Lesson #5

Lead Nurturing Emails

LNMC Lesson 5 Final Product

Welcome back to the Lead Nurturing Masterclass. In this lesson, we will be learning the ins and outs of lead nurturing emails, complete with examples of successful nurturing emails.

Lesson #5 overview


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Lead Nurturing Email Best Practices

Let's begin by going over the best practices that apply to the main components of your nurturing emails.

Subscriber List and Database Management

Email lists naturally decline in value over time. If you are not currently adding names to your email database at the same rate as you were in the past, it could be a significant factor contributing to declining rates of email engagement. The best solution to resolve list aging is to better optimize your website, future emails, landing pages, and other marketing campaigns to intake new names into your email database.

List cleaning and appending, which can be managed by automation software, will also help in keeping your lists up to date and organized. In regard to cleaning, most email platforms have algorithms in place to ensure email lists are being properly cleaned and will improve over time, so external paid services are not usually necessary.

Email Subject Lines

The significance of subject lines in email open and click-through rates should not be underestimated. A subject line is your chance to make a first impression, to have your email noticed among the dozens competing for a recipient’s attention in their inbox on a daily basis.

 

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Here are some of the primary factors to keep in mind when devising an effective subject line:

1. Brevity

Resist the temptation to dump as much information as possible into the subject line at the risk of overwhelming the reader. The recommended character limit, short though it may seem, is 65 characters. Opt for short, concise sentences.

2. Word Choice

In many cases, it is recommended to create a feeling of urgency by placing actionable words such as “discover,” “act now,” and “limited time” into a subject line. Words that express novelty also produce high engagement. However, it is important to do some research on which words perform better, as certain seemingly sensible choices, like “save,” “earn,” or “buy,” can often attract spam filters.

Additionally, avoid writing “clickbait” phrases that do not accurately reflect the email’s content— they are more likely to cost you readers’ trust upon opening. Focus instead on a consistent tone that reflects your brand/the nature of your product. If the image you are looking to convey is one of fun and excitement, for instance, let your subject line reflect that!

3. Personalization

Incorporating personalization tokens like name or location into a subject line has been proven to increase open rates, as it helps create a feeling of a more personal connection between the recipient and the company. If your email software doesn’t allow for tokens to be inserted automatically into emails, you can still add the word “your” into the subject line to create the sense that the contact is being reached out to directly and personally.

Email Relevance- Some emails are intended to educate readers and keep them up to date on a topic of interest your company specializes in. In these cases, incorporating trending topics into the subject line can help establish your company as an authority within your industry.

In contrast, emails which are intended to focus on product offers or promotions should emphasize the limited range of time in which the recipient can take advantage of them (for example, specific numbers and dates), or the relevance of the offer to the recipient’s current situation. Ideally, subject lines can and should take into account buyer personas, which provide guidance for both word choice and email content.

Visualize it: Email and Visual Appeal

A picture, as it is often said, is worth a thousand words, and in the visual-driven sphere of digital marketing, it may be worth far more. The right visuals in the right emails can increase email engagement significantly, but there is a fine balance between using too much and too little visual content.

Here is a comparison in greater detail of two main kinds of visuals and the pros and cons of each in email.

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Static Images

Examples: Product images, brands logos, CTAs, customer-created photos.

  • Static images are most likely to be seen by your contacts
  • Fairly easy and time-efficient to produce
  • Potential image blocking or inability to display images in some of your subscribers’ inboxes
  • Not optimal for promoting something more complex than a physical product, such as a service or site

Best use: Displaying a single, straightforward product or idea. Optimal for marketers with less experience or budget for adding visual content to your emails.

 

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Moving Visuals (GIFs and videos)

Examples: Demonstration videos, product use animations, short testimonials.

  • Videos have been shown to drastically drive engagement and conversion rates
  • Many email clients are able to display GIFs
  • Higher learning curve and more time-consuming production
  • Software for videos particularly may require a monetary investment or even outsourcing
  • Large file sizes make emails more difficult to load, and some clients don’t support them altogether

Best use: Dynamic display of the function of your product or service. Videos enable greater complexity than GIFs, taking the email from eye-catching display to educational/instructional value or a detailed explanation of the product’s benefits.

