you want to use when it comes to campaign selection. Do you want to nurture based on persona, buyer journey, action or vertical? These are all equally viable, so it just comes down to what’s best for your prospects.

What about lead scoring? You might nurture based on the qualification of the lead, or you may want to consider nurturing based on the application of smart content. This adds two new layers of complexity that need to be thought out in advance of any technical setup.

Test In Small Batches

One solid reason to go slowly and work from a plan is that you’re going to want to run tests. With access to marketing metrics on lead-nurturing campaign performance, you're able to see what’s working well and what’s not. If you go slowly, your program self-corrects over time based on performance data. If you go quickly, you have to go back and fix a lot of campaigns, which is complicated and time-consuming.

There Are No Best Practices

It’s probably not what you want to hear, but the reality is that each of these campaigns performs a little differently depending on the business, the industry, the messages, the offers, the personas and the delivery plan. There are a few guiding principles that I would suggest you strongly consider. For instance, resist the urge to sell or to request a call or appointment. Try not to promote any special offers, discounts or deals. Do your best to stay true to your education and inspiration approach, and you’ll be rewarded with much higher click-through, open and overall engagement rates.

Try to communicate in an open and transparent manner with prospects. For example, if you’re telling them to expect three emails, only send three emails. If you’re promising educational information, don’t buckle under pressure from sales and add in one more that asks if they’d like to schedule a call with a sales rep. It might be uncomfortable, but it’s the right advice.

Operationalize As Much As Possible

Once you get good at nurturing, you should consider operationalizing the delivery. That means potentially using templates. Not every nurturing email has to be written from scratch. Once you have something that works well and is remarkable in its messaging, consider using it over and over again – and even as the basis for new emails. You should be thinking about how you personalize a highly effective email so that it fits with a variety of personas or actions, depending on your strategy.

Create a playbook for nurturing your leads, one that includes all of the key learnings and insights you’ve collected over the course of your planning, testing and rollout. This helps your team execute in a streamlined way and limits the missteps in a very efficient manner. Assign a person to own the playbook, and make sure that all of your future learnings get incorporated so that your methodology always stays fresh and up to date.

How you nurture leads is just as important as how you drive new leads into the top of the funnel. Some experts might argue that it’s even more important. These people already expressed interest, and they’ve self-selected into your world. How you treat them is a reflection of your business. Treat them well, and they’re going to be customers one day. Treat them poorly or ignore them, and not only will they never be customers, but the story they tell about your business is not going to be one that you want repeated.

Start Today Tip – One of the best ways to start planning out your nurturing efforts is on a whiteboard. This gives you a visual representation and allows you to set up a structure, naming convention and strategy for all future lead-nurturing campaigns. Frequency, promotional approach and messaging can all be agreed on up front and then simply applied. You can also segment your efforts by persona or other segmentation criteria, which helps personalize your delivery. Set up goals for each campaign so that you’re able to measure success.

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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.