Does your business have a lead nurturing program? Every business should have one, but many never put one together.

This guide will help you create multiple lead nurturing campaigns for the different segments of your funnel and the different attributes of your leads.

It will lead you step-by-step from creating your ideal client profile through testing your nurturing campaigns. Enjoy!

Engineering A Relationship: Lead Nurturing Best Practices

50% of leads are not ready to buy when you initially contact them. What are you doing with the leads that don’t convert right away? If your answer is “nothing,” you are missing out on a huge number potential sales.

By instituting a lead nurturing sequence, you can guide those prospects through your buying cycle and earn their trust.

To help you along the way, here are some of the main the do’s and dont’s of lead nurturing.

Do

Segment your list

Use filters in your mailing list program or CRM to filter your leads by their buyer traits such as industry or job function. This can help you create nurturing sequences specific to each type of buyer.

You should also be segmenting your list by what stage of the buying funnel a prospect is currently in. By doing this, you can include relevant offers such as demos, free trials, or coupons to those leads who have progressed further into the funnel.

Use plain text emails

Consider staying away from HTML-based emails. Plain text emails generally look more genuine to those receiving them. Plus you can save all that design time and put it towards producing amazing content for the emails, instead of just pretty pictures.

Along with plain text, use plain English. Keep the written content concise and simple to understand.  PrintWand suggests keeping your email simple enough to be understood by a 7th grader.

Not sure if your text is simple enough? Try editing it using the Hemingway App. This free to use tool gives your text a readability score. The lower the number, the easier it is to read. The app also give various suggestions on how to make your writing clearer, stronger, and easier to read.

Keep permission to stay in contact

Don’t lose the one thing you have going for you right now: your lead has given you permission to stay in touch.

This is a big deal. 53% of leads will stop responding as soon as the information becomes irrelevant. Make sure you are sending your leads relevant and timely information that will keep them subscribed and opening emails from you.

Relevant nurturing emails have 4 to 10 times the response rate of standard email blasts. Couple email with other touch points such as direct mail, social media, and webinars to feed information in different forms.

Make your business a thought leader

Give your leads a reason to keep opening your emails.Provide them with quality, thought-provoking content that shows you to be an authority in your niche.

Don’t stray too far from the product or service that got the lead to respond in the first place. Instead offer them heavy hitting guides and tools that they can use as they move through the buying stages.

Don’t

Email leads every day

Be timely with your emails.  Emailing leads every day is the fastest way to get them to unsubscribe.

Pardot recommends an email time of 6 to 45 days, while Marketing Advocate suggests sending no more than 9 to 12 emails per quarter.

Send every lead the same email

This goes hand in hand with segmenting your list. The same content won’t resonate with everyone.  Make sure to differentiate your content based on who it’s being sent to.

Do more than just change the name and industry. Try writing new emails designed specifically for each of your list segments.

Leave your team out of the loop

Your marketing team will be the primary task owner for lead nurturing, but you should still involve your sales team when designing the nurturing sequence.

Your salespeople can tell marketing the best way to approach your prospects’ needs and pain points. Including them in the creation of your sequence makes it easier and more effective than if marketing does it alone.

Start lead nurturing without content to back it up

You should start generating content even before you have a nurturing system in place. That way, when you do start your sequence, you’ll have plenty of ready-made items to include in your emails or social posts.

Your content can include blog posts, images, infographics, anything that you could send to prospects as a new source of information or knowledge.

 

Advanced Lead Nurturing

Create Personas

Before you can create your email sequence, you must first understand who your ideal leads are. You can do this by creating detailed personas of your target market. Think about how you can segment them into meaningful groups to make your nurturing campaign more personalized and poignant.

What are your ideal lead’s needs? Pain points? Goals? Do they hold a certain job title? Are there certain topics they are interested in?

Think about your persona when creating sign-up forms for your website. What questions can you ask your leads to help you assign them the correct persona?

You obviously can’t get everything in a sign-up form, since quick and easy is expected, but you can glean some gems that will make it easier to segment them.

Once you’ve created your persona, zero in on the few properties that would be hardest to determine without being explicitly told. Those are the ones to put on your sign-up form.

Segment Existing Content

Segmenting your content is nearly as important as segmenting your list. The process is nearly the same as well.

