Marketing in the digital age is all about influence:

Earning the trust and rapport that serves as the perfect setup for a sales call. The key is adaptive nurturing.

The mythical Sales rep has always been the crucial connection between a prospect and revenue. But these days — with the empowered buyer having unprecedented access to information — Sales no longer has access to the prospect, thrusting Marketing into a greater position of influence. When marketing starts the conversation well, sales closes the deal quicker.

Adaptive nurturing enables Marketing to deliver the right-message and the right-time with outreach personalized according to each prospect’s role in the buying process, designed to suit their level of knowledge and engagement with your brand.

To personalize the buyer journey, an adaptive nurture system determines:

  • Who is this individual? What is their role in the company, and how do they influence a deal?
  • How well do they understand their own needs or challenges?
  • How far along are they in assessing possible solutions?
  • What information could we offer to help guide them?

Adaptive nurture works because the empowered buyer does their own research, often bypassing sales. If we offer content that genuinely aids their research — that helps them excel at their job — the trust we’ll earn opens up a whole new level of possibility. Well-designed, well-timed, tailored content nudges prospects along the funnel to the next stage.

Most companies do traditional, product-centered content that’s all about them, with a call-to-action like Contact Us. This kind of content fails to support empowered buyers — let alone help, guide, or inform them — and it suffers under the weight of false assumptions. As marketers, we need to pause and ask:

Does this piece of content go beyond ‘Contact us’ to convince prospects why they should? Are we giving them relevant, truly helpful guidance in making a big investment decision crucial to their own organization’s success?

When most people hear ‘nurture campaign’, they think of an email drip campaign that sends emails in a 1-2-3-4-5 burst. In contrast, adaptive nurture communications are responsively personalized, more like a true conversation.

B2B Adaptive Nurture Comparison Chart

Compared to even well-executed or well-intended static (non-responsive) drip campaigns, personalized adaptive nurturing is a choose-your-own-adventure book for prospects. Here’s how to construct it.

1 | Map the buyer journey. Know how, when, and why people reach out—and what keeps them reaching out.

To begin, chart the whole upper (marketing) and lower (sales) funnel to understand all potential touch-points, interactions, and communication modes from first-outreach to closed deal. Take an editorial calendar approach to the funnel — what needs to be said or explained, and when? What are the trigger moments or interactions that cause deals to progress, and which points are vulnerable?

Connect the dots of one tipping point to the next: at what point do we need to make the financial case? At what point the technical? When do our sales reps tend to feel squeezed by a particularly aggressive competitor?

To define the buyer journey, we use what we know of each of the ‘big moments’ when leads progress forward from one stage to the next.

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2 | Draw a full picture of all the roles involved in decision-making.

We’re not talking about the creative personas of twenty years ago — “’Bob’ is more of a Tim Horton’s guy than a Starbucks guy…” — adaptive nurturing needs data for useful targeting. Deeply considered, high-stakes, or complex purchases involve multiple stakeholders, each with a unique set of questions, mandates, and perspective on success. Their roles and influence on the selection process vary: financial, technical, executive.

What roles influence, slow, or compromise deals, and what do they care about most? How can we proactively address concerns and needs? Who is the key financial decision maker?

To personalize content, scope out the particulars of each role, function, industry, or market trend that may be involved in deal-making. Then capture the unique questions, needs, and challenges of each individual’s mandate.

3 | Take a fresh approach to your voice. Shift content from being all about you to being all about the prospect’s challenges and aspirations, which is what empowered buyers need to see.

Content for adaptive nurturing is like watering a plant as it grows. It should help prospects discover, learn, and collect helpful information in a way that affirms their empowerment and sense of control over their process — with us as the trusted advisor. It anticipates and pre-addresses hesitations, surfaces unmet needs, and preps for one-to-one contact. It is ‘about us’ only in the sense that it comes from us, but otherwise should be directly relevant to each prospect and where they are in their own journey of needs assessment, research, and purchase.

A volume of insight ideal for adaptive nurturing already exists within your organization—the natural back-and-forth that comes to life within sales conversations. Get beyond product-centric content — the information used to tick requirements boxes — to acknowledge what people are concerned with and what they hope for in making this decision. Good content earns the trust that earns the deal.

Lead management from the sales perspective is all about managing one-to-one interactions. But when marketing takes on more of the funnel — qualifying, engaging, and educating leads until they’re ready to buy — the time sales invests is time that counts.

We all know what it feels like to be an empowered buyer:

To self-direct our own decisions, and to encounter an organization along the way that feels like it’s partnering in *our* success, and not just their own. When we become that organization — helpful, genuine, and trusted — we’ll encourage empowered buyers to have confidence in their decision. And if we’ve done a good job with adaptive nurturing, that decision is much more likely to lean in our direction.