Other Email Visual Design Tips

  1. Offer a plain text version of emails— A plain text version removes the design-friendly HTML formatting in favor of a simpler text-based email, a user-friendly option for subscribers to read the content.
  2. Add alt-text to images— As many email clients do not allow images by default, an email with an image may not always appear unless the user changes their settings. Adding alt text ensures the receiver always knows what the image/message is.
  3. Link out your videos— Use a screenshot of your video with an outgoing link that takes recipients to the actual video in order to cut loading time and ensure the email’s compatibility with all clients.
  4. Test for mobile-friendliness— With phones and other devices becoming an ever more popular platform for viewing emails, it’s crucial to ensure that the components and layout of your emails are compatible with them.
  5. Invest in your CTA design— The size, positioning, font, and color of your CTA should not be underestimated as significant factors affecting click-through rate, a major measure of success of any email. Experiment with these components through A/B testing (as we will discuss later).

Segmentation

Timeliness can be greatly improved by making use of list segmentation— that is, dividing your subscriber base into several groups based on information on your customers’ demographics and the actions they have already taken. For drip and lead nurturing emails, the entire series of emails sent to a contact can be custom-tailored through segmentation and workflows.

When it comes to constructing segments, you can get as specific as needed to address the particularities of your industry, buyers, and products. For eCommerce, for example, recommended approaches to segmentation are:

  • Engagement level— engaged subscribers show clear interest in your product offers and yield high email open rates; they should accordingly be reached out to more frequently. Less engaged subscribers, whose interest is waning, should be treated carefully and contacted on a “quality over quantity” policy. They may require a re-engagement campaign.
  • Purchasing patterns— The purchase history, frequency, and recency of customers is another powerful dataset to use in creating relevant and timely offers. However, keep in mind that the individual’s info matters as much as the group’s when it comes to retaining contacts. Frequent buyers and big spenders rightfully deserve to be treated like they are valuable.
  • Demographics— finally, demographic data like age, gender, and geography cannot be discounted. As visuals and product pricing may be major features of your email body, it is important to draw recipients in with the products that matter to them.

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Automation Software

Email automation software is a crucial tool for marketers seeking to level up their email campaigns, and almost certainly will be necessary for implementing your email strategy. This software can serve a wide range of purposes, but features to look for when choosing from a list of candidates include:

  • A dashboard with analytics
  • Contact database organization and segmentation
  • Email flows with action-triggered or manual scheduling and/or segmented sending to portions of your contact base
  • Templates designed to fit various kinds of emails for different campaigns and stages within a campaign
  • A/B testing capabilities and reporting on the performance of an email campaign (with metrics such as delivery, open, bounce, and click-through rates)
  • Customization options that utilize information from contact records

Email Testing

Of course, not all nurturing emails and campaigns are built alike, and to determine what works best for your company, you will need to conduct testing. To help you get started, here are three major goals to focus on in your testing efforts.

Testing to Improve Deliverability

Signs that you are experiencing issues with email deliverability— that is, the arrival of emails in your intended recipients’ inboxes— include:

  • A high number of bounced emails, as reported by your email or marketing automation platform under email performance metrics. You may be able to see how many hard and soft bounces the email experienced. A “hard” bounce indicates a permanent reason an email cannot be delivered, such as a change of the subscriber’s email address. A “soft bounce,” on the other hand, typically indicates a temporary delivery issue to an address, for reasons such as a full mailbox, an overly large email size, or a dysfunctional email server.
  • A high number of emails being marked as spam, or your company being flagged as a spammer. Outside tools may be necessary, since you may not be able to determine this within your email or marketing automation platform.

With the indicators identified, two questions stand— how to prevent deliverability issues, and how to fix an existing one.

