Marketo Master Class: Scaling a Nurture with Ann Marie Gastineau

Marketo Employee
Marketo Employee

In this edition of Marketo Master Class, we're partnering with Marketo Champion Ann Marie Gastineau to demystify best practices around scaling a nurture in Marketo. In this article we'll take a look at the time and place to implement a nurture, best practices around applying a tokenized strategy to nurtures, and more. If you have additional insight for running a best-in-class nurture program, let us know in the comments!

1. Why nurture? (How do you determine if a nurture is the right strategy for your business?)

Nurture is the right strategy for any lead who isn’t ready to buy from you immediately – which will be most everyone. Certainly, there’s bound to be a few sales-ready leads who fill out your Contact Us (or Get a Quote, or Free Trial, or whatever) form the first time they visit your site, but they’re rare. More likely, your target audience has no idea who you are (depending on how strong your brand is), or what you have to offer. They may not even realize they have a need.

66% to 90% of a Buyer’s Journey today is self-directed (Forrester) – which means your prospective buyers are out there right now roaming around the internet trying to decide what to buy and who to buy it from.

The goal of lead generation campaigns is to get as many people in your target audience into your database as cheaply as possible. This means offering something valuable for very little (an email address). Conversely, the goal of lead nurture is to convert them into sales-ready leads.

            2. What’s the most important aspect of a successful nurture? 

The key to nurture is to present the right type of content at the right time. Having campaigns in place that address each stage of your buyers’ journey is crucial. Then, use demographic and behavioral data to move leads or customers between campaigns at the right time.  

The easiest way to visualize your campaigns during planning is in a linear email flow, where leads receive each email at a set cadence in a set order. But a good nurture strategy isn’t just limited to email. Once you have a nurture campaign built, you can easily promote that content in additional channels, driving traffic into the nurture flow.  You could boost engagement experience in a mid or bottom-of-funnel campaign by remarketing to your audience in SEM (search engine marketing).

3. How would you execute a simple drip?

The simplest form of nurture is one email touch leading to the next in a series. Some may be gated (behind a form) and some ungated. Stringing together a series of email touches in a linear layout is a drip campaign, one after the next with no change in cadence. This is where most “nurturing” starts.

Drip campaigns are a great way to begin building your nurture. No matter how complex the structure eventually becomes, the first few pieces were probably built in a linear progression. And frankly, sometimes you just need to get stuff in market! A drip is a place to start.


4. What are the essential building blocks of a nurture?

Content Sets: Many marketers seem to like 3-touch nurture programs (a series of 3 emails) - I’m not really sure why. I suppose it could be aligning to the 3 stages of the funnel (TOFU, MOFU, BOFU), but you cannot possibly address the buyer’s journey in 3 touches. That said, you can think of these small series as a “set” (though it doesn’t have to be 3, it could just as easily be 4, 5, or 6 depending on you resources), a starting point. Build in chunks like this with each piece of content flowing into another like a conversation.




Persistent CTA: Now let’s make the flow more interactive. We already know buyers want to navigate their own journey. If you give them the opportunity, they will continue clicking and consuming. An important step to capturing that interest  is to introduce a “persistent” call to action – a hander-raiser CTA somewhere that’s always available. This way, buyers don’t have to wait for you to “lead” them to the bottom of the funnel, they can self-select their way there.

Follow-on Content: Next, build in routes to more content using follow-on content. This is the reason for building in “chunks.” If you build 4 touches (see: Content Set) at once, the assets in the first touch can include thumbnails with links to the next 3. I like to include these on the thank you pages and thank you emails rather than before the form – in this way, your gated page can remain still be streamlined and uncluttered with extra content.

Connected Content: Each piece of content that buyers engage with should lead to more content. If nurture is a game of chutes and ladders – consider building in as many chutes as possible.


5. What is layering?  

Once you have a few nurture tracks in place of decent length (depending on your buyer’s journey and time-to-buy, begin routing between them and creating more intricate flows. For example, let’s say you have a top-of-funnel nurture campaign in place that uses the follow-on content approach described above. Mid-way through your campaign, begin placing follow-on content from your mid-funnel campaigns on your thank you pages and emails. Set up trigger campaigns that move leads from one engagement program to another based on consumption.



Set up scoring campaigns that watch for buying signals on your site and with your content. If a lead interacts exclusively with content from one solution – route them to a bottom-of-funnel campaign focused on that.


