February 20, 2020

Help! My Nurture Campaign Doesn’t Work

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Some of the most common questions we hear from clients revolve around nurture campaigns. From “Why doesn’t our nurture campaign work,” to “What is a nurture campaign,” we’ve spent a lot of time answering these questions to help clients better market their software products. Finally, it occurred to us that we could help many more people if we wrote these answers down and shared them with a wider audience.

To learn more about how to nurture leads by email, I had a chat with TechnologyAdvice Demand Generation Manager Lauren Eubanks. Read our lightly edited conversation below for tips on working your existing leads down the funnel, or contact us to learn more about the lead programs we offer.


Forrest Brown: How can you tell what’s causing your nurture campaign to fail? Is this just a matter of knowing your KPIs and knowing when your stats are bad?

Lauren Eubanks: I think KPIs are a big one, so it’s knowing the big goal of your nurture. In most cases, it’s trying to get net new leads, so you’re looking for responses or downloads from your campaigns.

Set your end goal and see where you are toward that goal. That’s how you’ll know if you’re failing or not. Beyond that, don’t focus just on getting the leads but on actually converting them into viable conversations for your sales team.

I think a lot of building a successful nurture campaign is defining your KPIs. Then you should watch them regularly and know what to fix, even if it’s just your open rate and click through rate. Focus on one of them. If it’s your open rate, you need to fix your subject line or maybe who you’re sending it from. If it’s your click through rate, you need to work on your call to action within your email.

So once you figure out what your KPIs are, it’s a matter of zeroing in on them and making them better.

FB: For determining those KPIs, is there ever going to be a standard set of KPIs you look at, or will that always be dependent on the type of business you are?

LE: In our world, a lot of these emails are going to be part of a nurture campaign for generating leads. So your KPIs are probably going to be the number of MQLs [marketing qualified leads] you generate from your campaign. So when someone reads an email within your nurture and downloads the content, they become an MQL.

KPIs could be different if you’re just running a campaign to generate brand awareness. You’d be watching for open rates and whatnot. But for nurture campaigns, how many leads you generate is probably going to be your most important KPI.

FB: Looking at campaigns for different stages of the buyer journey, how do you know when someone in your email list is BOFU or TOFU? Do you look at lead scoring in Salesforce?

LE: Look at how they got to you. What action did they take to become a lead? If someone’s just downloaded an ebook about, say, “Top 5 Tips To Boost Your Conversion Rate,” that’s a top of the funnel article, so your lead probably isn’t quite ready to purchase.

When clients run a TOFU campaign with us, we send out a lot of educational content. And our clients often take those leads and want to reach out to that person and ask if they want to buy. Sure, there’s a chance the lead is ready to buy, but more often than not, they need a little time to learn more about your company and why they should care before they’re ready to purchase.

You don’t walk up to someone on the street and be like, “Hey, do you wanna marry me?” No, you’ve gotta date them, you’ve gotta ask them questions about life in general and then as you get closer, you might start talking about marriage. It’s the same thing with working a TOFU lead down to being ready to make a purchase.

FB: Does your CRM ever play into that?

LE: Yeah, through different sales stages. It’s good to take your content and categorize it as top of the funnel, middle, bottom. Depending on your content or where someone might be engaging with it, where would that fit? That should align to lead scoring and then, in turn, sales stages.

The common lead categorizations in a CRM are a prospecting stage, which is high level. MQL stands for marketing qualified lead, that lead should be ready to talk to someone on the sales team when you pass them over to sales. And then when sales engages with them, that would be more of a contact, someone who’s immediately raised their hand. That should be a qualifier—they’re at the stage where they’re ready to talk to a salesperson.

FB: I know you’ve said before that marketers should integrate your nurture campaign with other marketing efforts. Is that a sort of sales-enablement type of thing, or…?

LE: The same way that when we’re purchasing something we don’t just look through one avenue, you don’t want to share content through only one channel—in this case, your nurture campaign. You might run ads, have sales reach out, and share on social media.

At TechnologyAdvice, we have several value propositions…All of those value props are what make us unique, but we don’t need to say all of that in one email.

FB: Would retargeting ever be relevant here?

LE: Yeah. Once someone visits your website and it pins a cookie on their browser, that’s an opportunity to learn a little bit more through all the other tools they’re using. LinkedIn is a good example. If you add the LinkedIn tracking pixel to your website, you can deliver personalized promoted posts to the news feeds of people who have visited your site.