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1. How to Prevent Deliverability Issues

Ways to prevent a high rate of bounced emails include updating your list frequently and remove hard bounced email contacts, sending emails from your own domain to ensure you pass DMARC policies, and ensuring a new contact’s email address was typed correctly upon entering your database.

With regards to preventing emails from being marked as spam, it may be wise to reduce the number of emails you are sending; every email sent should serve a specific purpose rather than be sent simply for the sake of reminding contacts of your existence, a tactic which can easily backfire and cause annoyance. Litmus is a great tool to use to test whether your email will be marked as spam ahead of your send.

Preventing being flagged as a spammer centers on legitimizing your emails by sending from your own domain, avoiding spammy or clickbait-style sounding subject lines (i.e. all-caps, irregular punctuation, large fonts, and exclamation points, with spam trigger words like "free" or "save money"), and including straightforward and clearly visible unsubscribe options in all emails.

2. How to Fix Deliverability Issues

So what about fixing current problems with deliverability? A good place to begin is by acquiring the right software, like the previously mentioned Litmus tool, which can test for email bounces and spam status.

It’s also advised to clean your contacts list regularly, removing any contacts who have hard bounced once or soft bounced more than 3 times after every send. If the contact cannot receive your emails, then there is really no reason to keep them on your mailing list!

Finally, find any spam lists you are currently on and remove yourself from them with the use of a tool such as MXToolbox, which will provide you with instructions for how to get removed. Often, this process is as simple as sending an email to the right person that explains the situation; for instance, that the behavior of other users on your shared sending domain caused it to be placed on the list.

Testing to Improve Click-Through Rates

If you have compared your CTR to industry averages and your own historical data and found they are subpar, it's time to get them out of the gutter. Let’s examine some of the most helpful tests to run to improve click-through rates.

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1. Design

To understand what kind of design will get the most clicks from your audience, you can try tweaking elements including header banner (e.g. with vs. without header banner; animated vs. static), columns (e.g. single vs. multi column), and high design vs stripped-down (i.e., text-based).

Overly designed emails generally perform worse, particularly in B2B marketing. Sticking to a format familiar to subscribers with is best; for a stripped down email, a standard example format from top to bottom is:

  • Logo
  • Greeting
  • Email copy, including one in-text call to action
  • CTA button (reiterating the in-text call to action)
  • Signature
  • Social share buttons
  • Unsubscribe link

By sticking to a formula recipients are familiar with you eliminate confusion and keep the focus where you want it: on your call-to-action.

2. Text-to-Image Ratio

As a rule, images should support the text of your email, not the other way around. All essential email content and CTAs should be text-based. While emails with a higher ratio of text to images perform better in terms of click-through rates, this aspect must be tested on your own audience to determine what they prefer.

3. Length

If your goal is for people to click-though, then it is best to keep emails on the short side, and longer emails should include menu items at top that summarize the longer content that follows to guide readers short on attention or time.

4. CTAs

CTAs offer a variety of testable elements, such as the type (text link, button, Image), color, and placement. It is always an option to include two different types of CTAs in each email, but no more than 3 CTAs total should be included in each email, except in the case of longer, newsletter-style emails.

5. Social Sharing

Including social sharing links is a great way to get your content out to a wider audience. However, if they distract users from following through on your primary call-to-action, then it is best to remove them; testing is the only way to determine this.

While these are not usually the highest clicked buttons, they do have potential to receive considerable engagement, and serve an extra function by providing those people who are not currently interested in the described offer the option to share it with someone who might be. In this respect, these buttons can function as free lead generators.

Lead Nurturing Email Templates

Creating or selecting emails for lead nurturing begins with determining the range of types of emails you will be using in your campaigns. Throughout the buyer’s journey of a subscriber, a variety of emails will be needed to deliver the right content and sustain a strong relationship between them and your company.

8 Examples of Nurturing Emails

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1. Welcome Email

Welcome emails thank a new contact for subscribing and introduce them to your brand, possibly prompting the subscriber to complete their profile or begin exploring site content. It is important not to jump too far down the funnel with regards to the nature of the content or offers you will be sending.

