Lead Nurturing – Using Email Marketing To Nurture Leads

Many people ask me, “Rob, what is lead nurturing?” The best way to describe it is to use a short story.

When I started my first business in 2000 I made the huge mistake of letting go anyone that wasn't ready to buy. At the time, my sales funnel looked like the standard:

Sales Funnel - Old School

Click for the full view

That sales funnel doesn't take into account the people that got in contact with me that weren't yet ready to buy. Frankly I have no idea how much business I lost not following up with those folks, but I can tell you for sure that I expended a LOT of energy in continuously finding new clients.

Today things are quite different, and I want to share with you how you can never lose another potential customer again. That system is called lead nurturing.

Before we dig in I want to make a note: whether you are looking to do B2B lead generation or B2C lead generation the overall process is the same. Consumers are consumers whether they are operating under a corporation or not. The main difference between business and non-business buyers is typically the amount of red tape they have to deal with.

Having said that let's get into it.

A Sales Funnel That Really Works

In previous posts we looked at the Inbound Marketing Sales Funnel, which looks like this:

Inbound Marketing Sales Funnel

The Inbound Marketing Sales Funnel. Click for a larger view.

There are two major methods of lead generation in use here: search engine optimization (SEO) and social media, which includes blogging and social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others. Other lead generation methods you might use are:

  • Webinars
  • Seminars
  • Online advertising
  • In-person networking
  • Trade shows (still viable if done right)
  • Direct mail (also still viable)

Lead nurturing comes in at the point of integration with your customer relationship management (CRM) software and takes advantage of the power and automation of an email marketing system. It works like this:

  1. A person lands on a page of your website either through social media or a search engine. Most likely this is an interior page, not your homepage. Many times this will be a blog post, especially if they are coming from social media.
  2. The person reads your blog post and likes what they see. They now want more information and see you have a call to action (CTA) on your blog post to opt-in for some more information. The person clicks the CTA and lands on a landing page.
  3. The ebook looks pretty tasty so they give their name and email address to get the download. This person's information is captured in your CRM system and they are now a lead.

What now occurs separates the truly successful from those constantly chasing after new customers. If you want to be the former rather than the latter, the system you put into place will look something like the following lead nurturing diagram. Note at this point we aren't talking about lead qualification but rather how we handle the leads that are coming in:

Basic Lead Nurture Process

Basic Lead Nurture Process - Click for a larger view

Now here's where it really gets fun! Everything that you see on the basic lead nurture diagram can be automated using an email marketing system. We've done it using Infusionsoft, which is a combination of CRM, e-commerce and email marketing. I believe the technical term for it is “marketing automation.”

If you want to scale a single-person business to multiple people and beyond, you need to automate as much of this process as you can. If the $299/month price tag for Infusionsoft looks a bit much for you if you're just getting started, another great service we (and tens of thousands of others use) is AWeber.

But I digress…

The main point here is what happens if the person doesn't respond to your offer of a free consultation – they are moved into a long-term lead nurture sequence.


The Basics Of A Long- Term Nurture Sequence

This sequence is essentially a long series of emails that provides ongoing value along sales and consultation offer messages. DO NOT start trying to sell products right away, rather send an email once a week for a few weeks at least before offering a product or services. OR you could mention it in the PS of the email. That's ninja and fairly unobtrusive.

We have a number of sequences that span 4 months. All emails are pre-written, deliver information the reader can use in their business, and are automatically sent via our email marketing application – Infusionsoft. Where we've gone to the next level is by creating many of these sequences, each around a single topic that links back to a single category of offering. If you're interested in SEO, you get SEO. If you're interested in blogging, you get blogging. If you're interested in Twitter, you get Twitter. I think you get the point.



So What Is Lead Nurturing Again?

Lead nurturing is a method of providing ongoing value to a lead until they are ready to become a customer. Leads come in from a number of lead generation methods including SEO and social media marketing.

To successfully scale our efforts we need to automate as much of this as possible. To do that we use an email marketing system that allows us to create a predefined sequence of messages that are sent to a lead on a schedule.

