Say you’re new in town and want to make friends. You wouldn’t introduce yourself to a new person, get their phone number, and then never reach out to them. To form a friendship, you’d need to connect with them and spend time together.
Building and maintaining friendships takes work. They grow over time through continual contact and investment. Your company’s relationships with your leads aren’t any different—you must nurture those connections for them to develop and thrive.
Successful lead management involves identifying and strategically nurturing leads, but many companies struggle to build trust with potential customers. According to Invesp, a shocking 80 percent of new leads never convert into sales.
80% of new leads never convert into sales.
This is why data-backed lead nurturing tactics make all the difference. If your marketing team is going to convert your leads into loyal customers and create a successful business, you must integrate lead nurturing into your sales strategy and implement lead nurturing best practices.
In this definitive guide, we’ll define lead nurturing, walk you through lead nurturing fundamentals, provide clear examples of successful lead nurturing strategies, and deliver insights into the latest lead nurturing statistics.
What is lead nurturing?
Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with potential customers and fostering those connections at every stage of the marketing and sales funnels.
Nurturing begins at the marketing phase—before the lead is ready to become a customer. At this stage, your lead is interested and open to receiving marketing materials, but it's probably premature for your sales team to pursue them aggressively. You don’t want to scare your lead away by being overly eager. Instead, lead nurturing informs prospects about your brand’s solutions to their problems.
Whether from sales or marketing, lead nurturing campaigns should keep your business top of mind, answer your potential customers’ questions, and reiterate your company’s reputation as an expert in its field.
What are the elements of a lead nurturing email?
Your lead nurturing emails play an important role in your campaigns. They familiarize sales leads with your company, and they help you create relationships with prospective buyers and foster brand loyalty.
Regardless of how a lead joined your email list, their exposure to and interactions with your company must remain valuable, pleasant, and actionable.
A successful lead nurturing email will have a compelling but brief subject line, relevant content, some level of personalization, and visual appeal (such as product images). Your other lead nurturing email must-haves are:
- Company logo
- Email copy (with at least one call to action)
- CTA button
- Social media share buttons
- Unsubscribe link
Offer a plain text version of your email as well as alt-text for images to ensure user-friendly communication. If you include videos, take screenshots and then insert them into the email to cut down on loading time. Mobile devices consistently account for at least 50 percent of all web traffic, so make sure you test for mobile compatibility.
Lead nurturing flow example
A lead nurturing flow connects each piece of your campaign so the lead can seamlessly move through their customer journey. You can use CRM software to automate many actions in the workflow, such as sending an email to a lead or adding them to a segmented email list.
Perhaps a lead places items into a shopping cart on your website but fails to complete the purchase. Utilize a lead nurturing flow to send a series of automated emails or SMS messages with a coupon to entice the buyer to follow through.
Or, say a lead fills out a contact form on your website. They can then be added to a segmented email list, triggering a lead nurturing flow to send a series of campaign emails.
Lead nurturing campaign example
There’s a wide variety of lead nurturing campaigns, from a generic persona nurture sequence to cart abandonment. There are also specific lead nurturing campaigns you can launch for social engagement, sales, or re-engagement for silent or disqualified leads.
Before you begin any lead nurturing campaign, determine:
- Your campaign goal
- Your target audience
- The buyer’s journey
- What information the customer needs along the way and how to provide it
Let’s say you run an online shop selling high-end candles. You plan to launch a campaign to re-engage inactive subscribers on your email list. Your target customers are subscribers who have been inactive for 45 days but have previously made at least one purchase from your shop. You determine that the best method to re-engage these buyers is to send an email offering a 20-percent discount on their next purchase. With the right CRM, you can easily set up an automated workflow to send this email to inactive subscribers after 45 days.
Lead nurturing benefits
You can’t expect consumers to automatically welcome your business with open arms. Customers have plenty of options, and they can quickly do their research to find a competitor.
Lead nurturing is how you make the case for your brand. You want to show consumers that your product or service is high-quality and that you will always meet their needs—even after they convert into paying customers.
