What Is Lead Nurturing?

Lead nurturing is essential to guiding potential buyers through the sales process, but it’s as much an art as a science. How you build lead relationships depends on your industry, product type, and customer segments. You must also re-iterate your strategies to maximize results.

Furthermore, you’ve got many lead nurturing decisions to make—from prioritizing communication channels to picking the best CRM software to manage your data. This adds an extra challenge.

In this article, we answer key questions like what is lead nurturing, and outline practical lead nurturing steps and strategies. We’ll also throw in some useful lead nurturing examples.

What Is Lead Nurturing?

Lead nurturing is the process of building relationships with potential customers (or “leads”) who have demonstrated an interest in your brand, for example, by visiting a product page or asking for a quote. The ultimate aim is to secure a sale from the lead.

Nurturing leads requires you to build rapport, understand individual needs, and suggest relevant solutions—then encourage them to complete the purchase when the time is right.

Why Is Lead Nurturing Important?

The rule of seven states that customers interact with a brand an average of seven times before purchasing. Your lead nurturing campaign is crucial to making such interactions memorable and persuasive. By doing so, you increase both sales and customer loyalty.

You also achieve:

  • Positioning as a thought leader: Impart your industry and customer knowledge to gain widespread trust.
  • Deeper customer insight: Interacting with leads helps you learn more about your target audience’s pain points and desired solutions.
  • Shorter sales cycles: Personalized, conversion-focused communications help you get people to the purchasing stage faster.
  • Long-term customer relationships: A nurturing pre-purchasing experience increases the likelihood of repeat purchases, in turn boosting your customer retention.
  • Higher return on investment (ROI): Faster, more efficient sales cycles decrease marketing costs per customer, thus increasing your ROI.

Common Lead Nurturing Strategies

You can pick and mix several nurturing strategies depending on your campaign audience, aims, and sales stage. Here are the top strategies to consider.

Email marketing

Almost 60% of customers state that marketing emails influence their purchasing, so this strategy tops our list.

Send leads personalized emails according to attributes such as their demographics, job details, interests, and previous interactions. Address the individual by name, lead with a conversion-focused subject line (optimized through A/B testing), and end on a call-to-action such as “Buy now” or “Learn more”.

Your email nurturing strategy can include:

  • Newsletters
  • Targeted thought leadership
  • Product updates
  • Event invites
  • Interaction-based emails, such as abandoned cart reminders
  • Promos and trials
  • Bespoke one-to-one invites to a discovery call or demo

Content marketing

Almost 50% of leads interact with three to five pieces of content before engaging with a vendor. This is why content marketing is so crucial—it lets you provide customers with valuable insights framed by a compelling story.

While planning your content, ensure you personalize it to your most profitable customer segments. For instance, if you discovered new pain points in your discovery calls, address them in your upcoming content. Furthermore, research what content type your target audience prefers—for instance, podcasts are more popular with listeners under the age of 55.

You can produce content such as:

  • Blogs
  • Lead magnets such as reports and white papers
  • Infographics
  • Videos including product demos and webinars
  • Customer testimonials and case studies
  • Audio content such as podcasts

Social media marketing

Publishing regular and targeted social media content adds customer touchpoints where you gain your leads’ trust.

Our tips for successful social media nurturing are:

  • Identify your leads’ one or two favorite social channels, and focus your effort there. For instance, a B2B might prioritize LinkedIn, whereas a B2C may focus on Instagram or TikTok.
  • Make your lead nurturing social content hyper-personalized to your current pipeline. For instance, post client testimonials relating to the offering you’re pitching to your leads.
  • Include calls to action in your posts, such as registering for a trial.
  • Select strategic posting times to maximize your segment’s engagement. Social media scheduling software gives you data-backed timing recommendations.

Sales calls and demos

Two-way conversations with leads help establish a human connection while letting you recommend appropriate solutions to their needs. Agents should be equipped with customer info such as demographics, job details, and previous brand interactions.

During the demo or call, reps ask questions, counter objections, and provide solutions. They also suggest follow-up actions based on leads’ behaviors—such as starting a trial or providing a quote.

Afterward, reps should save their call notes on the CRM platform, email leads a summary of the call, and create team tasks for follow-up actions.

Events

Organizing events can establish your company as a thought leader and networking hub, placing you at the top of leads’ minds when they need solutions.

You can host:

  • Webinars: Cheap and effective. They provide specialist info about your industry and products, and engage leads who can’t attend in-person events.
  • Round table discussions: Half- or whole-day events focused on knowledge exchange. Invite 10-20 of your hottest leads and prepare an agenda that pools their interests.
  • Breakfast meetings: Quick and networking-centered. When run regularly, they help build one-to-one lead relationships, leading to sales conversations.

