Using lead nurturing campaigns to drive business growth

Dan Morrison
Dan Morrison
A working group sits together in an office

If you’ve been looking into beefing up email marketing to drive business growth, you’ve likely heard of a lead nurturing campaign. If you haven’t, a lead nurturing campaign is an automated, personalized email marketing campaign designed to keep prospective customers engaged with your company. Lead nurturing campaigns are often confused with drip marketing campaigns, but there are a couple of key differences between the 2. We’ll take a look at the differences between both lead nurturing and drip marketing campaigns and discuss some tips to ensure your campaigns are a success.

What’s a lead nurturing campaign?

A lead nurturing campaign is an automated email campaign that’s triggered based on the actions any of your leads take, like downloading an eBook or registering for an online event. As the name suggests, lead nurturing campaigns are designed to nurture your leads to the point that they’re ready to purchase your product or service. Because these campaigns are triggered based on a user’s actions, they’re easily personalized based upon those actions taken by the lead. 

If, for example, you sell accounting, marketing, and sales software, and a lead downloads 2 articles and a video about accounting, you want to enter this lead into an accounting-specific lead nurturing campaign. If they show interest in both accounting and sales, you might enter them into a lead nurturing campaign that touches on both subjects. Lead nurturing campaigns can be as generic or specific as you like, and should be built based on information you’re capturing from your leads. The more data you have access to, the better tailored your lead nurturing campaigns can be. 

What’s a drip marketing campaign?

A drip marketing campaign is also an automated email marketing campaign, but instead of being triggered based on a specific action, drip campaigns tend to be more generic and all-encompassing of your audience. You can think of a drip campaign as a type of lead nurturing campaign, but one that isn’t quite as tailored or personalized to your audience. One of the most obvious examples of a drip campaign is a welcome drip — you go to a website, input your email address, then leave. Within a few minutes, you’ve received a welcome email from the company telling you more about the business and what products or services it offers. Over the following several weeks, you receive an email or two per week, each educating you about the company, its mission, products, or benefits. This is an email flow that you’ve likely been a part of dozens of times without even realizing it. 

Other common examples of drip marketing campaigns include onboarding, top-of-mind, and re-engagement campaigns. Onboarding campaigns are designed to train — or onboard – new clients after they’ve purchased your product or service. Top-of-mind campaigns are meant to keep your leads engaged over a longer period of time, keeping your company in mind before they ultimately convert. And re-engagement campaigns are designed to engage inactive leads to get them to reenter your sales funnel. 

How do I implement a lead nurture or drip campaign?

To start sending your first lead nurture campaign, you’ll have to first select an email marketing platform and start building your email list. Once you’ve selected the right platform and have built a list of subscribers, you can start to think about your main goals as a business. Do you have one main product line to focus on? Are you just focusing on sales growth, or already thinking about brand awareness? You may have 10 different campaign ideas in mind, but it’s important to start small and scale.

A drip campaign is a good starting point

Because drip campaigns require less personalization and can be appropriate for a larger base of subscribers, we’d recommend starting with a welcome drip to greet any new leads who’ve signed up for email or purchased from you. Every industry is different, but as a general rule, it’s safe to space your welcome emails out by a week. Don’t just send 1 or 2 emails, but instead try to flesh this out to be several emails sent over the course of one or two months. This will help keep your subscribers engaged while you work on building out future email campaigns. 

Track successes and duplicate 

Make sure you’re tracking the performance of your first drip campaign — this can be done within almost every email marketing platform or on a third-party analytics platform like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics. If your emails are performing on par or above average for your industry (this Mailchimp email marketing benchmarking report is a helpful tool), then congratulations! You’re already achieving email success, so you can start duplicating your existing drip campaign and seeing how it may apply to other parts of the business — think brand awareness, different product lines, keeping your company top-of-mind, etc. 

If your campaign is underperforming, take note of which emails in your drip campaign have the lowest open rates, click-through rates (CTRs), or conversion rates. If you’re seeing poor open rates, look at optimizing your subject lines and preheader text. Test shorter subject lines or using emojis and play with the tone of the subject line. If you’re seeing poor CTR or conversion rate, test the CTA language or treatment, or look at adding or updating imagery to your emails. If your email marketing platform has an A/B testing function, you can try running tests within your drip campaigns to better understand what drives improved email performance. There’s no hard and fast rule of what will work — try playing with the copy, the design, the imagery, the overall length or feeling of the email. 

Move onward and upward  

Once you’ve got your first few drip campaigns up and running, you can start looking into lead nurturing campaigns triggered by different actions a user might take on your website. If, for example, you’re selling clothing, you could create different audiences based on those who interacted with your women’s vs. men’s clothing or who made a purchase vs. who didn’t. Each of these audiences could be sent into a lead nurturing campaign that’s more specific to their interests. Those who’d already made a purchase of women’s clothing would be in a different audience than those who hadn’t made a purchase but had shown an affinity for men’s clothing. The opportunities for audience segmentation are endless! 

Once you’ve segmented your audience into several key categories, you can build out more lead nurturing campaigns to cover each of those audiences. Some of these email campaigns can be copies of one another and follow very similar flows but with tailored content — think men’s vs. women’s clothing. Other campaigns may be far more specific, and you should look to your data as a guide for which campaigns to prioritize. For example, if men who show an affinity for athletic clothing typically spend twice the amount of money than any other audience, it would make sense to build the men’s athletic clothing campaign before branching out into other campaigns. 

As you continue to build out additional drip marketing and lead nurture campaigns, make sure you’re aware of your email blasts — those one-off emails sent to your entire audience. You want to monitor how many emails your subscribers receive in a given week. There’s no specific rule around how many emails to send per week, but you want to avoid sending a subscriber multiple emails a day. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, such as big sales like Black Friday or Cyber Money where you want to send out a series of promotional emails over the course of 24-48 hours.

Now the ball’s in your court — start by evaluating email marketing platforms and building your audience. Build one drip campaign, copy your successes and build out several more drip campaigns. Once you’re comfortable with the performance of your drip campaigns, move on to lead nurturing campaigns and continue monitoring your results. Email is an ever-changing medium, so make sure you keep testing new things to ensure the success of your email campaigns. Following these tips is a surefire way to expand your email marketing efforts, get more subscribers, and ultimately more customers for your growing business. 

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