The 4-1-1 Rule for Lead Nurturing

The 4-1-1 rule for Twitter was popularized by Tippingpoint Labs and Joe Pulizzi, founder of Junta42 and the Content Marketing Institute. (The earliest use I can find is Add Value on Twitter: The 4-1-1 Rule, and I first heard it at Joe’s presentation at OMS in San Diego last year.) The rule states that:

For every one self-serving tweet, you should re-tweet one relevant tweet and most importantly share four pieces of relevant content written by others.

What’s great about this approach is that it lets you engage in the conversation, build awareness, and keep in touch with your followers without coming across as pushy or too “me” focused. We’ve been trying to follow it at Marketo for our Twitter updates as well as our Facebook updates, and so far results are positive.

The 4-1-1 rule can also apply to your lead nurturing using email. Formally, lead nurturing is the process of building a relationship with prospects that are not yet sales-ready by conducting an informative dialog, regardless of budget, authority, or timing. Less formally, lead nurturing is the art of maintaining permission to “keep in touch” with potential customers as they educate themselves, with the goal of being top of mind when they are ready to move into a buying phase.

As I’ve often said, lead nurturing is a complex topic (which is why I wrote the book The Definitive Guide to Lead Nurturing) but if I had to sum it up into a single word, it would be relevance. If you are not relevant, your prospects will opt-out – or more likely emotionally opt-out. And nothing is less relevant or more likely to cause an opt-out than content that is too promotional, especially for the early stage buyers that are the core focus of lead nurturing. (Remember, the litmus test for good nurturing is content that is valuable even if someone never buys from you or a competitor.)

This is where the 4-1-1 rule can apply. As you plan out the cadence of emails you’ll send to prospects, try scheduling four educational or entertaining emails mixed with one “soft promotion” (e.g. attend an event) and one “hard promotion” (e.g. download a free trial or apply for an account).

Here’s an example of what an early-stage nurturing track looks like for Marketo today (with links to the underlying resource):

  1. [Infographic] Most Popular Content Marketing Tactics
  2. [Webinar] The Email Marketing Check-up
  3. [eBook] Email Marketing vs Marketing Automation in Complex Buying Processes
  4. Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management (soft promotion, mid-stage content)
  5. [eBook] Master your Marketing Programs – The Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics
  6. FW: Demo Marketo and Earn a Giftcard (hard promotion)

While this partly follows the 4-1-1 rule, here’s how we are testing our approach to fully embrace the strategy:

What do you think? Are you using anything like this in your lead nurturing programs? What kind of results are you seeing? What kinds of challenges will the 4-1-1 bring to lead nurturing?