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Nurture Marketing Series 1 of 4: What is Nurture Marketing and Why is it Important in B2B Marketing?

Written by: Barbara Pfeiffer

Nurture Marketing CycleWhat is nurture marketing? Even if you think you already know the answer – keep reading. The original concept of nurture marketing was put out there many years ago, but it has grown and changed. This is the first in a series of four nurture marketing articles providing helpful advice from what it is to how you do it to best practices for today’s B2B marketing strategy.

Why is Nurture Marketing Important in B2B Marketing?

While all nurture marketing has some common elements—staying top of mind is a big one and building relationships with prospects and customers is another—the different types of nurture marketing are definitely not created equal and do not have all the same goals.

Before we jump to what it is, however, we should look at why should you do it in the first place? Nurture marketing is a MUST for every B2B organization and particularly for technology companies where the decision process and sales cycle may be longer. According to a 2014 report by Forrester1, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales at a 33% lower cost. There are dozens of other studies that back up this data and also show shorter sales cycles as a result of nurture marketing.

Despite these compelling stats, according to our 2018 Technology Marketing Benchmarks and Trends Report, a whopping 56% of survey respondents do not have a nurture marketing plan in place—although 19% of those DO anticipate adding it in the next year.

When speaking with our clients, we typically find that most of them are doing good things, but very few have a comprehensive strategy in place. This is partially driven by confusion over what nurture marketing actually is, it is exacerbated by confusion over what type of nurture marketing you really need. (Hint – all of it, but we’ll help you through it.)

Exploring the Different Types of Nurture Marketing

To get started, when I look at nurture marketing, I put all campaigns into two buckets:

Recently, I’ve considered a third bucket:

  • Trial Campaigns

I’ll discuss this one more in just a bit.

So what are the differences between these nurture marketing campaigns?

Drip Campaigns are a series of touches (most often emails, but not exclusively) that get sent based only on time and time alone. They are typically sent to a group regardless of their interaction with a campaign. For many companies, this is in the form of a newsletter. The ultimate goal of a drip campaign is to keep your company top of mind for prospects who are not yet ready to buy.

Trigger campaigns (also widely known as “lead nurturing”) deliver touches based on a prospect’s interaction with your marketing touches. New messages are sent depending on what a prospect clicks on or downloads. The goal is to provide additional information that relates to what a prospect is researching to help move them through the sales process and provide more insight to sales on what the prospect may be interested in exploring further.

Trial nurture campaigns are a hybrid between a trigger and a drip campaign. The campaign itself is triggered based on a prospect downloading a free trial, but the touches are usually delivered as a drip campaign.

That’s nurture marketing at its simplest. However, beyond these broad categories, you can go deeper. For example, you could have a drip nurture marketing campaign that is specific to customers and another for prospects. Your trigger campaign could be around a special offer or as part of an event or webinar plan.

What Nurture Marketing Programs Do You Need?

At a minimum (and assuming you have no free trials to worry about), you probably should have BOTH drip and trigger campaigns. The graphic below shows how a company might roll out a quarterly sales campaign, nurturing responders for a period of time and then turning those not ready to buy over to a drip nurture campaign.

What is Nurture Marketing

Bear in mind that a customer journey is never really linear. You may have a prospect that engaged with a sales campaign and then became inactive for an extended period of time. You’ve added them to your drip nurture but 3 months in, they are interacting with a new sales campaign. That’s okay! Consider that your drip campaign is giving you coverage for when your prospect is not engaged. And no, you don’t need to remove them from a drip campaign.

Beyond these types of nurture campaigns, there may be others you should consider as sub-sets of these which we’ll discuss in more detail in our other articles in this series. Our advice is intended to help you simplify nurture marketing to get the best results and learn best practices you can incorporate into your marketing strategy. As always, we welcome your questions and comments!

1Link to 2014 report by Forrester

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