When Prospective Gains Become Sunk Costs
The fundamental purpose of marketing campaigns is to generate qualified leads – to transform cold leads into warmer prospects that sales can convert to opportunities. These campaigns are often driven by specific events: holidays, trade shows, sales offers, and cultural moments – Cannes, South by Southwest, or the Super Bowl. It makes sense to engineer campaigns around such events: It helps content stand apart from typical promotions, and it can yield higher-quality leads, with interests and pain points already identified.
But it is impractical for marketers to base their lead generation strategy on these “unicorn” campaigns (as I like to call them). Individualized to a precise moment, these campaigns are fun to see in action; however, they demand a king’s ransom in terms of time and money invested. Moreover, the thing that makes unicorn campaigns so appealing – their uniqueness – also makes their results hard to predict.
And it is this variability that, for most brands, makes it impossible for such campaigns to fuel a marketing engine. Short-lived and dependent on the external event for relevance, one-off campaigns lose impact when the event concludes. Prospective gains become sunk costs, and marketing is stuck with whatever MQLs the unicorns generated (or didn’t) – usually as the main measure of success (or failure).
Rarely is the unicorn approach even appreciated internally. In fact, it often causes non-marketing teams to underestimate the effort necessary for a good, singular campaign. All this means that modern marketers must focus less on unicorns and more on a workhorse. The most useful of these is a general nurture, which can consistently generate leads without the unicorns’ heavy investment and uncertain outcomes. A general nurture is a campaign for all seasons – one you can set, forget, and depend on for results.
“Freedom From Drudgery”
Despite its name, a general nurture is highly customizable. A good one delivers an email campaign that is broad enough to speak to everyone top of funnel, yet detailed enough to address target personas. Unlike unicorn campaigns, a general nurture doesn’t have a shelf life: It is always on, utilizing content that is always fresh since it isn’t tied to a specific event. What makes for good evergreen content? Case studies, blog posts, and infographics are popular, but any content that’s both approachable and educational qualifies. Good evergreen content often highlights permanent truths about your brand or solution: its core competencies, such as speed and accuracy, for example.
But what does it mean for a campaign to always be on? Isn’t it harder to maintain a campaign that never sleeps? The key here is automation – or, as Oracle put it earlier this year, “freedom from drudgery” (the little-known fifth Norman Rockwell painting). Automation is crucial for a successful general nurture: It enables marketers to streamline engagement with workflows, enrollment and exit criteria, lead scoring, and segment building. These elements work together to make the lead generation workhorse: directing people to content best suited to their interests and flowing them out when they’re ready to be passed to sales.
The First Email Should Do 3 Things
As I said earlier, the ideal general nurture is anything but. Marketers can automate their engagement with target personas, delivering relevant content based on contacts’ industry, job title, pain points, location, and more. And while entrance criteria can be simple – for example, enroll everyone who has not yet been marketing-qualified – entrance points can be customized. To illustrate: One move I recommend is to enroll all new prospects in a general nurture and to greet them with an email that does three things: introduces your brand, prepares them for more communication, and enables them to take action to help them identify for you their challenges and interests.
This third point can be accomplished in a number of ways, but a dependable method is to include multiple calls to action in the first email, then flow contacts into a targeted nurture track based on their choice. Another technique is to send contacts to a landing page with an incentivized form that lets them declare their main interest or business challenge.
A Little Bit of Unicorn Never Hurt Anybody
It also matters how and why these soon-to-be-nurtured leads were added to your database. Did your sales reps meet them at a niche conference? Are you reaching out because their organization recently won an award? These are small but crucial details you can use to make the initial email compelling – infusing a sprinkling of unicorn into your workhorse campaign.
And, should the mood strike, more than a sprinkling can be added. The best thing about a general nurture is that, once it’s running, it can be updated as much or as little as needed. Want to set it and forget it? You can. If it is programmed correctly and generating qualified leads, marketers can basically leave it alone.
But if marketing wants to adjust the nurture, it can do that too. Unlike one-off campaigns, the general nurture has no expiration date – marketers can tweak it continually, enhancing it as they can gain new persona insights, develop new content, create better designs, and devise more meaningful ways to engage.
Automatic ROI (The Best Kind)
It should be stressed that the purpose of this article isn’t to disparage one-off campaigns. They’re necessary to break up the drone of typical marketing promotion. In fact, spikes in engagement often follow unicorn campaigns because they are so extraordinary. And sometimes these campaigns produce better-than-average MQLs: Due to their specific qualifying actions, sales can have a leg up in understanding how to approach them. And, let’s be honest: Unicorn campaigns are fun. Which ad would you be more likely to click in February: one that speaks to your pain point in a non-specific way, or one that speaks to your pain point and explicitly connects with the Super Bowl?
Modern marketers must simply remember that lead generation can’t rely entirely on unicorn campaigns. Rather, these singular creations must be supported by at least one workhorse: an always-on, evergreen general nurture, reliably churning out MQLs even (especially) when marketing is focusing efforts elsewhere. Unicorn campaigns require spurts of heavy investment. A general nurture requires upfront effort but then can be left alone – and it will return that investment automatically.