Make a list of your existing content: blog posts, videos, webinars, white papers, industry news. Anything that could be used to educate or entertain your prospect in some way.

Once you have your list, start assigning funnel sections to each piece. Think about which portion of your sales process would most benefit from a particular piece of content.

If you were in the researching phase, would you want a webinar of the benefits of your service? Or would you rather have a white paper or blog post discussing why you need such a service in the first place?

You should also segment your content based on who would want it and what it addresses. An industry analysis is probably more suited to someone in management or marketing, while engineering would appreciate a white paper on technical troubleshooting or research into an up-and-coming solution.

What pain points does your content address? Does it offer solutions or just further insight into the problem? Who would want to read or watch it? Is it for CEOs or IT specialists? All of these questions and many more will help you figure out where your content belongs in your nurturing sequence.

You should definitely be thinking about your personas when segmenting the content. Ask yourself whether your ideal lead would be interested in each individual piece of content.

If yes, add it to the list. If no, consider your other personas until you find one that fits. If it’s not relative or informative to any of them, then leave it out. There’s no need to squeeze all of your content into your lead nurturing campaign.

After determining where your content fits in the sequence, try as hard as you can to make all of your content available on your website, rather than sending leads to a third party such as LinkedIn or YouTube. Sending them away from your website could lead to hours of cat videos instead of meaningful browsing of your site.

Decide on Your Timeline

If you’ve been in business for any decent length of time, you should have a good idea of how long prospects take to move through your sales funnel. Use this knowledge to determine the best length for your nurturing campaigns.

For example, if top-of-funnel prospects generally move to the middle of the funnel or consideration phase after 2 months, your nurturing sequence for top-of-funnel should be 2-2.5 months long.

Knowing the length of your campaign in real time can help you decide the frequency and number of your emails. A 2-week campaign will have fewer emails than a 4-month one. Keep in mind the lead nurturing best practices we discussed last week.

The recommended frequency is between 6 and 45 days for longer campaigns. Shorter ones will have an increased frequency, but in most cases, you probably won’t want to email prospects every day.

The last thing to consider with your timeline is how you will move your prospect through the funnel. Your campaign should naturally lead the prospect to the next step in the sales process. Craft calls to action that help you determine when the prospect is ready to move to the next stage, such as downloading content that you’ve assigned to the next funnel segment.

Create Your Emails

You should create a variety of emails that will keep your customers engaged and entertained. Depending on where they are in the buying process, your leads will be interested in different things. Use this to craft emails that speak to them and their current needs.

Types of Nurturing Emails

Educate

Use this type of email often, but especially in the early stages of your funnel. Prospects in this stage are still researching the industry and are interested in learning what is out there, what they need to know, and what they should avoid.

These emails shouldn’t be overly salesy, but should show your company as a thought leader within your niche. By educating your leads, you are building trust and familiarity that should make it easier for them to pick you when they reach the buying stage.

If there is long-form content presented in the email, include a small blurb about the content and why your prospect will like it. Then link directly to the content on your website.

Connect

This type of email is great for prospects in the middle of the funnel. They know all they need to know about the industry, but are now looking for providers.

Asking them to connect via Facebook, LinkedIn, other social media or your blog helps them gain insight into your company practices and community involvement. They will be able to see how you treat and respond to customers and how active you are in resolving issues.

By asking them to follow you, instead of seeking them out, you gain a valuable follower who is really interested in hearing what you say, instead of someone who is just following you out of some sense of reciprocity. It also makes you seem less creepy and stalkerish than finding and following all of their accounts first.

Offer

This one is most useful in later stages of your funnel when your prospect already has several providers in mind and is attempting to pick one. Offer a free trial and you could that much closer to converting them.

These emails are necessarily sales oriented, but they shouldn’t be overly so. Keep these emails scarce because you don’t want to inundate prospects with demos or promotions when they still aren’t ready to buy. The best position for this type of email may be near the end of your campaign, when the prospect has had plenty of time to explore your services and other content.

Re-engage

Use this email when your lead has been unresponsive for a while. Maybe they aren’t opening your emails as often or clicking through to the offered content.

Take the opportunity to ask them what they don’t like about the content or why they aren’t interested in it.

Best case scenario, they let you know what’s wrong, giving you valuable insight into the mind of your prospects. Worst case scenario, they unsubscribe and you can dedicate those resources to more qualified leads.

