Lead Nurturing: How To Nurture Your Leads

Sep 17, 2019

Last updated: March 21, 2022

Lead nurturing is all about finding your warmest leads and building relationships with them. For successful lead nurturing, marketers have to provide content that helps the lead and, ideally, guides them towards a purchasing decision.

But how do you create lead nurturing campaigns that help generate revenue? By figuring out which leads are the warmest, defining the right segmentation and messaging, and getting to your leads with relevant content at the right time.

Let’s take a look at each of these key elements of lead nurturing one by one.

1. Effective lead nurturing 101: How to get the most out of a list of leads?

It starts with figuring out which leads are warmest, and focusing your attention there.

Suppose it seems you have done a great job with your marketing strategy and B2B lead generation efforts. You’ve got a spreadsheet or a customer relationship management tool (i.e. a CRM) full of leads. But you are unsure whether they are high-quality marketing leads, sales-ready leads or just subscribers who like your content marketing.

If you and your sales team don’t have a huge amount of time on your hands, the first few things you’ll want to know is…

  • Who’s completely unqualified and irrelevant? You don’t want these people in your sales funnel, since they will only be frustrated and annoyed by unwanted interactions.
  • Who’s slightly engaged? You want them to get more educated about your offering, before you spend your precious sales rep man-hours calling them.
  • Who’s ready to buy? You want to know how to identify qualified leads immediately and prioritize them in your sales process.

This process is called lead segmentation. It’s all about figuring out where you should be directing your salespeople’s efforts. A simple and popular way of thinking about this is via the AIDA funnel – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action.

The basic idea here is simply that you want to segment and score your leads – turn a big, undifferentiated group of unknowns and figure out who belongs where.

Once you have a decent idea, you want to make it as easy as possible for your leads to progress down the sales funnel. But how do you even develop this idea to begin with?

Effective lead segmentation and lead scoring with the help of marketing automation

Here, “effective” lead segmentation means not spending excessive amounts of time and energy on it.

A good place to start is with a simple email marketing campaign (later, you can expand to social media, ads, and more). The responses to your first outreach campaign can give you useful information about who your leads are, where they are in the buyer’s journey and what they want.

lead nurturing email example
Here’s a nice example of a lead nurturing email from Happy Desk.

Consider the various responses a lead might have to the above email.

  • They might not even open it. Perhaps they don’t check their email much, or it didn’t interest them and they simply archived or deleted it.
  • They might open and hit unsubscribe. This is not necessarily a bad thing! You don’t want to be sending emails to people who don’t want to receive them.
  • They might open and click through on the “learn more” link. This tells Happy Desk that their lead is definitely interested, though perhaps not ready to move ahead immediately.
  • They might schedule a meeting. This is the desired outcome for this process – more meetings means more business!

With just one email, Happy Desk learns a lot about their leads, and develops clarity on what they should be doing next. (If you’re curious, we did an interview with Happy Desk to learn more about how they manage their lead generation.)

If you want to take it a step further, and make your lead segmentation sustainable and automated, then be sure to take on implementing a lead scoring system.

Each lead scoring software out there will be different, so be sure to implement what makes sense to you. Start by defining your buyer personas, and be critical about what indicators really matter (it may include demographics, firmographics, or only lead interest, i.e. buying behavior indicators such as what content, email campaigns they engage with or how much time they spend on specific landing pages, e.g. your pricing page).

How do you avoid annoying all your leads, and getting marked as spam?

When it comes to email lead nurturing strategy, retargeting ads, direct mail, or any other automated lead nurturing tactics, there are two variables you want to think about. And they’re both really about being sensitive to your prospects’ needs:

  1. Messaging – what exactly should you be saying to your leads as a part of the lead nurturing program?
  2. Frequency – how often should you be sending these messages and sending follow up messages?

Let’s dig into the details.

2. How do you find the right messaging for your lead nurturing strategy?

‘Jobs To Be Done’ theory has some insights: there are broadly 4 classes of content that help nurture leads.

Isn’t it great when other people have thought long and hard about a challenge that you have, and you can learn from their thinking? In The Forces Of Progress, Alan Klement articulates the various forces at play that affect the progress of a new lead through the marketing funnel:

lead nurturing progress

For any substantial change, all four forces need to be addressed!

Compellingly, Alan points out that “habits and anxieties are your silent competitors”. Framed another way, you could say that the lead nurturing process is all about effectively addressing your leads’ habits, pain points and anxieties.