Gives customers the curated experiences they desire
Now more than ever, consumers want personalized experiences. Companies like Netflix and Spotify are thriving because they use algorithms to tailor each individual’s experience to their particular tastes and pain points.
What’s more, studies show that potential customers feel frustrated when they receive impersonal emails or irrelevant content. Consider incorporating sales automation software to gain insight into your audience’s preferences so you can provide the level of personalization they expect.
Makes your brand stand out
In the Internet age, shoppers have many options and are likely to do their research—a study by GE Capital Retail Bank found that 81 percent of customers research products online before making a purchase. Lead nurturing is crucial for keeping your brand at the forefront of your prospective buyers’ minds while they’re in the exploration phase.
Suppose your marketers are promoting custom-formulated shampoo, and your lead is looking for a new haircare solution. In that case, they may browse your website or sign up for a company newsletter. But they could just as quickly continue browsing the web later on and forget your company exists.
The way you nurture leads will allow you to remind the shopper of your shampoo brand. You can send emails to tell them about your new formula and share data about how much it reduces frizz, for example.
Aside from providing leads with a personalized, pleasant path through the early stages of the buyer’s journey, investing in lead nurturing strategies can increase your conversion rate. Industry-leading nurture campaigns generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads at a 33 percent lower cost.
What is a lead nurturing CRM?
Using CRM or lead management software can help sales and marketing teams access and manage customer information throughout the lead nurturing process. This makes communication between departments simpler and clearer.
The best CRM software allows teams to:
- Set up cross-departmental and teamwide calendars
- Track and assign lead nurturing tasks
- Plan cadences for social media engagement and lead nurturing email sequences
- Track success analytics such as opens, clicks, likes, and replies
- Log ongoing customer interactions
Lead nurturing is the key to a successful sales process, and utilizing CRM software is one of the easiest ways to streamline everything.
Top 5 lead nurturing strategies
There isn’t a single best lead nurturing campaign. The initiative you pick depends on where your lead is in the buyer’s journey and how you personalize your approach and build trust. Once you have the information you need, you can create a campaign that will help move the lead further down the funnel.
That said, certain channels and strategies are time-tested and proven to warm leads and turn them into customers. Here are five primary lead nurturing strategies.
1. Email marketing
Connect with leads by consistently sending them emails (but not so frequently that your brand becomes annoying).
You might set up automated emails that are sent based on interactions leads have with your company. For instance, a lead who views a product page might receive a reminder message about that item a few days later. This type of personalized, inbound marketing is also often more cost-effective than other marketing campaigns.
Email campaigns are among the most successful lead nurturing tactics because they deliver relevant content to qualified leads. A lead who’s already given you their direct email address is more likely to become a customer in the future.
Newsletters are another way to keep leads informed about your business and its products or services. Engage your leads by sharing industry news and information about how your company can meet their needs.
2. Social media marketing
You can also engage potential customers through social media posts and ads. Running social media campaigns will land your business directly in your target customer’s social media feeds, ensuring your brand stays top of mind. These campaigns are also ideal for reaching high-quality leads who are unaware of your brand.
3. Content marketing
Your leads want information about your industry and your product or service. Deliver value by creating highly relevant blog posts or other types of content that help them achieve their goals. This can drive consumers to explore your brand further.
Content marketing can build your credibility, too. Showcase your company’s expertise with well-researched, thoughtful content, and leads will be more likely to trust your brand.
Aside from blogs, white papers and ebooks are also typical components of a content marketing strategy. If the content is engaging and insightful, leads will likely return to your company’s site and blog and move down the sales funnel.
4. Sales calls
A sales call is the most traditional form of lead nurturing. Once you have a lead’s phone number, call them directly and determine what they’re looking for from your company. The information you gain from these calls can help you gauge where your lead is in the sales funnel and how to approach them next. A sales call is also an opportunity to foster a personal connection with the lead.
Best of all, a sales app allows you to track sales calls on the go. With a mobile CRM, you’ll always have the customer data you need at your fingertips.
