Content Curation for Lead Nurturing



Posted: May 30, 2013 | Lead Nurturing

By now, many marketers are convinced of the value of lead nurturing – but they remain flummoxed by the task of creating content to fuel their programs. In this post, I’d like to propose that marketers can and should embrace content curation as an effective, easy way to nurture leads.

The Content Challenge

Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with qualified prospects regardless of their timing to buy, with the goal of earning their business when they are ready.  Your newly generated prospects may not be ready to talk with your sales team when they first meet you – especially if they are a modern, digitally empowered buyer who uses easy access to information to delay engaging with sales.  But by appropriately nurturing your prospects, you can stay in touch and increase the likelihood they’ll come to you when they are ready.

The key to good lead nurturing is to be interesting and relevant; if you are not, they can easily opt out or simply stop paying attention.  However, being relevant is easier said than done, since the difficulty of the problem is multiplied across two dimensions:

  1. Customers at different stage of the buying cycle will find different kinds of content relevant (an early stage buyer will be turned off if you talk too much about yourself, but that’s exactly the kind of information a late stage buyer will want to hear).
  2. You need different content for each buying profile, e.g. each target persona.  Ideally, you can go even further since buyers find content relevant to their specific industry, company size, and geography more relevant as well.

On top of that, you want to keep your content fresh and timely.  So in a nutshell, the more relevant your content the better your lead nurturing, but it can be a huge challenge to create enough timely relevant content for each and every audience.

buying stages

The Content Curation Answer

I’ve seen companies panic and decide they shouldn’t even attempt lead nurturing because of this difficulty.  But I think the answer is not to create more content, but to rethink the types of content that can be used in nurturing.

Remember, the primary goal of nurturing is to keep in touch with the potential buyer. As long as you are hyper-relevant, you are accomplishing the primary goal of maintaining interest. A nurture interaction doesn’t need to be about a whitepaper. It doesn’t need to be a detailed blog post.  In fact, it doesn’t even to be about something you wrote! Often, the best nurturing is going to be about interesting, relevant content that other people wrote.

This is called Content Curation. There is much debate about the role of curated content versus original content, and I’m the last one to argue that curation should be the center of your content marketing strategy. For the purposes of building awareness and trust and generating leads, I’ll take valuable content and original thought leadership over curation any day.  But curation can play a role as part of a broad content mix — and for the purposes of nurturing relationships, I think that curation can be one of your most effective tools. The only rule is that the content MUST BE RELEVANT.

Let me illustrate this point with an example.

An Example

I have a colleague named Patrick Di Chiro of Thunder Factory.  Every few weeks, he sends me an email like the one below. I think this is perhaps the best example of a lead nurturing email that I have ever seen.

patrick email 1

Here are a few things that make this a great nurturing email:

  • He knows this is a topic of interest
  • He connects it to prior conversations we’ve had
  • The underlying article he refers to really is an excellent article
  • He subtly suggests some next steps that would be relevant

I’m sure it was much easier for Patrick to write 10 short sentences about the David Brooks article than it would have been to write an entire whitepaper, and since it was so relevant it served just as a effectively — perhaps even more so — as content for lead nurturing.

But even writing 10 sentences is not always necessary.  Here’s another email that’s only three sentences long from Patrick that was also effective (and it turns out, relevant to the topic of this blog post).

patrick email 2

Again, the reason why this worked for lead nurturing is that he found interesting content (in this case, some eMarketer research), and then wrote a few lines of commentary about why it was relevant.

By the way, lead nurturing content based on curation can also include links to more than one item. Image an email that had links to three interesting, relevant articles — each one with a sentence or two of original description explaining why it is valuable. Can you image how much easier it would be to create hyper-relevant lead nurturing tracks using this kind of approach, or at least interspersing curated content with original content into your programs?

Related Resources

  • John Wall

    What about the challenge of curating topical content vs. evergreen? Do you have to tag campaigns that are more topical so that you have them on schedule to be refreshed?

  • Jon Miller

    Good question, and yes, you do need to expire topical content. Stay tuned for some new Marketo features in a few weeks that will make this super-easy…

  • kelly

    This is really good. How do you do this on a bigger scale than a personal letter to each prospect? The comments about lunch conversations make the email very personal (and powerful) but how is this done for more than 1 prospect at a time?

  • Jon Miller

    That’s where marketing automation can help. With lots of segmentation and targeting, you can create hyper-relevant messages that are personal — even if you can’t mention lunch. :-) It may never be as good a true 1:1 email, but it’s WAY better than most nurturing emails people send today.

  • Shola Abidoye

    These are great insights. I’ve also found when it comes to content creation, sending one’s subscriber a link to a very useful tool adds a lot of value. Assuming you have some sense of their workflow, should they take action and automate tasks with the tool based on our suggestion, they’ll get massive results. And they’ll remember who helped them get those results!

  • Jon Miller

    Well said! Always be helping is the new always be closing.

  • Lucinda Brook

    This is so true! I have to say this made me laugh. Many moons ago when I was in business development for a tech PR agency, I used exactly this process to stalk my most desired prospects with articles where they should and could have contributed. Then when I finally managed to score a meeting with the then Symbian (hey I was nerdy about wireless!), he actually said to me: “Somebody keeps sending me some great information about what’s going on in the media. You know, you should try it.” Gutted, I could barely stumble the words “Yes that was me!”
    The only trouble I have with this approach is that it comes down to personalities of the sales people. And… the age old problem of where marketing meets sales. Sales owns that relationship yet they still, even now, hate taking any steer from the marketing team who tends to do most of the content curation…

Jon (@jonmiller) is a VP and co-founder at Marketo. He is the author of multiple Definitive Guides including Marketing Automation, Engaging Email Marketing, and Marketing Metrics & Analytics. In 2010, The CMO Institute named Jon a Top 10 CMO for companies under $250 million revenue. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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The answer is not to create more content, but to rethink the types of content that can be used for nurturing.

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