How to create the perfect email nurture sequence that converts
Creating an engaging email nurture sequence can contribute to converting leads into paying customers, especially when scaling up.
As with many other business marketing processes, your sales and marketing effort needs to take your potential customer on a journey that builds trust and brand loyalty. Lead nurturing is a technique that drives that objective. It is a vital component in any successful email campaign strategy. From the initial lead magnet to the final sale, continuous message reinforcement ensures your prospects keep a positive momentum down your sales funnel.
What is an email nurture sequence?
An email nurture sequence is a queued set of engaging emails that are sent to a prospect or lead from a marketing automation platform or auto-responder over a scheduled period of time after they take some form of action that triggers the start of the sequence. The purpose can vary and can include educating, inspiring, qualifying, building credibility and eliciting trust.
Triggers can include any form of action that can be registered and can include subscribing to a blog, activating a free trial, downloading a content offer, completing a form, interacting via web chat and many others. Email nurture sequences tend to be conversational in tone and are scheduled according to a rhythm deemed best for a particular target audience. The marketing automation enables qualifying and personalized nurturing at scale.
Email nurture sequences are also known as an email nurture series, a drip campaign, a sales cadence and sometimes more broadly as an email nurture campaign.
What are the different types of email sequences?
There are several types of email sequences, and each one nurtures leads by delivering content relevant to a particular use case or lead at lifecycle stage they are, such as Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) or Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs). Depending on the prospective customer requirements, their mindset, and where the lead came from, each campaign must tailor its approach to achieve the objective of nurturing a lead into a sale.
1) Lead nurturing email sequence
The purpose of this email sequence is to establish a lasting relationship between your brand and your target audience. Its goal is to build trust with appropriate content along the user journey. Ideally, your automated messaging campaign will enrich the customer’s experience through each sales funnel stage. A successful lead nurturing email sequence provides tailored content that drives a sale by reinforcing a personalised, relevant experience enhancing the trust in your brand.
Common email sequence triggers
The following examples illustrate the typical kickoff points for a successful lead nurturing email sequence.
- Gated content downloads with a lead magnet such as a free ebook or trial software
- Webinars and events
- Newsletter subscription
2) Customer welcome and onboarding email sequence
A welcome email sequence is a series of emails you automatically send to someone after they subscribe to your email list. Its purpose is to introduce your product or service, get the new subscriber excited about your offering, and ultimately make a sale. Historically, welcome emails have higher open rates than any other email marketing campaign. Considering this fact, they provide you with the best opportunity to make an impression while your prospect is still a hot lead.
Common email sequence triggers
Common email sequence triggers for customer welcome and onboarding include:
- Signing up for a regular Newsletter
- Registering for a new service
- New follow on your Social Media accounts
3) Review, testimonial or referral request email sequence
Having a trusted online presence is vital in an economy where almost every commercial transaction starts with an online search. Leveraging your existing customers to provide your business with glowing reviews and referrals helps strengthen the trustworthiness of your brand. Since reading your reviews is the first thing most people do after finding your site, you need to proactively harness the potential of this digital word of mouth channel. A review, testimonial, or referral request email sequence is a tool that can automate this crucial process for you.
Common email sequence triggers
Below are a few common email sequence triggers for this type of lead nurturing:
- After a customer has had a positive interaction with your support service
- When subscribers renew their paid subscription
- At a set interval, e.g. after the client has actively used your product or service for six months
4) Upsell email sequence
A well-known fact in sales and marketing is that selling to an existing customer has a greater chance of success than closing a deal with a new prospect. Upselling allows you to leverage the current relationship and trust you enjoy with an existing client by selling them a more expensive product or service. Introducing an automated upsell email sequence is particularly beneficial if you offer higher-priced subscriptions or provide a wide range of products and services.
Common email sequence triggers
For this type of nurturing campaign, you could use the following sequence triggers
- Sufficient time has elapsed to derive value from a recent purchase
- The customer attempted to complete an activity that a license tier didn’t include
- Product protection by offering a complementary service
5) Free trial expiry email sequence
The core purpose of a free trial expiry email sequence is to convert trial users into paying customers. Ideally, this campaign should reinforce the value derived from using your trial software. However, convincing a trial prospect to take up a paid subscription often takes more than one email. The free trial expiry email sequence is an automated campaign that nurtures leads, converting them into confirmed customers.
Common email sequence triggers
You should trigger your automated email campaign when the user’s trial is set to expire. However, you need to ensure you provide sufficient time to allow the user to subscribe before the trial ends.