Here’s a simple and powerful way of thinking about all of this – each email, blog post or social media ad should have ONE job, and that is to address one of the following:

1. Push – this is all about describing the problem that your leads have. What is it about your leads’ existing solutions that is bad, ineffective or suboptimal?

With our own customers, we see that they have a list of leads, but they don’t know which leads are warm and which are not. This often leads to sales and marketing shouting at each other.

That’s a push–if people are shouting at each other, they look for new solutions. Describing this conflict well is an effective way for us to communicate that we understand the problem.

2. Pull – this is about the solution rather than the problem. What is it about your solution that will be helping your leads achieve their goals more effectively?

For example, we promise that we can bring your sales and marketing teams together by connecting sales and marketing data. Keeping contacts in sync and sharing marketing data (e.g. what your leads do on your site) with sales automatically.

If we show our own leads how we see them in our CRM—with marketing touchpoints insights such as what the lead has done with our marketing emails or where they’ve been on our site, that tends to work as a good pull.

We show them what’s possible when you align marketing and sales data.

see email engagement data in your CRM
The above is an example of an image that demonstrates to Pipedrive users what they can do with Outfunnel – in this case, segment their leads by surfacing information about who’s ready to buy.

3. Habit – what is it that your leads are currently doing? Often, most of us aren’t super deliberate about our habits, but we will recognize them when we see them described.

Before using Outfunnel, our customers were used to manually going into their CRM (such as Pipedrive), finding the relevant filter or segment, exporting the contacts as a .csv file, then importing it into their email tool (such as Mailchimp or HubSpot Marketing). It might take just a few minutes, but those few minutes of manual work add up week after week.

4. Anxiety – what is it that your leads are worried about? The biggest worry for most users is “will this actually work?” Nobody wants to waste time and energy setting up a tool that doesn’t do what they want it to do.

Case studies and white papers are great for this: you can reduce anxieties by using examples, testimonials and social proof to demonstrate that your solution actually works. See our lead nurturing case study as a relevant example!

Potential customers will also want to know: is this a legitimate company? Will they be in 6 months time? Will my database be safe there? (This goes beyond just emails and blogposts – it’s the “product DNA” of the whole company.)

If you can be confident that your lead nurture emails are addressing these factors, then you can be confident that your leads will be happy to receive them–because they are helpful and relevant.

3. How should you think about frequency of lead nurturing campaigns?

It depends on the sales cycle of your product and the relevance of your messaging.

The first and most important question is: have your leads opted-in to receive messages from you? If they have not, obviously they’re not going to take too kindly to receiving lots of messages and your email messages will start having issues with deliverability. If you’re in this scenario for some reason, you want to be extra-certain that your message is useful.

Next, what is the sales cycle for your product? How long does it typically take for someone to learn about your product, and to make a decision? If it takes many months, you’re probably going to want to space out your emails.

For some businesses, demand might even be seasonal. For example, if you’re selling christmas lights in November, it might make sense to send emails almost daily. But it wouldn’t make much sense to be sending those emails in February.

Of course, ultimately every customer base is different, and you need to figure out what’s the right tempo for your customers through some trial and error.

What about leads who have gone through your sales cycle and said no?

Lead nurturing is for them as well! Look again at Happy Desk’s example–if someone is not interested in scheduling a meeting to redesign their website right now, they might still be interested in learning more about the process.

The whole point of lead nurturing is to be useful to your potential customers even and especially when they’re not ready to buy.

Even if they end up unsubscribing, you can put that “negative” email signal to work for you.

Conclusion: To effectively nurture leads into customers, you have to understand their needs better than the competition

There are a lot of blogposts about lead nurturing that tend to be fixated on the technical aspects – people research and write volumes about “what’s the best time and day of the week to send marketing emails”.

That can be interesting trivia, but it’s ultimately secondary to developing a deep understanding of your target audience and buying process. Even with perfect technical execution, you will get mediocre results at best if you don’t demonstrate a strong understanding of your customer’s needs and experience.

You can’t really nurture leads if you aren’t helping them get to where they want to go. Once you address this, then it makes sense to have an automated lead nurturing program in place to save you time.

Are you nurturing your leads with marketing messages? Make sure you connect such data to your CRM to make the most our of your lead nurturing efforts. Try Outfunnel free for 14 days – it’s the easiest way to connect your sales and marketing data.

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