Lead nurturing is the process of engaging with potential customers, providing them with relevant content and information, and supporting them through their buyer’s journey.

Lead nurturing begins as soon as a phone rings or a Web form gets submitted. Whether your initial contact came from someone looking to buy now or from someone opting in to your subscriber list, you need to have a basic nurturing process in place for each new contact:

1. Implement a Lead Intake Process for Hot Leads

The people who are contacting your business with immediate needs should be your first priority.

Obviously, the hot leads should be the priority for you and your staff. However, many small businesses fail to properly use these leads due to a lack of a clear intake process.

The proverb “the early bird catches the worm” means that it is better to arrive early than late. This is especially true when it comes to web and phone leads. Quick follow-up is critical in order to take advantage of these opportunities.

  • Phone leads must be answered in real time via a live person answering the phone who is trained to qualify the lead and schedule an appointment.
  • Web leads should be contacted via phone and email within four hours of receipt (immediately is ideal).
  • Leads that aren’t immediately followed up with lose 50 percent of their value after four hours and 80 percent of their value after twenty-four hours.

It is important that everyone in your company understands the importance of responding to and measuring inbound leads. If you cannot answer calls or greet walk-ins in real time, you should train a staff member or outsource this to someone who can.

The following text is suggesting that in order to provide good customer service, businesses should train their employees on how to greet, screen, and obtain information from customers/callers.

Lead Intake Process Best Practices

Document the Lead Intake Process for Your Business

The lead intake process should include how phone and web leads are routed, who follows up, and in what time frame. Inbound leads should also be tracked. Create a simple lead intake process and train your staff.

If you don’t want your leads to be answered by a machine or voicemail, you should make sure that you always answer them yourself.

It’s important for businesses to have their phone calls answered by a real person, even if they are stretched thin in terms of staff.

If you can’t have your own staff answer calls, you can use a service like AnswerConnect. For about $150 a month, professionals will answer your calls and capture and email leads to you.

Respond to Web leads within hours

The value of web leads diminishes quickly after a prospective customer submits a web form. You should make it a priority to respond to them right away, ideally with a phone call, as this is more personal than email.

Develop a script for inbound leads

Although you shouldn’t turn your staff into telemarketers, you should train them on how to convert leads into appointments or in-store visits.

Coupled with this, ensure that they are trained to collect the prospect’s contact information as soon as possible.

Always add phone leads to your nurture campaigns

Since it’s likely that many potential customers will call rather than fill out a Web form, it’s important that your staff is trained to add these contacts to your lead nurturing database (with their permission, of course).

This will ensure that even those prospects who do not purchase immediately will still be hearing from you on a consistent basis.

Share the results with your staff

Be sure to have regular discussions about inbound lead metrics with your employees. This will not just create a competitive environment, but will also help you see what areas need improvement in your lead intake process.

Develop a process for collecting “hot leads” as soon as possible.

As you get more feedback, you can identify new best practices and expand on this.

2. Select an Email Marketing Tool

Although lead nurturing may not be a priority for businesses in the early stages of online marketing, it is still important.

It’s important to start building a subscriber/nurture list as soon as possible. All you need to do is choose an email marketing/list building service and add an opt-in form to your site.

For most small businesses, basic email marketing software will be sufficient.

Each of the services listed below works the same way: you simply sign up, paying from $19 to $100 per month depending on the size of your list, create Web forms to capture leads on your site, and set up “sequences,” or automated email campaigns. Any of the following four providers will work just fine:

Complete Marketing Automation Systems

If you want to do more than simple email nurture campaigns, such as accept payments online, monitor your prospects’ Web activity, and integrate direct mail and other “offline marketing” into your nurture programs, I recommend the following two providers:

If you’re new to lead nurturing or are on a tight budget, the four basic services listed above will suffice.

3. Set Up a Basic Lead Nurturing Campaign

There are two primary ways of sending email communications to your nurture list:

Email Broadcasts

Broadcasts are especially powerful for sales promotions, news, or events because you can reach your entire list at once. Here are a few ideas you can use to generate broadcasts.

Content Updates

Your content syndication strategy involves sending content updates to your subscriber list.

You should email your subscribers each time you have new content, with a link to the blog post or video.

Seasonal Updates

Email broadcasts are an effective way to promote seasonal sales, update customers on holiday promotions, and events.

You could create different offers for each holiday or milestone throughout the year. With a little bit of effort, you could generate around 12 broadcasts to send to your contacts,

Sales and Specials

If your business is slow on Monday afternoons or during the month of August, you can send your subscribers special promotions to encourage them to come in during these times. This can help you to move extra stock or fill slow periods in your business.

