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Let’s say you’re a well-seasoned, sophisticated, data-driven marketer and demand generation maven. You know your target audience like they’re your own family. You’ve done all your homework, culled together the most compelling content possible, and optimized every aspect of your previous campaigns into what you now believe to be a masterpiece of a lead nurturing program. As you proudly click that last click to activate it, you think to yourself, “It’s perfect.” And up until that last second before it went live, you may have been right… Now that it is live and out in the wild, though, it’s all wrong, and what’s more – that’s the only right way to view it.

Why Lead Nurturing Adoption is Still Right:

Before you panic or fatalistically throw in the towel feeling like it’s all for naught, let me reassure you that your choice to utilize lead nurturing is still very much right. Marketing automation research clearly shows distinct advantages in performance for lead nurturing practitioners vs. non-practitioners from average lead conversion rates all the way down to marketing’s contribution to sales-forecasted pipeline. Beyond pure performance advantages, though, lead nurturing is also the right move in the eyes of your audience. As Cari Baldwin of Blue Bird Strategies noted in a post for Demand Gen Report, “The goal is for marketers to get into the mindset that everybody — prospects, buyers and opportunities — in your database needs to be nurtured based on who they are and where they are in the buying cycle.” As marketers, lead nurturing isn’t just an advantage for our organizations, but a responsibility to our audiences to help guide them through their buying journey.

The Necessary OCD in Best-in-Class Lead Nurturing:

Hopefully, now that you’re a bit more secure in why using lead nurturing is the right move, here’s why your lead nurturing program is always wrong – because it has to be. As soon as you assume that everything is perfect – or even just good enough – that’s when the system breaks. You can never view your lead nurturing program as right because, despite being automated and enriched by data, the system still requires your own personal scrutiny, analysis, and even creative input to remain relevant and productive. It sounds a bit manic or obsessive, but to effectively maintain and optimize your lead nurturing program, this critical perspective is exactly what’s required. That’s why when it comes to lead nurturing, research shows that the Best-in-Class are 130% more likely to have a process in place to analyze performance all the way down to specific pieces of marketing content when compared to All Others. Of course, seeing your lead nurturing program as wrong doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of it, or feel confident in its ability to drive results; you just need to remain mindful of all the opportunities for improvement. There is no “set it and forget it” in Best-in-Class lead nurturing programs, so remembering to always aim to do better  is vital.

What “Wrong” Looks Like for the Best-in-Class:

Admittedly, only asking “what’s wrong” with your lead nurturing program would be a pretty vague and depressing venture – was it the wrong word in that one subject line, did that one color in the theme evoke the wrong emotion, was the tone in our copy off key, etc. Specifically, the Best-in-Class focus their lead nurturing scrutiny over a few distinctly measurable areas:

  • Marketing Productivity vs. Sales Activity: 73% of Best-in-Class organizations report that campaign results are integrated with their CRM or sales automation system. This enables marketers to evaluate their lead nurturing programs not only on marketing’s performance, but on sales’ opinion of that performance. High marketing conversion rates with low sales activity, for example, would suggest a lack of confidence in the program among sellers that would need to be addressed.
  • The Close Rate Win / Loss Record: 65% of Best-in-Class organizations report an ability to measure their close rate of marketing-generated leads from their lead nurturing programs. Initially, this allows marketers to objectively gauge the program’s overall effectiveness, but over time, it also highlights the overall health of the program. A steady, unchanging close rate, even if relatively high, for example, can actually serve as a warning that the current program has plateaued. On the other hand, a growing close rate, even if initially low at first, can be a sign that the program is on the right track.
  • Revenue: 64% of Best-in-Class organizations report that their marketing automation platform and CRM integrations enable pipeline and revenue metrics for marketing. This is not only important for giving a lead nurturing program a general dollar value; it’s also vital for determining efficiency. If data acquisition, personnel, creative, or other costs outweigh the revenue produced by the nurture program, for example, it would be a clear indication that you’d need to rework to program to be more lean or cost-effective. Conversely, revenue metrics may also drastically outweigh even total marketing automation costs, which could empirically earn a case for increased investments in lead nurturing.
  • Volume: 59% of Best-in-Class organizations have a process to identify the number of marketing-generated leads needed to reach specific pipeline or revenue goals. On the surface, it may seem like a pass / fail metric – you either have enough or you don’t – but this kind of volume / quantity oriented metric also underpins a necessary quality analysis. A healthy lead nurturing program should aim to sustain lead volume numbers from the first touch to the last. By determining a required lead volume, marketers can set the bar, so to speak, for the right amount of touches, over the right amount of time, to the right kinds of personas to generate the right amount of leads. Of course, it’s rarely ever exactly right, but this metric helps Best-in-Class marketers continually optimize and zero-in on what works.

In the end, the right mindset for lead nurturing requires that you always look for something that’s wrong. Whether you evaluate your programs along the same lines as the Best-in-Class, or identify your own relevant areas of continued improvement, you can’t afford to be complacent when it comes to lead nurturing performance.

Do you have any additional insights to add on lead nurturing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below…

For more information on lead nurturing best practices, download Aberdeen’s free guide: The Nature of Lead Nurturing: The 4 Pillars of Effective Programs.

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