Nurture 101: The 6 Nurture Programs You Should Be Using
In B2B sales, the buying journey can be long and complex. As accounts start from awareness of the problem to the purchase decision of a solution, marketing needs to provide them with the content and messaging to drive interest in a conversation with a sales team. But there’s nothing more frustrating than not seeing pipeline and revenue impacts as a result of your well-thought-out campaigns and strategies. Is it not enough that you’re releasing content relevant to their problem and how to solve it? The short answer is no—you must get more personalized to the account, its timeline, and thought processes.
This is why we nurture.
Nurturing’s goal is to keep your brand and solution top of mind when an account moves through the buying journey, so you’re on the shortlist when they’re ready to make their decision. It’s complex on the account’s side too. Gartner tells us the typical buying committee for a complex B2B solution involves 6-10 decision makers‚ each armed with 4-5 pieces of information they’ve gathered independently and must deconflict with the group. This is also why executing account-based strategies can often become difficult, as each member may have a different point of view, set of pain points or use cases for a solution, and requirements to prioritize before finalizing a purchase.
For example, consider the buying committee for an ERP solution. The Finance department will be concerned about the budget and resources needed to manage a solution, while someone in the Security department will be considering assurance and data safety measures. With 49% of buying committees never speaking to a sales rep during a purchase decision, marketing must provide relevant content and messaging to enable decision-makers to advance in their purchase journey.
Why Should Marketers Build Multiple Nurture Programs?
As marketers, we need to meet buyers where they are with content that helps to reach a consensus at each stage of the buyer’s journey. One nurture plan cannot cover this requirement because different objectives are associated with moving an account through each stage.
Here are some examples of nurture program goals:
- Promote awareness of a business challenge or opportunity
- Educate customers on how to evaluate different solutions for the best outcome
- Drive consensus across the buying committee that your solution brings the most value
- Reinforce the value of investing in a solution that differs from the status quo
- Reduce the friction from the sales process by ensuring that a solution can meet expectations around time-to-value
When you think about it, each of these examples requires different approaches to content and messaging based on the goal of the nurture program and the supporting criteria around it. A one-size-fits-all approach will simply not work.
Additionally, not all buyers in your pipeline are the same. You have different customer segments like net-new logos or existing upsell, cross-sell, or renewal opportunities. Or accounts that move faster or slower through the buyer’s journey require different nurturing paths.
Moving accounts through the sales cycle requires a more thoughtful approach aligned with the needs of the buying committee. When it comes to a full-funnel approach, you’ll need nurture programs built for the most common milestones or “drop-off” points in the customer journey.
Below is a guide to the six nurture programs you should use to move them through the funnel.
1. Solution Nurture
Program Goal: An organization hasn’t shown enough engagement to be considered “sales-ready”. Additionally, within B2B buying journeys, more than one person is researching a solution. A marketer’s goal for this nurture is to deliver the right content to multiple decision-makers, enabling them to arrive at a consensus to have a conversation with sales.
When to use this program: This program is based on the early stages of the buyer’s journey, where they decide if they have a problem to solve, how to solve it, and if now is the right time to solve it. The buyer may need more time to research and evaluate solutions in this case. On the other hand, your buyer may be further along and have all the information they need.
How do you use this nurture program: Marketers need to identify the buying committee members for a more robust picture of the account and realize content gaps that need to be filled to progress the buyer’s journey. Content needs to educate and spark a unified conversation within the committee to move them into the solution qualification stage and drive a sense of urgency to speak with your sales team. Think of content in three buckets: Explain the problem, why a solution is needed now, and why your solution is the best choice.
What aspects of the account can trigger this nurture program: The account or contact is not responding to sales outreach, made a move to request a conversation, or is marked as ‘No response’ in a CRM. This account could also slow engagement with existing content.
