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Sales

Courting Your Customers via Email: 6 Tips for Lead Nurturing Campaigns

Ben Sack

Sometimes, it's helpful to think of the buyer's journey a complicated machine overflowing with buttons, conveyor belts and gears. In this scenario, we can imagine sales enablement as the big ol’ can of WD40 that keeps the sales process lubricated -- it makes leads slippery and keeps them sliding down the pipeline toward “deal closed.”


All kinds of stuff can come out of this sales enablement aerosol can: case studies, content offers, blog posts, brochures, and product demos, to name a few. However, the most important — the “active ingredient,” we might say — is the humble email.

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Why Email?

According to HubSpot’s 2017 State of Inbound report, behind phone calls, email is the most successful channel for connecting with sales prospects.

In other words: email is the most successful sales channel that can be automated...and when we talk about sales enablement emails, we’re usually talking about automated nurture workflows.

Nurture Workflows

Nurture workflows are series of emails triggered by an event, like a lead downloading a content offer, or attending a webinar. The purpose of these emails is generally to build trust and keep your business top-of-mind until the lead is ready to take the next step.

solutions_inbound-marketingThis is usually accomplished by sending the lead links to content they might find useful, then eventually asking them to slip into the sales funnel by scheduling a demo, signing up for a free trial, or making a purchase.

“Nurture” is the operative word here. Leads are like fragile plants. Give them too much water, they’ll wilt. Give them too much sunlight, they’ll shrivel. Give them just the right amount of both, and they’ll blossom into something beautiful.

There’s plenty of advice floating around about the logistics of nurture workflows (how many emails to use, when they should be sent) but, there’s considerably less advice about what you should actually say in each email.

Lucky for you, we’ve written thousands of these things, so we feel like we’ve got the basics on lock. Here’s what we’ve figured out so far:

DON’T: Be a Poser

So - who should your sales enablement emails come from? Remember, email nurture workflows are automated, meaning there’s not really a person behind the keyboard clicking send. Yet many organizations feel like these sales messages would have more gravitas if they came from the VP of marketing, or the director of operations, or even the CEO.

But your leads are smart. They know your CEO isn’t waiting by his workstation for a bell to ring every time someone downloads a whitepaper so he can frantically write a bespoke email. The result? You’ve started this fragile relationship with a lie.

So, if it’s not the CEO, then whose name should come after “sincerely”?

If these are leads that come into your CRM through a top of funnel ‘event’ — a download or form submission — then the answer is quite simple. Emails don’t need to come from anyone. An info@ or a hello@ email address works perfectly. Newsletters usually don’t come from anyone. Neither do the automated emails from your bank or your credit card company. People are used to receiving emails without a specific human sender attached, and that’s A-okay.

BUT REMEMBER — sender attribution depends on what stage of the funnel your lead is in. If they're entered into a workflow near the bottom of the funnel (in "BoFu" land) when it's quite plausible that they're ready to speak to a rep, then all communications should come from the member of your sales or marketing team that would be responsible for handling their deal. 

DO: Be an Entertainer

Freeing yourself from the constraints of pretending to be a real person enables you to get creative. 

 Personal emails are bland-looking, all text and blue underlined links. When you’re not posing, you have the freedom to create awesomely entertaining HTML templates with colorful images, gifs, CTA buttons, video thumbnails, and more!

DON’T: Steal Eyeballs

There are a ton of studies out there about writing subject lines that are more likely get opened.

Spoiler alert: most of them find that words like “urgent” or “important” increase open rates. They also find that all-caps subject lines are particularly attractive.

Does that mean you should include URGENT in the subject lines of your sales enablement emails? Of course not. Why? Because with nurture workflows, open rate is NOT your KPI.

With few exceptions, the goal of nurture workflows is to build trust and to — say it with me now — move leads down the funnel. You’ll have an opportunity to make the sale later, but for now you’re just hoping that the recipient starts to think of you in a positive light.

What light will they see you in when they open your URGENT message and discover that it’s really ANYTHING BUT URGENT?

DO: Keep it Short

During a nurture workflow, you build trust by offering high-quality content like blog posts, whitepapers, and videos. The more content a lead engages with, the more likely they are to think of you as a knowledgeable, trustworthy company.

When you send content links to a lead, you’re making a big ask. If you’re already asking the lead to spend 4-5 minutes reading an 800-word blog post, why would you add to that number with long email copy? 

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It's also important to remember that about 47% of emails are read on Mobile devices, according to Litmus' January 2018 Report. If your reader is opening your message on a tiny screen, while in transit or away from their desk, a lengthy email is less likely to capture their attention. Instead, let the content do the talking, and focus all the copy on getting the reader to click that link.

Want numbers? Research indicates that the sweet spot for email length is between 50 and 125 words

DON’T: Make Assumptions

Writing nurture email copy can feel a little awkward. Because these leads are usually coming to your attention at the beginning of their buyer’s journey, you probably won’t know that much about them. If you’re lucky, you’ll know which company they work for and their position. As a result, it’s typical to feel like you don’t know where to begin.

Because we’ve been taught not to talk about ourselves, our instinct in these situations is to invent a person to talk to. For example:

Dear [First Name],

As an HR professional, you know what
it’s like to deal with upset employees
on a daily basis
...

Trouble is, they might not know what that’s like. Maybe they work for a meditation company and their employees are blissed out. Or maybe they’re in upper management and they don’t actually have face time with upset employees.

Since we don’t actually know what they know, it’s best to avoid this kind of language altogether.

DO: Form Opinions

So if you can’t talk about them, and it’s too early in the buyer’s journey to talk about you, what can you talk about?

A great place to start is with your company’s opinions on relevant topics. People want their thought leaders to take stances on things — that’s what makes them thought leaders and not thought repeaters. Obviously, you and your team believe in something, so share away.

Here’s a great example from digital design platform InVision:

“In design, it’s everybody’s job to solve problems with the user’s experience in mind.”

invision copy example

Research indicates that the more opinionated your email seems, the more likely you are to receive a response. Of course, there’s a fine line between being a thought leader and being a cranky old man — but if you’re keeping your opinions focused on industry topics and not the kids playing on your lawn, you’re not likely to turn anyone off.

TL;DR

 Most leads are never going to interact with, or even open, your nurture or sales emails. That’s fine. 
But, if you can make your emails genuine and short, use entertaining designs, and deliver interesting content that bring up subjective and engaging ideas, then the people who do read them will be much more likely to become customers.


Thinking about writing, implementing, and tracking your own nurture workflows? We've done it hundreds of times. Let's talk
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