How to develop a lead nurturing program from scratch

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of building out a lead nurturing program, let’s take a look at why you need to embark on this marketing strategy. After all, having a plan will only boost your chances of success.

A survey by Ascend2 found that 53% of marketers feel that increasing lead-to-customer conversions was a critical challenge they face. Improving the personalization of marketing efforts isn’t far behind at 44%.

Those lead-to-sale conversions, along with the numerous smaller conversions along the buyer’s journey, usually don’t happen on their own, no matter how good your marketing message or branding is. Often, they need your assistance so that a lead forms a relationship, earns your trust, and realizes value before becoming a customer.

A marketing automation platform provides a deeper understanding of the behavior of leads as well as existing customers. Lead nurturing takes advantage of that intelligence to deliver focused marketing messages and content at just the right time to impress and delight — and move people down the sales funnel.

That’s a lofty yet achievable goal. Here’s some advice on how to develop and execute your own successful lead nurturing program:

Benefits of lead nurturing

Simply getting someone to convert on a marketing activity isn’t enough to propel a lead to sale. Sure, a new lead is a small victory, but the grand prize is a new customer. Lead nurturing helps move leads down the funnel toward a sale, because sometimes that journey requires a little nudge.

Benefits of great lead nurturing include:

  • Automated follow-up: By setting lead nurturing capabilities in your marketing software to launch specific campaigns and emails depending on the prospect’s actions, you can move people down the funnel with much less work — and then hand them off to sales at the right time.
  • Immediate engagement: Upon receiving an email, contact form, phone call, text message, or social media reply from a prospect, lead nurturing allows you to reply right away, thus making a connection when your new lead has you top of mind.
  • Lead analytics: Automated lead nurturing tracks every interaction, touchpoint, and decision a lead makes — and even tracks when leads aren’t interacting. The resulting data informs strategy with individual leads as well as overall campaign tactics.
  • Expertise: Prospects who see the thought leadership you demonstrate in blog and e-book content become more and more impressed — particularly when you are sending those resources at the right time.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of a lead nurturing program is its effect on the bottom line. Converting more leads results in more sales; delighting more customers keeps them buying from you. Using automated lead nurturing to achieve both of these results translates into increased ROI — you’re consuming fewer resources to reach and convert more people. Moreover, this success compounds over time.

Key performance indicators (KPIs) measure lead nurturing effectiveness and provide keen insight on which channels are best at bringing in leads who turn into customers — and what you do along the way to move them through the funnel. Among these important KPIs are:

  • Visitor-to-lead conversion rate
  • MQL-to-SQL rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Conversion rates for landing pages
  • Returning customers

Setting goals

Lead nurturing isn’t some random marketing activity — you shouldn’t be sending out emails just for the sake of sending them. Realistic, specific goals should inhabit your lead nurturing program so that each developed campaign has a purpose, each email sent represents the natural progression of how the lead interacted with your channels, and each action can be traced and measured.

You’ve likely heard of the SMART acronym, which represents goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Although all five of these adjectives are important, specific perhaps carries the most importance for lead nurturing. When every nurturing activity is geared toward the next conversion, you need to determine how many of each you need to eventually produce your goal number of sales.

Consider these hypothetical, connected goals:

  • You want a lead nurturing campaign to result in 20 new customers over three months.
  • To get those sales, you estimate (perhaps thanks to your previously gathered data), you need 100 SQLs.
  • To get that number of SQLs, you think you’ll need about 300 MQLs based on your current conversion rates.
  • Previous lead nurturing resulted in only a 5% click-through rate on emails; you estimate an 8% rate will move you closer to the goal of 300 MQLs.
  • Emails promoting an e-book have resulted in a higher click-through rate; your goal is to sustain that performance (or even improve it) and boost the click-through rate on emails offering links to blog articles.

Obviously, goals will vary from campaign to campaign, persona to persona, and organization to organization, but whatever you arrive at, the fact you are setting goals puts some power into your lead nurturing program. With something to work toward, you’ll be more inspired to develop strategies that resonate with leads at any stage of the buyer’s journey.

Learn more about generating more MQLs here.

Core tenets of lead nurturing for getting started

No matter how you shape your lead nurturing strategy, it needs to feature these three elements:

  • Clear lead prioritization: A good lead nurturing program will have a system in place to score leads and target nurturing efforts toward the highest-value opportunities. High-value leads represent a better sales opportunity and are thus a better use of internal resources.

Platforms like CallRail can help you score leads with greater ease and accuracy, especially because call tracking software lets you incorporate inbound call activity into lead scoring — which can have a significant impact on the perceived value of a lead. This helps you improve lead prioritization, focusing on quality over quantity and hopefully improving lead-to-close results.

