Email nurturing—also called lead nurturing, marketing automation, drip marketing and auto-responders—is a common marketing tactic designed to gently encourage prospects to move through the sales funnel and make a purchase.

Nurturing campaigns are crucial to B2B marketing success since they change a buyer’s focus from their problems to your solutions. Essentially a nurturing campaign is the bridge that turns unqualified leads into marketing qualified leads ready to talk to sales.

But there’s an art to email nurturing and it’s important to get your campaigns right. Here are 5 common email nurturing mistakes and how to fix them:

#1 The campaign isn’t targeted

Are you sending an email nurturing campaign to your entire database?

If you are, STOP RIGHT NOW. You’re defeating a key benefit of email nurturing: hyper-personalization.

Anyone can personalize an email with someone’s first name. But nurturing lets you take personalization a big step further. A well targeted campaign incorporates a high degree of customization and makes your conversation seem specific to the individual receiving your email.

There are different ways to target an email nurturing campaign. It could be triggered when someone downloads an offer from your website. Or you can identify a sub-set of your database—such as leads who started a free trial but didn’t buy, subscribers to your blog, contacts you met at a recent trade show or even new customers you want to turn into loyal fans—and create a nurturing campaign specific to that audience.

You wouldn’t speak to a small business owner the same way you’d talk to a B2B marketer at a large organization. So don’t send the same nurturing campaign to all your contacts.

#2 Goals aren’t measurable (or don’t exist)

The goal of email nurturing is to move your leads through the sales funnel until they engage in a bottom-of-the-funnel offer, such as a consultation or free trial, where you can turn them into a customer.

So far, so good.

But try to be just a wee bit more specific. Your marketing goals should be S.M.A.R.T:

-       Specific

-       Measurable

-       Attainable

-       Realistic

-       Timely

Ask yourself:

  • How many leads do I want to have at the bottom-of-the-funnel?
  • What number will convert into customers?
  • How long is it going to take?

#3 Your timing is off

The timing of your email nurturing campaign is critical to its success.

Compare it to the way you build a romantic relationship with a new friend:

The introduction: A prospect downloads an offer from your site, providing you with their contact information.

First date: The first email in your nurturing campaign is sent. If you wait too long to reach out to your prospect, they’ll forget about you. And if you present them with a proposal too quickly, you’ll scare them off with your enthusiasm.

Multiple dates: Your prospect gets to know your product or service through your email nurturing campaign. Each date (or email) builds on the previous one, getting a bit more ‘serious’ as the campaign progresses.

The proposal: Finally, your prospect reaches the bottom of the funnel. They’re ready for a free trial or consultation.

Marriage: The trial was impressive and they’re signing up as a customer.

So what’s the ideal timing?

Consider your typical sales cycle and how long it typically takes a prospect to buy from you. Talk to your sales force or to some customers. Put yourself in your lead’s shoes. Does a prospect typically decide to purchase from you after a month? A year? Or somewhere in between?

The length of your email nurturing campaign should match this timing.

#4 Content doesn’t match prospects’ buying stage

It’s equally important to match email content with your prospect’s buying stage. I wrote about how buying stage impacts content creation a few months ago.

If your prospect is at the top-of-the-funnel, they’re asking questions related to their problem. You’ll want to offer them how to guides, templates and instructional videos.

At the middle-of-the-funnel, your prospect wants to know how YOU can help. They’ll also want reassurance that you’re the best solution to their problem so case studies are a great example of content that works at this buying stage.

#5 No post-game analysis

Don’t ignore your analytics. They’re key with email nurturing since it’s almost guaranteed the first iteration of your campaign won’t be perfect—and it won’t be your best.

Once you’ve got some data to analyze, take a look. Try to get a 10% click-through rate on each of your emails in a nurturing campaign. If some of the emails aren’t performing, take a look at the content and try to figure out why not.

Sometimes just changing one word can make a big difference. It’s OK to take an educated guess, but modify one thing at a time to see if it makes a difference.

 

YOUR TURN

What other mistakes have you spotted in email nurturing campaigns?

 

Written by Shelley Pringle