Lead nurturing is the process of engaging with a visitor in a purposeful way that leads them towards a further action with your online content or sales team, that ultimately helps the visitor solve a challenge. In the ideal world, the end goal is for that person to go from being a stranger to a paying customer due to your lead nurturing efforts.
The objective of lead nurturing is to automate the process of qualifying leads in the sales funnel, and adding value to the prospect's journey. This can be done in a number of ways, but one of the most effective and efficient is via email marketing.
Email marketing can be highly personal, automated, and triggered to specific points in a visitor's journey. It can be monitored, optimised, and deliver a variety of media to make the nurturing process seamless, and guide a prospect towards becoming a qualified lead.
Why is lead nurturing important?
Your current website may only have one conversion point, and in most cases that's an enquiry or contact form. This form will be used by people looking for pricing or asking purchase-based questions. These leads are usually very close to buying, but depending on your sales cycle (the time between considering a purchase and making that purchase) there may be several months between an enquiry and a purchase.
In this instance, having a process for nurturing these leads and keeping them interested is the key component in them remembering your brand and potentially resulting in a sale.
When else can I nurture leads?
You can use lead nurturing anywhere on your website that a lead takes action. In many cases, this will be based on a content download. For example, someone may download a brochure several months before seriously looking at their options, so you can use helpful, strategically timed emails post download to nurture them through the sales funnel.
If you communicate with them for those months while they research other brands and download more brochures, you are highly likely to lose this lead to a competitor. If, however, you spend those months drip-feeding that prospect additional content they are 20% more likely to become a sales opportunity.
Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales at 33% lower cost - Forrester 2014
How can I use email to nurture my leads?
There are several ways leads can be nurtured using emails, from highly personal sales emails to automated content-based emails. Choosing the right type of email is largely dictated by the existing relationship with the lead, what they are looking for, their pain points and goals, and ongoing activities on your website..
Nurturing can be about acquiring new customers and also retaining your existing customers. As showcased by some of the examples below:
Triggering an email on the anniversary of someone becoming a customer is a great way to nurture them and make them feel special, and can help if they've lapsed their engagement with you or to simply show appreciation for their loyalty.
No matter if you sell a product or service, if you can help customers get more out of their investment in your company, you will increase uptake and customer satisfaction. Grammarly does this with email nurturing by guiding new customers through the features of the software. This nurtures them towards using new features and getting more value from the platform.
When a contact makes their first interaction with your company online, the relationship is fresh and needs to be managed carefully. This lead follow-up email from HubSpot handles the next steps perfectly by offering the recipient some tips that are helpful in solving their problem and are more consultative than salesy.
Even though touching base with a new contact or an existing customer is a great first step, a good email nurturing strategy doesn't stop there.
The next steps should be highly tailored, not just on how they interacted with the first email, but how they interact with your content from there. The further the contact is from showing significant interest in your product or service, the more steps your email nurturing campaign may need.
Working out the route a lead should be guided down is an ongoing process of analysis and refinement. You may not create an award-winning nurture campaign from the get-go, but if you make sure you are constantly learning from your emails and leads' actions you should create a super effective campaign in no time.
How do I build a good lead nurturing email campaign?
A good email lead nurturing campaign is based on understanding your target audience, your marketing strategy, and the content you have available to nurture the audience forward.
Early in the relationship, most contacts will not be ready to jump straight into a sales phone call. In fact, they are likely to be significantly put off if a salesperson comes on too strong at an early stage of their research phase. Therefore softer suggestions can be really valuable.
The research phase
If someone has downloaded a brochure or awareness stage guide, a good email follow-up is a personal introduction so they feel like they have a person they can talk to, and a value-add offer. This is likely to be another piece of content that helps them on their educational journey. If the contact engages with this content they can be flagged as a warm lead. Remember to use content that is relevant to the actions a lead has already taken, and be aware of your writing style - being helpful to the lead is what matters most.
Nurture email 1 - "Thanks for downloading our guide on excellent B2B emails, I thought you might like to learn how to close more sales leads via email. Read more in the blog here."
The scoping phase
Your content suggestion should have taken them further into learning about potential solutions to the problem that brought them to interact with your initial content offer. At this stage, your next email should offer a basic solution to their problem that gives them a taste of the product or service your business offers. This should be highly related to the second piece of content they viewed, and something they can essentially try before buying. For example:
Nurture email 2 - "Salespeople that use email marketing effectively, close 20% more business than salespeople who don't. Improve your sales emails by downloading our sales email templates for free here."
The decision phase
Now that you've added value to their initial pain point by guiding them to more helpful content and showcased a potential solution, you can move into the next stage. In the decision stage, you're looking to encourage a connection between the contact and a sale. The contact has engaged with your content multiple times which shows a high level of interest, so they are generally at a stage where they are ready to hear about a long term solution.
Nurture email 3: "We've helped dozens of businesses increase their sales close rates through email. Would you like to chat with a specialist about how our unique method can help you close even more business through email marketing?"
This particular approach has a specific goal; to set up a meeting with the lead. This means every step is focused on encouraging a contact to book a sales chat by guiding them on a path where they know a chat with a specialist could solve their particular problem.
These emails won't work with all leads (consider the Leaky Bucket Theory), but with ongoing optimisation and refinement they can become more effective over time. Combined with A/B testing, smart content and updated content offers, they could potentially deliver a bunch of leads to a sales team.
Increasing the effectiveness of your lead nurturing comes from knowing your target customer and their pain points first. This involves developing robust buyer personas that highlight their challenges, how you can help them, and gives you a better understanding of how you can deliver helpful solutions.
You can begin your journey to understanding your leads and building an effective lead nurturing strategy by first creating buyer personas for your business.