Erik Frantzen, Chief Executive Officer, Nurture Marketing
I’m honored to become CEO of Nurture Marketing, a company founded by industry pioneer Jim Cecil. I want my first blog post in my new position to reflect on where nurturing is today and how it has changed over the last 25 years. Technology may have evolved exponentially. But the need to nurture business and relationships has not.
It was Jim who coined the term nurture marketing. He first saw the need when hired by Microsoft in 1985 to help them attract the attention of small and medium-sized businesses. While there, he quickly grasped how businesses would soon have all the information they needed at their fingertips. Executives would make decisions themselves based on that easy access, reducing the need for traditional product sales roles. Why spend the time meeting with salespeople when you can confidently choose which widget you need by yourself?
Jim realized that client relationships had to evolve beyond just selling a widget. You had to address their entire business, identifying new stakeholders within their organization as roles evolved, and consult with them on overall strategies, issues, and challenges. Your role was to help them with their jobs, in fact, their whole livelihoods. If you became a true partner, then they would think of you first when they needed that widget.
Jim’s insights coincided with the birth of the business technology channel as we know it. For example, a firm called Software Distribution Services (now known as Ingram Micro) was founded in Buffalo, New York in 1982.
More companies followed, spawning even more offshoots, divisions, and silos to fuel the industry’s tremendous potential and growth. That historic growth inspired the genesis of Nurture Marketing. Jim aimed to help business owners, to truly nurture their enterprises, by being a trusted source for information and ideas that would benefit their positions in the channel.
One of the primary ways to share your expertise today is through storytelling. It’s become a buzzword now, even sometimes synonymous with nurture marketing. Others will talk about how it’s essential for brand extension. If you saturate the channel with engaging messaging about your brand and its unique value, then you’ll always be top-of-mind.
Storytelling is indeed crucial to engage your targets. But it’s only one part of nurturing. Those of us handling real-world business needs are not here to entertain the world with stories that take time and budget to create. There are a million articles on the web that demonstrate the power of storytelling. However, if a story doesn’t connect with the right targets, motivating them at one or another point in the cycle to make a purchase, what’s the real ROI?
Jim understood the importance of storytelling, but only as one spoke in the whole nurture wheel. Utilizing account-based marketing (ABM) is another essential element, built upon a defined target base of updated contacts with a record of your communications and future dates to reach out again on a variety of topics such as upcoming technology refreshes.
Nurturing also requires a personal touch. Google “nurturing” today and you’ll see a lot about how automation offers myriad ways to track and measure your campaigns down to who opens emails and who visits and navigates through your website. Automation can even generate emails for you as well as social posts. All of that data on interactions can be funneled back to your CRM sales system alerting you to open and close opportunities. But that’s not nurturing; that’s another nurturing tool just like ABM, just like storytelling. You need personal context when reviewing your account lists. For example, are the right decision-makers actually being invited to your events and webinars? Or are your messages being ignored by the wrong people?
That personalized context becomes even more essential when actually helping to solve problems. Clients want specificity from value-added resellers (VARs) and other IT solution providers. They don’t want just installers; they want someone that knows their industry and speaks their language. For example, a healthcare VAR needs to understand HIPAA, which informs all aspects of the medical profession, right down to the position of staff members’ monitors to prevent disclosure of confidential information. You need to develop a rapport with your clients and learn how to help them achieve their overall goals, not just sell them hardware, software or other traditional IT services. When you’ve done this effectively, they’ll call you when they need help solving a problem… and they’ll immediately or eventually buy from you.
When you provide your clients with useful advice in the language they speak, you’re actually an influencer. You don’t have to be a fan of pop culture to know that influencers like the Kardashians have become a dominant force in marketing today. The concept of nurturing your clients while playing the role of an effective influencer fits perfectly into the current marketplace and its expectations.
The Kardashians have shown that when you interact with your targets using their own language for visual, text, video, and audio communications, you connect strongly with them based on that familiarity and seamlessness. Yes, the substance of your messaging is important, but you also need to personalize those messages by adapting to platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok and their content styles to elicit the ideal responses from your target audience. Yes, even in B2B IT solution sales.
The millennial and Gen Z markets follow influencers for the things they care about. You can be an influencer for your targets too by offering and personalizing your insights on topics relevant to them. For instance, many businesses are debating the potential of 5G. You could become an influencer by sharing your expertise on how 5G could have a substantial impact on the future of your client’s business.
Influencers and their customized approaches to fostering people’s interests create direct lines to the customer. How is that accomplished? Nurturing. The technology to connect may have changed over the years – but the needs and the goals behind nurturing remain the same. I’m truly excited to see where we go from here.
Please contact us to learn more about nurturing in the Partner Channel. You may reach us by calling (732) 636-1001, Extension 27, or by visiting the CONTACT PAGE of our website.