FB: Going back to email, what are your thoughts on sending visual-heavy emails versus text-based emails? It seems that I’ve been getting more text-based emails recently.

LE: Well, it depends on what you’re trying to do. If you’re trying to raise brand awareness by running a newsletter, you want that to be full-on HTML with images and buttons and things like that.

But in testing campaigns here before, we know that if we’re running a nurture campaign to get someone to download a piece of content, we get better results when it looks like it’s coming from a person’s email, not a mailing list. We even get reply-backs from them, people being interested and wanting to ask more questions. It looks more human.

FB: I guess that’s another important consideration then, who is sending the email. Because some of the content newsletters I subscribe to are sent from a company’s VP of marketing or something. I’m sure it’s just an email list, it can’t actually be them.

LE: Yeah we usually send it from a marketing-facing person, just because if it’s coming from a salesperson, people tend to back away from that.

It seems a little more personal, and we always get reply-backs from that. Also, if you don’t have a team with the time or resources to build out HTML, text-based is really quick to start with. All you need to do is write the content and plug it in. You don’t need to spend much time on design or do anything fancy.

FB: That makes sense. And does a certain length work best?

LE: I saw a stat recently saying something like the average read time of an email is eight seconds, so no one ever gives 100 percent of their attention to reading emails, they’re always thinking about something else.

Focus on making your email content more scannable. Use one to two sentences per paragraph and one clear call to action.

FB: We touched on retargeting briefly, and I know Tamara wrote an article about this not too long ago, but there’s personalizing an email and then there’s being creepy. How do you walk that razor’s edge?

LE: I think you try to not call it out exactly. You treat it like it just happens to be convenient that you’re mentioning something that someone has interacted with. I know that our sales team can see when someone reads an email or if they’re active on our website, but they don’t want to be like, “Hey, I see you’re looking at our website right now!” They want to naturally reach out to the person at around the same time and see if there’s anything we can help them with.

FB: There’s a Twitter thread about this where someone said they were on the Wayfair website looking at chairs or something and then they got a phone call from Wayfair saying, “Hey, I see you’re looking at chairs, do you need any help?” And the person got freaked out, understandably.

LE: Yeah that’s extreme. There’s a balance to it. It’s more helpful to take that information and not blatantly call it out but use it in whatever you’re promoting to someone. Like if they’re looking at chairs, maybe just send them an ad or an email about chairs later on.

FB: Earlier you mentioned that shorter emails work better and that you should stick to sharing one value proposition per email. Why is sticking to one value proposition so important?

LE: I’ve seen companies who seemed to think, “We know so much about our company and about all the different things we can offer to a client, we want to immediately shout all of those things at someone.” But it’s too overwhelming to do that to someone. You have to break it down into steps in your nurture campaign.

At TechnologyAdvice, we have several value propositions: we have US-based call centers, we have dedicated client success managers, we have one-on-one post-program kickoff coaching. All of those value props are what make us unique, but we don’t need to say all of that in one email.

We focus on one of those throughout one email and cover the rest in later emails. When you overwhelm someone, they’re not going to want to do anything.

FB: I guess that’s tied to the last question I have. How much content is too much? I’m a big fan of the “Taco from Trello” emails that usually share about four articles per email.

LE: I think one piece of content is ideal, two max. It’s the same thing as with value propositions. If you give someone too many choices, they’re not going to pick anything.

For example, I love going to Costco. If you go to Walmart, there are ten options for one item, but if you go to Costco, there’s one. You don’t have to worry about looking through all the different brands, you can just pick the one and keep shopping.

This concept works especially well in a nurture. If you have one goal in mind anyway, which is generating leads, send one offer in the email and focus on that. If you have more things to talk about, save them for later.

FB: Anything else you’d like to add that we haven’t touched on yet?

LE: When you’re building a nurture campaign, use a good marketing automation tool and storyboard your campaign out. I use a flowchart tool called Draw.io for storyboarding. Start with your goal and make squares for each email you think you want to send, considering multiple actions someone might take and then adapting your nurture accordingly. Start off simple and get more complicated from there.


If you’re ready to start connecting more with your audience through all stages of the funnel, contact us today to learn more about our lead programs.