For marketers, it’s extremely important to know how to use email marketing for lead nurturing. Nurture emails gradually groom and prepare prospects to view your brand positively. That means when the prospect is ready to make their next purchase, your brand is right at the top of their mind.
The privacy within someone’s email inbox gives you a strategic advantage. You message gets a wonderful opportunity to get undivided attention of your leads, without any interference. It’s like it was just you and your reader. And because readers check their inboxes over dozens of times every day, there’s plenty of time for you to get a word in.
What is lead nurturing
Lead nurturing is a strategic marketing practice of understanding prospects’ needs and delivering a series of messages in order to develop relationships, engage prospects, qualify leads, create a positive brand image and guide leads to the subsequent steps of the sales funnel.
These messages can be in the form of emails, videos, social media engagement or one-to-one personal communications. For our purpose, however, we will talk of emails only and deal with lead nurturing best practices for email marketing.
Why lead nurturing is important
Lead nurturing is important because selling is no longer here’s-your-product-here’s-your-money affair, at least in the digital world. Prospects take time to evaluate your offers and compare with what your competitors promise to deliver. After you’ve refined your lead generation process, this is the stage you want to master.
Knowing how to write a great email is useful, but not the only thing you need to do in email marketing. You must invest time and resources to carefully guide prospects towards your brand.
Lead nurturing with email marketing automation helps your brand stay in touch with your prospects on a regular basis. It makes sure your emails steadily boost the faith prospects have in your brand as far solving their problems is concerned.
The prime objective of lead nurturing is to provide answers to questions prospects may have and subtly show how the product or service you sell can solve the problem the lead is trying to solve.
Lead nurturing, right from your welcome email, gently but steadily moves the prospect to the next stage of your sales funnel.
Your email marketing campaign will be effective only if your strategy builds around nurturing your leads. Start by easing your way into your consumer’s life; don’t try pulling them into buying right from the onset. Nurturing, which is how we build online relationships, is what a lead nurture campaign is all about.
What lead nurturing statistics say
In all likelihood, marketers don’t need to be convinced about the importance of lead nurturing campaign.
All the same, it would help to have a look at some of the statistics of lead nurturing campaigns:
1. Data: About 96% of visitors on your website aren’t ready to buy yet. (Source: Marketo)
What it possibly means: Without nurturing right, you could fail to get business from 96% of your website visitors.
2. Data: 53% of businesses said their sales cycle was long and had many influencers (Source: Ascend2)
What it possibly means: Over half (53%) of your leads need nurturing with long-term engagement before you can convert them into paying customers.
3. Data: About 4 out of 5 (78%) businesses reported email marketing was their most effective online channel for lead nurturing. (Source: Oracle)
What is possibly means: If you’re not using email marketing for lead nurturing, you’re probably losing business big time.
4. Data: Sales closed with nurtured leads have a 47% bigger order-value than non-nurtured leads. (Source: Annuitas)
What is probably means: If a non-nurtured lead makes an average purchase of $100, a nurtured leads makes an average purchase of $147. That means, without nurturing your leads, you’re losing $47 dollar of business for every $100 business you get.
From the above statistics, the following is clear:
- A lot of your deals happen over time, so if you don’t invest in engaging prospects, you let your competitor walk away with business that could have been yours.
- Lead nurturing with email marketing generates more business and a bigger volume of business.
- If you’re not using email to nurture leads, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
Now that these statistics have whetted your appetite, it’s the right time to discuss everything you need to know about nurture emails. This will help you understand how to create a lead nurturing campaign and profitably serve your website visitors.
10 steps of email marketing for lead nurturing
Here’s a step-by-step explanation of lead nurturing with email marketing.
1. Know your customer
The first step is to know your customer. Verify who your audience is in order to craft a message that will connect with them. The entire action of knowing your customer is not as easy as it sounds.
Knowing your customer accurately takes a little time. Don’t be discouraged if your message falls on deaf ears at the start. It’s easy to mistakenly package a product with the assumption that it will be suitable for anyone who buys it.
For many businesses, reverse engineering what they sell often helps understand their customers. For others, it’s easier to profile actual customers and draw out a common denominator. Generally, it’s a good idea to begin with an approximate profile and then continue tweaking it as you receive further data.