2. Educational Content Email

Educational content can entail providing information about your industry, technology related to your service/product, practices for managing their own business (in the case of B2B), etc. This content, as in the case of many other emails, can be tailored for several lead segments.

Generic educational emails can be followed up with more targeted, “best practices” emails upon engagement, offering content in the form of a guide, whitepaper, or webinar registration link that provides greater value. Education can also be offered via periodic newsletters, which keep the subscribers up to date about your brand and products/services.

3. Social Engagement Email

One of many ways to maintain a closer relationship with customers is through engagement on social media, and emails that invite readers to subscribe to your company blog, follow your Twitter or Instagram, connect on LinkedIn, etc. are an excellent means of accomplishing this. Placing your content and offers in multiple news feeds with which customers interact on nearly a daily basis will ensure they will keep you top-of-mind.

4. Sale/Promotional Email

Some emails focus more directly on converting an email subscriber into a customer with an offer. This can be anything from a demo to a free trial offer to a coupon, sale, or discount, depending on the nature of your products. For some prospects, offer exclusivity or entry into a raffle/giveaway can be used to increase appeal; determining which types of offers work best for certain segments requires testing and analysis.

5. Order Confirmation/Receipt Email

This email should be triggered when a subscriber makes a purchase. It serves three uses in one as a transactional confirmation, a thank-you note for purchasing your product/service, and an opportunity to further upsell or cross-sell. The trick is in balancing the transactional content— which should comprise the vast majority of the email body— with the right proportion of relevant promotional content.

6. (for B2B) Personal Email

At the point in which a contact is approaching the bottom of the funnel, sending a more personal email from a sales team member can prove to be the step necessary to drive the closing of the sale. A personal touch provides an opportunity to answer questions, address concerns, and reinforce the feeling of a human connection in a digital era.

7. Re-Engagement Email

Inevitably, some subscribers become inactive over time while remaining subscribe to your list. This doesn’t mean they are necessarily a lost cause; rather, they need to be nurtured back onto the path of their buyer’s journey. As such, re-engagement emails should aim to gently nudge recipients in that direction, whether with a sentimental appeal or an attractive offer.

Contacts can be reminded of the value that they are missing out on, but it is crucial not to be too pushy. After a certain point of unresponsiveness, your email can ask the contact to confirm that they are still interested in being subscribed, giving them an honest chance to opt out and removing the pressure to re-engage with a bottom-of-funnel move.

8. Cart Abandonment Email

Sharing similarities with the re-engagement email, the abandoned cart email may seem too straightforward. It aims to remind a contact that they have abandoned items in their online cart for which they failed to complete the checkout process, and sometimes is combined with a re-engagement-style discount offer. Yet a staggering estimated average of 69% of eCommerce carts are abandoned by users! This can amount to millions of dollars in revenue lost annually, but abandoned cart emails can mitigate the damage by up to 30%.

Lead Nurturing Email Examples

Example of a Lead Nurturing Welcome Email

Abandon Cart Email for Family Fun Center

Get Air trampoline parks wanted to increase party sales for their # locations spread throughout the country. After updating the user interface of their party booking engine, they recognized that some users would abandon their journey just before finalizing their booking.

To recapture these lost sales they created an abandoned cart email. The sending of the email was controlled with an automated workflow, triggered whenever a user made it to the final stages of booking a party but failed to submit payment details to complete the purchase. By reminding users that they had forgotten to complete their booking and offering a moderate discount, Get Air was able to recapture an average of $5.17 per recipient.

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Abandoned Application Email for Higher Education

The University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy is a global leader in pharmacy education, research, and service in pharmaceutical, social, and clinical sciences. Despite their ranking and success as a top PharmD program, the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Pharmacy was faced with a common issue amongst Universities today, the number of students applying had dropped. Furthermore, many prospective students would begin their application for pharmacy school but never complete it.