6. Are you leveraging tokens in your nurture? If so, how do you connect your token strategy with your nurture strategy?

Building this many campaigns, each with multiple touches, and each of those having 2+ assets (emails and landing pages) a piece, is a seriously heavy lift. Using tokens makes building more manageable as well as consistent across multiple users.

A few tokens that I like to use when mass producing nurture touches are:


  • Persistent CTA copy and URL – this is the hand-raiser call to action in the footer of emails and landing pages (get a demo, free trial, contact, etc.); this one lives at the Engagement Program level to carry through each nested touch program
  • Banner images – a gated touch will have 2+ emails and landing pages each, a token saves you from adding it in 4 places, or worse, missing one
  • Primary CTA copy and URL – this is the button copy and link for whatever piece of content you’re highlighting in the touch
  • Follow On Content images, descriptions and URLs – tokenizing these components streamlines the follow-on content set up process

7. What different kinds of nurture do you use?

General Nurture: This is the place to put everyone you don’t know what to do with. This nurture would contain top-of-funnel content that’s highly engaging. There could be a great length of time where the right people just aren’t ready to buy, so this is an opportunity to keep them engaged until they are – all while establishing your brand as a trusted source in your space.

Persona Nurture: Once you’ve established who someone is, you may move them to a campaign focused on their pain points. This still isn’t the right place to sell – but you can start honing your message.

Bottom-of-Funnel Nurture: This nurture may be product-, service-, or solution-focused. This is where you finally get to talk about yourself. You’ve had lots of time to lay the groundwork – proving your authority, laying out resolutions to their pain points at a high level – now you can spell out just how your solution is the best choice.

Recycle Campaigns: Direct leads that have been rejected by sales here, it may be worth having one for each reason they may be rejected, aligning to BANT (budget/authority/need/timing) or closed lost for any number of reasons – competitor-focused campaigns fall under this category.

Onboarding Campaigns: Campaigns for new customers – training, adoption, etc.

Cross-Sell/Up-sell: Campaigns for existing customers, especially if there’s particular value in having a combination of multiple offerings. These can be created by adjusting the messaging in your bottom-of-funnel campaigns.

8. When do you use one nurture with multiple streams vs multiple nurture programs that function as a singular marketing strategy?

Typically, one Engagement Program with multiple streams makes the most sense if you’re marketing to a single defined audience that’s moving through stages. A general nurture top-of-funnel campaign, for example, might have content stages that you want leads to progress through. You’d build multiple streams and create transition rules that move them from one to the next as they engage.


When you learn something new about a lead – their persona, or their product of interest – it’s time to route them to a new nurture track that caters to the segment they’ve just qualified for.


9. Results: Integrated Nurturing ecosystem

Pulling all of these components and tactics together results in an integrated nurture ecosystem. A place where your prospects can move through your content at their own pace - as quickly, or slowly, as they like - like chutes and ladders. Where triggered routing smart campaigns move them between nurture tracks to address their needs and pain points.

Keys to success – integrated nurture ecosystem:


1.     Build in “chunks” rather than all at once

2.     Create routes to continued consumption with follow-on content

3.     Use triggered campaigns to route leads between engagement programs. Trigger on:

a.     Content engagement

b.    Persona and interest scoring

4.     Include a persistent CTA to harvest sales-ready leads faster


Level 10 - Champion Alumni

Great overview of nurturing.

Level 7 - Champion Alumni

Really love the visuals here!  I'm going to share this in the Toronto User Group I know a lot of people there are wondering how to take their nurtures to the next level

Level 7

This is great - We've just covered nurture programs within our latest MUG so I'll make sure to share it with the Auckland crew

Level 4

Follow ups to landing pages

Level 3

Wow this is really above and beyond. Such a wonderful overview of nurtures. My team tends to get stuck determining which content to use so unfortunately I do not get to build out lovely drip campaigns as much as I wish.  

Level 10

This is fab - especially with the visual guides! Will definitely be sharing this with my users as they start learning more about nurtures.

Level 6 - Champion Alumni

Excellent tips there. I like the idea of the next touch being on a thank you page etc.

Level 9

Absolutely love your visualizations. Will definitely be sharing!

Level 7 - Champion Alumni

Great overview of nurtures.

Level 10

We've done some great product specific nurtures recently. Really enjoyed this content