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Lead Nurturing: What Is It and Should You Do It?

By Suzy DeLine

Buzzword alert! Lead nurturing ranks high with account-based marketing (ABM) as a clever name for something very straightforward. (For top 2016 buzzwords, read this very entertaining article! See #8… Pancakes. Mmm.) ABM is doing social good in getting marketing people to seek out kindred spirits on the sales team (see ABM-expert Keefers’ description of how it works). Lead nurturing has put a shiny new name on what is just plain good manners.

If your business has contacts in the database that have enjoyed your content (even with rudimentary marketing automation, you’ll know who, what, and how much), you should offer them more. Didn’t your mother raise you right?

How to Do Lead Nurturing

Now that we’ve gotten “Should you do it?” out of the way, let’s dive into what it is and how you can go about it. Thought leader Hubspot defines lead nurturing thusly: “It’s a way to stay connected to the leads you collect that aren’t ready to buy from you yet, and build up trust until they are ready.”

How better to build up trust than to offer additional useful information similar to that which they have already indicated a liking for?

By the way, some people think workflows and lead nurturing are the same thing. In my experience, lead nurturing is a campaign i.e., a series of activities. Setting up the workflow is one of the key activities. Most lead nurture campaigns will use multiple workflows and will require other activities, usually content development and list building. Of course, like any campaign, you start by setting (SMART) goals so you know what victory looks like.

The Process

Now, some detractors will lump lead nurturing into the “spam” category — emailing people until they click the unsubscribe link. It can feel that way if the program is not put together thoughtfully. Let’s outline the process as I understand it. Perhaps it will look more enticing, even to any skeptics reading this.

  • First of all, a nurture campaign is not exclusively email, though that is usually the main component for reasons that will become clear.
  • Second, because I crave structure, I’m going to use my favorite template as I walk through the process. (Courtesy of Hubspot, but the process will work very much the same way for other systems.)

An Example Lead Nurture Campaign

Campaign Goal

For this example lead nurture campaign, the goal is to take a set of 100 people who have downloaded one piece of content. (Let’s call them people who are aware that they may have a problem to solve.) It ends with five of them signed up for a free trial within a one-month period.

(Developing the content is not going to be covered in this blog post, but you can see my overall post on Content Marketing and Content Mapping for specific campaigns and more thoughts on these.)


Within this example campaign, there are three workflows, each with its own goal. In addition, it has starting criteria i.e., people had to have done something to get onto the list that you are nurturing.

  • Workflow #1: People who have downloaded a certain piece of content
    To further engage with this group, we can set up a workflow that will do an action. The first step in most workflows is usually to send an email offering something similar to the one they already showed interest in. The thing offered can be downloadable content, an invite to a webinar, or a pointer to a relevant article. These items are brainstormed as you set up your workflow.Based on their reaction (or lack of), you then take a predefined action. It can be a thank you, a link to a download, another offer of content, or… and here’s the fun part, being added to another workflow.
  • Workflow #2: A step forward in the type of engagement you’re having
    Instead of sending them more general information, you can dive into sending them more specific information about the value you have to offer. Now, you also have to recognize that not everyone in the workflow is ready to move forward, so the other option is to move people in a workflow that holds off for now, but can be engaged with later. A typical workflow will define a track for those in the initial/middle/later stages of the customer journey.
  • Workflow #3: People take action
    The last workflow typically ends when the people either sign up for a demo, trial, or purchase. Then you evaluate your learnings and plan the next campaign.

Why is this an effective tactic? A few reasons.

  • Content marketing brings out the best in a company. Being able to talk about your value and your customer’s needs makes connections possible.
  • Lead nurturing helps you to be systematic with putting your value proposition to people who should be receptive to what you have to offer.
  • Marketing automation lets you set up the logic ahead of time, then let it play out. It’s scalable and trackable.


Things get buzzy for a reason. ABM works because it recognizes that most B2B purchases are made by a team of individuals. Lead nurturing works because it recognizes that people to learn the right thing, at the right time to feel empowered to make a change, and purchase a new service or product.

Imagine how effective you can be if you use both tactics at once! (Stay tuned for that case study at the end of Q1!)

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About Suzy DeLine

Suzy DeLine is a digital marketing consultant specializing in both inbound and content marketing. She is a huge marketing geek and gets very excited when she sees things being done well, or innovative stuff being tried out. (She also loves beagles.) She hails from a Wisconsin dairy farm by way of Northwestern University (go Wildcats).

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