When should this account exit this nurture program: This account should register more engagement with your content as they progress through the buyer’s journey. You know they’re progressing if you receive a sales conversation request or a demo inquiry, and this helps your team gauge when they’re interested in further solution exploration. If the account provides a negative response to an email conversation more follow-ups may be needed to clear up the response, but this needs to be handled with caution
2. Opportunity Acceleration Nurture
Program Goal: An account is “stuck” in the sales pipeline and has not moved to a closed deal. Accounts get stuck in the pipeline for a few reasons. There could be a stalled agreement on moving to the final sales conversation by the committee due to budget or time, or maybe an internal conflict within the prospect’s organization could take precedence over investing in your solution. By understanding possible outside factors, you can adjust strategies to get the account to advance to the next stage of the sales cycle and ultimately become a new customer.
When to use this program: Since some sales cycles do not have defined budgets or timelines for buyers, they may get to the “proposal” stage of the pipeline, encounter budget concerns or timeline limits, and need to pause their movement in the pipeline. Additionally, the account may need more time to explore your solution or another solution further.
How do you use this nurture program: Unstick the sales process by giving them the content and education needed to move forward at “last mile” objections. Try to schedule a conversation to discuss any factors or deliver insights on how to overcome budget and timeline obstacles and how your brand can work with the account to push the deal forward. If they are considering one solution over another, be sure to include your key differentiators.
What aspects of the account can trigger this nurture program: When the account’s interactions with content have stopped, they quit responding to RFPs or final sales conversations or haven’t signed a contract in a determined amount of time.
When should this account exit this nurture program: When the deal is won, or your sales team receives a current, justifiable reason why they’re not converting to a customer.
3. Reengagement Nurture
Program Goal: The account in an active sales conversation stops responding to the sales rep. While factors can influence this moment out of your control, the account still qualifies as a potential customer at some point. Your goal is to understand the pain points and get them to re-engage in active discussions, and avoid an opportunity stall.
When to use this program: There are a few reasons why a buyer stops responding to sales. The buying committee could be rethinking their business problem, realize that your solution wasn’t going to work for them right now, or that believe solving the problem has been replaced with another business-critical issue inside their company. Additionally, maybe the early conversation with your sales team was too early, and they need to take more time researching before they can proceed.
How do you use this nurture program: Review your campaigns to ensure they answer the questions about the problem to curb any information gaps. Encourage them to investigate your product as a solution with information that leads them to more of your content.
What aspects of the account can trigger this nurture program: This program may be appropriate when the account demonstrated a significant decline in engagement over a period of a few weeks or months, depending on the sales cycle.
When should this account exit this nurture program: Engagement picks up, the contact resumes investment discussions for your solution, or the account wants to leave the sales cycle—this can be for a set amount of time or some pre-determined criteria that indicate high interest from the buyer.
4. Recycle Nurture
Program Goal: An account left the sales pipeline due to a “no” on your solution. Once you figure out why they said “no”, use that to fuel a content strategy that can overcome that no and nurture them back into the sales pipeline.
When to use this program: Your buyer may have been in the final stages and ready to purchase, but something held them back. It could be they didn’t find the budget, couldn’t get it from the CFO, or the timing wasn’t right. With these accounts, you need a definitive reason to understand why they left the sales cycle.
How do you use this nurture program: Like the Opportunity and Reengagement programs, your goal is to build prescriptive content that helps them close the deal. Change hearts and minds with content focused on answering those definitive reasons they said no the first time, how they can overcome any obstacles with your organization’s partnership, and why they will receive more value in investing in your solution than alternatives.
What aspects of the account can trigger this nurture program: They were in the final negotiations of a deal, be it a net-new or renewal, but they changed their decision to a “no.” If the reason is something you can answer, they need more information from you to consider moving forward.
When should this account exit this nurture program: If the account is a definitive “no” it could hurt the relationship and if you continue targeting them with nurturing content, they may be a “no” indefinitely. But, on the other hand, if you’re successful in re-engaging the conversation and the account re-enters into final negotiations, the deal can be won.
