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Building Persona-Based Nurture Programs

March 01, 2016

Clearly defined buyer personas enable marketers to deliver targeted nurture programs that enhance performance

As online consumers, we are accustomed to retail Web sites where clicking on the image of a shoe, for example, instantly changes the online experience. All of a sudden, we are presented with images of similar shoes or even a coordinating outfit. Later, we’re not surprised to receive targeted emails or see display ads on other Web sites and social networks reminding us of the items we looked at earlier – just in case we’re ready to buy. Combined with valuable data about what other customers have purchased, retailers determine what to display or send us based on the behaviors we have exhibited.

These b-to-c experiences also have impacted b-to-b marketers. Consumers now expect the same seamless digital experience in their busy professional roles. To facilitate this transition, b-to-b marketers must create a strategy that uses personas as the focal point for tailoring the buying experience through improved nurture programs. In this issue of SiriusPerspectives, we describe how to develop persona-based nurture programs.

Persona Nurture Programs

Persona-Based Nurture Prerequisites

According to SiriusDecisions research, a demand creation strategy that includes customized messaging built on personas yields twice the sales pipeline. Keys to such an approach include:

  • Data. Whether the contact database of record is a marketing automation platform (MAP), sales force automation (SFA) system or business intelligence (BI) tool, the ability to associate leads with personas is vital. Audit the persona attribute information currently captured in the system and determine if additional fields and tagging are needed. Consider using a data management platform – a centralized platform that combines first-party data (generated from the company Web site, social platforms and apps usually stored in an SFA or Web analytics system) with third-party data (information generated from other Web sites and obtained for a fee) – to provide more-comprehensive persona profiles.
  • Defined buyer’s journey. Identify the steps the buyer goes through to make a decision by looking at historical interactions in a selection of closed/won deals and identifying patterns. Use the MAP or SFA system to determine the touch history, including the role of specific personas in the purchase process.
  • Buyer personas. Develop personas for demand creation in collaboration with the portfolio marketing team, and prioritize them in order of potential business impact. Use an iterative process to develop personas using multiple data sources and continuous testing. Use the insights captured with search, social and Web analytics to inform and test whether personas and preferences have been accurately defined.

  • Content. Catalog and audit available marketing content by persona and buyer stage for relevance in a nurture program. Identify gaps that indicate where new assets should be created for specific nurture treatment plans. If dynamic content will be used, determine which templates are offered within the MAP, use MAP logic to build personalized touches, and take into account any additional email, offer, landing page content requirements.

  • Technology and analytics. Evaluate the capabilities of content management system (CMS), MAP, SFA and BI tools to establish additional persona-level functionality that can be leveraged to improve program performance and enhance persona accuracy over time. For example, many CMSs and MAPs offer dynamic content capabilities, opportunities for progressive profiling, A/B testing and personalization. Predictive analytics also can provide additional insight into personas for enhanced program performance. Assess required tagging to leverage advanced capabilities to filter contacts and then group them under common persona rules when certain criteria are fulfilled (e.g. opened email, clicked link, browsed page, completed form). Plan ahead to capture specific analytics – determine which tracking codes need to be encoded for online analytics measurement. For example, if the nurture includes a multi-channel approach (e.g. retargeting digital advertising), confirm with the ad networks which tracking codes are required for analytics.

Program Development

SiriusDecisions suggests three categories of nurture program: pre-marketing qualified lead (pre-MQL), recycled and reconstituted. Integrate nurture programs with a strategic, theme-based campaign to set targeted demand creation objectives. Identify two or three personas that align with the campaign theme. Select all program components and touchpoints through the lens of the persona’s preferences, business pain points and role in the buying process, and map content assets to the buyer’s journey. Each nurture type should include four nurture pillars, including:

  • Entry. Variable triggers and pathways indicate that a prospect should move into specific persona-based nurture flows. Unknown prospects should first enter a default track until enough data is captured to assign a specific persona. Use marketing analytics and lead intelligence to identify the characteristics that correlate with each persona (e.g. target market segment, preferences, watering holes, job titles) to leverage look-alike modeling – using persona profile data to find customers that resemble ideal ones. Persona profile criteria also can be applied to known prospects in the database for the purpose of compiling a list of potential leads that match the nurture track criteria. Once tagged to a persona, the lead is transitioned, and the MAP further segments which type of persona-based nurture program it should route to, depending on the stage in the sales cycle (pre-MQL, active recycled, passive recycled, or reconstituted).
  • Treatment. Content, offers and messages drive incremental activity with prospects in nurture flows. The persona’s pain points and interests should drive the messages and offers, and persona preferences should drive the channel selections, along with the content length, tone and format for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Ensure that persona analysis is also leveraged to provide a consistent buyer experience on the Web site. Optimize the Web site’s effectiveness by following a structured approach to attract, engage and qualify unknown prospects. Digital display advertising is valuable for persona-based nurture treatment when executed from within the MAP. Create a multi-channel experience with targeted display advertising and engage interested prospects by delivering personalized content. Determine the most productive nurture approach to achieve program objectives with available resources.
  • Transition. Transition signals indicate that a prospect is ready to be moved back into an active demand state. Outline with sales the transition signals, lead scoring schematic and lead definition thresholds for each type of nurture program.
  • Disposition. Define the pathways, locations and manner in which a nurtured prospect is delivered to the receiving function. For example, leads successfully transitioning out of pre-MQL and active recycling nurtures are typically delivered to teleprospecting, inside or field sales, or channel partners. In passive recycling, requalified leads are sent to the original rep or another salesperson, while prospects in reconstituted nurture programs are routed to a receiving function or placed in a more targeted long-term nurture. Provide the receiving function with a clear understanding of the prospect’s previous interactions and the best approach to retain continuity within the nurture program.

  • Additional considerations. Develop a timeline that includes lead times to design digital ads, create mobile-optimized templates for emails and landing pages, fill any content gaps, code necessary MAP tracking codes and train the teleprospecting and sales teams on the pilot program strategy and execution details. Capture data from touchpoints to document outcomes, conversion, velocity, rejection and disqualification reasons. Schedule the measurement, reporting and analysis cadence with stakeholders, and assess the performance of persona-based nurtures using descriptive, diagnostic and predictive measures.

The Sirius Decision

Whether selecting a pair of shoes or researching a business solution, today’s empowered buyers expect to move effortlessly between online and offline channels. Accommodate changing buyer preferences with persona-based nurture programs that span devices, channels and stages of the buyer’s journey. The initial scope should be narrow and clearly defined to avoid stalled execution and improve the ability to test variables. Take the time to develop detailed personas and focus on nurture programs that truly drive revenue. Advanced lead nurturing capabilities offered by MAPs and analytics technology enable marketers to engage prospects across channels with increasingly personalized programs.