| 30 January, 2018
Craft a Lead Nurturing Program that Works
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Let’s start at the beginning: what is lead nurturing? Lead nurturing is exactly what it sounds like: the process of “nurturing” your leads until they’re ready to buy. It means creating relationships with leads at every stage of the buyer’s journey and giving them a personalized experience that meets them where they are, whether they’re just starting to research their options or they’re further along the funnel.

three envelopes

Lead nurturing usually involves a series of emails and content offers and can be simplified by using workflows in a marketing automation platform. You might have one series of emails that goes out to people who download a top-of-the-funnel content offer, followed by another series for those who remain interested and move on to the middle of the funnel. These email campaigns are also known as drip campaigns, because they are triggered one at a time, over a set period of time. The idea is that you don’t want to hit your subscribers with a waterfall of information; you want to give them just enough to keep them engaged.

A successful lead nurturing program takes planning. When designing programs for our clients, I ask myself these questions:

How frequently do we want to communicate?

This will depend on your product or service and your target audience, and it’s always a good idea to keep testing once your program is live. If you have a high unsubscribe rate and a low conversion rate, your audience may not be able to withstand your email frequency.

How is a new lead enrolled in the workflow?

I’ve designed programs where leads are enrolled as soon as they download their first offer from the website, as well as programs that include a sales qualification step.  

What’s the handoff from Marketing to Sales?

You could set up an automatic email notification, send over a spreadsheet once a week, or create a standing meeting to discuss prospects. It all depends on your company and your sales cycle — just make sure it’s something both teams can stick with.

How soon do we want to make our first impression?

The first email is key to the success of the entire program. You’ll likely see your highest unsubscribe rate on this email, but those who stay subscribed are essentially implicitly approving of your content. Your goal should be to hang on to as many leads as you can through this first communication, so time it well and make sure your message is a good introduction to your brand.

Will there be tiers?

This is basically a question about how complicated you want your program to be. I’ve designed programs with cold, warm, and hot tiers and nurtured those leads based on their engagement. This is useful because you might be able to get away with emailing a hot prospect 1-2 times a week, thereby speeding up the sales cycle for those who are most interested without bugging everyone else. One person’s spam is another person’s perfectly timed invitation to buy, and setting up tiers and lead scoring can help you determine who’s who.  

What are the offramps?

Make sure you know how to track when someone becomes a customer so that you can transition them from your lead nurturing program to your customer email marketing programs seamlessly.

One person’s spam is another person’s perfectly timed invitation to buy, and setting up tiers and lead scoring can help you determine who’s who.


Once I’ve answered these questions, I can begin to map the customer experience. In the best lead nurturing programs, every touchpoint has branches — if they visit this page, send them that offer; if they download this white paper, follow up with that email. This is the beauty of marketing automation: we can build intelligent, custom experiences based on individual interactions.

It’s worth taking the time up front, before you write your emails, to design the big-picture framework. Envision the paths your customers could take and consider about the ideal time between interactions. I like to sketch it out first, always using a pencil because I end up changing things quite a bit as I design. I’ve also found it helpful to use index cards to represent the various emails, offers, and other touchpoints. Lay them all out on a table and move them around to find the perfect workflows. Some marketing automation tools have workflow design tools that simulate this experience, but I prefer the tactile design experience.

What you’ll end up with is something like this:

lead nurturing workflow example

The nurturing workflow can have an infinite number of levels, but some initial testing should give you a good idea of the optimal number for your audience and your sales cycle.

Check out one of our recent lead nurturing programs that achieved fantastic results. Our client’s goal was to generate 100 new leads, and the program generated more than double that. Of course, it’s not all about program design — some of that success comes down to well-targeted, compelling content. And in the end, both are necessary components of an inbound marketing approach.

Think lead nurturing might be right for you? Get in touch for a demo of how we can help.

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