You’ll waste time and money if your strategy is to nurture the entire world into buying what you sell. For example, someone who needs a prom outfit is preparing for the prom, so a consumer preparing for a funeral won’t be an ideal target to sell to.
2. Qualify your leads
Qualifying your leads is the process of figuring out which leads fall where in your sales funnel. This process works in sync with the process of knowing your customer, but there’s a difference.
Once you’ve understood who is your customer, you only need subtle changes in that, if at all you do. But with leads, you need to place each lead, each prospect through a series of checks to qualify them.
At this stage, it’s important (but not always possible) to understand the difference between intent and interest. First, collect data about the leads . Gated content like use cases or latest insights can be a good way of making visitors part with the kind of data you need, without overwhelming them. Remember, asking for too much data as stage is one of the fastest ways of driving away your leads.
Next, use your CRM to see what kind of data points to what kind leads. Finally, you can consider visiting their website to learn more, though this can hugely slow down your marketing automation process.
3. Segment your leads
The advantages of email list segmentation are a lot bigger than what some people believe. That’s because segmentation aims to achieve a ‘good fit’ for recipients. When you serve your recipients with just the kind of content they’re looking for, their engagement levels are going to soar.
The more effective your segmentation, the more efficient your lead nurturing with email marketing.
Dive deeper into recipient demographics and group them accordingly. Then spot the pain-point of each group and serve appropriate content. For instance, let’s say you sell shoes. Your 22-year old customer will be looking for better speed while your 64-year old customer would be looking for better grip and stability. No way you can keep both of them happy with the same email.
There are no rules as to how you should segment your list – you can have micro sized segments consisting of no more than a dozen people. As long as a segment serves the purpose, there’s no size that’s too small.
Sending content that’s appropriate for the segment, apart from making more sense for sales, also shows you care for your recipients’ time. That keeps them from marking your emails as Spam.
In the image above,the marketer can begin figuring out what would interest the subscriber, based on which link the subscriber clicks (and spends the most time on). (Source: Shaunta Grimes Ninja Writer).
4. Build a powerful landing page
A landing page puts your features and benefits into a comprehensible message. Allow storytelling to form your brand’s narrative but as if looking through the eyes of your reader.
Go back to the concept of segmentation above and use it when structuring each landing page. Your aim is to be persuasive and concise and to excite your readers with what they’re about to get.
A landing page should introduce you and why you’re qualified to have packaged your product. Try tying your qualifications into a story that reveals the reasons why you created the product or service.
There’s an important marketers sometimes forget: design consistency. Your landing page should have the look and feel of your email. The resemblance should be strong enough or the visitor will feel they’ve landed on the wrong page – and quickly exit the landing page.
Check the example below. The image on the left is an email, while the image on the right is the landing page. You’ll notice the design and layout of the box is identical. (Image: PublisherRocket)
5. Write tailored content
In some ways, this is the tipping point of your email drip campaign. Good, compelling content will hugely improve engagement and your overall relationship with the leads you are trying to win over. Choppy, poorly crafted content will alienate your leads, probably forever.
While there’s no fool-proof recipe you can use to craft killer content, there are some points that make sure you remain on the right track. Here’s a quick guide on how to write lead nurturing emails:
- Start with Pain: Use “pain” to connect with your leads by highlighting the struggles they have. Give them a reason to believe that they’re not alone and that they urgently need a solution.
- Build Scarcity: Rub “that pain” in. Delay the revelation, which is the solution that you’re about to unfold. Simply give them more reasons to see why they need your product.
- Reveal the Benefits and Features: Now give your readers a look into the product’s features and benefits. Benefits are the positive results of using a product.
- Prove It: Now give your readers an example of someone benefiting from the product that you’re showcasing. You can use testimonials or create a public display where people can put your product to use.
- Make a Final CTA: Now, get straight to the point. Ask them to buy, to sign up or to visit another piece of content. Your entire content strategy should be built around this “call to action.” However, that CTA should never be revealed unless you have nurtured your leads.
The above image has a clear CTA: the sender is asking you to subscribe. Notice the clean design and how the CTA is visually separated from everything else.
6. Automate your campaigns
An effective drip email campaign can scale up only with automation. Email marketers have the ability to make it seem like their message was just written the moment you received them. You want your readers to have this sensation, but you don’t want to send out messages right after you’ve written them. This is where automation makes email marketing possible.
