What is lead nurturing?

Also called marketing automation, drip marketing or an auto responder, lead nurturing is sending a series of automated messages to a lead to gauge the best time to hand them to the sales team as a prospective customer.

As a marketer, your instinct is to garner as much information from your web site visitors as possible to figure out who is going to become a buyer.

You must show some patience. Not all those leads are ready to pick up a call from your sales team just because they have contacted you about a product or information. That’s where the nurturing comes in – keeping the leads warm and happy until they are ready to hatch in to customers.

Research shows that between 5% and 25% of your site’s traffic is ready to do business straight away; the others are researching.

Gleanster Research says that around half of leads looking to buy do not do so immediately. If you contact these leads directly and push them in to making a purchase, then the likelihood is you will lose them as customers. To avoid this, you should inspect your sales funnel and ask yourself:

Armed with the answers to those queries, you can build effective lead nurturing campaigns which generate qualified leads and help your sales team close deals. Lead nurturing is an excellent inbound marketing tool that helps marketers understand customer needs more clearly. Once the mechanics of running a campaign are mastered, your business will benefit from easier relationships with customers.

Lead nurturing is an excellent inbound marketing tool that helps marketers understand customer needs more clearly. Once the mechanics of running a campaign are mastered, your business will benefit from easier relationships with customers.

For example, if a lead takes several weeks to make a purchasing decision after first contact, then you need to spread the auto response communications across that period.  By doing so, you will keep the lead engaged and interacting with your business. This communication will also save your sales team time and effort they input to develop a  lead in to a sale, leaving them to concentrate on leads that are more likely to buy.

This is just one reason why you should be nurturing your leads – as you will see, plenty of other reasons back lead nurturing as well.

Winning with a rapid response

You need to move quickly to win business from web site leads, even though that business may take some time to arrive.

An  study found that between a quarter and a half of sales are won by businesses which were fast to act with their auto responders and contacted a lead first.

This is backed by a Hubspot study that revealed response rates from a lead fell between the time the lead first made contact with a business and when they made a purchase.

That’s why automating lead nurturing is the best way to maintain engagement with a lead. Lead nurturing also works for leads that no longer visit your site or have stopped taking notice of your offers – by reminding them about your business.

Building relationships

Nurturing a lead builds a relationship – that is to say that people will engage with those who they know and trust. Put this to the test – the next time a visitor converts in to a lead from your web site, look at why and you’ll probably find that they already know of you or, at least, understand why they should do business with you. Lead nurturing is also a great way of showing potential clients that you really are expert in what you do.

Lead nurturing also allows regular communication between you and the lead. Research by has revealed that around two-thirds of buyers prefer communication which is ‘consistent and relevant’ – especially from your sales and/or marketing departments. Keeping in touch regularly is a key influence for clients choosing who they want to work with.

This all sounds like a piece of cake, but you really have to work at lead nurturing and you can’t afford to pick and choose. You must treat every lead the same way as you cannot predict who is most likely to buy until later in the cycle.

Learning about your customers

An automated lead nurturing campaign is  a great way to discover more about your web site visitors. For instance, you could find out:

Asking relevant questions helps you qualify a lead by identifying their needs more clearly. Like they say, the devil is in the detail. The more specific your questions, the more you can tailor your auto response campaign.

Think of lead nurturing as profiling your likely customers, so you know everything about them when they come along. Because you know your customers and your market, your sales team can have meaningful conversations with leads that are more likely to buy.

Segmenting the market

As well as giving you more information about your leads and web site users, lead nurturing also lets you tailor your communication for specific types of leads. Many web marketers customise emails to make them more relevant and appealing to certain types of leads – this is called segmenting.

Segmenting is a useful tool. MarketingSherpa has found segmented emails will often pick up 50% more clicks than those that aren’t segmented. This is a terrific reason why you should opt for segmenting emails whenever you can.

Benefits of lead nurturing?