To re-engage these prospective students and improve their application completion rates they created an Abandoned Application email, reminiscent of abandon cart emails seen in eCommerce. The email was sent via an automated workflow that was triggered when students who began their application, but did not finish it within a set time period. By simply reminding prospective students that their application required further attention, 37% went on to complete their application, significantly improving application completion and enrollment numbers.

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Examples of a Re-engagement Lead Nurturing Email

Re-engagement Email for Marketing Agency

Campaign Creators is a Marketing Agency that, like most B2B services firms, faced a long sales cycle. Although they had a sophisticated lead nurturing campaign funnel in place, some leads would fail to progress to the next stage and their was no clear pathway for re-engagement.

Many of these leads had not engaged with the company for several months, so it seemed inappropriate to just throw an offer or sales pitch their way. To rewarm these leads they sent an email that contained several educational content pieces curated to match their needs and industry, and absolutely no promotional offers or sales content. The goal was simply to provide the lead with valuable content and reintroduce them to the company. This email successfully rewarmed 35% of the cold leads who received it.

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Ecommerce Replenishment Email

VitaCup, an eCommerce business that sells vitamin-infused coffee and tea pods, had a large existing database of contacts built from their paid media channels. Unfortunately, few of those contacts actually converted into a purchase, or they struggled to have existing customers purchase with them again.

To remedy this they created a replenishment email to re-engage past customers right before they were about to run out of their VitaCup products, reminding them to purchase again. The email was triggered to be send via automation 3 months after the initial purchase. Over 12 months, the replenishment campaign, along with an abandon cart emails, produced a 300% increase in email revenue.

Example of an Order Confirmation Lead Nurturing Email

Campaign Creators, along with providing agency services, sells website page templates through the HubSpot template marketplace. Rather than charging a larger upfront cost for the templates, the company decided to use template purchases as a lead generator for their website services.

To do this, after customers downloaded one of the free templates, Campaign Creators would offer customization of the template at a cost. By providing customers with a more hand-ons and personal service, Campaign Creators hoped to solidify their position as a trusted vendor to provide website design work for them in the future. To communicate this offer to customers received a confirmation email from the company CEO thanking them for downloading the template and presenting the customization package.

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Example of a Promotional Email

We Olive, a fine foods retailer, had a large list of email subscribers gathered over the years from their brick and mortar locations. The problem was that many of these customers were visitors from out of town, making in store promotions and events irrelevant to them. In order to monetize this audience they needed to encourage them to make purchases in their new eCommerce store.

They implemented a series of promotional emails that were sent to these subscribers that provided discounts and introduced online only products. The result of just one email promotion series for the Black Friday holiday was a 30% increase in revenue compared to the previous year.

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Feel like you have a better understanding of lead nurturing emails? Take your learning to the next level by applying your knowledge in the Lesson 5 Exercise below.

 


 

Lesson 5 Exercise

Lead Nurturing Emails for Your Target Audience

Refer to the list of Lead Nurturing Email Templates  and the Lead Nurturing Email Examples to come up with lead nurturing emails that you could send to your target audience. Then decide what content will be included and a subject line for each email. Make sure to follow the best practices for writing email subject lines.

  1. Welcome email
    1. Content:
    2. Subject line:
  2. Educational email
    1. Content: 
    2. Subject line:
  3. Social engagement email
    1. Content:
    2. Subject line:
  4. Sale/Promotional email
    1. Content:
    2. Subject line:
  5. Order confirmation/receipt email
    1. Content: 
    2. Subject line:
  6. Re-engagement email
    1. Content:
    2. Subject line:
  7. Cart Abandonment Email (eCommerce)
    1. Content:
    2. Subject line:
  8. Personal email (B2B)
    1. Content:
    2. Subject line:

 

We hope those examples left you inspired to craft a few lead nurturing emails of your own. Now, email is a key element of lead nurturing, but it is only one piece of a comprehensive lead nurturing campaign. We will take Lesson 6 to cover lead nurturing campaigns in detail.

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