So, you’re ready to build your first lead nurturing campaign? Get excited – this is a huge step for your marketing.

For those who aren’t sure what you can get out of a lead nurturing campaign, let’s explore all the need-to-know’s of this extremely powerful marketing channel.

What Is Lead Nurturing?

The concept of lead nurturing is rooted in the idea that your leads aren’t always ready to buy your product or service as soon as they hear about your company. For example, when someone converts to a lead, it often means that they’ve given you their contact information in exchange for a free piece of content, such as an eBook. However, they most likely don’t know much about your company or what you’re selling.

That’s where the “nurturing” comes in. As a marketer, it’s your job to combine two very important goals in regard to your leads:

1. Provide value and gain their trust through educational content.

2. Pitch the value of your product or service in a way that makes them more likely to become customers.

These two goals explain why it’s called “nurturing” instead of “selling”: You should build a relationship with your leads before you ask them to buy. In fact, the more expensive and high-commitment your product is, the more critical your lead nurturing efforts will be.

What Can Lead Nurturing Help You Achieve?

Lead nurturing is a tactic squarely in the middle of your marketing funnel. It assumes that you already have a fairly steady volume of incoming leads, and focuses on how to generate more revenue out of each one.

Designing a strong lead nurturing program can help you:

  • Generate more revenue and improve your bottom line.
  • Set up your sales team for success with higher connect rates and rates.
  • Discover what obstacles are preventing leads from becoming customers.
  • Gain the trust of your leads, making them more likely to buy.

According to a report from Forrester Research, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads at a 33 percent lower cost. Plus, The Annuitas Group explains that nurtured leads make 47 percent larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.

Sound like a worthwhile effort? We thought so. But here’s the catch: There are many ways to approach lead nurturing. The best approach for your company will largely depend on your type of business and what your audience responds to. This may require testing over time, but we’ll keep it simple to start out.

What Channels Should You Use for Lead Nurturing?

The most common lead nurturing channel is email. In this case, your leads have already given you their email addresses. What better way to continue the conversation than by sending a tailored message straight to their inbox?

You can also use paid advertising as a nurturing channel. This involves building custom audiences within your leads list and retargeting them with social media ads or display ads.

Of course, the “offline” channel can also be great for nurturing purposes. This includes personal touches like thank-you notes, a bottle of wine, or branded company swag.

7 Steps To Build Your First Lead Nurturing Campaign

Now that you know the ins and outs of lead nurturing, it’s time to put together your first campaign. For the sake of simplicity, let’s stick to email marketing as our main nurturing channel for now. This will be a great place for you to start, and you can always add to your efforts through other channels later.

Step 1: Determine what segment of leads to target.

Segmentation is an extremely important place to start in any marketing effort, since it helps you deliver hyper-relevant, personalized messages to the right people at the right time.

If you’re starting out with a fairly small pool of leads to nurture (a few hundred or less), you can probably wait until your lead volume grows before you begin segmenting.

However, if you have a large volume of leads to nurture, take a look at the data you have about them, namely demographic and behavioral. Ask yourself: What useful patterns can you identify? How can you segment your leads into a few groups that require different types of messaging around your product or service?

Break your leads into separate audiences based on those questions and move to the next stage.

Step 2: Map content to each segment.

Since content plays a big role in delivering value to your leads and gaining their trust, your next step should be evaluating what content you have available to leverage for nurturing.

This content could include:

  • Blog posts
  • eBooks
  • Webinar recordings
  • Free templates
  • Podcasts

Create a short list of content for each segment, ensuring that each content piece is extremely relevant to its selected segment. Note: Overlap is okay here.

Also, if you don’t have much content, you may need to map out a strong content marketing strategy first.

Step 3: Determine a sequence of calls-to-action.

Okay, so now you have lead segments and content ideas for each. The next step is creating a series of calls-to-action (CTAs), along with the order each lead will receive them.

Keep in mind that you must provide value before you ask your leads for something. Of course, you must also determine what it is you will ask for when the time comes.

Let’s walk through a quick example. Let’s say:

  • Your company sells an online personal finance management tool.
  • The segment of leads you’re nurturing downloaded your eBook called 10 Easy Ways to Eat Healthy On a Budget.
  • Your goal is to get leads to start a free trial of your tool.

Your sequence of calls-to-action may look something like this:

Email 1: Download this free eBook, A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming Financially Responsible.

Email 2: Read this blog post on 7 Hacks to Spend Less & Save More at the Grocery Store.

Email 3: Download this free Excel spreadsheet to help track your monthly spending.

Email 4: Watch this video or read this case study to learn how our company has helped 5,000 people manage their finances better.

Email 5: Start a free trial.

Email 6: Respond to this email to let me know how I can help.

See how the first several emails are all about providing value through content? And do you notice how the content pieces are highly relevant to my specific audience segment? Only after offering free resources did I transition into the introduction of my product.

Step 4: Create your nurturing emails.

Once you’ve mapped out your CTA sequence, start creating the emails. Each one should follow all of the standard email marketing best practices that optimize for clicks and conversions.

Also, don’t forget to keep in mind the seven critical things that every lead-nurturing email needs to communicate.

Step 5: Determine the timing of your nurturing emails.

Less critical than the content of your emails (but still important), is how you’ll time your lead nurturing emails. If you send them too close together, you risk annoying your leads. If you send them too far apart, you risk having your leads forget about you.

You might also want to consider the length of your sales cycle, and what sort of implications that has for your nurturing program. For example, if your average lead converts into a customer within two weeks, you should probably send an email every day or two. But if your average close time is closer to 3 months, you might consider sending one or two emails per week instead.

Step 6: Automate.

If you’re familiar with marketing automation, you already know that there are wonderfully useful tools out there that make your lead nurturing efforts easier. If not, marketing automation is exactly what it sounds: Automating your lead nurturing, especially when it comes to email campaigns.

Once your lead nurturing really heats up, you should choose a marketing automation software, set up triggers for each nurturing series (i.e. “Begin this series when someone fills out X form or joins X list.”), then let those campaigns run on their own!

Step 7: Measure.

Now when I say to “let those campaigns run on their own,” I don’t mean that your work is done. Email nurturing campaigns run over several days, weeks or months, meaning they take some time to collect data.

In the short-term, keep an eye on your open rates, click-through rates and other rough indicators of performance.

In the long-term, measure the impact that your lead nurturing campaigns have on lead-to-customer conversion rates, sales funnel efficiency and revenue. This will help you determine the overall effectiveness of your efforts.

Without further ado, it’s time to begin building your very first lead nurturing campaign. Be sure to learn what works well and what doesn’t, and incorporate that knowledge as you build out even more sophisticated nurturing campaigns going forward.

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