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What Kind of Lead Nurture Program Should You Use?

A lead nurture program (also known as an engagement program, or content drip track, or marketing automation plan…okay, okay, you get the point) – while its many interchangeable names can cause some confusion, the bottom line is that having one constitutes a fundamental piece of any digital marketing mix.

There are many different ways to construct a nurture program, and they can differ dramatically in complexity and difficulty of implementation. In this entry, I will focus broadly on two different types of nurture programs and explain their key differences and use cases: first we have timed nurture, and alternatively, we have reactive.

Timed nurture is crawl-stage compared to to the walk/run complexity of a reactive nurture program; however, this does not mean that the technique should be discarded simply because there are more advanced methods out there. Ever hear the phrase, “Don’t let ‘perfect’ get in the way of ‘better’”? This is one of those times. Because a timed campaign is much more straightforward to build, 10 times out of 10 it will be implemented more quickly than a reactive campaign (not to mention, if you’re not careful, reactive programs can become so complicated they never come to fruition at all).

To implement a timed nurture program, simply arrange your content pieces in the order you want your prospects to receive them, choose a standard interval at which each piece will be sent, pick a start date, then activate your program. Set-it-and-forget-it. The exact operations to set up your program will differ depending on your automation system, but the concept is pretty simple regardless of the nuts and bolts. You can apply a timed nurture program to new leads coming into your system as a way to ensure continued, soft touch-points for your new prospects – or you could build a middle-of-the-funnel track so your warm leads don’t forget about you. The timed nurture program is a great, easy tool to use to get the most out of your leads.

As mentioned earlier, a reactive nurture program is much more complex than a timed one, but it offers distinct advantages. Think of timed nurture as the ‘shotgun approach’ – applying generalized content to a wide range of targets over a standard interval of time. Reactive nurture, by comparison, is the ‘rifle approach’. Through reactive nurture, the objective is to reach “the right person, with the right method, at the right time” – in sharp contrast to a timed campaign. To accomplish this, a reactive program will utilize a (often complex) series of “if/then” statements (sometimes called triggers), to analyze lead activity in real-time. These triggers can help inform your automation system as to whether a lead has opted out of a newsletter and into a different one, requested information on a specific topic, changed mail preferences, or asked to speak to a sales rep. If executed well, a reactive nurture program will speed a prospect through the sales cycle.

Regardless of what nurture method you choose, it is imperative to always start with a solid message map. Think of this as your outline before writing a term paper. You’ll want to agree on the messaging, and the ultimate action you want your prospects to take, or no matter how sophisticated your logic, no one will be able to agree on how successful your program actually becomes. So plan carefully, then give it a try; let your content work smarter and harder for you!

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