6) Re-engagement email sequence
The purpose of a re-engagement email sequence is to win back lost subscribers. The focus of this marketing campaign should not only be on people that have unsubscribed. Those who remain subscribed, but have stopped interacting with your brand, also require re-engagement. Focussing on inactive subscribers that have engaged with you is a proven lead nurturing method as these organisations or individuals were past customers. Since they already know your brand and have used your products and services, the resources needed to educate them are far less than those required to nurture new prospects.
Common email sequence triggers
Triggers that typically kick off this email series include:
- Lead with no interaction
- Last three newsletters not opened
- User in the process of unsubscribing
The importance of marketing automation platforms
Nurturing leads with an email campaign requires automation. Manually sending emails to different target groups at specific time intervals is not feasible. In fact, it would be impossible if you have a list with thousands of subscribers, each at distinct points in their buying journey.
Many automated solutions help you create, implement, and monitor marketing email campaigns. However, sending and managing email is only a tiny part of the entire marketing process. The real benefit comes from aligning your campaign strategy with your audience segments and segmenting between MQLs and SQLs. Some may have different pain points, while others are at various points in the buying cycle. Managing the entire lifecycle requires a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution.
There are a variety of email marketing platforms as well as CRMs with email nurture sequence capabilities that enable you to deploy an automated solution. These include:
- Salesforce and Pardot
- And many, many others.
How to write the perfect email nurture sequence that converts in 14 easy steps
A list of contacts and an automated lead nurturing solution are only two parts when you investigate how to create email nurture sequence. The third component needed to drive your strategy is content. The words, images, and even videos you share represent the voice of your organisation as you engage with your prospects.
However, simply writing a boilerplate template for every campaign is not feasible. Poorly written or unconvincing content can harm your brand, especially if you do not personalise it or ensure it forms part of your broader marketing identity. Similarly, you need to tailor your content to speak to the various personas interacting with your brand.
1) Define the objective
Creating the perfect sequence starts with defining your objective. Although converting prospects to customers is the apparent goal, you also need to set targets to ascertain the success of your email campaigns. Defining success metrics helps you measure the effectiveness of your email nurturing sequence against these objectives. It can also serve as a benchmark that you can use to continuously refine your target audience, send intervals, and email content.
2) Understand the audience
Understanding the audience of your nurturing campaign is a core component in determining its ultimate success. As with anything else in marketing, delivering the right content, at the perfect time, to the correct target is the primary goal.
The key here is relevance. With everyone’s inboxes inundated with daily emails, you need to ensure your campaign captures the reader’s attention. By personalising the email, drawing the reader’s attention with a meaningful subject line, and delivering it at the right time, your sequence stands a greater chance of success. Understanding how to build a buyer persona can help here.
Furthermore, segmenting your target audience is vital. Since prospects have different requirements and are at various places in their user journey, aligning your strategy with these factors can also drive a higher conversion rate.
3) Plan and map the sequence journey
Once you have defined your objective and segmented your audience, you need to plan and map your sequence journey. During this phase, you need to determine if your email sequences follow a logical workflow to help you achieve your stated goals and objectives.
For instance, does each step move your potential subscribers through their buyer’s journey? Will the content and timing ultimately achieve more sales? The outcome should be a plan that details at which stage you will send each email. Ideally, each email should have some form of a call to action. Using this mechanism helps you track the progress of your prospect down the sales funnel.
You should also set metrics such as open rate and click-through, which you can measure with your integrated CRM email automation solution. Finally, you should determine the type of email sequence you need to create for each objective. For instance, a time-based series may be more effective in some scenarios than one that operates on triggers alone.
4) Ensure value, rather than sales pitches
As mentioned earlier, in addition to segmenting your audience and building automation into your solution, your email content must be relevant and convincing. Firstly, you may want to address any frequently asked questions to minimise friction and expected replies that you would need to manage. It would help if you also addressed any known objections.
For instance, if the price is a buyer roadblock, this is the perfect time to show the value of your solution and build trust. By preempting general questions and objections, you not only reduce friction but also enhance trust. Finally, the content needs to be engaging. If possible, try and tell a story with a common thread through each email you send. As humans, we are wired to listen to stories that grab our attention, maintain it, and lead us to a conclusion. The conclusion, in this instance, is the action to make a purchase or subscribe.
5) Understand how to measure success
You cannot manage what you cannot measure and with a lead nurture sequence, measuring success at each stage is crucial. The ultimate goal of any email marketing campaign may be to convert leads into customers. However, this measure alone is not enough.