Retargeting ads

Retargeting ads draw leads back to your website after past interactions such as viewing blog posts.

Personalize your ads to leads’ engagement with your business, plus details like their location and industry. For instance, retarget leads who abandoned their shopping carts with discounted offers on similar products.

Your retargeting ads can include:

  • Product features
  • Client testimonials
  • Your review site ratings
  • Your industry reports
  • Time-limited offers

How To Plan and Execute Your Lead Nurturing Campaign

Planning and executing a methodical lead nurturing process converts more leads. Here are the basic steps.

Planning

Segment your customer base

Customer segmentation enables you to personalize your nurturing approach. For instance, pinpointing your high-value buyers’ top needs and traits helps reps prioritize leads and personalize communications.

Create a sales playbook—a comprehensive strategy and tactics document—outlining each customer segment’s characteristics and recommended pitch. For example, include when and how reps should contact a C-level executive who’s downloaded a specific white paper.

Define your lead nurturing stages

Defining your nurturing stages helps your team create conversion-led content for different circumstances.

Here are the basic pipeline stages for nurturing leads.

  • Interest: A lead engages with an asset, such as a product page, a blog post, or a webinar. You can provide more content to increase their interest.
  • Consideration: They’ve taken steps to learn about your offers, such as booking a demo call or adding shopping cart items. You can help by sending quotes or shopping cart reminders.
  • Evaluation: The lead is seriously considering your offer—for instance, they’re negotiating pricing or features. To land a sale, offer a discount or trial.

Set up your customer database

Software including CRM and sales enablement solutions help ensure lead nurturing opportunities don’t fall through the cracks. Storing and updating customer data also means you can automate time-consuming tasks such as sending emails and scheduling reminders.

Here are some tips.

  • Create custom contact fields to make lead tracking more relevant to your business. For example, construction firms can add “number of rooms” as a contact data field.
  • Incentivize team members to update lead records and add call notes. For instance, offer small bonuses and regular recognition, while emphasizing the benefits of data accuracy.
  • Minimize admin by automating CRM tasks, including sending bulk emails and calendar invites, rule-based pipeline stage changes, and more.

Execution

Score qualified leads

Once leads enter the interest stage, lead scoring quantifies the “desirability” of the opportunity. Many CRM solutions produce automated scores based on the variables you consider desirable.

For instance, your lead score can be based on:

  • Company characteristics, e.g. revenue, industry
  • Lead firmographics, e.g. job title, decision-making power
  • Lead behavior, e.g. communication frequency, interest level
  • Product considerations, e.g. features and pricing suitability
  • Pipeline status, e.g. buying stage, lead urgency

Personalize your nurturing campaigns

Your campaign strategy options include email, social media, retargeting ads, and other methods. First, you must choose the strategy that best suits the lead’s segment and pipeline stage. Then, personalize your communications and content further in your chosen medium.

Here are our tips for nailing both these personalization aims:

  • Estimate the relative costs of different strategies. For instance, events and content are more expensive than email campaigns. Lower-cost strategies can nurture most leads, while the higher-cost ones should be reserved for high-profitability opportunities.
  • Calls, demos, and events are more successful with leads showing high interest levels. For example, they’ve engaged with several types of content.
  • Use lead scoring to prioritize resources on high-value deals—for example, research individuals and companies to write bespoke emails or host roundtable events. Conversely, nurture low-score leads with segment-specific newsletters and retargeting ads.
  • Engage with leads according to their stated interests and personal characteristics. For instance, mirror their email length and style in your responses, offer promos on the products they’ve viewed, and focus on their industry or demographics in your blog posts.

Test, analyze, and improve your campaigns

Start with a hypothesis like “scheduling demos with leads a day after webinars leads to higher conversion.” Then, execute the strategy—in this case, a webinar-email-demo combo—and track the KPI change (here: the percentage of closed deals out of total potential deals). If it works, continue executing the strategy. If not, test a new hypothesis.

Top tip: CRM platforms’ reporting features help you track KPIs. Some also use AI to recommend strategy changes that can improve your lead nurturing performance.

You can track metrics such as:

  • Email open and click rates
  • Demo booking rate
  • Event registrations
  • Average deal value (per month/quarter/year)
  • Average sales cycle duration (from interest to close)
  • Deal close rate

4 Lead Nurturing Best Practices

Don’t tell leads why they should buy

Instead, showcase how well you understand their needs. Say a lead subscribed to your newsletter having read your blog on machine learning (ML)—engage them with common ML problems and use cases in their occupation.

