It’s safe to say that most marketers can identify with the challenges of delivering an aggressive quota of new marketing qualified leads (MQLs) each month. Some months it’s relatively easy to meet or even surpass your goals, but in other months you’re running on stale content, or you’re looking to revive leads that have gone cold.

This type of stagnant lead environment is the reason every marketing team needs an outstanding lead nurturing program. Even if a lead has disengaged for a while, truly useful, relevant and personalized content can be used to bring opportunities back to life and help your brand become top of mind when prospects are finally ready to engage or buy.

cetera financial groupCetera Financial Group had these types of nurturing goals in mind early in 2014. They wanted to go beyond the ease of the classic batch-and-blast email nurturing of the past and evolve with a more strategic approach. They wanted to get proactive and plan content in advance. They wanted to bring in more MQLs, faster. Their resulting nurturing program – dubbed internally as “NextGeneration” – ended up drastically improving the performance of their email marketing initiatives and recently won them a prestigious Oracle Markie Award for ‘best lead nurturing program’.

Today we’ll look into the strategy behind their nurturing so that everyone can benefit from their impressive execution.

To start…

What Goes Into an Award Winning Nurturing Program?

True content marketers, Cetera Financial Group knew that they had to go beyond what they sell, and instead had to capture their target audience’s attention in strategic locations with content their audience would appreciate and thank them for. They had to deliver relevant pieces addressing real pain points, and they had to find content formats that would stand out in a nurture campaign.

Cetera Markie Award

To do this, Cetera rounded up marketing technology for retargeting (Bizo), a way to package up a compelling content experience (Lookbook HQ), and a way to host video assets and measure their performance (Vidyard). Using these three technologies integrated with their marketing automation platform (Eloqua), the company was able to qualify better leads, faster.

But what’s involved in creating such a nurturing campaign? Over the course of just two months Cetera:

  • Researched trends and identified the five most prevalent audience pain points
  • Overhauled their communication strategy and implemented a brand new monthly ‘Elite Advisor’ Newsletter (anyone who clicked any of the four articles would be directed to a LookBook with multiple pieces of content about a particular subject, and be automatically opted into Cetera’s follow-up email series)
  • Developed campaigns and specialized segments to re-target prospects with display and social ads based on their unique web engagements
  • Built custom, client-specific recruiting microsites, where they further tracked prospect activity and downloads
  • Expanded their library of video content to deliver interactive experiences at each stage of the buying journey
  • Built custom programs and campaigns in Eloqua to support the segmentation and communication flows
  • Launched a lead scoring model that would pass leads to their qualifiers based primarily on engagement, instead of BANT criterion

On top of all this background research and strategic planning, Cetera also created more than 100 new content assets(!) with a consistent look-and-feel to fuel the entire campaign. A nurturing effort is nothing without the content driving it, and so – armed with their five most prevalent pain points and three of their most high-impact value propositions – they created amazing content.

How Video Played a Part

We spoke to Jessica Stamer, Senior Recruiting Operations Specialist, and Eric Hansen, Director of Demand Generation, from Cetera about their use of video in this campaign and its impact on results. They used video in two ways in the NextGeneration nurture campaign:

“We used video most heavily as an asset in our monthly newsletters via LookBook, and more sparingly as a CTA in our nurture emails. Our nurture campaign focuses on the pain points of advisors in our industry and Cetera’s solutions to those frustrations; we used video within our LookBooks and emails to help tell that story.” – Jessica Stamer, Senior Recruiting Operations Specialist

Cetera VideoAn example of a video used in this campaign is “The Importance of Culture”. Jessica explained that “this video was produced to focus on the pain point of culture and Cetera’s solution to that frustration. This video helps put a peer perspective on the topic, and connect to our prospects in a relatable way that just can’t be done with a white paper or web page.”

After publishing these campaign videos through Vidyard, Cetera is able to track how long people are staying engaged with the videos. From this, then can gauge whether the videos are effective on their own or within the LookBooks. “We also incorporated this viewing data into our lead scoring program, allowing our sales team to identify and convert our more engaged leads.”

Cetera Quote

Real Results

The campaign, with all of it’s planning and careful preparation, proved extremely worthwhile. While existing offerings like the Elite Advisor newsletter maintained a 9.35% average open and 1.15% click through rate, the team saw a drastic improvement with their nurture emails.

Cetera Markie AwardThe average unique open rate for their nurture emails is now 41.17%; the average unique click through rate is 7.50%. These figures represent an increase of more than four times Cetera’s benchmark!

Additionally, after integrating with Bizo, Cetera is experiencing increased content viewership. People who have viewed Cetera ads via Bizo view 16%+ more web pages than those who don’t, and they return to the site 16% more times than other site visitors. You just can’t argue with those results!

Because of their compelling content offerings on LookBook HQ, Cetera also increased engagement with their newsletter content from mere seconds to several minutes on average. LookBooks help the team turn a single “click” into engagement with multiple pieces of content and Cetera can now track how long prospects spend with each piece of content. With such tracking in place, the marketers at Cetera can now better align follow up nurture emails to get the right content in front of the people who are most likely to respond based on their previous engagement with the brand.

Overall, these results tangibly translate into a direct increase to the sales funnel and closed business. Generating more MQLs (and closed business), faster, Cetera is projected to hit more than double last year’s business by the end of this year.

Jennifer Pepper