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Let Your Leads Pick the Best Channel for their Lead Nurturing Journey

Posted March 19, 2019

Let Your Leads Pick the Best Channel for their Lead Nurturing Journey

Posted March 19, 2019

Here’s an attention-grabbing data point for you — 400 percent more money.

That’s how much customers who are nurtured through a multi-channel digital campaign ultimately spend with your company, as compared to those who simply continue to get email, or whatever channel they happened to initially engage with.

Four times as much money.

So why do Marketers continue to over-rely on one channel, or a limited mix of channels, to move leads down their purchase journey and toward closed business?

As the truism goes, when all you have is a hammer, all your problems are nails. Marketers continue to double down on the channels they know and focus only on their siloed team performance targets. Email marketers need to meet bulk response goals, so they pound lists with mails, regardless of how it impacts other programs being run just a few offices over.

This is a serious problem in B2B engagement programs. When it comes to nurturing an already engaged lead through the long, complex B2B purchase cycle, this problem can even be fatal.

Marketers must listen to their engaged prospects about how they want to talk to sellers, or run the risk of becoming background noise in the crowded B2B marketplace.

Customers Communicate In Different Ways

In nurturing campaigns, marketers should work to exclude as many people as they can reasonably predict are not going to respond before they launch the campaign.

This runs counter to how many marketers design engagement campaigns, which is to blast as many people as they can in the manner of the campaign they are running.

As I said earlier, that’s a flawed approach, even in engagement campaigns. But to a decision-maker who’s already opted in to a conversation with you, it’s downright rude, and can annoy them right out of the relationship.

A key point to remember here is that “multi-channel” does not mean you continue to hit nurturing prospects with every channel that’s available to you. It means you offer the prospect the full spectrum of channels for communication, and when they tell you how they want the conversation to proceed, you follow their lead. The customer is calling the shots here.

And every responder has a preference.

Some — in fact, most — prefer email. Just to be clear, we here at Anteriad are staunch believers in the power of smartly segmented and targeted email campaigns. We use email as a key component in our content syndication and lead-generation programs, and when coupled with smart customers personas and Intent Monitoring intelligence, the results are powerful. In fact, Hubspot has famously reported that nurturing emails yield 8 percent CTR, while only about 3 percent of recipients tend to click through on engagement mails.

So, email works great — when your responder wants to get email.

But some folks don’t like email. Some would much rather talk to you in social channels. Some don’t even have a social account. Some would honestly rather to speak on the phone about a product or solution they are interested in.

How can you tell which channel is the right fit for your prospect’s nurturing cycle?

You ask them. And you listen to what they tell you.

Quickly Set the Terms of the Conversation

Early in a nurturing program, marketers should route prospects to a preference center, where they are presented with a variety of options for setting guidelines for how you should communicate with them.

Most trade press coverage about preference centers tends to focus on allowing customers to set the frequency and topics of, you guessed it, the emails you send them. (Here’s a smart review from Chief Marketer on how Spotify uses a preference center to get its existing customers to opt-in to cross-sell offers.)

For B2B nurturing, a preference center should offer a prospect the chance to sign up for an alert email about the market you serve, engage with you on social media, or to ask a rep to call them and schedule a demo. You can even fold in SMS messaging, depending on the channel mix you are supporting in your campaigns.

The more explicit the offer is to pick a preferred contact channel, the better. Remember, a typical consumer researches a purchase in at least 3 channels before making a decision. You can’t assume that the media through which you initially engaged a B2B prospect is their favorite way of talking. And there’s no algorithm that is going to tell you with 100 percent accuracy that a prospect would rather be on the phone with you than engaging on Facebook.

I’ll add here that you can also use a multi-option preference center to learn about the purchase stage of your prospects without sending a ton of sequential emails. Business 2 Community reports that bundling nurturing content on a resource hub (instead of devoting a distinct email to each asset) produced a 300 percent increase in lead to pipeline ratio. Multiple assets not only cast a wider net for specific points of interest, but can also help you more clearly identify a prospect’s purchase journey stage.

Of course, you can overwhelm a prospect with too many choices. But encouraging them to tell you what communication channel they prefer early in the process is key to keeping your conversation moving forward.

If a lead goes cold after they tell you where they like to talk … well, that’s a different problem.

Technology Plays a Role

While I am a firm believer in explicitly asking prospects about their preferred communication channels, there are technologies that can help you identify the most effective tactics in engagement and in the early stages of nurturing.

This checklist at Martech Advisor notes that re-targeting has emerged as a key technology for display advertising, particularly as a way to upsell existing customers or to geo-target prospects. B2B sellers also tend to employ pixel-based tracking to identify leads at named accounts or other highly desirable targets in their Account-Based Marketing (ABM) strategies.

In a truly integrated, multi-channel nurturing campaign, customer personas, purchase journey phase, and response to all contact channels should factor into the re-targeting strategy. But again, many marketers are locked into platforms that address only display, and don’t have a broad vision of how all channels are interacting to mold the customer’s relationship with your company.

Speak to Customers in Their Own Language

There’s really nothing I’ve pointed out in this post about multi-channel nurturing programs that wouldn’t draw a “well, duh” from most professional marketing execs. But most companies continue to do a fair job, at best, when it comes to smart multi-channel nurturing campaigns, and many simply are awful at it. Too many marketers are just too entrenched in their individual silos to listen to their prospects and speak to them on their preferred terms. But if you don’t listen, the prospects will stop talking.