Plus, acknowledge leads’ personal preferences and constraints, and suggest solutions. For instance, if they’re busy people seeking efficiency, highlight low-maintenance product features.

Overall, focusing your attention on the lead rather than your product will gain you their trust and drive sales.

Automate repetitive tasks

Automating tasks saves you time and money, whether you have 100 leads or 1,000. Not only that, but automated software workflows also wipe out human error.

So, set up rules and logical flows on your sales platform—such as which email template to use on a customer segment based on specific triggers. Use the freed-up time to research and engage high-value leads, build customer relationships, and re-iterate sales approaches.

Here are some extra automation tips:

  • Use automated lead scoring on your CRM platform.
  • Streamline content writing by prompting generative AI solutions for email templates and sales playbooks.
  • Use sales enablement AI tools to analyze playbook performance in different customer segments.

Build human relationships

AI is useful but only goes so far. Human salespeople can sense people’s emotions and remember that their lead’s pet had a recent vet check.

So adding the human factor in lead nurturing is key. Achieve this by:

  • Building rapport: Get to know your potential client. For instance, ask about their pastimes and relate your own stories.
  • Listening: Pay undivided attention to what your lead is saying, verbally and non-verbally. Absorb their content, tone of voice, and emotional state, and adapt your response accordingly.
  • Empathizing: Acknowledge the impact of your leads’ pain points and constraints, using phrases like “that must be tough” and “I hear you.” Follow up with solutions.

Maintain urgency

Make it extra easy for leads to progress through stages. Choose appropriate calls-to-action across communications including newsletters, sales emails, blogs, social media posts, and sales calls. For instance, a product launch email for consideration-stage leads may ask “Buy now” whereas an educational blog for interest-stage leads can ask “Learn more”.

Speed up conversion using time-limited offers, such as discounts or trials, or schedule live events like networking evenings and webinars to establish new touchpoints.

Lead Nurturing Campaign Examples

Need inspiration? Here are some campaign examples to run with.

Segment-specific educational drip campaign

Audience: Leads with specific industry- or product-related interests
Aim: Position your business as a thought leader and trusted vendor
Channels: Email, content, social media, events
Content: In-depth topic insights relevant to the leads’ interests, e.g. technology trends for a chief technology officer (CTO) lead
Timing: Ongoing regular content, e.g. weekly newsletters and blogs, quarterly events

Reactivation campaign

Audience: Inactive leads with no recent interactions
Aim: Create warm leads for your sales team to engage
Channels: Email, content, social media
Content: Product and company news, milestones and awards, gift cards and discounts
Timing: Start when they reach the definition of inactivity, e.g. three months since last interaction

Abandoned cart recovery campaign

Audience: Leads who added cart items without completing the transaction
Aim: Win a new or returning customer
Channels: Email, retargeting ads
Content: Reminder to check out, time-limited discounts, product/feature promo
Timing: The average sweet spot for cart recovery emails is one hour after abandonment

Next Steps

Targeted lead nurturing campaigns boost sales figures while increasing customer loyalty. You can run them using email, social media, written and audio-visual content, and retargeting ads. Mix these strategies and personalize your messaging according to different segments’ interests and past interactions.

It’s also important to build empathy-based relationships and provide need-based solutions to win your leads’ trust. Finally, stay conversion-oriented by emphasizing urgency, and keep operations efficient by automating repetitive tasks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an example of a lead nurturing strategy?
An example of a lead nurturing strategy is sharing targeted educational content with leads by email and social media, booking a product demo and sending a pitch deck, and finally, negotiating the deal terms before the purchase. The strategy also requires customer segmentation, metric tracking, and continually re-iterating your playbook.
What are the stages of lead nurturing?
The main stages of lead nurturing are interest, consideration, and evaluation. In the interest stage, you provide leads with information relevant to their needs and interests, such as blog articles. In the consideration stage, highlight how your product solves their problems. Finally, during evaluation, encourage leads to make a purchase—say, by offering a free trial.
How long should you nurture a lead?
The optimal lead nurturing duration depends on your industry, products, and the leads themselves. Nurturing campaigns can last weeks, months, or years. For example, buying enterprise SaaS requires more evaluation time than a consumer tech purchase.

Unless there’s a significant cost, nurture inactive leads indefinitely with less hands-on strategies like newsletters and social media campaigns.

Written by:
Duncan Lambden
Duncan (BA in English Textual Studies and Game Design) is one of Expert Market's local Software Experts. His articles focus on ecommerce platforms and business software that allows small businesses to improve their efficiency or reach, with an emphasis on invoice financing, project management, and customer relations.