5 Best Practices for Setting Up Email Nurturing Campaigns

Setting up a new email nurturing campaigns can be tough. Check out these nurture campaign best practices to achieve success.
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To paraphrase an old saying: You can lead a prospect to your website, but you can’t make them buy. On the other hand, you can improve your chances considerably with a lead nurturing campaign, helping your prospects every step of the way.

Almost two-thirds of leads aren’t sales ready. But rather than ignoring the ones that aren’t ready yet,  you can strategically nurture them to grow your haul of sales-qualified leads. Building trust and fostering relationships with qualified prospects, regardless of their stage in the buyer’s journey, is a key element to uncovering quality leads that can be nurtured through the funnel.

A closeup of a hand nurturing seedlings to illustrate the idea of email nurturing campaigns.
Like raising plants from seeds, setting up a lead nurturing program takes tender love and care.

However, creating a successful email nurturing strategy isn’t always simple. And pinpointing exactly where things are going wrong is often a process of trial and error. Fortunately, a few nurture campaign best practices can help break through common challenges and improve results.

Nurture campaign best practices: Start slow

The most basic way to handle leads is to treat them all equally. The opposite end of the spectrum is highly personalized email nurturing that guides prospects throughout their journey. You want to end up with the latter, but the good news is that you don’t have to accomplish it overnight. Take it slow! 

For instance, start by outlining your nurture marketing goals for leads. Goals might include increasing engagement, driving higher conversions or reducing churn. You can then segment your audiences and create personas. And finally, you can create a basic email workflow, map content based on the buyer’s journey, and eventually move on to more complexity, like A/B testing and scaling efforts.

For example, Tower Federal Credit Union used a basic email marketing tool for email nurturing. Without a way to segment customers based on actions, workflows were frustrating and time-consuming. Using marketing automation, the organization automated email campaigns and improved segmentation efforts. As a result, they experienced a 300% increase in open rates on follow-up emails.

Nurture campaign best practices: Carefully identify leads to nurture

When collecting target leads, the goal isn’t “the bigger the list, the better.” Instead, curate a targeted list of prospects, segment them based on where they’re at in the journey, and then walk with them along that path. 

And let’s be honest: There are some prospects that you could nurture that would — fairly or unfairly — regard even a modest nurturing program as a relentless “campaign” from a vendor they hope never to hear from again. So you want to treat each lead as an individual. 

Also, define your “ideal lead” and treat them differently. Create a relatively simple definition of an ideal prospect and start with two buckets: Do they qualify or not? For example, does an ideal prospect need to come from a company of a particular size? From a particular titled contact? From a particular industry? Set just two to three criteria and start triaging leads accordingly.

It’s also powerful to nurture and map programs to the buying cycle. The typical buying cycle flow follows need, learn, evaluate, negotiate, purchase, implement, and advocate.

Email nurture campaign best practices: Start with a single campaign

Sure, it would be great to have different nurture segments by industry, expected close date, the reason the deal may be delayed, and so forth. But if you’re just starting out nurturing leads, start with a single nurture campaign for all leads. A monthly newsletter, a regular webinar offer, or even an occasional free whitepaper offer can keep you top of mind with prospects not yet ready to buy. Get complicated later, but get ongoing content in front of prospects immediately. 

Also, keep in mind there are many different ways to segment contacts. You could segment by geography, or create-date, or lead source, etc. But at this point, you should look for the Venn diagram overlap of “known recent interest in a high-value product my company sells” and “population of significant quantity.” Leads and contacts with these two attributes are very good inputs to your content strategy.

Lead nurture best practices: Less is more with content delivery

An important area to address is your existing content library — you likely have more than you think. This includes white papers, videos, blog posts, articles, use cases, guest blogs, etc. 

Categorize them by the prospect they were designed for (buyer persona, stage in the journey, etc.). Then, you can reuse content effectively by breaking it into series pieces. 

Also, less is more when delivering content. People get lost in long emails; better to present content in list form, such as “Top 10” lists, “3 Things Your Competitors Are Doing,” etc. Videos are easy, and people like watching short 90-second videos with success stories, use cases, and industry trends.

Email nurturing: Invest in software thoughtfully

As you rethink your lead nurturing program, you’ll want to closely examine the tools you use. Do they serve you today? Or are you outgrowing them? What are your goals for the future, and can those tools scale with you?

Even if you start small, it’s possible to outgrow your tools at some point. So, yes, shop for where you are today — but also shop for where you’re headed. 

For example, Georgia Credit Union struggled with sending email nurturing campaigns. Due to a lack of integration, the marketing team requested data from IT every time they wanted to run a campaign. Slowed down and frustrated, the team implemented marketing automation to segment and personalize content. As a result, they achieved a 77% open rate on welcome emails, thousands of new products sold via automated marketing programs, and a 96% spike in application volumes.

Removing the difficulty from lead nurturing 

Successful email nurturing can feel like a daunting task. It takes trial, error, and experimentation to achieve the desired results. With the right tools, however, this process gets much easier. Manual work (such as the Georgia Credit Union example) is eliminated, scaling is easier, and marketing teams can do more with less. But the first step is often a small one.

And if you need help getting started, check out our lead nurturing guide or, for quick reference, how to set up a lead nurturing campaign.

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