It wasn’t that long ago, when marketing automation first burst on the scene, that the height of lead nurture sophistication was the simple, automated sending of multiple, sequential emails. Today, advances in marketing technology make such “automation” seem laughably basic. Modern, best-in-class lead nurture programs focus less on automation, and more on leveraging intent data, AI, social engagement, Web behavior and a host of other variables in order to deliver their messages – through a variety of channels – to the right person at the right time.

best-in-class lead nurture

How does your current lead nurturing stack up against those companies who push the envelope in both nurture strategy and their use of complementary technologies? To help answer that question, we compiled the following checklist based on our work with B2B marketers setting the standard for lead nurture sophistication.

Note: rarely, if ever, will one organization employ every one of these features. In fact, the degree to which a particular technique or technology even makes sense for your organization depends entirely on the scope, scale, audience, and objectives of your lead nurture program. Nonetheless, the degree to which you currently employ few, some, or most of these features says a lot about the sophistication of your program relative to best-in-class companies, and the associated potential for improvement.

1. Immediate, quick-fire response to new leads (ex: 2-3 emails over 7 days) to complement BDR follow-up and increase sales engagement, potentially leveraging AI technology like Conversica to optimize lead qualification via automated, two-way conversations.

2 A core engagement program that runs indefinitely, one that delivers a regular stream of informational content to all prospects in a pre-defined sequence, can be paused at any time to allow for tactical batch sends (ex: Webinars), and is regularly augmented by new or replacement content.

3. Integration of “skip logic” to ensure that prospects don’t receive emails for content already consumed.

4 Strategic and measured use of form fields to capture critical information, minimize friction and maximize conversion rates, combined with progressive profiling to append contact data and better qualify leads as they re-engage.

5. Segmentation of key nurture tracks by persona, vertical, or lead source, using dynamic content where possible for maximum scalability.

6. Use of a subscription management (subscriber preference) page, enabling prospects to select topics of most interest to them, thereby increasing engagement and reducing unsubscribes.

7. A “mid-stage” (MOFU) nurture track, stream, or program, of finite length, triggered by pre-defined actions, specific behavior, lead score threshold, or third party intent data (ex: Bombora) that suggest increased buying interest.

8 Use of sales alerts triggered by actions from key accounts, demo requests, or “contact us” form fills, perhaps via a dedicated Slack channel for real-time notification and to enable faster sales response.

9. Integration of other, online channels (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Programmatic) to nurture prospects outside the inbox.

10. A “lead recycling” or “re-nurture” program for leads rejected by sales or otherwise returned to nurture, perhaps segmented based on a “reason” field (ex: budget, competition, timeframe).

11. Integration of direct mail as a triggered flow step for high-value prospects, perhaps leveraging a sending platform like Sendoso.

12. Integration of chatbots, leveraging technology like Drift, to increase sales engagement on pages (ex: thank you pages) where prospects might have additional questions or be ready to take a next step, or – where appropriate – to replace landing page forms altogether.

13. Consistent, rigorous A/B testing of subject line, “from” field, call to action (CTA), design elements and other key success factors in order to optimize email performance over time.

14. Use of topic- or product-specific content “hubs” or microsites, leveraging a technology like Uberflip, to serve as highly segmented, flexible, and engaging CTAs for nurture emails, on assets like thank you pages and fulfillment emails, and to generate engagement data (ex: download of specific content) that informs lead score or transitions the individual to a more relevant nurture track.

15. A clear, defined gating strategy that ensures that 1) content is gated appropriately (if at all), and 2) when used, forms are pre-populated for known contacts to enable progressive profiling.

16. Documented entry points, exit points, triggers, wait steps, and overall workflow schematics for each stream, track or program, to facilitate planning, optimization, and change management.

17. Tight synchronization – messaging, segmentation, offer strategy – between nurture tracks and sales outreach cadences to ensure alignment and maximum synergy between sales and marketing.

18. Leveraging of social engagement data, through a solution like Oktopost, to inform lead score, identify topic/product interest, generate sales alerts, and direct specific leads into more relevant nurture streams based on how and if those individuals engage with social content.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash