Nurture paths are critical in B2B marketing as they leverage the marketing investment to return the maximum value.
Why do B2B marketers create nurture paths? It’s simple — because the vast majority of the market is not ready, willing or able to buy at the exact moment a prospect has first contact with an organization.
Nurture paths are the union of the Buyer Behavior Model, Journey Board and Value Drivers and exist to build relationship or position in a prospects mind by being relevant and meaningful. Astute marketers proactively build these models and apply these concepts to acquire and retain customers – which enhances their go-to-market strategy.
B2B Marketing – Buyer Behavior Model
The Buyer Behavior Model is a representation of the buying process that clearly shows how a prospective customer buys an organizations solution. Typically, B2B Marketing begins with a “trigger” —i.e. the impetus for why a particular topic is of interest or importance to the prospect now. This then extends all the way through to how this targeted prospect interacts within the organization to make a purchase.
Title or Role
In B2B Marketing, the Buyer Behavior Model will always include a title or role such as Chief Marketing Officer, CFO, Director of Application Development or Director of IT Operations.
Stages or Phases
A Buyer Behavior Model will also include the stages of the prospective customer’s buying process. The number of stages will vary by the company, industry, etc. A basic concept in B2B Marketing is that at each stage, a customer has a specific objective or need that a vendor must align to in order to be meaningful and relevant. If this alignment does not occur, a vendor’s communication efforts are simply considered noise and will be ignored or disregarded.
B2B Marketing – Journey Boards
Because the Journey Boards leverage the stages or phases constructed from the Buyer Behavior Model there is consistency between the two. The difference is that the Journey Board in B2B Marketing summarizes the assets (physical and digital) that an organization has to offer a specific title or role at a specific phase in the buying process.
Most organizations do not have a formal framework for creating assets, so when an organization’s assets are mapped to a Journey Board for a specific title there are typically many overlaps. Another common problem is that an organization will employ a “one-size fits all” approach meaning one asset is for everyone. This is usually not a best practice because the titles or roles that an organization sells to are in different functional areas (sales, marketing, finance, operations, IT, etc.). Also, there are both strategic and operational audiences.
Some organizations have embraced a content strategy framework, and if that framework includes the concepts of personas and buyer behavior models, the Journey Board is a natural fallout. However, many organizations do not have a content strategy, and as a result are faced with a Journey Board that is less than complete. The good news is that adopting this B2B Marketing approach will provide more focus for one’s sales and marketing efforts as well as more meaningful and relevant content for the target audience. The bad news is that it will require some work to build out the Journey Board to provide value to customers throughout the buying process.
If the organization’s sales enablement system does not offer insight into existing assets, when those assets were created, how often they are used and in what deals, at what stage in the sales cycle and if they are viewed as valuable by the sales team, then it’s important to conduct the process manually. First, compile a list of all available assets. Next, align the assets that exist to the title/role and sales stage/phase. Then, review those assets with the sales and marketing teams to determine if they are current, relevant and meaningful. Take the time to note what is missing as that becomes the content plan to complete each Journey Board.
B2B Marketing – Value Drivers
Value Drivers comprise the specific messaging that is tailored to resonate with each title/role. This messaging is designed to spur action by the prospect, and is created by understanding the persona, buyer behavior model, strategic vs operational needs, economic value and the nerve to spur that action. It’s important to note that this is not the corporate messaging and positioning statement typically watered down for different functional areas.
This messaging in B2B Marketing is critical because these are the words the prospect will see on assets such as the web page and emails, and hear on webcasts, conference calls and in face-to-face meetings. Remember, the target prospect is also being courted by other companies. It’s likely that between ten to 100 vendors are saying the same thing or something very similar to what one’s organization is communicating – so the message MUST be unique and resonate.
B2B Marketing – 10 Touch Model – Emails
While stages or phases are the backdrop for the nurture path in B2B Marketing, emails are at the heart of it. Once an organization has completed the prerequisites (personas, Buyer Behavior Models, Journey Boards and Value Drivers) it is now successfully positioned to create the emails, offers and engagement. An organization has to determine the fit of the prospect based on what they do, where they go or what they say. In the simplest case, if a website visitor downloads an asset, there can be a business rule that places that person on a nurture path at a specific phase or stage. On the other hand, an organization may leverage a Qualification Matrix (primarily used to grade leads) or a scoring system (assigns and subtracts points for behavior: web, social, interactive) and based on that score, the prospect is assigned to a nurture path at a specific phase or stage.
Regardless of how a prospect arrives in a B2B Marketing path, the nurture path should offer up a series of content through emails designed to provide the information and messaging that is relevant to that person at that time. The Buyer Behavior Model defines what is relevant at the stage, the Journey Board identifies the content that is sought and the Value Drivers communicate what it is, why it’s important and how it is different.
B2B Marketing – 10 Touch Model – Scripts
Scripts go hand-in-hand with emails to form a strong, integrated follow-up process. There are a couple reasons for this. First, scripts enable phone conversations that provide value as they are created with the customer buying process in mind and offer content that address prospect’s questions, motivations and interests. Secondly, some people prefer to “talk to a person” rather than read email. Third, coupled with emails, adding a script doubles the number of attempted contacts with a prospect.
Scripts need to be synchronized to the content in email, and, as noted earlier, the emails need to be aligned with the buying process. Prospects have a higher propensity to engage with a sales development representative (SDR) when they:
- Just received content they are interested in and that content is referenced by the SDR
- Offer to answer related questions
- Offer insights or value to the topic at hand
- Provide access to information or people
It’s important to have a call guide for sales development reps so that they do not break cardinal rules such as opening with:
- Is this a good time to talk
- My name is …
- How is your day going
The goal of the script is to empower the sales development rep to engage with the prospect and provide information and insights. In exchange, the prospect helps the organization determine (though the qualification matrix and scoring model) whether this person has a high propensity to purchase. Ideally, there is perceived value on both sides of the conversation, the prospect is successfully nurtured and then goes on to become a qualified sales opportunity.
Nurture Paths Are Critical in B2B Marketing
Nurture paths are basically diametrically opposite of the the concept of selling off a page. Regardless of whether the purchase is made online, though a physical location or through a direct sales rep, nurture paths will significantly impact the successful execution of an organization’s go-to-market strategy.
Implementing nurture paths requires an understanding of the buying process and the ability to segment to a level that exploits your organizations, content, relevance and ability to positively impact desired business outcomes.