Let's start with some common sense: don't spam your leads. Lead nurturing is a powerful tool for driving leads further down your funnel and delivering more qualified leads to your sales team. The grand, utopian vision of lead nurturing is that you can take a large group of early-stage leads, send them a series of deeper funnel offers, and separate the sales-ready leads from the tire kickers without wasting valuable man hours.
The reality, more often than not, is that marketers misuse lead nurturing to unintentionally spam their leads or drive them out of the sales funnel entirely. So let's examine how you can create an effective lead nurturing email flow that engages your leads and pushes them closer to a purchasing decision.
Think about your leads' experiences, not about yourself.
Sometimes, marketers can spend more time thinking about what actions they want their leads to take instead of what their leads actually want. The result is that leads get unrequested emails that don't add value (AKA spam).
If you're generating inbound leads, which hopefully you are, then your leads have already told you a lot about themselves, and you should use this information to build better nurturing emails. Think about the specific offers your leads have converted on. Your leads have already raised their hands and said, "I'm interested in this topic." It's your job as a marketer to make sure you use this information to build compelling lead nurturing campaigns that engage all the leads who receive it.
Remember, it's not about you; it's about your leads. Your lead nurturing flows should reflect your leads' interests and should add more value with every message.
Create a flow that builds off your leads' first conversion.
In its simplest form, a lead nurturing campaign is a series of emails that is automatically triggered by an online action like a form submission. As we mentioned above, a lead's first conversion is a key piece of information you can use to create a targeted nurturing flow that will be perceived as valuable.
Let's say, for example, that a lead has downloaded an ebook that you have created about the proper use of purple widgets. If the first lead nurturing email they receive is too focused on your company or on scheduling an appointment with a sales rep, it will probably get ignored, deleted, or marked as spam.
Instead of focusing on you, your company, and your sales process, the lead nurturing campaign should focus on what you already know the lead is interested in: purple widgets.
A good lead nurturing flow should build upon the event that triggered it. With every email sent, you should be adding more value; otherwise, don't expect your emails to get opened or clicked on.
Move your leads toward sales-ready offers.
We've talked about the importance of staying on topic and providing value in your lead nurturing emails. Now let's talk about helping your sales team. Remember, lead nurturing is supposed to be a tool to deliver better qualified leads to your sales team so they can spend their valuable time with the leads who are most likely to close.
As a marketer, the best way to help in this area is to create offers that indicate sales readiness. Oftentimes, a sales-ready offer involves your leads agreeing to speak to a sales rep, which will obviously greatly increase that rep's chance of connecting with the lead.
When it comes to these types of offers, you want to follow the same rules: stay on topic, and add value. Instead of using a generic sales pitch, think about your lead's experience up until this point, and make it seem as though talking to a sales rep is the next logical step.
For example, one of your lead nurturing emails might contain the call-to-action, "Looking for the right purple widget? Talk to a specialist to order a free sample!" In other words, make sure to connect the email that your lead is receiving back to an earlier interaction. This will greatly increase your open and click-through rates.
Monitor your campaigns, and don't be afraid to turn them off.
Be critical of your lead nurturing campaigns, because they can sometimes hurt more than they help. A bad lead nurturing campaign can cause your unsubscribe count and spam complaints to increase, and it can make quality leads remove themselves from your funnel.
In most cases, you should be aiming for double digit click-through rates on the first lead nurturing email in the series. If less than 10% of your leads are clicking through to your follow-up offers, then you're not adding enough value, and you're going to get flagged as spam.
Don't be afraid to turn off a lead nurturing campaign. A bad lead nurturing campaign is worse than none at all. If one of your campaigns is not performing well, start by looking at your offers. If you want the campaign to perform really well, there's a good chance that you're going to have to create some custom-tailored content. This can be extra work, but it's well worth it.
Please feel free to add your lead nurturing success or horror stories in the comments. Has lead nurturing helped you deliver better quality leads to your sales team? Are your lead nurturing campaigns giving your leads real value, or are they just fluff?
Originally published Jan 17, 2012 6:30:00 PM, updated July 28 2017