The UK recently saw the conclusion of the seventh season of the globally popular Love Island series in which contestants – or ‘Islanders’ – select potential partners to couple up with in order to be in with a chance of winning £50,000.  Simple hey?  From a list of people you’ve never met before, you have two months to research – through a series of tasks with a partner that you keep swapping – who might become the love of your life.  

To reach this decision, the process follows three main stages: awareness, evaluation and, finally, a solution or conclusion is reached.  Islanders map their behaviour onto this process: initial, ‘soft sell’ flirtation, followed by a deeper reveal of their character during the tasks set and, finally, a ‘hard sell’ decision about who they have their sights set on.  ‘Judgement Day’ comes on the final episode when the public votes for the couple they believe are the most authentic and therefore worthy of the £50,000 cash prize. 

Believe it or not, it’s not so different to the B2B buying cycle.  While complex and requiring significant research, the process nevertheless follows three main stages: awareness, evaluation and solution.  To win a deal, vendors simply map their behaviour to this process by ensuring that the content they share matches the stage the potential buyer is at in the cycle.  If the content is relevant and timed right, it will drive engagement and the buyer is then ‘nurtured’ through the funnel.

In this, first blog of our nurture series, we’re going to take a closer look at the buying cycle and how you ensure you’re sharing the right content at the right time so that the right people remain engaged. 

Let’s begin by looking at that cycle:

 1)    Awareness: at this stage, we are essentially introducing, or discussing, a problem at hand.  So, for example, if an organisation is looking to bolster its security platform, then the problem discussed might be the cost of ransomware attacks to the industry.  At this stage, the type of content shared by vendors should be short and easily digestible, such as blogs, videos or infographics. 

2)   Evaluation:  if the lead has either engaged at Awareness stage, seen an increase in lead score or is demonstrating a lifeycle stage change, then it is moved on to the middle, Evaluation stage.  At this point solutions can be introduced to the problems discussed at Awareness stage.  Let’s say, for example, that an organisation has a great security platform that could solve the issues discussed above, then they can begin to talk to that solution without discussing products specifically.  Case studies, for example, are a good way of demonstrating how a customer has solved a particular problem, or reports about an issue can be useful too.  Either way, the content and shared at this stage should be more in-depth and informative.

3)    Solution: assuming your lead is still engaging, you then ‘nurture’ them through to Solution stage which can be far more vendor focused.  Appropriate content for this stage would include ‘harder sell’ product brochures and data sheets.   

It’s important to recognise and understand this process because, all too often, we see clients frantically sharing every piece of content they have (often bottom of funnel, Solution stage content) in a disorganised and unplanned fashion, rather than ensuring leads receive the right content at a time that suits them.  Imagine if a Love Islander asked a fellow contestant to be their ‘exclusive’ partner within the first few days of arriving on the island?  Right person – maybe – but wrong timing!

With an understanding of the buying process, then, how do you build a nurture program?

1)    Discovery phase

The first step in the nurture build process is to explore and define the approach for the program which will inform the implementation phase.

For Agent3, this involves working closely with our clients to think about the challenges that they’re looking to solve, what they’re looking to achieve from a nurture approach, possible KPIs and what success might look like.

From here, we can start to build the design of the program in terms of:

– Numbers and types of leads we need to flow into this nurture

– Whether those leads exist already or whether they’re going to be newly acquired through digital activation activity?

– How many streams will be required and how will they map onto the nurture journey?

– What is the lead flow process?  

– When will we move the leads to the next stage?  Will this decision be based on the opening of a single email?  Or on a lead score?  Or based on lifecycle stage?

– What will hand off to sales look like?  What will be the lead score threshold?  In a previous blog, we shared tips for taking a form fill and turning it into a sales-ready lead so do take a look if you need further information about this

– Measurement: what metrics will matter most and how will downstream reporting be impacted?  

Answering all of these questions helps us to build a picture of what will need to be designed in order to help our clients hit their objectives.

2)    Content

Content is arguably the most important aspect of any nurture program, so it’s crucial that time is invested in ensuring the content strategy is optimal. 

Unfortunately, organisations are typically really good at talking about themselves, so tend to have a lot of bottom-of-the-funnel content about their products, but not enough for the awareness stage that introduces an issue in an engaging, bite-sized format.  Imagine having to listen to a Love Islander incessantly talking about themselves in the very first episode of the series?  I think they’d be voted off pretty quickly!

At this stage, then, we take the outcomes from the discovery phase, and map these onto the content required to sit within the nurtures. We then carry out a gap analysis by assessing suitability of a client’s existing content for each stage of the program, versus what still needs to be created or re-purposed.

For maximum return on your program investment, it’s useful to work with a consultancy that has end-to-end in-house expertise on the creation and organisation of content. This is not just beneficial from an economies of scale perspective, but also ensures the client’s objectives for the program are better reflected in the content design, and offers optimum performance from the content due to stronger direction on the type of content to be used.

3)    Execution

Finally, following these initial stages, it’s now time to bring the nurture to life by putting the building blocks in place within a marketing automation (MA) platform, ensuring that the content, stages, entry criteria and transition rules are all configured correctly. Then it’s time to test, test, test to confirm that leads are entering the nurture and progressing through the funnel as planned.”

4)    Measurement – Judgement Day!

In addition to the reporting requirements agreed in the discovery phase, creating dashboards to monitor progress and check against pre-determined KPIs in real time is useful.  Doing so affords the ability to provide analysis and feedback about what’s working well, and what isn’t, which then informs any optimisations moving forwards.

Love Island has created some meaningful and long lasting relationships in the past, but these have been based on contestants saying the right thing, at the right time and to the right person.  Love it or hate it, perhaps B2B nurture programs could learn a thing or two from the show?!