5. Direct mail
Today’s world is undeniably digital, but good old-fashioned mail is still an effective lead nurturing strategy. It’s a powerful way to add a more personal, human touch to your campaign. In 2020, direct mail advertising generated more than $9 billion in revenue in the United States.
6 lead nurturing best practices and tools
Developing the perfect lead nurturing workflow doesn’t stop when you pick your channel and strategy. Here are the top lead nurturing methods and tools you can use to streamline your process.
Automation for timely follow-up
It’s important to follow up with leads promptly. Automation can make this task much more efficient and ensure well-timed, consistent messaging.
Customer journey mapping
Carefully researched buyer personas will help your sales reps understand where a prospective client is in their customer journey. Understanding what the lead needs at each stage of the journey enables you to speak to both their pain points and their goals as they become aware of a problem, begin to seek solutions, and finally decide to buy.
Gone are the days of generic email campaigns. Emails need to target leads based on where they are in the sales funnel. More importantly, your messaging must be consistent across every channel. This includes website content (like landing pages and blog posts) as well as social media posts and responses to direct messages and comments.
Sales and marketing teams must work together to come up with the right lead scoring model. Every company’s scoring model will be different, but most are based on:
- Demographics or firmographics
- Activity or behavior
- Buying stage
Scoring leads correctly is crucial to your nurturing campaigns because it enables sales reps to target consumers who are likely to buy the product or service, rather than wasting time on leads who aren’t sales-ready.
Personalization entails tailoring communications and content to individuals throughout the sales prospecting process. A top-tier CRM will allow you to easily personalize email campaigns, and data shows it’s worth it—when emails are personalized, click-through rates are 2.5x higher and lead to a 5.7 increase in revenue, on average.
Creating relevant content is one of the biggest challenges in lead nurturing campaigns. List segmentation helps you pinpoint the right strategy for the right lead. Consider segmenting your campaign based on:
- Lead source
- Job function or industry
- Product interest
- Stage in the sales cycle
Segmenting leads ensures you’re setting yourself up for success with content that targets specific groups. While dramatic changes in language or tactics may not be necessary for each segment, your leads will notice and appreciate content that’s relevant to their interest, job function, or buyer’s journey.
How to run successful lead nurturing campaigns
No matter how well you plan your lead nurturing campaign, challenges are sure to crop up. Before you launch your initiative, think about issues that may occur and how you plan to overcome them. The best practices below will help you streamline the lead nurturing process and avoid mistakes or missed opportunities.
Clean up your contact list
You don't want to waste time emailing people who’ve changed their address or sending basic information to leads who’ve already become loyal brand advocates. Go through your contact list and make sure each lead’s information is up-to-date. You can begin by determining the last time you contacted the lead and whether they were responsive.
If you notice a lead is unresponsive for a long time or after multiple attempts to make contact, it's a good idea to check their contact information. They may have changed their phone number or deactivated their social media account.
You can also use a CRM as a lead scoring platform to categorize leads and update and store their data. Having a robust database and sales tracker with customers’ updated information is key to running an effective lead nurturing campaign.
Align sales and marketing teams
Ensure your teams are on the same page about how to handle a lead at every stage of their journey. Establishing a protocol for how each team interacts with a lead at specific touchpoints will help avoid misunderstandings and will give the lead a unified experience with your brand.
Integrate customer information across touchpoints—like email communication or social media—so marketing and sales team members don’t miss out on crucial insights into a lead’s needs and desires. With these details on hand, it will be easier to come up with fresh ideas for nurturing the consumer and transforming them into a sales-qualified lead as soon as possible.
Pick measurable goals for each campaign
You want to be able to see what you’re accomplishing with your lead nurturing campaigns, so be sure to set specific, measurable goals.
For example: How many leads do you want to subscribe to your newsletter? What type of engagement do you want with your social media channels? The targets you set will allow you to determine whether your campaigns are working as intended or missing the mark.
You also want to have a clear idea of how long it usually takes to convert a lead into a customer and adjust your workflows accordingly. If the sales cycle is taking longer than expected, for instance, that might be a sign you’ve lost someone along the way or you’re spending too much time on leads who aren't qualified.
