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The Dos and Don'ts of Lead Nurturing Emails

Ben Sack

Sometimes, it's helpful to think of the buyer's journey as 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 keeps leads 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.


Why email?

Email may not be a shiny new marketing tool, but it's as effective as ever — in fact, 77% of marketers reported seeing more engagement with email in 2021. 

A well-executed email campaign can increase sales velocity, lower your cost per lead, and generate impressive ROI. Litmus estimates that email marketing generates $36 for every $1 spent on average.

In other words, email works, and it's generally a wise investment.

Nurture workflows

Nurture workflows are series of emails triggered by an event, like a lead downloading a content offer or attending a webinar.

Nurture emails can be utilized at any point in the buyer's journey, whether your goal is to build relationships with new top-of-funnel (ToFu) contacts or reach out to existing customers for upsell opportunities. 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 — no matter what that next step may be.

This 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.

Lucky for you, we’ve written thousands of these emails, so we feel like we’ve got the basics on lock. Here are some lead nurturing email best practices we've learned along the way:

DON’T: Be a poser

So — who should your 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, the COO, or even the CEO.

But your leads are smart. They know your CEO isn’t waiting for a bell to ring every time someone downloads a whitepaper so they 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 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.

That's not to say sender attribution never matters — it just 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 usually in rich text format, all text and blue underlined links. When you’re not posing, you have the freedom to create engaging HTML templates with colorful images, gifs, CTA buttons, video thumbnails, and more!

Note: While creativity is generally a good thing, it's still important to maintain a consistent visual identity across all platforms. For example, if you use both paid media and email as part of the same campaign, the email templates and ads should have a similar look and feel as well as similar messaging.


DON’T: Steal eyeballs

There are a ton of studies out there about writing subject lines that are more likely to 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: Leverage automation

Relying solely on your sales team to reach out to contacts manually puts a lot of repetitive work on their plates. A few leads will likely slip through the cracks here and there, and you'll miss out on sales opportunities.

Setting up automated sequences allows you to build workflows based on specific actions (e.g. downloading a whitepaper or signing up for a webinar), which ensures that leads get the right message at the right time. 

We recommend HubSpot's sales automation tools, which enable you to create sequences of automated sales emails and corresponding follow-up tasks to keep your sales team on track. HubSpot also enables customizable reporting for email workflows, so you can keep track of the metrics that matter most to you (and use them to create even better campaigns in the future).

DON'T: Go on forever

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? 

It's also important to remember that about 46% of emails are read on mobile devices. 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.

person holding mobile phone

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

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?

Start with your company’s opinions on relevant topics. Sharing a thought leadership blog post is a great way to demonstrate your brand's expertise (and maybe even earn some social media shares).

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

invision copy example

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

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 controversial just for the sake of it — you don't want your emails to give off "old man yells at cloud" energy. Be sure to keep your opinions focused on industry topics and back them with solid reasoning.


 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, then the people who do read them will be much more likely to continue down the funnel, and eventually, convert.

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

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