How do you get the most out of a list of leads? It starts with figuring out which leads are warmest, and focusing your attention there.

Suppose you have a spreadsheet of leads, hopefully sourced legally. You don’t yet know what quality leads they are.

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

  • Who’s completely unqualified and irrelevant? You don’t want these people in your list, 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 man-hours calling them.
  • Who’s ready to buy? You want to know how to identify them immediately and prioritize them in your sales queue.

You can think of this as a process of lead segmentation. Lead segmentation is about figuring out where you should be directing your sales 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 funnel. But how do you even develop this idea to begin with?

How do you effectively segment and score your leads without spending an excessive amount of time and energy on it?

A good place to start is with a simple email marketing campaign. The responses to your first campaign can give you useful information about who your leads are and what they want.

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 a 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 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.)

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

When it comes to lead nurturing via email, 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 sending your leads to nurture them?
  2. Frequency – how often should you be sending these messages?

Let’s dig into the details.

How do you find the right messaging? ‘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 lead through a marketing funnel:



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 lead nurturing is all about effectively addressing your leads’ habits and anxieties.

Here’s a simple and powerful way of thinking about all of this – each email or blogpost 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 Outfunnel customers, we know 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 together, and we can show you what your leads do on your site – right in your CRM program.

If we show somebody a picture of their Pipedrive account with the information in the account about what the lead has done with email or web, that tends to work as a good pull. We show them what’s possible if your marketing and sales data is connected.

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 it as a .csv file, then importing it into their email sender. It takes a few minutes, but those few minutes 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 are great for this: you can reduce anxieties by using examples, testimonials and social proof to demonstrate that your solution actually works.

Potential customers will also want to know: is this a legitimate company? Will they be around 6 months later? 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 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.

How should you think about frequency? 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. 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.

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 customers. 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.

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 program in place to save you time.

Are you looking to automate your lead generation? Try Outfunnel free for 14 days to see how it can save you time and surface valuable information to your sales team!