May 6, 2016 | Holly Yalove

Nurture Online Leads with Strategic Workflows (Automatically!)

If you’d like to close more customers and save valuable time with your marketing efforts, using automated email workflows to nurture online leads is your answer. Effective online lead nurturing is a key component of successful inbound marketing strategy.

Done right, strategic automated workflows will build trust with your prospects and better qualify marketing leads before they ever get to your sales team. In fact, according to Forrester Research, “Companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at 33% lower cost." Who couldn’t use that? 

Now, let's talk about how to build workflows that will nurture your leads.

Talk to Your Sales Team

Feedback from your sales team is critical to an effective marketing strategy. If you haven’t consulted them on other elements of your marketing, now’s the perfect time to start.

Inbound marketing is all about the integration of sales and marketing, or “smarketing.” Your sales team can provide valuable insights that can help your workflows convert more leads into customers.

Ask them things like:

  • What does sales consider a “qualified” lead?
  • Are there specific prospect job titles or roles that are most likely to buy?
  • Are there certain qualities you use to disqualify a prospect?
  • What challenges or pain points are historically most motivating to your prospects?
  • What time of day are your prospects most actively replying to your emails?

You get the idea. The answers will influence the way you title your emails, encourage leads to click CTAs, and even impact the fields on your landing page’s online form.

It’s also important that your sales team is aware of any lead-nurturing campaigns that the marketing department will be running. The more aware they are of what prospects are receiving, the better prepared they will be to bring those customers over the finish line.

Segment Your Leads

If you haven’t already segmented your contact database into specific lists of lead types, do that now. With the input from your sales team, you may have new insights and ways to categorize contacts.

No matter what, don’t send the same message with the same offer out to your entire email list. That approach will not be personalized to the needs of your contacts, and you won't get the results you're looking for.

Think about Your End Goal

The goal of any lead-nurturing workflow is some type of conversion, and every element of the workflow should serve that goal.

Here are a few things to think about:

  • Do you want to see if any of your existing subscribers are qualified leads?
  • Are you trying to nurture existing leads further down the sales funnel with another offer?
  • Are you trying to get marketing qualified leads to talk to sales?

When you start with the end goal in mind, the steps in between will be much more clear.

Consider the Buyer’s Journey

Once you have your end goal in mind, think about the buyer’s journey. Most people who visit your website are not sales qualified leads. Of those leads who are qualified, 50% are not yet ready to buy (per Gleanster Research).  

Most often, your website visitors are simply looking for information or education to help them solve a problem or meet a need. The goal of your content marketing is to attract qualified leads, help them out, and keep them moving through the sales funnel. 

By understanding where your contacts are in the journey, you can deliver the right message with the right content offers at the right time. Providing relevant and helpful content that meets your prospects’ specific needs will build the relationship you need to close the sale.

Map Out Main Steps

You have your end goal, you’ve considered your buyer’s journey, and now it’s time to map out the main steps of your automated email workflow. Start with a few general steps, but don’t go crazy with all the “if/then” possibilities yet.

Depending on the software you use (or will use), you’ll either have limitations on your logic options or many different ways you can program your automation to respond to your lead’s actions.

Here are some high-level possible steps (NOT email titles) after someone downloads a “top of the funnel” premium content offer...

  1. Thank You for Downloading w/ Suggested Blog Posts
  2. Top-of-the-Funnel ebook offer 1
  3. Top-of-the-Funnel ebook offer 2
  4. Middle-of-the-Funnel offer
  5. Bottom-of-the-Funnel offer

Add Personalization

Personalization tokens are available through many email marketing and marketing automation software solutions. These tokens allow you to use your lead’s name or other contact data in the email subject and body copy.

Many buyers are used to common tactics used in automated personalization, but with the right software, you can implement creative email personalization that will prompt better lead response (more on choosing the right software later in this post).

Think about Timing and If/Thens

You don’t want to bug your leads with daily emails, but you can’t wait too long to reconnect or they’ll forget why they cared about your content. Depending on the software you choose, you can set delays or internal actions between your emails at the pace that makes the most sense for your leads to keep them engaged. 

In addition to timing, if/then rules let you customized your leads' experiences further. When I say “if/thens”, I mean this:

What if your lead doesn’t open your email? Then what will you do?

    • How will you better grab their attention with a different email? Will you change the title or preview text?

What if your lead opens your email but doesn’t click? What will you change in the next email to better entice them?

    • Did you give them too many options? Does your CTA need to be changed?

As you think through these possibilities, you can flesh out your workflow to the extent your email marketing software allows.

Use The Right Software

As my mother likes to say, “There are many ways to skin a cat.” I’m not sure why anyone would want to skin a cat, but my point is that there are many software platforms that can automate lead nurturing with email workflows. However, not all of those solutions were created equal.

The best software solution to track and automate elements of your marketing is one that allows you to see the big picture and fully integrate things like email marketing with your CRM. After many years of vetting various options for ourselves and our clients, my recommendation is HubSpot. HubSpot has powerful features that allow you to set up very personalized, properly timed, and intelligent email marketing workflows. Everything your sales team needs, from email opens and blog post views to social media engagement, is tied into your contact database.

Execute and Inspect

Once you execute your workflows, monitor the results carefully. Measuring and analyzing how your leads interact with your workflows is the only way to make them more effective, and the right software comes in handy. Look for patterns of what’s working and what isn’t, then test your solutions and inspect again.

Workflows could drastically increase your marketing and sales productivity, but you won't see an improvement until you get started! Let me know if I can help.


 Free Ebook - How to Create an Effective Inbound Marketing Campaign


Holly Yalove

Holly Yalove

As VIEO’s chief strategist and one of our principals, Holly Yalove serves as the head digital and inbound marketing strategy for our clients. She has used her extensive management, sales, and marketing experience to dramatically increase our digital marketing business, helping us become the well-rounded agency we are today.

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