For many marketers, email is the easiest and best way to communicate with a lead.  Email lets you build relationships and encourage buyers with special discounts and promotions. Don’t forget big special offers can provoke a reverse reaction, turning off a likely customer who unsubscribes or spams your marketing messages.

Lead nurturing is not bombarding a lead with deals, rather lead nurturing is a series of connected emails with a common purpose – offering relevant and useful information. Nurturing offers more than sending out a major email blast to a list of subscribed leads. Essentially, if you think email marketing is a powerful method to boost sales, and then wait to see what lead nurturing can bring to your business.

Timely response

A major issue with mass email is that you don’t communicate with your leads when they subscribe, which is the point at which they are most interested in what your business has to offer. Mail blasts are a scattergun approach to your schedule that doesn’t necessarily consider the needs of the lead.

Many surveys argue that response rates to email decline as the lead gets older, while the connection between click-through rates and recent sign up dates is much stronger. Measuring this is a key indicator of the effectiveness of an email marketing campaign.

Effect Of Subscriber Recency On Click-Through Rate (CTR)

subscriber recency

Automatic reaction

Automation is one of the major benefits of lead nurturing. Once you have created your campaign, the emails are fired out according to lead’s sign up date and you’re good to go.

After set up, you can forget about the campaign and deal with new leads and responses remembering that each new contact qualifies the lead more for your sales team. Following this regime can generate a high return from a low investment. Because of automation, you can forget about the emails and focus on generating new leads because the campaign quietly chug along qualifying leads and help to turn them in to sales.

Market2Lead discovered that by automating the nurturing process, businesses have a

23% shorter lead to-sale cycle. This illustrates quite well just how important a role the marketing team can play in helping generate sales for the business. By creating qualified leads, you will cut the time and effort spent by sales converting the lead in to a buyer.

Tighter targeting

Study after study clearly shows that sending mass emails to communicate with leads is

not as effective as targeted and segmented emails. Lead nurturing lets you drop that scattergun and become a marketing sniper. Qualifying your leads gives your campaign focus and a target.

A campaign that is set up with a ‘if…then…else if’ approach lets you positively respond to leads. This positive approach shows you understand their needs and interests, and can offer relevant information on their topic of interest. For example, imagine you are a restaurant marketing manager  and you collect a lead’s email address in exchange for a download guide on food and recipes from your web site.

You could follow that email with offering information on similar recipes and their nutritional benefits. The next email might explain which of those foods are offered at your restaurant. Your nurturing campaign has found a lead and is warming them to your menu and leading them down the sales funnel to become paying customers who regularly eat at your restaurant.

Comparing click-through and unsubscribe rates for email marketing and lead nurturing

click through rates

Building a software toolkit

If you are worried setting up and running a lead nurturing campaign is too time consuming and expensive, then take a look at some of the software tools on the net that can help.

You just need to decide which is most suitable for your campaign and which best fits your budget. Most offer a free trial. For a start, look at these sites, although a search for ‘lead nurturing’ will turn up many more:

After considering your software needs, ask these questions:

If WordPress is your content management platform, you can find plug-ins that we link to the premium software services listed above, or you can even search through the WordPress plug-in database and find some free tools that do the job for you.


Research shows lead nurturing campaigns are effective at driving sales.  Unfortunately too few businesses run a campaign even though they may send out email blasts and a social media presence.

By engaging with potential customers and communicating with them effectively,  you will ensure they do become customers and help drive profits for your business. Adopting a lead nurturing campaign will also lead to the introduction of new leads and help keep your company in the minds of potential customers. In comparison with email marketing, lead nurturing is relatively simple to organise and when automated, becomes an effective business tool.

When you have identified your goals, pinpointed who you want to reach and created the email content, the bulk of the work is complete. With little on-going maintenance, you can have a tool at your disposal which will be invaluable in driving qualified customers to your door. Results will vary and you will need to fine tune your campaign, but the effort will lead to potentially great rewards.

Now it’s your turn?

Let us know your biggest challenges when it comes to converting leads into sales.

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