Interview: Jeff Erramouspe Discusses the Difference Between Drip Marketing and Lead Nurturing

In the Lead Nurturing Cookbook, Jeff Erramouspe, President here at Manticore Technology and frequent contributor to our blog, participated as a “Guest Chef,” offering marketers advice on how to successfully execute nurturing programs using their marketing automation platform. I asked Jeff to expand on the concepts he discusses in the Cookbook. Here’s what he had to say:

Emily Mayfield: In the Expert Chef Tip section of the Lead Nurturing Cookbook, one of your tips was to design your nurture program to create a journey for leads rather than merely just staying in front them. Can you expand on this concept and provide an example of content you would use to accomplish this?

Jeff Erramouspe: It is very useful to think about the fact that you are trying to create a relationship with your lead or prospect. In fact, I think we do ourselves a disservice sometimes when we talk about “lead” nurturing because it is really applicable well beyond the lead stage. If we think about it as nurturing a relationship, it’s like pretty much any relationship you develop. You meet someone for the first time, exchange information, find some common ground, and then decide at that point whether or not this is something you want to continue. Nurturing leads with a marketing automation platform is really no different.

First, you want to establish some level of rapport. Usually this involves some introductory information about the problems that your products or services can help them with. As this content is consumed, there should be opportunities for the reader to get additional content that may go into more depth on specific topics. This step is important for two reasons.  First, it becomes clear what specific things the prospect is interested in and if they are interested at all. Second, it gives you an opportunity to gather more explicit information from the prospect that will help you understand their level of interest in your product of service.

For example, you might create a whitepaper or PDF brochure that talks about a business problem you can solve at a relatively high level. For someone to receive this content they might provide you with nothing more than an e-mail address. If the content is consumed online, you can provide links to more specific information, but in return for that you might ask the prospect for their name, company name, and title. It is through this sort of give and take that a relationship is built. As long as you are delivering content that is useful to the prospect, they will continue to engage you in the process.

EM: In your experience, what is the most challenging aspect of creating an effective lead nurturing program? How do you overcome it?

JE: One of the biggest challenges that marketers face is clearly defining the objectives of their lead nurturing programs. Often, marketers will talk about lead nurturing and drip marketing as if they are the same thing. But drip marketing is precisely that – the ability to send out marketing messages at set intervals to a broad set of your target market. Drip marketing is very passive. Lead nurturing, on the other hand, is a very active process. It is focused on an individual lead rather than a target market, and it needs to be responsive to the needs of that lead. Clearly, many leads will have common characteristics and a common path through the buying process, so you don’t literally create an individual path for each lead. But it is a huge mistake to not think about the specifics of how an individual buyer goes through the program.

You can overcome this mistake by fully understanding the process your buyers go through. Clearly define their individual buying personas and the content they consume to take them through their buying cycle. Once you’ve done this, the journey they need to take and the content you need to provide to move them down the path will become clear. Another huge mistake that marketers make is that they start out trying to build nurturing processes that are far too complex. Start simple with a few steps and build from there. For instance, your initial goal might be to move a lead from the inquiry stage to the consideration stage and to qualify the lead so that you know they have budget and authority to buy. Set up a simple nurture process that finishes with a phone call from an inside sales rep. Measure the success of this nurture and build from there. It is important that you take a crawl, walk, run approach.

EM: If you discover that your nurturing program is not effective, what are some steps you could take to diagnose the problem and fix it?

JE: Well first you need to make sure that you do in fact know that your program isn’t effective. It is possible that your nurture program is working very well by industry norms but that you had expectations that were too high. You should check around with your peers about their results and adjust your conversion rate expectations accordingly. Assuming your conversion rate goals are realistic, the next thing to do is to break down the mechanics of your lead nurturing process. First, analyze each step in the process to understand the conversion rates from phase to phase. This will help you identify where in the process you have a problem.

Once you know where the problem is, take a look at the content that is being delivered at the problem step. Does it provide the information that the buyer needs to take the next step in the relationship? Does it provide a clear call-to-action that has obvious benefits to the buyer? Are you asking the buyer for the right amount of information at this step in the relationship?  Usually, one of these three items is not correct and is causing leads to get stuck at this stage of the process.

There are two other important things to consider. The first is to remember that garbage in generally equals garbage out. The quality of the leads being dropped into the top of the nurture process will have a considerable impact on the efficacy of the program. The second is that you need to make sure that you have the right program “spacing." What I mean by this is the timing between the different steps in the program. If you move too fast, prospects will not be able to consume the content you have provided before moving on to the next step. If you move to slow, prospects will lose interest and/or turn to your competitors. Play with timing if you believe your content is good but the results are not what you expect.

Finally, feel free to reach out to the contacts that have gone through a nurture process to get their feedback. How did the process work for them?  You should analyze both prospects that came through with positive results (that is, moved forward in the sales process and hopefully became customers) and those that fell out and quit responding. Create an online survey and generate feedback about how your program is received by the targeted lead.

EM: What should b2b marketers consider when building a nurture program targeting tradeshow leads versus a nurture program targeting web leads?

JE: First and foremost, you need to remember that somebody from your company has likely already talked to this lead. As such, the lead already has a familiarity with your company on a more personal level. This is not going to be true of someone that comes to your web site through a search link. So at a minimum, your interaction with the prospect must reflect the fact that you know you met them at a tradeshow.  If you know what person in your company talked to them, you can personalize your touch by either sending an “on-behalf of” e-mail to the lead or using that person’s name in the e-mail text. Hopefully, you were able to capture some of the prospect’s interests, which will help you determine which lead nurturing program best fits their needs. The other nice thing about tradeshow leads is that you generally have a complete demographic profile on the lead, which you do not have from a web lead. You should know name, company, title, e-mail address, and phone number. You might also have some information on the company and their interests from the tradeshow data.  All of this information should be considered in the design of your tradeshow follow-up nurture program.

EM: What role does marketing automation play in creating lead nurturing programs?

JE: The bottom line is that the marketing automation platform is the platform by which you deliver content. Lead nurturing is important and is obviously where all of this starts. But as I was sitting here thinking about this a little bit, lead nurturing is actually somewhat of a limiting term. “Lead” implies that as soon as it’s a qualified prospect, you stop the nurturing process, and I don’t think that’s practical today.

Today it’s all about about relationship nurturing. People are using marketing automation platforms to guide the buying process from the time the lead first enters your funnel right up until perhaps the day before the deal closes. In fact, we even have some customers who are using our platform mainly for customer nurturing.

The bottom line is that the marketing automation platform is the technology that enables all this to happen. It lets you automatically track what people are doing when they come to your website, correlate that with their activity and demographics, and assign a lead score, which helps sales prioritize their follow-ups. It then automates the process of delivering the right content to the right person at the right time.