We use lead nurturing because not everyone that visits your website is ready to buy. In fact, a vast majority of visitors are in the information gathering stage. The goal is to capture them and to stay in front of them often enough so that when they do make their buying decision they choose you.

Lead nurturing is applicable whether you are doing B2B lead generation or B2C lead generation. Buyers are buyers with the only difference being a typically longer and more complex sales cycle in B2B.



  1. I’m really glad that I stopped by and read this post. The whole CRM process has been a little confusing, to say the least. You did a really nice job of explaining it and I appreciate the flowcharts. I will be checking out the resources as they will definitely save loads of time in the process. Thanks. I look forward to reading your future posts.

    • Hi Benita I’m glad it helped. This can be confusing – I know I was confused for a long time on the best way to connect it all together.

      Also see the recent post that Lauri did on the subject too. It’s linked as part of my comment.

  2. Wow! Wonderful info shared with nice flowcharts. That really clears up with what lead nurturing is and I’m definitely going to follow it for my website as well. Thank you so much!

  3. Hi Robert,

    Pretty solid advice on Leads, something which will definitely prove to be pretty useful given that consultation is exactly what i have taken up recently.

    Would you be kind enough to provide some useful links on your site or elsewhere that can be a good resource for a beginner?

    Appreciate your time

    Thank you

    • Hi Sadar – I’m happy you found the post informative. Look for more posts coming this week actually about lead nurturing. I’m also creating some products that will be available soon as well.

      In the meantime, I’d read up on email marketing. Can’t go wrong there.

  4. Hi Rob,

    I’ve been working on my own “flow-chart-a-gram” last 2-3 days or so as the sites is cusping on page 1 now and will envision (hopefully) leads to start coming in once it hits that stage.

    At the moment I have 4 Main article pages on the site. 1&2) the fact sheet is canonicalised to the front page as it hold the same information along with my service pitch. 3)Scare page, shows common issues if you dont use a professional and 4) is a offshoot of the sales page that offers a similar cheaper solution but re-encourages to get the service on page 1.

    All SEO efforts and navigational prompts have been focused on the main page and then do the opt-in page for a free home visit consultation.

    The initial aim of the site was to sell these leads on, the nature of the opt-in means they are asking for a consult and once the lead is passed on their sales team will have control and if a consult is refused at that point I have no control and the next lead buyer may be different.

    My point being if in the above scenario the sales team send their own email sequence, and I later develop a ‘free product’ how could I avoid email sequence overlap? I can’t tell the lead buyers not to do their own sequence once the lead has been passed on, it become their right to get the max ROI they can.

    • In your scenario Arfan once you sell a lead it’s out of your hands and that person is no longer your lead, otherwise you can have a conflict between the people you are selling the leads to and what you’re doing with the free report.

      When selling leads it’s up to the person or company you’re selling the leads to to follow up.

  5. Alyson Phoenix says:

    This makes absolute sence.Jan 2010 I joined Jeffrey Gitomers Ace of Sales system and chose to send my customers Holliday emails 4 times a year.I also decided to send my no’s Holliday emails also.I could not believe the amount of sales I made from my no list it was crazy. You have showed me why that happened.

  6. Hi Robert,

    This is awesome, and exactly what I’ve been looking for.

    I understand the process, and I’m using AWeber to automate it. But, what about the consultation, how do you do this part? Do you ask about this in the first email, or is this something that will happen on the website (via the contact information)?


    • Hi Jens great to see you here again sir! So to answer your question…

      I’m using Infusionsoft so I have two autoresponders – one to download an ebook and another to offer the consultation. When someone downloads the ebook it will remove them from the download sequence and in a few days sends them the consultation offer email. If they don’t sign up for one then they go into a long-term nurture sequence specific to the type of ebook they downloaded. And when I say long-term I mean it’s 4-5 months in length.

      With AWeber you might set up different lists for each ebook (which would be a pain in the ass and is why I moved to Infusionsoft – one reason of many) and go from there.

      • I was wondering if I could use AWeber for this. Thanks a lot for the advice.

        For me, AWeber is probably enough, at least for now. But for what I do for the University where I work, I might look a little closer to Infusionsoft. The process you’ve set up sounds exactly like something we should be doing.


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