Writing Emails For Different Personas

If you’ve segmented your content, this part should be easy. It’s entirely possible to use the same email template for different personas. Just be sure to customize the text of the email and the content presented.

Below is an email template from Hubspot that can be used for almost any section of your funnel and any persona. If you’re stuck, use this as a starting point.

lead nurturing email

Press Start

If you’ve followed along to this point, your campaigns should be ready to go. All that’s left to do on this side is to activate them.

Use whatever CRM you have to set up your defined segments and campaigns. Then integrate them with the different sign-up locations on your website.

Make sure the in-content sign ups lead to the funnel you assigned them to, and that you have precautions in place to avoid sending your leads repetitive content suggestions.

Evaluate Your Campaigns

Once your lead nurturing campaigns have been active for a while, you’ll have a wealth of new information to pour through to make them even better.

What Isn’t Working?
Find the individual emails that aren’t performing well and attempt to figure out why. Use a combination of split tests and multi-variant tests to increase the CTR and open rates and bring these emails back in line with the rest of your campaign.

What Is Working?
Likewise, pull out those emails that seem to be performing above average. Think about what makes that particular email special and use split testing again to verify your hypotheses. Once you know why it works, you can replicate that feature or design across your campaigns.

You should always be testing and aiming to make your campaigns and your conversion rate better. What works now might not work in 6 months or a year.

Even if you aren’t continuously updating, you should still be checking your stats regularly so that you can catch a drop in open rates or CTR quickly, and start testing a new draft.

How To Pick The Best Content For Your Lead Nurturing Emails

An important part of creating a successful lead nurturing sequence is the content that you provide within it. Educate your prospects and you’ll put your business at the front of their minds when they are looking for providers.

But picking which content to include in your sequences can be a daunting task. Here’s how to make it easier.

Segment By Funnel Position

Not all of your content is suitable for every stage of your funnel. In fact, the best content should focus on a single stage.

Either you are educating, entertaining, or selling, but it’s hard to effectively do more than one of those things in a single piece of content, so don’t try to. As you are writing new content, think of who you are writing it for and what they would want out of a post on the subject you’re considering.

Sales-Funnel

For content that you have already posted, categorize it as top, middle or bottom of funnel. Posts that focus mainly on your industry, as opposed to your company, will be best for top of funnel. Here, prospects are still researching the types of services they want and the benefits they need.

Examples of top of funnel posts include things like “What is CRM?” and “Why you need a social media manager.” You can also use a variety of different content styles, like guest posts, ebooks, tip sheets, and infographics.

Middle of funnel posts should concentrate on the features and benefits of your business. They should still be educating the customer, but should focus on deeper issues that your company solves. Middle funnel content is your opportunity to build a relationship with your customer.

An example of middle of funnel content is “How to build and manage a virtual team.” Again, you have a variety of content to choose from including webinars, case studies, demos and buying guides.

For prospects at the bottom of the funnel, content should focus on getting them to convert. They are ready to make a purchase, so your job at this stage is to handle and dismiss any final objections they may have.

Bottom of funnel content may include things like free trials, follow-up consultations, and offers or discounts. Include testimonials from current customers if you’ve got them, and focus any email marketing or blog posts on niche specific problems, rather than broad industry topics.

Segment By Topic

Another very useful method of segmenting your content is to do so by topic. Think about the interests, needs or pain points that each specific piece of content addresses and who would be most likely to benefit from it.

This approach is similar to segmenting by funnel position because different people will be looking at your content for different reasons. You can often determine at least some of these reasons by knowing which stage of the funnel your ideal prospects will start from.

An IT specialist, CEO or upper level manager will probably start near the middle of your funnel, as they most likely have a good deal of understanding about their problem and are looking now for possible solutions.

Conversely, a project manager, engineer, or other staff may begin their search at the top of the funnel. They have most likely been assigned the problem and are looking for a mountain of information before working on a course of action that they can introduce to higher-ups.

Repurpose Existing Content

Making sure that you have enough content for all funnel positions and personas doesn’t mean that you need to continuously generate tons of new content. You may be just as well off repurposing some of your existing content.

Could you take a few of your how-to posts and turn them into a downloadable ebook? What about turning some list posts into an infographic?

Do you have a rockstar client testimonial that would make a great case study? Could you record one of your webinars and use it as a lead magnet?