It’d be a major mistake to believe that automation only allows you to set a send time and forget about it – there’s a lot more.
Email automation will enable you to watch and understand your prospects’ behavior closely: who opened your emails, who clicks where you wanted them to, how they behave once they arrive on your landing page and so on.
This takes you to the next step: shaping the nurturing trajectory for each prospect.
7. Shape the nurturing trajectory
This action is the enriched extension of marketing automation.
For each of the action the prospect takes (or doesn’t take), you can set up trigger emails. A prospect who downloads a PDF receives a different message (“Thank you! Here’s how you can make the best of this PDF….”) and a prospect who doesn’t download the PDF will receive a different message (“The PDF we shared last time shows how Company X saves 12% in their energy costs…”).
Based on all the insights you receive from your prospects’ behavior, you can schedule subsequent emails and also improve your content as well as design. The right analysis of insights can hugely improve your lead scoring, or estimating how worthy the prospect is.
The biggest advantage of shaping the nurturing trajectory of every lead is that it customizes the way each prospect engages with your brand. This otherwise complex and huge task becomes simple only because of email marketing automation.
8. Time your emails right
It would do your brand no good if a perfectly designed were to reach your prospect at the wrong time. It could go unnoticed and remain buried among other emails clamoring for attention – never to be read.
Which is why you want to time your emails right, depending upon the geographical location of your lead, the nature of your product (B2B vs B2C) and so on.
For instance, B2B emails are nearly never sent on weekends but B2C emails might find Saturday a great day to reach out. Consider these two different situations:
- You’re a B2B business, selling industrial fasteners. It’s strictly a business email and you don’t want to disturb your prospects on weekends when they’re away from work. If you do, your email might annoy them or simply be overlooked when they open their mail-box on Monday.
- You’re a B2C business. You sell coloring books for kids. Your target group is parents who want to buy them for their kids. Perhaps a weekend email is the best way to get the parents’ attention might be Sunday, when it’s out and out family time.
Some studies (Source) suggest Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best days to send emails. See if that’s true for your emails too.
Scheduling your emails at the right times have a positive cascading effect. The right time gets you better open rates. This in turn, improves your chances of better CTRs. Better CTRs get your better conversions.
Simultaneously, better open rates improve your sender reputation and inbox placement.
9. Educate, don’t sell
One of the most delicate balancing acts in creating content for lead nurture emails is how to steer clear of hard-selling without sacrificing the overall goals of revenue.
There are two principal reasons why your nurturing emails for a lead campaign should educate rather than sell. One, these are not sales emails that you typically send out to someone who has made an inquiry about your product. And two, your prospects, in all likelihood, signed up to learn something and not to hear your sales pitch.
Here’s an excellent example. See how the email only offers to help teach drawing stick figures, without any attempt to sell a course.(Source: Alison Beere)
10. Focus on building relationships
‘All things being equal, people will do business with a friend; all things being unequal, people will still do business with a friend.’ When Mark McCormack, sports agent and founder of the IMG, made this remark at least three decades back, the world of selling was vastly different.
Today, selling has changed very much. But McCormack’s words are as true today as they were when he made them. Relationships matter in face-to-face sales; relationships matter in the virtual world as well.
When you’re trying to nurture leads through email marketing, your relationship starts from a fragile base. The harsh reality is that your subscribers think of you as just another marketer who’s keen to make a sale. It’s your job to change that perception by building a stronger relationship.
Your relationship with your subscribers rests on three pillars: your communication quality, your ability to exceed expectations and your willingness to solve their problems without hurrying into making a sale.
Invite and respond to feedback from subscribers, be appreciative of their inputs and respect them by sending out only helpful, quality content. Take care of relationships and soon your sales will begin to take care of themselves.
The above image (Source: AWeber) shows the marketer’s willingness to begin a dialogue and offer help. That’s a great way to begin a relationship.
Using emails to nurture leads is one of the most cost-effective ways of building your sales pipelines.
At the same time, nurturing leads is a medium- to long-term investment. That’s why you can’t expect your third email to set your cash registers ringing.
Following lead nurturing best practices makes the entire process efficient and productive. Listen to your subscribers, offer helpful stuff and use email marketing automation to develop customized campaign.