The 5 Ts of a Successful Email Nurture Campaign

Liz Millikin on Email Marketing

Email BenchmarkThe best part about marketing is that we are problem solvers.

Problem solvers who have to operate in a complicated landscape of customer attention and competing metrics and fuzzy KPIs.

Recently our company came to the marketing team with a problem of our own to solve.

We are orchestrating a massive overhaul of our existing email-based prospect nurture campaigns. This campaign’s goal is to provide value to prospects, transition them to sales-qualified leads, and, ultimately, turn leads into happy customers.

Here’s how we’re tackling the project, which we’re sharing here with you so that you can use our hard-earned lessons to your advantage.

As we overhaul our existing nurture campaign, we are keeping these five Ts in mind, ensuring that our emails are:

  • Targeted
  • Tailored
  • Timed
  • Tracked
  • Tested

What is a Nurture Campaign?

A nurture campaign is a way for businesses to take prospects who are interested in their product or service, establish an open line of communication, and ultimately make a sale. Think you can skip this step because you’re a marketer, not a salesperson? Think again. Well designed nurture campaigns are a tangible way for marketers to prove their value and directly affect the bottom line.

In this section, I’ll be defining a few key terms, just to make sure we are all on the same page.

Prospects are: potential customers. Sometimes also called a sales lead, prospects are often singled out based on criteria like fitting into your target demographic, attending a trade show you are exhibiting at, or visiting your site. There is some variation in the definition of a prospect, and what constitutes a good prospect, from company to company, so make sure your team is operating under the same definition

Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) are: prospects who have moved down the funnel. You likely know a little bit more about them and how your product or service can help with their common problems or challenges. They are more likely to convert to paying customers than your prospects, but may not be ready for that hard sales pitch.

Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs):  have been researched and vetted by people within your organization and have displayed an intent to purchase. What constitutes an intent to purchase will vary by company, but think of SQLs as raising their hands. It’s your sales team’s job to call on them, address any lingering questions or concerns, and make the conversion.

We break out our pre-sales prospects like this because, as you know, not all prospects are ready for immediate contact from sales. Often, they need more time before they make the purchase. There can be many reasons for this. Maybe they’re still researching all of their options, or waiting for a specific project kickoff, or waiting for their own boss’s buy-in before investing in your software, product, or service.

Because the line of communication is open, prospects can be tracked and the relationship can be developed from prospect to MQL to SQL when the person is ready.

Our nurture campaigns are set up as an automated drip campaign, which makes it faster and easier to serve content to prospects and determine their needs before a salesperson reaches out.

Nurture campaigns aren’t just to make our lives as marketers easier, though.

By working closely with sales, marketing teams can use these email campaigns to produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities compared to non-nurtured leads (MarketBridge).

Reach the Right Prospects With TARGETED Emails

When the goal is to provide compelling content to the right person at the right point in their buying process, you can’t expect a massive and generic email blast to do the trick. Instead, good marketers use planned nurture campaigns to make prospects feel like they are getting the individual attention they deserve.

Your customers are important. Make them feel like you are listening and anticipating their needs!

To accomplish this, we are relying heavily on detailed segmentation tactics. Segmented lists allow us to dive deep into who our audience is, organize them into groups, and determine exactly what each group needs.

While it’s easy enough to set up a basic drip campaign within your existing CRM, it’s much more difficult to set up a multi-drip system that speaks to each audience.

It’s more difficult, but the rewards are great.

Relevant e-mails, supported by great content, and targeted to the person’s needs drive as much as 18x more revenue than a generic, broad-market email campaign (Inbound Marketing Agents).

TAILORED Content is King When Nurturing Prospects

Have you ever brought a shirt to a tailor? When the shirt comes back, it is transformed.

An expert tailor is able to take an almost-but-not-quite-right shirt and with a few adjustments, create the perfect, custom fit.

Nothing feels better.

It’s the same way with the content in your nurture campaign.