Sticking to a clear timeline will help you assess whether your lead nurturing efforts are paying off. It’ll help you think more strategically about how you approach each customer, too.
Use targeted, personalized content whenever possible
Consumers want a personal touch and information that’s relevant to them. Understand where your leads are in their customer journey so you can provide them with valuable, pertinent content. If you know a lead has been browsing your website for a specific product, for instance, send them an email with more details about that item.
Set up systems that enable your company to meet customers where they are, too. For example, make sure to send a weekly email to new leads after capturing their contact details, and give them information about the product they were looking for on your site.
Don’t forget to follow up
While you certainly want to avoid spamming your leads and flooding their inbox with irrelevant content, you should follow up regularly to build a relationship with them. Think about how you would like to receive updates—the idea is to captivate and delight your audience without overwhelming or annoying them.
You can gain valuable insights into how people respond to your overtures by using data analytics and tracking the number of people who subscribe and unsubscribe from your lists. CRM software is great for this. Most newsletter software also tracks page views, clicks, and the number of subscribers.
Using software is key to the lead nurturing process, especially if your business is growing rapidly or juggling many leads in different stages of the sales funnel.
Marketing automation software is one of the best tools for nurturing leads. It allows you to automate much of your outreach based on where leads are in the funnel and how they’ve engaged with your brand. That means your team won’t have to rely on memory alone, helping them turn more leads into customers.
How to measure a lead nurturing campaign
The clearest measurement of success is audience engagement, with the ultimate metric being revenue impact.
Compare rates of engagement for a campaign against historical data or industry standards. You can also utilize A/B or split testing to see how variations of campaign assets perform, like a landing page on your website or the call-to-action button in an email.
The most significant KPIs to watch are:
- Unsubscribe rates
- Open and click-through rates
- Conversion rates
- Sales cycle time
Keep in mind that measuring a campaign can take a few hours or several months, depending on the data you consider.
Lead nurturing statistics
Here are five quick stats that can help inform your lead nurturing efforts in 2022.
80 percent of new leads never translate into sales.
Lead nurturing emails get 4 to 10 times the response rate compared to standalone email blasts.
Deals closing with nurtured leads receive a 47 percent higher order value.
56 percent of marketers find targeted content the most important element of a lead nurturing program.
A CRM application can help increase sales by up to 29 percent.
Though this statistic may be alarming, it speaks to how important it is to get specific with your lead qualifications. Those leads are either a) Never going to buy or b) Being nurtured ineffectively. Qualifying your leads eliminates the first problem, while a smart nurturing strategy can potentially eliminate the second problem.
A CRM with lead nurturing capabilities can help a sales rep build relationships with buyers. By tracking every interaction with new leads, reps can personalize the entire sales process and decrease the percentage of leads that go nowhere.
A standalone email blast will never have the same success as a nurture sequence. It’s no surprise that response rates increase dramatically when a lead has time to become familiar with your company. Building relationships and increasing brand awareness is the magic behind nurture campaigns.
In other words, nurtured leads make 47 percent larger purchases than non-nurtured leads. Why? Trust, familiarity, and fondness mean a lead will be more willing to try new products or services. No purchase, however large, feels like a gamble if a buyer believes in your brand.
Put your sales reps on the same page as marketing. When both teams have access to a CRM with lead nurturing capabilities, customers will receive the content that is right for them, leading to increased sales for your company.
The right CRM can streamline your lead nurturing campaign development and execution, as well as automate lead scoring and follow-ups for greater sales success.
Spur your sales strategy with lead nurturing
Companies that master the art and science of lead nurturing have a huge competitive advantage. In combination with prospecting tools, lead generation software, and lead tracking, try the best practices outlined above and see how your business blossoms.
You can also increase your chances of success by investing in a CRM with lead nurturing capabilities. Whether you’re an enterprise or a small business, a robust CRM like Zendesk Sell can boost sales and streamline communication across departments. Start your free trial today to discover what an industry-leading CRM can do for your lead nurturing efforts.