4 Tried and True Marketing Automation Recipes for Better Email Nurturing

Meghan Keaney Anderson
Meghan Keaney Anderson



gingerbread-recipeResearch from MarketingSherpa shows that the email marketing strategy for most B2B marketers still predominantly revolves around sending mass emails to a marketer’s entire mailing list. You’re familiar with mass emails, right? Those things you almost always delete from your own inbox?

Many marketers stick to mass emails, because they are limited by technology. Much of email segmentation and lead nurturing is only made possible through marketing automation software and contacts databases. But even for those who have the software, finding the right lead nurturing strategy is a tough one. There’s a great Genius/Focus study from last year that underscores this very issue. The report, which surveyed marketers across industries, found that more than 50% of respondents said they had not yet realized the value of their investment in marketing automation. Yikes!

In our marketing at HubSpot, we drink our own Kool-Aid and use our own marketing automation software, and in doing so, we’ve uncovered a set of core lead and customer nurturing “recipes” that are especially effective at nurturing our visitors from prospects to leads to customers to evangelists. And, since our parents taught us to share … we thought we'd let you in on our list. We think it will help those of you who are still trying to understand the benefit of an investment in marketing automation software to wrap your heads around how simple and effective workflows can be for your marketing strategy.


If you're not sure how automated workflows work, check out this simple workflow setup guide first.

Workflow Recipe #1: Nurture Subscribers Into Leads

Just because someone subscribes to your blog or newsletter doesn’t mean they’re immediately ready for a call from your sales team -- no matter how friendly Jason or Julie is on the phone. Subscribers are, by nature, passive. They want an un-intrusive and gradual way to get to know your content and your business. As a result, they opt to stay connected through email. Because of that, your follow-up emails to them should be content-focused and built toward the goal of a second content conversion on your site.

The workflow recipe below contains two emails, and the contacts who are enrolled in it will go through two attempts to convert and move on to the next lifecycle stage: that of a lead.

volpe-workflow-quoteKey Ingredients:

  • Subscribers
  • 1-2 Email Messages 
  • 1 Lifecycle Stage Status Change or List Enrollment


  1. Trigger this workflow when a visitor becomes a subscriber (e.g. subscribers to your business blog).
  2. After 2 weeks of subscription [vary to taste], automatically email your subscribers one of your most successful pieces of lead gen content.
  3. Content should be educational, not sales-driven, in nature (such as a how-to ebook), and it should be gated behind a form on a landing page. In other words, subscribers shouldn't be able to obtain the offer unless they provide some additional information about their interests, company background, etc.
  4. If no conversion occurs as a result of that first email, wait one week, and automatically trigger one more email with a different content offer. Try a different format (maybe a template or a webinar) and/or subject matter than the first offer you featured to see if something different tickles their fancy.
  5. If the subscriber converts, automatically change their status in your records to a "lead."
  6. If the subscriber fails to convert, add them back to a list of low-engagement subscribers.

Workflow Recipe #2: Nurture Leads Into Marketing Qualified Leads

You may have all the information you need about an individual in order to properly assign them to a sales rep, but not all leads are ready for sales right away. In fact, MarketingSherpa found that 61% of B2B marketers send all leads directly to Sales, but only 27% of those leads are actually qualified or ready to talk to Sales. This recipe was designed to nurture your leads to the point at which a conversation with Sales would be most productive.

ellie-workflow-quoteKey Ingredients:

  • New Leads 
  • 2 Email Messages
  • 1 Lifecycle Stage Status Change
  • 1 Sales Rep/CRM Notification


  1. Trigger this workflow when an individual converts on a lead-capture form.
  2. Send a follow-up email after 7 days [vary to taste], with a piece of content that is related to the topic of the individual’s first conversion. For example, if your leads initially converted on an offer about adopting puppies, send them a follow-up piece of content on readying your home for a new dog.
  3. Follow up with a second conversion opportunity, this time for an offer that is more focused on what your company provides -- for example, a webinar about choosing the right puppy care provider or a consultation with one of your puppy consultants. Note that these offers have a different tenor to them than the purely educational offers you’ve been sending up until this point. The idea is that this stage’s offer can mention what your company does or provide information about pricing or benefits.
  4. As leads move on to the next lifecycle stage -- that of a marketing qualified lead -- this workflow would have achieved its goal, and the lead would be unenrolled from it.
  5. Use marketing automation to notify your sales team when your leads have reached this stage. You can also use automation to trigger a sync to your CRM once a lead has evolved into a marketing qualified lead.

Workflow Recipe #3: Nurturing Customers

Once a contact converts into a customer, you can also enroll them in a customer nurturing workflow. Customer nurturing workflows should be helpful in nature and aimed at helping your customers get the most out of your product or service.

kilens-workflow-quoteKey Ingredients: 

  • Customers
  • 2 Email Messages
  • 1 Unenrollment Workflow Rule


  1. Trigger this workflow when a marketing qualified lead purchases and becomes a customer.
  2. Immediately upon purchase, send a welcome or thank-you email. This email is their first experience with you since becoming a customer, so put a lot of thought into it. Keep the design simple; you don’t want this to be just another marketing email. Make sure it comes from a real person, not marketing@company.com, and use personalization to reflect what you know about why they bought.
  3. After 2 weeks [vary by taste] send a follow-up email to see how they are doing with their purchase. Include links to any resources you have for customers, and ask them for their honest feedback about their purchase. Invite customers to tailor their communication preferences so they only get the emails they want most.
  4. Use marketing automation to unenroll customers in your marketing emails and, if you have the capability, to trigger personalized content on your website when they return.

Workflow Recipe #4: Nurturing Evangelists

Do you know who your company’s biggest evangelists are? You know -- the people who continually come back to your website to consume your content, and regularly share it with their contacts and social networks? This will help you identify and nurture the individuals who help your company expand its reach. 

Key Ingredients:

  • Evangelists 
  • Email Messages as Needed 


  1. Start with a list of anyone in your contacts database who has at least 1,000 followers on Twitter and has clicked on at least a few of your social shares. You can make add more criteria to this list as you see fit (for example, people who have also clicked on your posts in Facebook, etc.) If you can’t get this data, there are a number of free tools that can at least help you at identify your followers with considerable reach. If you’re a smaller company, you may know some of your evangelists by heart already.
  2. On occasion, you can either trigger an email to each new member of this list that encourages them to share some of your top-performing content, or you can save this list for when you have a product launch or an important announcement. You can also give your evangelists sneak peaks at some of your upcoming releases or invite them to exclusive special events to keep them engaged.

Beginning with these starter recipes, you can start to segment your list into smaller, more manageable sizes, and send emails that are more relevant to each recipient. Once you test these out, you can add new ingredients and mix and match your own targeted sends. Try out email sends based on the last page a lead visited or their past content interests. Maybe try an internal notification whenever a strong lead looks at your pricing page. For more ideas of different workflows you can set up to nurture your leads and customers, check out our post, "12 Automated Email Workflows You'll Kick Yourself for Not Using." Each of these sends can help you get to more tailored, relevant marketing and emails that may not languish unread in your recipients’ inboxes.

Do you have automated workflows set up? What kinds of results are you benefiting from?

Image Credit: Muffet


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