I introduced the term "seed nurturing" in early 2010 to describe the practice of building relationships with qualified prospects before you have their contact information (e.g. personally identifiable information).
This concept has become known as "full-funnel" marketing, and it is increasingly important since prospects are educating themselves long before you actually identify them. They are on your site as anonymous visitors, and researching your products with third-party resources, word-of-mouth, and social media. Just because you can't identify these individuals doesn't mean they aren't qualified prospects — and because of this, you must nurture them just as you would the known contacts in your database.
In my blog post, Introducing Seed Nurturing, I introduced the following requirements for successful full-funnel marketing:
- Personalize interactions with anonymous visitors
- Make valuable content freely available on your site and over social media
- Use social media to build a rock-solid reputation that builds credibility and trust with prospects
UPDATE: Since 2010, there are additional options for marketing to "anonymous" visitors and nurturing relationships outside of the inbox, including ad retargeting, sophisticated display targeting, and rich audiences on social media.
I'm excited to see how these concepts play out. LinkedIn's July 2014 purchase of Bizo is a key validation of these concepts... stay tuned.