You could have great content, but if it’s not quite right, then your prospects won’t use it.

When the content is tailored, it just fits.

When talking to prospects early in the buying funnel, you can’t afford to alienate or confuse them by serving the wrong piece of content. Instead, your goal is to provide them with in-the-moment, pertinent content.

This could take the form of ebooks, one-sheets, or blog content that specifically addresses a problem they are having.

Make Sure Your Nurture Emails Are Perfectly TIMED

As much as we wish things were different, nurture campaigns are limited by the same issues that apply to other marketing and sales emails. This includes the basics of email design and distribution.
Timing, in particular, is too important to ignore. When you send your emails can often be as important as your subject line, sender name, and preview text.

Adding another layer of complexity, nurture campaigns are not single-blast emails. Instead, you will have to determine how much time to leave between emails. Is daily too often? Is monthly too few?
As always, smart marketers know that audiences vary. To find out what days of the week and time during the day are best, you’ll have to test and test again.

To get the most out of every impression, even before your email is clicked, keep the 5 Key Pieces of Effective Email Design in mind.

Metrics and Prospects Must Be TRACKED

Measuring your success is important for any marketing campaign, so you can turn to your stakeholders and prove your worth. Or, if certain aspects of your campaign are falling short of expectations, measuring key metrics as you go along will help you catch weaknesses before they sabotage your entire project. With nurture emails, as with all of your marketing emails, it’s important to track:

  • Opens
  • Clicks
  • Bounces
  • Unsubscribes
  • Conversions

You’re probably already measuring and tracking trends in these metrics in your current email campaigns. (If not, please start. Right. Now.)

But, because you are communicating with prospects, this is not where metrics stop.

Harnessing the power of your CRM is integral for getting to know your prospects and developing a realistic, data-driven view of who they are, what they need, and how best to speak to them.

With our system, any time a prospect interacts with our email content, that click is tracked and associated with a data point within that prospect’s profile.

If a prospect, for example, downloads an ebook on Salesforce, we know that they are looking for a tool with advanced capabilities. We can automatically alert an internal representative to follow up with the prospect of an individual, personal email, and supporting materials.

By arming our representatives with detailed information about what types of content our prospects have expressed interest in, our reps are better prepared to engage and provided added information and value.

The Road to Success is TESTED (and Tested Again)

Speaking of testing.

Timing isn’t the only thing that affects open rates and click-throughs.

You made your nurture campaign. You’ve set it up as an automated drip, sending out your expertly crafted nurturing messages and tailored content.

Now you get to kick back and relax, right?

Absolutely not.

Instead of basking in the glow of prospects converting into leads, the work has only just begun, because no matter how carefully you planned, there is always some key metric that could be improved.

Test every piece of your campaign. Is one email getting opens, but no one is downloading the attached one sheet? Then that content isn’t as perfect as you thought. It’s time to rethink that step in the prospect’s buying journey.

Is another email suffering from an underperforming open rate? A/B test new subject lines to find one that resonates with your audience.

So, you made a nurture campaign! You set it up as a drip campaign, automatically updating. Now, you get to kick back and relax, right?

Absolutely not. Test and test again.

Some pieces to start experimenting with include:

  • Date/time
  • Subject lines
  • Sender name
  • Time between email sends
  • Content type
  • Text versus HTML

Of course, there’re plenty more. This is where marketing becomes an elaborate, ever-changing puzzle.

Each piece can be optimized to fit together and integrate for a seamless, powerful, impactful campaign that drives measurable results for your business.

Start Nurturing Prospects Now

Nurture campaigns are made up of so many pieces, it can be difficult to both focus on the details and step back, keeping an eye on the overall picture. By using these five Ts as a guide, we are confident that our new campaign program will result in tangible gains.

You can be sure that we’ll report back on our results as we dive deeper into the world of nurture campaigns.

For marketing pros, what are some of your key successes with this kind of system? What are some of the challenges you’re facing? Share them in the comments.