There are many ways to repurpose existing content. All it takes is a little imagination and a little more time. Use Google Analytics (or whatever analytics you have) to find your best-selling content. Think about how you could repurpose that piece or duplicate that type of post with a new subject.

Picking the right content for your lead nurturing emails doesn’t have to be so hard. Consider what you already know about your prospects and your funnel to build sequences that appeal to each of your ideal personas.

Repurpose existing content into a new format and consider using the new format exclusively for your list subscribers or as a lead magnet. Doing so can make old information exciting and fresh again.

10 Ways to Nurture Customer Relationships After a Sale

You did it!

You closed that deal you have been working on for a month. The skies have parted, the birds are singing – you are the man.

Does life get any better than here in this moment?

Well…yes.

Enjoy your 15 minutes of office fame and then get ready for the hardest part – customer retention.

It’s not enough to collect your commission check and jump to the next prospect (though that certainly is the enjoyable part). You need to develop a great rapport with your customer that will keep them coming back for more.

Don’t rely solely on the efforts of the marketing team to keep the customer happy. As the point of contact you should be working to nurture those relationships as well. Even if you hand over your new client to the account management department it doesn’t mean you can’t still maintain a relationship.

Think of creating that positive customer relationship like courting someone. Yes, courting. For the millennials out there, that’s the act of impressing and winning over the object of your affection. It’s this crazy little thing our parents and grandparents once did.

lead nurturing sales

Check out these 10 tips for nurturing customer relationships and you can once again go back to celebrating your sales rockstar status!

 1. Gain and Maintain Trust

lead nurturing sales

Of course the key to a great relationship is trust. You wouldn’t surround yourself with questionable people in your personal life, right? If a customer isn’t 100% sure that you are trustworthy, your relationship isn’t going to be a healthy one.

So how do you accomplish this trust?

Building a relationship means giving advice when it isn’t an attempt to close a deal. It means listening to the client and developing yourself as an expert in their eyes. While your goal is of course to maintain a professional relationship, it doesn’t mean you can’t joke, laugh or act like an actual person when you are speaking with your customers. No one likes a sales robot, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through.

On a personal note, I know for a fact that this works.

While working for a company as a long time client of a popular email platform, I attended 6 years of sales conferences where I had the chance to meet up with my sales rep. He was funny, personable and made me love the company more. I looked forward to clearing my schedule for a call because I was always learning something from him!

Every sales call with him after that initial meeting and his follow-up afterwards, I related to him on a more personal level, trusted him when he offered additional add-ons and continued to reach out with questions I came across.

Point of the story = be a person, not a sales robot and your customers will love you!

2.  Over-Deliver Always

lead nurturing sales

It’s no wonder that as long as we have been in the workforce we have been beaten over the head with the cliche “under promise and over deliver.” When it comes to keeping customers happy, this should truly be our anthem.

Maintaining a great relationship once you’ve closed the sale, means that the result of the purchase needs to live up to expectations.

This is where over delivering comes in. You never want your client to feel like you mislead them to believing they were getting something wonderful when really the result is so-so. The older under promise over deliver method is not the best method. Under promising isn’t going to help, in fact, it could actually hurt but over delivering should be something you strive for each time.

Every salesperson can deliver what’s promised but you will stand out when you prove you are more than a service provider. Exceed expectations always and your customers will keep coming back again and again.

3. Create Google Alerts for Their Company News

lead nurturing sales

If you are working with a larger company, the easiest way to make sure you are up-to-date is to create a Google News notification.

If you haven’t done this before, it’s actually really simple. Google News allows you to customize the news that you see. Say your client is American Airlines for example. You create an alert for American Airlines news and you will be notified anytime news is reported on the company.

This makes staying up-to-date with company happenings as easy as simply checking your notification. Next time you talk to the customer, you’ll be knowledgeable about any new direction they may be going and it may even offer you an opportunity to upsell!

4.  Keep Consistent Contact

Don’t be afraid to reach out periodically. Maintaining consistent contact with your customers is a good way to stay front of mind.

A word of warning on this however.

lead nurturing sales

There’s a fine line between consistent contact and bothering someone. Know your customer and feel it out. Chances are, they are just as busy as you. Don’t sabotage your efforts by driving them crazy, but certainly checking in now and again is not going to cause any harm.