Ideally, it would help to calculate and analyse key metrics at each sequence stage. Understanding where leads fall off in the email series is vital if you are not achieving your conversion rate. For instance, your initial email may be a choke point that talks to a content issue or missing call to action. Alternatively, if they engage throughout the sequence but fail to take the final step and purchase, the problem may be price or an onerous buying process. The point being, you cannot unpack underlying issues with your lead nurturing sequence unless you obtain meaningful metrics during each phase.
6) Decide sequence triggers
The next step in the process is to determine your sequence triggers. For example, you could wait for the user to perform a specific action in email 1 before sending email 2 and email 3. Alternatively, you could send your emails in a time-based sequence. A hybrid strategy may be needed in particular use cases where you send email 2 or email 3 if the prospect hasn’t triggered the next action.
The trigger sequence you choose depends on the email campaign type. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. You will need to align your series with your particular circumstances and refine your strategy as you implement subsequent campaigns.
7) Write the first email
The subject line of your first email is probably the most essential piece of content you will write for your email nurture sequence. It must be compelling and intriguing to ensure the subscribers open the email. As mentioned, people like to read stories, so write your email using a story-telling format where possible. This opportunity is also the best moment in the campaign to ask the reader to link to your social media accounts.
Another great technique to grab a reader’s attention is breaking a long piece of copy with a relevant quote or use case. Something that is not too long but compelling enough to get the reader engaged with the rest of the text. Where possible, keep the email as short as possible. Your copy needs to get the readers interested, drive home your product and service benefits, and conclude with a call to action.
8) Write an email for each stage of the sequence journey
Once you have completed the draft copy of your opening email, you need to write the content that you will put in the subsequent lead nurturing emails. Again, keep the copy as short as possible in this follow up email list and hook the reader with a quote, statistic, anecdote, or case study.
Using images is another tool you could use to grab attention. However, you need to optimise these for email delivery. Email clients, like Microsoft Outlook, may not download the image as a security precaution, so make sure your copy can stand alone.
The core purpose of any follow up email is to build your story and guide the user along the buyer journey. You, therefore, need to write with your final goal in mind. For example, address your prospect’s pain points and illustrate how your product or service addresses these.
9) Edit / review
With your draft copy complete, it is time for editing and reviewing. Run it through a spell and grammar check to make sure you eliminate any glaring errors and align to writing best practices. It also helps to get someone else to read it and provide feedback. When writing copy, you often overlook mistakes as you are so entrenched in your words. During this phase, you can also benefit from reviewing your sentence and paragraph structure and other elements such as font and colour.
10) Implement in marketing automation platform
Once you have completed reviewing and editing your automated series of emails, your solution is ready to implement. Upload it to your chosen marketing automation platform and review and edit your copy again. As some platforms apply formatting to the text, your email may need some readjustment. Many platforms also offer a test feature that allows you to send the email and check that everything looks and works as expected. You could have these delivered to your mailbox for a final internal review before user testing.
Selecting a small percentage of your customers during this phase and initiating the marketing campaign to test your solution is the prudent next step and in line with deployment best practices. Taking this cautious approach will help you identify any significant problems that internal testing did not uncover. Since you are only deploying your lead nurturing solution to a limited set of prospects, you reduce your risk significantly. In addition to the risk mitigation advantage of following this route, you can also use any feedback or gathered metrics to refine your email marketing campaign.
12) Deploy to live
Once you have tested your solution on a subset of your prospects, you are ready to deploy the solution to live. Needless to say that you need to refine your solution with any insights you gained from the test phase. Depending on the type of campaign, the go-live may differ slightly. For example, if you implement a lead nurturing campaign, you can set the launch date to align with other components in your marketing strategy. However, if you are kicking off a trial expiry campaign, the trigger event needs to align with the trial expiry date of each potential subscriber.
13) Track metrics to measure success
As mentioned, you need to track metrics to measure the success of your lead nurturing emails. The test phase is ideal for setting a baseline to ascertain the expected outcome you anticipate. For instance, if you get a conversion rate of 15% during test but have a stated objective of 30%, you can track the effectiveness of the refinements your made post-test. Additionally, keeping track of email open and click-through rates can help you determine if your lead nurture sequence requires some adjustment. For example, if you see good metrics for email 1 and a significant drop off after that, the issue could lie in your first email’s call to action. Alternatively, your content may be lacking the substance that sets the audience up for the following email.
14) Review and edit content based on data
Once you have completed your first production run, you can take the metrics and lessons learned and refine your campaign further. The key to success is constant readjustment and alignment until your lead nurture sequence achieves the goals and objectives you set. Ultimately, your campaign must deliver the business result of transforming leads into customers.
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For a comprehensive overview of how email marketing functions as part of your content marketing, visit Digital Marketing for Technology Companies: An Introduction.