  • Timely, responsive communications: Your company’s messaging needs to be relevant to both the lead’s stage in the funnel and their individual background. Use communication channels to gather information that will improve your lead nurturing. Don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to nurturing leads; otherwise, you aren’t offering anything beyond the rigid structure of your sales funnel. Use lead nurturing as a tool to personalize communications and provide assistance as leads consider their options.
  • A multi-channel approach to lead nurturing: Relying on a single channel isn’t enough. Customers are agile across multiple channels. Your lead nurturing should be, too. Leverage phone calls, email, social media, live chat, your business website, and other channels to deliver a consistent message that is relevant to the lead’s funnel stage and speaks directly to their needs and pain points.

Keep in mind that lead nurturing doesn’t always take a linear approach. Although it’s never wise to inundate leads with so much interaction that they flee your company to try to get some peace and quiet, it may be necessary — and wise — to re-engage leads after a period of relative quiet. Life happens, and disruptions can take buyers away from the sales funnel at inopportune times.

No matter what happens, lead nurturing can help maintain that line of communication, as well as all-important brand awareness, to put your business at the front of the line if the lead has needs arise in the future.

How to develop an impactful lead nurturing program

Developing a lead nurturing program doesn’t happen overnight — how you prepare for campaigns is as important as what you do after they’re launched. These five steps will help get your lead nurturing efforts off the ground and strengthen the campaigns you are already running:

1. Boost your content

Many lead nurturing campaigns offer additional resources such as white papers, e-books, blog articles, calculators, infographics, and other types of content that provide value. Be sure that you’re actually delivering such value — with outstanding thought leadership and tools that benefit readers.

If leads click on something and they love it, they’ll look forward to more emails and move down the funnel. If they click on something that’s just so-so, they’ll be less likely to click again and may even unsubscribe. Beef up the quality and quantity of your content so that leads like what they hopefully will see.

2. Know (and segment) your audience for targeted lead nurturing

Although some lead nurturing can be somewhat general, the effort is most effective when it’s tailored toward specific personas, where leads are at in the funnel, and what problem they’re looking to solve with your solution.

For example, someone who knows nothing about your product — or doesn’t know yet if they even need it — should be given more information, not a hard sell. Alternatively, an existing customer may be bored by basic awareness content but is a prime target for upselling. Your lead nurturing doesn’t need to be hyper-individualized, but it should be laser-focused on what each audience wants.

3. Write great messages in your emails

You’ve likely read enough boring emails over the years to know that if something doesn’t appeal to you, you’ll delete it. Lead nurturing emails are no different — if they don’t immediately resonate with readers, they’ll be ignored, they’ll be trashed, or they may even lead to an unsubscribe.

Therefore, take your time when crafting lead nurturing messages and follow best practices, including:

  • Write smart subject lines: Keep this text short, informative, and appealing — and make sure you don’t write anything that sounds like clickbait or too salesy.
  • Don’t be verbose: Again, you want to get your message across quickly and impressively, so don’t write long emails. Instead, describe the value succinctly so that the reader wants to click that link.
  • Vary the message: In other words, don’t use the same fill-in-the-blanks template for each lead nurturing email you send — even if the idea behind each one is similar. Customize each message to the content being offered and to the reader’s place in the funnel.

4. Work the workflow

Here’s where lead nurturing really gets advanced — your data will be essential as it does — but also where it holds the most potential. Workflows determine what happens next when an email recipient opens the message, clicks on something, ignores the message entirely, replies, downloads an e-book, or requests more information, or for anything else that might occur. A new step is triggered on the next interaction, and so on.

Setting up workflows requires careful planning, both for the workflow itself and for the content you need for each path the lead nurturing takes. Test your campaign before you add customers to the mix so that the automation is correctly triggering the next event.

5. Measure success

The data and the goals you’ve set, along with your ROI, form a basis for whether a campaign is successful or needs adjusting. Don’t let your lead nurturing languish if the results aren’t what you were hoping for — revise messages, change up the workflow, refocus toward a different audience, or change anything else that stands in your way. The automation is there to help you, so take advantage of it and create campaigns that fit your goals.

Leads, leads everywhere

Email campaigns aren’t the only way to nurture leads, and prospects aren’t coming only from online sources. The marketing automation platform you choose should be able to measure other nurturing campaigns such as social media and SMS, as well as integrate with call tracking software so that leads connecting on “traditional” channels can be nurtured down the sales funnel.

Ultimately, lead nurturing caters to the needs of the prospect you’re hoping to turn into a customer. Call tracking software such as CallRail qualifies and scores leads so you can confidently and effectively coax them through their own unique buyer’s journeys.

Download Getting Started with CallRail to learn more about our solution and how it can expand the reach of your marketing campaigns.