Be aware of the messaging and frequency with which your account management or marketing department is reaching out and follow up when there is a new update or product rolled out. Coordinating all your customer touch points will greatly help your relationship in the future.

Additionally, every time you close a sale, be sure you are connecting on LinkedIn. This is the easiest and most professional way to maintain contact without interrupting their daily lives.

5. Continue to Learn with Each and Every Interaction

lead nurturing sales

When you really begin to listen when a customer talks, you will learn what’s important to them.

When you really begin to listen when a customer talks, you will learn what’s important to them. Click To Tweet

Finding mutual interests is a great way to engage in discussions not solely related to work. You both have the same favorite sports team? Perfect. Having a common ground to start from will help nurture your relationship.

6. Offer Advice When You Can Help

Relationships flourish when your clients look to you as not just a salesperson but an authority in your field. Become an adviser whenever possible. One great trick that is often underutilized in sales is referring your customers to other customers when you can.

Part of building relationships is learning more about your customers. Keep a collection of business cards (or something more high tech if you like) and when you hear of a need one company has, refer them to another.

You have a client who builds homes but doesn’t paint them? Well, refer them to a handyman who does business with you. Now you are nurturing two relationships at once!

7. Utilize Referral Incentives

lead nurturing sales

As salespeople, we rely heavily on referrals to grow our customer base. Not everyone is going to give you contact information at the drop of a hat but when you offer referral discounts, this sweetens the deal just enough.

Everyone has their own take on the best referral methods but the type of incentive you offer must match the type of business you run.

Makes sense, right?

The best way to discover the right referral incentive is to test and then test some more.

The best way to discover the right referral incentive is to test and then test some more. Click To Tweet

This could mean offering a certain percentage off, including an upgrade or credit toward future purchases, or really anything that would pique the interest of your customer and make them want to take advantage of the opportunity.

Above all else, don’t forget the importance of a good old fashioned thank you once the referral has come your way.

8. Use the Upsell Opportunity

Knowing your customer will naturally lend itself to the ability to upsell. When you see areas of a client’s business that you can improve upon with a product or service you offer, you have the best opportunity to upsell.

When done strategically, your customer will appreciate your suggestions and once again, look at you as more than a service provider, but an adviser as well.

9. Manage Expectations

lead nurturing sales

One of the very first aspects of building a relationship is managing customer expectations.

One of the very first aspects of building a relationship is managing customer expectations. Click To Tweet

Find out exactly what it is the client expects from you – it’s as simple as that. Throughout the process you will have the ability to get to know your customer even better and learn their priorities and what it takes to make them happy.

Make realistic promises of how you can be of assistance and offer consistency. There are too many variables in every company, when it comes to purchasing from you, companies appreciate getting exactly what they expect. It’s a stability that they can count on.

10. Don’t Underestimate a Thank You Note

I don’t care what year it is, as long as we still have paper and pens available to us, a handwritten thank you note will continue to go a long way. Yes, emails may be faster but in our digital society, actually sending a snail mail note is unusual and therefore is noticed.

Whether it’s after closing a deal with a customer or in response to a referral, take the time to write that thank you note. A little bit of time and effort on your part can go a long way toward nurturing your relationship in the long run.

If you forget all else, remember this – when in doubt, act like a human.

Simply put,  consider the relationships you have with the most important people in your life. Sure, they all  have different dynamics that make them work but they rely on the same basic principles – trust, respect, consistency, gratitude and compassion.

Conclusion

Hopefully, this guide can help you put together a killer lead nurturing program. The whole process can be broken down into 7 distinct steps:

  1. Create personas for your ideal leads.
  2. Segment your existing content by funnel location and what issues it addresses.
  3. Decide on your timeline, frequency, and call to action.
  4. Create a variety of emails to educate and entertain your prospects.
  5. Start running your campaigns
  6. Evaluate the results.
  7. Rinse and repeat.

If you’re stuck on any of these steps, check out the following posts for more information:
What Content Should You Use In Your Lead Nurturing Emails from Hubspot
Recipe for Rockstar Lead Nurturing Campaigns from Savvy Panda
Lead Nurturing Examples: The Good and The Bad from Brainrider
6 Lead Nurturing Emails Every Business Should Be Sending from Hubspot

Image Credit: Optimal Web Services