7 Best Practices for Lead Nurturing Emails

Lead nurturing emails allow you to build a relationship with your leads and move them down the sales funnel until they are ready to become a customer. It’s one of the best lead nurturing tactics you can use and an essential part of an email marketing strategy.

Why? Because lead nurturing emails radically increase the chances of your leads making a purchase. You no longer have to hope that they will buy your products. Rather, you’ll slowly warm them up until they make that decision.

In this post, you’ll learn best practices for creating high-performing lead nurturing emails to drive your leads to make a purchase.

How does lead nurturing work?

A potential customer may have several types of interactions with your business. They may add something to their cart, subscribe to a mailing list, take advantage of a promotion, or set up a meeting with one of your salespeople.

Lead nurturing refers to the process of staying in contact with your customer throughout each of these stages. You provide valuable resources, discount codes, or reminders to make a purchase.

Overall, to nurture a lead is to build and maintain a helpful, mutually beneficial relationship with them. The goal is to guide them toward making a purchase.

(Tip: If you’re unfamiliar with lead nurturing, we encourage you to take our free lead nurturing course.)

Are lead nurturing emails effective?

Yes. As social media has grown over time, using lead nurturing emails to market your business can sometimes feel like the less fun or hip option. But, it’s still an effective way to expand your market, convert leads, and connect to your target audience, especially if it’s done correctly. 99% of email users check their inbox on a daily basis, often multiple times a day or first thing in the morning. This makes using email a great tool to nurture a lead toward conversion.

As time passes, the lead may not click on your CTA, interact with your business, or make a purchase. Certain leads with an interest in your business will need ongoing engagement to continue down the sales funnel toward conversion. For that, you’ll need to create a lead nurturing email sequence.

Lead Nurturing Email Sequence

A lead nurturing email sequence is a series of emails that is automatically triggered when the lead takes a certain action. For example, once a customer adds an item to their cart, a lead nurturing email sequence could include a purchase reminder, a limited time offer, or a list of similar products they may like.

These sequences keep the lead engaged until they are ready to go forward with a purchase. See this example of a sequence after a lead has abandoned their cart.

lead nurturing email sequence for abandoned cart

The process of lead nurturing occurs over some time with your continuous effort. Building that relationship needs trust, understanding, and consistency. Using emails to nurture your relationship with potential leads can be highly effective. Follow these best practices to make them work best for you:

1. Provide valuable content with include expert insights.

The first priority is to make sure you have something valuable to teach your leads. Think of your lead nurturing emails as mini blog posts. For example, if you sell data backup software, your first nurturing email might focus on the "top six considerations to make before purchasing data backup software.” Remember, you are an expert within your industry. Continue teaching your leads something new, and they will be more than happy to receive your emails and continue engaging with your business.

2. Focus on one relevant topic per email.

Each nurturing email should be focused around one topic and include a call to action. Put yourself in your lead’s shoes when creating your emails, as they are bombarded by messages all day long. Keep the content of your email tied directly to the topic the lead initially converted on. For example, if your lead downloaded a FAQ white paper on data backup software, they are likely near the top of the funnel, researching a future purchase. Your first email's topic could be "selling the importance of data backup software to your management team." Speak directly to the problem your lead is trying to solve.

3. Keep it short.

This is not the time to worry about fonts, or adding images or custom HTML. The lead should be able to glance at your email and know within five seconds the value it provides to them. Information overload happens quickly in an email. Adding secondary calls-to-action or unrelated links will increase your unsubscribe rate and subtract from the effectiveness of your campaign. While data suggests that emails should be between 50 and 125 words, it’s okay to extend your message to fully connect with your leads. But keep it concise whenever possible.

4. Ensure the emails progress naturally.

Carefully planning the flow of your emails will help you create well-rounded campaigns that pull your leads through the sales funnel. The first email after the initial conversion might be educational, while subsequent emails should continue to educate while giving the lead an opportunity to convert a second time. This is a perfect opportunity to promote a free trial or the download of a demo. Work with your sales team to determine what qualifies as a "sales-ready lead" and craft your lead nurturing campaigns accordingly.

5. Test your emails and track key metrics.

Email testing is key to fine-tuning your campaigns. As you test your emails, be sure to track key metrics to measure the success of your efforts. Click-through-rate (the percentage of people who clicked a link in your email) and unsubscribe rate are two of the key metrics to track on a regular basis. A strong campaign will generally have an unsubscribe rate of less than 5%. If your unsubscribe rate climbs above 5%, it's time to re-evaluate your campaign. Try testing new content or a stronger subject line, or adjusting the timing of your emails.

6. Personalize the emails.

You should be sending different emails to different types of leads and personalizing them to who they are specifically. This not only includes who they are as a consumer, but also what their interactions have been with your business thus far. Did they sign up for updates? Have they gotten an automated welcome email? Did they purchase from you once already? How long has it been since you acquired their email address or last had contact? Those are all things that should influence and change the content of the email.

7. Stay consistent to your brand.

Your business has an image, a voice, and a brand. The emails that you send to leads should continue to represent all of those things about your business. Continuing to establish your brand to a lead helps build a relationship that pushes them toward becoming a customer. The familiarity over time will build valuable trust and brand loyalty.

Before you start writing a lead nurturing email, focus on who your lead is and what your goal is for contacting them. Spamming leads with countless emails is more off-putting than it is nurturing. So, ensure your content is worthwhile for leads to read and for your business to send. Follow these tips to get started:

1. Choose a purpose.

Have a goal in mind for your message, whether it is answering an FAQ, delivering on a promised reward, introducing a new product, offering a discount, or sharing other content to engage the lead.

2. Personalize the greeting and subject line.

An attention-grabbing subject line and a personalized greeting are the initial hooks of a lead nurturing email.

3. Address pain points.

How can this product or service improve this lead’s life if they were a customer? Point out a problem that they have that you can solve.

4. Include testimonials.

Knowing that someone else was pleased with your product or service grows the lead’s trust in your business.

5. Share a knowledge bomb.

Including a striking piece of information or research will give your lead something that they’ll remember later on their path to becoming a customer.

6. Use a CTA.

Encouraging your lead to interact with your business through a call-to-action pushes them toward a conversion.

7. Include an unsubscribe button.

Leads that have no interest in your business, product, or service can’t be nurtured into customers. Allow those to unsubscribe so that you can focus on the good-fit leads.

8. Follow up.

Once the email is sent, track what happens next. Did the lead click on your CTA? Did they continue interacting with your business? Did they do nothing? Use that information to determine the effectiveness of the email and to influence what you send to them next.

Make a Seamless Lead Nurturing Strategy

A potential customer’s first interaction with your business is just the beginning. As they proceed down the sales funnel from lead to repeat customer, you will need to continuously engage them. Lead nurturing emails build trust between leads and your business. The sales funnel you create through nurturing emails should smoothly guide your leads into doing business with you.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in May 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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