5. Renewal or Retention Nurture
Program Goal: Your customer’s account is reaching the end of a subscription lifecycle and you have not received confirmation on renewal. Your goal is to prevent customer churn and ignite more renewals for your solutions.
When to use this program: Your customer has indicated that they do not see value in renewals or are considering switching solution vendors when the contract is up because they believe they will receive greater value elsewhere.
How do you use this nurture program: Reinforce the value of your solution to your customer well before the renewal conversation happens. Use content that reminds them of your solution’s value to their original problem. You can also create content that shows the customer what continued value your solution brings to their business.
What aspects of the account can trigger this nurture program: They are an existing customer, and your CRM shows that they are near the end of the subscription period, but they have not contacted their sales rep about a renewal.
When should this account exit this nurture program: If the account contacts your sales team about renewing or not renewing. If it is a “no” to renewal, you can route the account to the Recycle program.
6. Customer Expansion Nurture
Program Goal: You have a customer that adopted one aspect of your solution, but you know that adding another part will benefit their business goals further. For solution providers with more than one solution designed to solve a problem, you want your customer to expand their investment across more of your solutions.
When to use this program: You have not yet maximized wallet share with the organization, and your customer could better achieve their desired business outcome by leveraging more of your solution. This program can be leveraged whether you have multiple solutions for customers to purchase or your opportunity to increase revenue is based on usage-based pricing. Your customers will benefit by expanding their solution stack. That results in larger deal sizes and revenue for you.
How do you use this nurture program: Think through the best ways to maximize revenue for the account, and design content and campaigns that reinforce the value of investing more in your solution for extra capabilities or multi-products to solve a customer’s problem. Lean on stories from similar customers that deploy more than one of your solutions to prove credibility and value.
What aspects of the account can trigger this nurture program: They are an existing customer, and they fit the profile of a customer that would benefit from additional solutions. They could also be investing a set amount in your solution but call notes and customer success meetings indicate that they would benefit from an expansion in your solutions or service.
When should this account exit this nurture program: If the account engages and has a conversation with your sales team about expanding the solution’s breadth in their organization or if the account does not move to grow with your sales team and gives a reason why they don’t want to invest more.
How Long Should My Nurture Program Be?
While we have provided a neat list of nurturing programs, it’s important to include sales input and insights you’ve gathered through the ABM campaign to refine your approach. Nurture programs should not be built in isolation. You can make more informed decisions and optimization recommendations by maintaining regular conversations with the sales organization and supplementing those with existing performance data from your MAP and CRM platforms.
Let’s discuss some program factors to consider when you’re building nurturing strategies:
- Average Sales Cycle Length: With elongated sales cycles, the account needs more information, and you need to meet each consideration of the decision maker involved in the buying committee to drive a consensus that your solution is the right fit. This means a more strategic and involved nurture approach. Transactional models typically feature fewer stakeholders, so internal change management that could delay a decision isn’t as impactful. You can run shorter nurture programs for this use case.
- Size of a Buying Committee: Larger buying committees often mean establishing a business case or justifying investment against competing priorities. Remember, they have their own goals and considerations when they think about a solution, so they will need more time and information to meet these factors. Smaller buying committees will be more flexible in most cases.
- Market Maturity: Industries introducing a new way of solving a problem often need to educate the market on “why change”, while established solutions may require competitive differentiation (“why us”).
Building a More Effective Nurturing Program
Organizations that nurture accounts effectively through the buyer’s journey see clear benefits like increasing revenue and the sales pipeline. The programs we shared can help marketers uncover opportunities to drive engagement and influence across multiple channels more efficiently. But half the battle is understanding your accounts and their progression through the buyer’s journey. It will take lots of teamwork between marketing and sales, examination of best practices with won accounts, and leveraging data, data, data. But companies that excel at nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost. That’s a statistic that would be hard for any B2B marketers to ignore.