Sequential Emails

A sequential email is a series of emails that are scheduled to be sent out over a period of time. This allows you to stay in touch with your customers or leads for an extended period of time.

Here are a few ideas for sequential mailings that have proven to be extremely effective:

The Mini Course

With an “email mini-course,” you would offer your visitors a series of articles or videos (top 5 lists) delivered over time. For example, a chef could offer “5 Dinner Party Recipes to Dazzle Your Guests,” sending those who opt in one recipe each week.

Case Studies

If you want to show your audience that your products or services can make them happy, one of the best ways to do it is to give examples of real people who have used your products or services and been happy with the results.

Drip Offers

Drip campaigns are a series of emails offering different products or services.

Affiliate Offers

Affiliate marketing is the act of promoting and selling other companies’ products and services for a commission. This is a great way to expose your audience to complementary offerings that you don’t offer directly.

The Launch Formula

Email sequences that follow the launch formula are designed to create a sense of urgency and encourage people to buy a product or attend an event before it’s too late.

4. Retargeting

Patrick Rafferty from Online Optimism believes that the best way to nurture leads is to use a combination of email marketing and retargeting on different platforms.

He thinks that by using both email newsletters and retargeting, companies will be able to keep their brand at the forefront of customers’ minds.

Creating a successful retargeting campaign requires more than just setting up the campaign, according to Oksana Chyketa of Albacross.

Chyketa says that you shouldn’t show your leads the same information that they’ve already seen on your website. Instead, you should try to show them the value of your product. If a lead wasn’t impressed with your demo, you could try to attract them with a free trial.

Aneesh Babu of Backlinkminds advocates that retargeting is the most effective means of converting leads into customers but achieving said conversion requires a well executed sales funnel.

And here’s how to retarget your leads using social media and display ads:

Social Media Retargeting

Jeff Rizzo from The Slumber Yard says social media retargeting is the most effective way of staying in contact with potential customers. However, he says that how effective the ads are depends on which social media site it is and who the customer is.

We’ve found that Instagram and YouTube are the most engaging platforms for this segment. Plus, using video allows us to connect with them on a more personal level.

Our retargeting ads on Instagram, on average, get 19% more clicks than the same ads run on Facebook or Twitter.

Display Retargeting

Andy Hoek says that display retargeting is one of the most effective ways to nurture leads. He has connected HubSpot with AdRoll and created active lists for each stage of the buying journey.

Once people start moving through the buying journey, they will start to see display ads that are relevant to the stage they are in. We can still nurture leads through display ads even if we don’t have their email address. Having an email address is a good way to reach leads through another channel.

Display ads increase email opens because they expose the viewer to the brand more. By using display ads to nurture leads, companies reduce the amount of exposure their competitors have.

5. Personalization

To properly take care of leads, Finke from BitMoto suggests paying attention to customer desires instead of shooting generic responses.

This means that your interactions with leads should be customized to their individual needs.

When you customize your interactions with a lead, you are showing that you care about them as an individual. This will help to build a trusting relationship between you and the lead.

If you’re wondering how to improve your lead nurturing efforts with personalization, here are 3 ways to do so:

Email Personalization

According to Kraig Martin from Storage Vault, the key to lead nurturing is building a positive relationship with the client by personalizing all communications.

We are now focusing on email personalization at Storage Vault. All emails we send to customers include personal details.

Content Personalization

Alexandra Zelenko of DDI Development recommends using dynamic content to personalize content and landing pages. Dynamic content provides the ability to show different versions of an email, web page, or landing page based on who will be viewing it.

Zelenko states that it is more efficient to create one campaign rather than multiple campaigns because it is less time-consuming, results are more easily tracked, and it provides a more unified experience for the customer.

Direct Outreach Personalization

The two most effective ways to nurture leads, according to Scott Smith of Launch Leads, are contact cadence and dynamic content.

A contact cadence is a system in which you regularly reach out to potential customers to keep your brand fresh in their minds. Make a mix of phone calls, dynamic content, and other types of outreach over a six- to eight-week period for the best results.

You should get in touch often enough to stay in people’s minds, but not so often that you come across as clingy or desperate.

Dynamic content refers to avoiding the use of standardized, templated scripts when reaching out to leads via email or phone. This means including relevant information about your leads that demonstrates that you’ve researched them and are working to earn their business.


Marketing success is either successful in bringing in money, or it is not.

A clearly defined intake process for “hot leads” and setting up nurture campaigns for leads and customers will result in a growing and self-sustaining ecosystem of new referrals, reviews, and renewals.

About the Author Brian Richards

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