Timing Is Everything in Nurture Marketing

“Timing is everything.” It’s a saying we’ve all heard a thousand times in our lives. It’s a very relevant phrase that can be applied to a multitude of scenarios. Meeting the love of your life? Timing is everything! Starting a new business or job? Timing is everything! In life, work, love, and more, good timing plays a crucial role in success. In my business life, the sequence and timing of certain events have given me unique opportunities that, had they come a week or month later, I would be in a completely different place and position in life. Hence, I very much appreciate and relish the fact that timing is so very important to success.

Like I do with many things, I try to apply life lessons to work. Since my work is marketing, I often think about and relate everything in and out of work to marketing. I recently presented a webinar on the topic of nurture marketing. If ever there was a marketing technique that demanded “good timing,” it’s nurture marketing program development. Part and parcel to core marketing automation functionality, nurture programs are defined by the ability to send relevant communications to the right people at the right time. Further to that, nurture programs are purposely built to tie both marketing and sales actions into a single campaign. In most marketing automation systems, a visual aid such as a tree designer aids the marketer in building out the logical sequence of email and non-email actions taken against an individual during the program flow.

In applying the axiom of “good timing” to nurture marketing, we have to break down the mechanics of nurture programs into easily discernable steps.

Step 1: Program Entry.

Why and when an individual enters a nurture program is the first data point you have to get right. If you are building out a program that “triggers” from something such as a lead score change, value change in the contact record, or a form completion, you have to first establish the right timing of the first email and the cadence of communications that follow. Take a form completion for example. If your nurture program triggers when someone completes a form, will your first email trigger immediately following the form completion? If so, what if someone completes the form on a mobile device at night? Do you want your next email delivered during that time or a more optimal time?

Step 2: Frequency of Emails.

What is the right cadence/frequency of emails in the program? This is very subjective and testing of several short-term programs may be needed, but a solid rule of thumb is to limit to no more than one to two per week or you may oversaturate someone and lose interest quickly.

Step 3: Sales Routing.

A good nurture program can trigger alerts, tasks, even opportunities in your sales system (CRM). Figuring out the right time to trigger an alert and get sales engaged with a prospect “in-program” is key. Too soon and you may turn someone off. Too late and they may be off to a competitor. Again, testing short programs will give you hard evidence as to what works best but a good rule of thumb is three touches prior to engaging sales. In short, if someone interacts with three unique messages or pieces of content, it’s probably a good time for sales to make an outreach call.

Step 4: Duration of Program.

How long should a nurture program last? Sadly there is no one, or even five, right answers. It depends very much on the length of the buying cycle of your customer and where the customer sits in that cycle. One good rule of thumb to follow is make a nurture program one-third the length of your sales cycle. If your sales cycle is three months, then make your programs 30 days.

As we see from the aforementioned items, timing, in various formats, is a critical component to good nurture program design. Follow the tips above and you’ll be closer to getting the timing right.

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