Understanding the difference between drip irrigation and irritation

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Jim Cecil is a Redmond, Wash.-based marketing consultant, speaker, and president and founder of the Nurture Institute, which offers training to corporate marketing teams. BtoB recently asked Cecil about trends in long-term lead nurturing.

BtoB: What are important trends in long-term nurture marketing?

Cecil: Obviously, CRM has had a massive impact, and it's still doing amazing stuff. But, in general, it hasn't worked out all that well for small and midsize companies.

BtoB: CRM seems a little behind the curve. What about digital?

Cecil: The amazing thing is that so many SMBs immediately saw the possibilities of e-mail but don't understand the customer very well. They've jumped all over it, but see it purely as push technology. But without strict permission rules, [e-mail] is a suicide game rather than a marketing strategy. The difference between drip irrigation and drip irritation is the sensitivity factor.

BtoB: Speaking of irritation, it sometimes seems that sales has little patience with nurture marketing.

Cecil: Sales has the urgency to convert now. If they see a drip system, they'll often get behind it' but they won't do it themselves. And if they do, their messaging is abominable. Studies show that people are ready to buy only when they're ready to buy, and that requires persistence and patience. This now is solving itself, because technology has given marketing great power. Since most leads are slow adopters, marketing now makes it possible for sales to have critical information at their fingertips at exactly the right time.

BtoB: Do you see any caveats in nurture marketing?

Cecil: The only limitation is the follow-up action plan, for sales to make the necessary phone calls. It's here where you shift from a series of repeated messages and qualifying steps to a personal relationship. Nurturing is building top-of-mind among key constituents, and it does much of the relationship work for sales. But a personal relationship is still personal contact.

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