You've got a sales lead who isn't ready to commit yet. That's common. In fact over 50% of the people you connect with are still exploring. Lead nurturing is one of the most effective ways to bridge the gap between interest and purchase, so doing it the proper way is essential.

Know Your Customer

Customers being pulled towards a purchase.

Lead nurturing is more effective when you have considered how your customer makes decisions. For example, it's difficult to create a lead nurturing experience if you don't know whether you're dealing with 'the' decision maker or someone who's been delegated to do the initial research. It's also important to know whether you're dealing with a company or a consumer. B2C purchase cycles are usually faster than B2B. With businesses, it's common to have a buying process, so you should tailor your 'selling' process to fit your prospect's procedures.

Prove Your Expertise

From an inbound marketing perspective, demonstrating value is the foundation of proof. There are numerous tools you can use to do this - however video is the highest performer.

Video can include webinars. However, consider this: if you fail to include customer interviews/stories as the foundation of your webinar, they lose some of their effectiveness. Whenever you let someone else share their story, you're letting an outsider 'sell' you. The 'objectivity' works in your favor.

White papers and case studies also allow you to use the power of story to emphasize your expertise. While these written 'proofs' come from your perspective, you can ensure they are informative and helpful.

Use a blog as well to showcase your knowledge and expertise. Remember, a blog isn't a brag sheet. It's the place you offer information there that's helpful to your prospects at least 10 times out of 11.

Automate Interaction

Email Marketing Automation

While phone calls are the most effective, marketing automation is essential to keep the conversation going. You're going to be using email for much of your ongoing relationship building activities, with phone calls playing a role at points where interest appears to be peaking.

Marketing automation makes delivering a highly personal experience vital. Your leads respond best when the messages you send are relevant.

Your primary tool to personalized automation will be a platform that supports differentiation, such as HubSpot. It's a CRM designed for setting up drip campaigns that fit customer responses.

As you set up campaigns, it's crucial you avoid smothering your prospect with too many emails or mistargeted messages. So you should set up the automated marketing campaign with carefully written emails that deliver a sense of personalization for each of the different nurturing tracks you anticipate. You'll also write emails that fit a set of triggers you've set up as indicators a prospect may be moving toward more interest or a buying decision.

Target Your Content

Delivering value is one of the most important components of successful marketing automation. This means you must segment your email lists.

  • Consider geographic segmentation if you serve a local market. There's no point in nurturing leads if you can't serve them.
  • Examine the potential of differentiating between genders or age groups.
  • Acknowledge the importance of buyer personas and develop content for each persona.
  • Explore the differences between organizational types and their needs (not-for-profit vs. corporation, e-commerce vs. brick and mortar, small vs. mid size vs. large businesses), and develop focused content.
  • Consult industry leaders so you can effectively expand who you serve.
  • Scrutinize the role educational levels play on the buying decision so content communicates at the right level.
  • Evaluate whether there are purchasing cycles you need to recognize. For example, some businesses see seasonal upticks for different services. A company offering snow removal services will see peak interest in winter. After developing rapport, a lead nurturing campaign could leverage opportunities to nurture customer interest in other services that are less seasonal.
  • Focus on the topics your prospect has expressed an interest in.

The key consideration is this - make sure you've gotten to know your potential customer so you're giving them the type of information they want someone to send them. Become their go-to resource for solving the problem that brought them to you.

Use Metrics

You want to acquire quality leads. Metrics help.

For example, you can use metrics to score leads. Qualities such as open rates, click-through rates and browsing behavior are important metrics for assessing whether a lead is sales ready or just a content siphon.

Any investment in setting up metrics so you can score leads is worth it. According to Lenskold Group, "68% of successful marketers say lead scoring based on content engagement makes the biggest impact on revenue."

Here are some of the ways you can use metrics.

  • Track click-through rates for email, social media and your website.
  • Split test different messages to see which ones see a higher click-through and/or conversion rate.
  • Track conversion rates after the click.
  • Document the time it takes to gain each customer conversion.
  • Assess the cost per customer.

Adjust Your Timing

Adjust your timing.

Recognize where your prospect is in the buying cycle. For example, the marketing automation cycle is different for a new lead than for someone who is actively in the sales cycle.

You need at least one touch point per week with new leads, and a campaign that fits within 60 days. Most customers are open to one daily email over the first week. However, if you haven't seen a response within this time, back off on the spacing between emails.

If you have a lead who has signed up for a webinar, it's standard practice to send one email that reminds the prospect of what they can expect from the webinar. The day before a webinar, reminders are usually well received - followed by a reminder the morning of the webinar and a final reminder about an hour beforehand. Beyond that, you're working against yourself.

If you're trying to resurrect a lead that's gone cold, a weekly touch within a 90-day cycle can work. Once the 90-day cycle is over, consider the lead truly dead.

If the evidence says the sale is probable, then listen to your top performing sales reps. They'll have insights into what works to close the deal.

For all three types of leads, you want every message to sound personal.

  • Avoid canned copy by imagining the customer has just shared something with you. (The metrics you've captured offer insights.)
  • Respond to the information naturally and informatively.
  • Dodge the temptation to slip into selling mode.
  • Ensure you don't sound like you've been tracking every action your prospect has taken on your website. It's creepy.

Reach Out Quickly

Increase the odds of bringing someone into your sales funnel by reaching out within 5 minutes of any inbound lead that converts on your website. A fast response increases the odds you'll get the final sale by 21 times over making contact within 30 minutes. Don't be one of the 23% of companies the Harvard Business Review found never respond at all. If there must be a delay in your response time, aim to join the 37% who respond within an hour.

Note, the best way to respond isn't email. It's by phone. Automation allows you to reach more people quickly, however, we still live in a world where the personal touch makes a major difference in moving people from casual interest to serious interest.

The key is to focus on your lead's needs, so your initial call should be totally inbound marketing focused. No pushy sales pitch, no bragging about how good your product or service is. Instead, stick with introducing yourself and your company. Thank your prospect for showing an interest. If he or she downloaded something to read, invite a follow up with any questions after they've had a chance to read the material.

Of course, use some sense. If the lead conversion trigger is a 5 minute video, give your prospect time to watch the video before calling. If it's a 30-minute webinar, then it makes little sense to call within 5 minutes. Context is an important element in building customer relationships.


Ultimately, marketing automation is built on a foundation of knowing who your customer is and how her or she will benefit from what you have to offer. Then you build a campaign to nurture that customer along their buying journey toward a final decision.

Yes, you may lose a few prospects along the way. Initial interest doesn't always mean there's a good fit.

However, if you do lead nurturing the proper way, you'll find you're selling more and developing stronger long-term buying relationships. After all, those same lead nurturing techniques make great customer retention strategies as well.

PS - Download our Lead Generation case study below. This case study will show you how Team EJP gained over 1,200 marketing qualified leads and nearly doubled their sales qualified leads all in one year.

Lead Generation Case Study

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