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You already know the key to a successful lead-nurture campaign: Reach prospects with the right messages at the right times. But what sounds simple isn’t: Not all prospects are the same, so the right messages and right times are different for different buyers.
Lead nurturing begins with solving a specific problem, and in most cases, that problem is “How do I move prospects more quickly through the buyer journey?” There are other problems lead nurturing can solve, of course, but when we talk about doing lead nurture, we’re talking about presenting content to captured leads based on factors like what they’ve already consumed or the channel in which they were captured.

In this chapter, we’ll explore how to use buyer personas and other segmentation that you’re already doing to make your lead-nurture programs more effective.

Use your buyer personas to create intelligent lead nurture

For clients who are just beginning to create truly dynamic, responsive lead-nurturing programs using their marketing automation platform, we recommend writing nurture emails so that the content guides prospects along the learning journey toward solving their specific problem.
Remember: When someone is just beginning the buying journey, they don’t care about your product. They are looking for a solution to their problem. This is the conversation you need to lead. Not “my product is great,” but “my product can help you solve your problem.”
Start with just one or two buyer personas. B2B technology companies usually create personas for a business buyer and a technology buyer. These different buyers approach the process of solving a problem uniquely. To capture and keep their attention, you must understand what motivates each individual role in the purchasing process and how they interact with the other people involved in the decision. Determine how they move through the decision-making process, from identifying a problem to making a decision.
Then create a buying journey that lays out the process for each persona into four stages of the buying cycle:
  • Awareness of a problem (early-stage)
  • Research to fully understand the problem (mid-stage)
  • Consideration of which solution is best for their situation (mid-stage)
  • Evaluation of partners for best fit (late-stage)

Let Content lead the way

At each point in the cycle, your content needs to educate and inform prospects about their challenges and how to solve them. Think about the nature of their problem and why it exists. How can they start fixing it? Your goal is to anticipate the questions that prospects have with content that answers their questions.
A buyer persona content map is a way to categorize all the content available on your website by persona and buying stage. This map can then be used to pick and choose the content you'll link to from your nurture program to lead a prospect along the buying journey, and to inform scoring programs that calculate where a buyer is in the journey
To create a content map, list your buyer personas down the left-hand side and your buying stages across the top, and then enter the questions you anticipate your prospects will ask at each stage. Showcase your carefully crafted content with emails that reflect the same attention to detail. Ask yourself:
  • Does the subject line grab attention?
  • Is the email easy to read?
  • Does it get to the point quickly and elegantly?
  • Will it help prospects answer a frequently asked question or address a knowledge gap?
If done right, your lead-nurture strategy will lead the way: Prospects get the information they need while you facilitate the sales cycle from awareness through research, consideration, and (hopefully) evaluation toward a decision to purchase your solution.

Choose-your-own Road maps

Once you have version 1.0 up and running, expand your nurture streams to match your segmentation. When a prospect shows interest in a specific product, geography, or other segment, you can set up a lead-nurture track that provides a more specific path for that buying journey.
Think of this as a choose-your-own-adventure road map. As prospects select the emails to open and act on, the areas of your website to visit, and which offers to accept, you’ll learn more about what they are looking for. You can then tailor your lead-nurture program to their road map.

The direction you take from here depends critically on making sure you are capturing the right data—more on that in the chapter on data hygiene.
Advanced lead-nurture programs that drive demand
Thinking about nurture by persona, nurture by lead stage, or just want more instruction on how to operationalize nurture by buyer journey stage? 

Measure the distance traveled

Lead-nurture metrics are all about the journey from “Hey, I’m interested!” to “Yes, I’m ready to talk to sales!” While it’s too much to expect all those glorious leads you’ve gathered to beat a hasty path to sales acceptance, you still need to understand what’s working, what’s not, and how to course-correct along the way. Here are just a few metrics to keep in mind.

Funnel metrics

Over time, a good lead-scoring program should generate a higher percentage of leads that move from the middle to the bottom of the funnel as your program logic gets smarter about tuning out the leads that don’t fit your target. If your funnel continues to look top-heavy, it’s time to review lead scores and perhaps other components of your lead-nurture setup to identify potential areas for improvement.
Because you need to be keenly aware of funnel metrics to track the success of your overall marketing programs—and to set up your MAP and CRM accordingly (more on that in the chapter on proving value)—your funnel metrics should serve as your frontline health check. The metrics that follow can help you dive deep into your nurture program’s performance in specific ways.

Response rates

Nurturing is all about keeping the conversation going. If your leads aren’t opening your nurture emails, clicking on the links in them, or garnering more sales-ready opportunities, that spells trouble. Not sure what’s acceptable? Benchmark your performance against an industry average to figure out where you stand.

Progression Percentage

There’s a reason it’s called a funnel—it’s natural to have more leads at the awareness stage than the consideration phase, for example. But the progression percentage, which measures how many leads move from one stage to the next, can reveal where some of your leads are getting stuck in the process and pinpoint where to troubleshoot.

Unsubscribe Rate

It’s normal for some of the leads in your database to opt out, but if too many say "no thanks" it indicates that what you’re serving them doesn’t meet their needs or that your nurture tactics are disruptive rather than informative.

Duration Rate

With lengthy B2B sales cycles, slow and steady really does win the race. But over time, a good lead-nurture program will shorten the overall time it takes a qualified lead to move from the top to the bottom of the funnel, particularly as you get savvier about qualifying leads and moving them from stage to stage. First step: Know what the average sales cycle is for your business and then continue to monitor how lead nurturing affects that time span. If it’s not getting shorter, find out why.