The Marketo Master Class series is back with another deep dive into one of the many facets of Marketo: Lead Nurturing. This time around we were lucky enough to team up with Marketo Champion Alumni and Founder of Marketing Rockstar Guides Josh Hill on a special piece of content. Past master classes have drilled into a particular functionality and provided technical tips for navigating the Marketo platform. For this master class, rather than walk through how some of our successful customers leverage Marketo, we wanted to discuss the philosophy every marketer should consider before implementing any and every lead nurturing campaign.

 

1. How did you develop your nurture philosophy?


I developed the Journey Session Framework after working on various nurtures using smart campaigns as well as the Engagement Program. After a few tries, I realized that in order to make it work, there were the five questions to answer. If you cannot answer all of the questions, you won’t be able to launch the nurture properly. In many ways, this harkens back to the old Marketing or Campaign Brief, from a marketing automation point of view.
The Five questions are Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. But that’s not how I ask them to get the answers we need for a nurture program.

  • Entry – Who
  • Exit – Bad – Why
  • Exit – Goal - Why
  • Cadence - When & How
  • Content – What


If you can concretely answer these questions, you can do amazing work in Marketo.
For example, you might end up with a Journey Doc like this:

  • Entry – Who – people who fill out the free trial form with XYZ fields.
  • Exit Bad – people who unsubscribe or cancel their trial.
  • Exit Goal – people who pay for the service.
  • Cadence: one email within 1 hour and then every 2 days at 2pm afterwards.
  • Content: onboarding emails – 3 to start, we may add 3 more.

 

2. What metrics are you looking at if you’re trying to improve a nurture? (open rates/click rates?)


I am not a big proponent of such metrics for a nurture. These days, clicks are about 80% fake – created by spam bot filters. A click can only tell us a little bit about that particular asset, not whether the journey itself is leading toward the desired lifecycle stage. If your nurture is designed to advance someone (a lead or Account) to MQL or SQL, that’s the only metric to consider.
Remember that your stages are (usually) based on a lead scoring methodology or your funnel methodology, so it is predeterminate to say that “We’re driving 20% more MQLs with this new nurture.” Is that because it takes 1 click to reach MQL? Is it three whitepaper downloads? Are your assets structured to hook into that scoring?
In some sense, you can treat a long term, carefully planned nurture, similar to the lead funnel. The ability to monitor the inflow and outflow of the nurture against the key stages is critical.

  • Entry – how many entered each day or month
  • Exit Bad – how many people fell out because of unsubscribes or excluded traits.
  • Exit Goal – how many people reached our goal – MQL or Upsell.

 

3. How do you make changes to an existing nurture/program without reinventing the wheel or breaking the system?


The best way is to add new content. However, I do encounter this issue frequently. Sometimes the marketer made a mistake, sometimes we add new nurtures and have to shift leads to a different nurture after the fact. Most of the time, at least with an Engagement, this is easy to do with smart lists and campaigns.
The challenge is when you have a Smart Campaign drip, or Irregular drip with wait steps running. If leads are in the flow, you may have to remove them and start again. You can also, if you are careful, adjust the flow steps, however, this is risky. Leads could pop out to the wrong step or you could create a bug in the smart campaign and cause it to fail.

4. How do I determine whether content should be in a separate stream or separate program entirely?


I use my Nurture Waterfall concept to decide things like this. Nurtures aren’t about a set of content, they are about the people. The Waterfall has several nurture programs, or streams, designed to take someone with a limited profile to entice them to offer us more information about themselves. Once they do, we move them to more specific nurtures targeting their Account-Solution-Persona.
Usually if the Lifecycle Stage is different or the Buyer Persona is, that’s a reason to have separate Nurture systems. Depending on how you structure the Streams, you can either do this by Persona-Stage or separate the Nurtures. There’s no perfect way to handle this.

 

5. What are the common pitfalls you see in nurture planning and execution?

 

Lack of planning.

Lack of content.
If you don’t understand the Journey Questions, you won’t be able to build the nurture in Marketo or any system.
It is critical to have a continuous stream of content to add to the Streams to extend the nurture as most B2B buyers will take months to years to be ready for your sales people.
The other pitfall is this strange assumption that every nurture begins with 4 emails. The assumption blocks a successful nurture because:

  1. Four emails are rarely enough. Most marketers can barely get 4 emails finalized on Day 1 and then they will rarely come back to add more than four. If you know it takes 60 days to reach SQL and 180 days to make a sale, why is your journey 4 emails?
  2. Only need one email on Day 1. Create a rolling schedule of new content. Your audience won’t notice if there’s a delay, but you definitely need to feed the machine or risk a dead list. Psychologically, creating one email at a time is less daunting than building a 49 week nurture.

 

6. In what situations would you want to leverage a nurture program over any other program?

 

This isn’t the right question. A nurture program is part of a continuous multi-channel effort. People should find content organically or through advertisements, then opt in to further communications. The nurturing program keeps your audience engaged while specific Events, Webinars, Videos, etc will spark their interest further. Of course, not everyone, but enough to keep business moving.

 

Each lead who opts in from offline events should enter a long term nurture. Leads who don’t advance in the funnel should move to an appropriate stream related to the reasons they did not work out this time.

 

We hope you learned some key takeaways to think about while planning your next nurture campaign. Do you have a nurture checklist of your own? We would love to hear about it in the comments!