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Some prospects will be interested in using your product immediately. Many others will not be convinced so quickly, even if you offer a free trial. According to Chet Holmes International, 3% of potential buyers are ready to buy now, 6-7% are open to it, and the rest of the market isn’t ready quite yet. Effectively nurturing emails can help you engage more people and convert them to users and customers over time.
There are five principles to keep in mind when designing a nurturing email campaign for your product.
• Establish Authority. Demonstrating that you are an authority with expertise in your problem or industry plays a crucial role in nurturing email campaigns. For example, you can use your emails to introduce subscribers to your campaigns. Start by looking at your existing content marketing assets. You might have multiple podcasts to promote like Salesforce (e.g., The Marketing Cloudcast, the Salesforce Admin Podcast, and the Salesforce Developer Podcast). Alternatively, you could have a blog filled with actionable advice like Gong’s blog (e.g., How to close more 6-figure deals, according to data).
There are a few ways you can establish authority in your email. First, share social proof like customer success stories and industry coverage (e.g., recognition by the analyst community like Gartner). Second, you can establish authority by borrowing it (e.g., interview industry experts on your blog or podcast). Third, you can share best practices for your industry.
In your nurture emails, your efforts to establish authority should always strike a balance between your goals and the subscriber’s needs. Excessive self-promotion in nurture emails is a turn-off for most people. Therefore, always ask yourself, “how does this help the subscriber even if they don’t buy today?” before sending a nurture email.
• Build Trust. Building trust in any relationship takes time and multiple interactions. Unfortunately, large well-established technology companies have an advantage in the trust industry. Almost everybody in the tech industry knows Oracle, Microsoft, HubSpot, and SAP. Fortunately, you can build up trust over time through your email.
There are a few ways you can inspire trust in your nurture emails. Start by earning permission to send emails using a double opt-in process (i.e., getting users to confirm that they want to receive emails from you). Next, use an actual email address as the sender instead of generic email addresses like “sender” or its villainous cousin “noreply.” Finally, you can build trust by setting expectations and following through on them. Subscribers may get frustrated and leave if you promise to send emails every week and start sending daily emails.
• Educate Your User. You created a product to solve a specific problem and help customers to solve it. Don’t be shy about talking about that problem and explaining how your product solves the problem. There are several ways to educate your users while keeping them interested.
Talk about the problem you solve from different angles. Your sales automation product might solve one problem for sales professionals (i.e., reduce time preparing proposals) but solve a different problem for managers (i.e., more accurate forecasts). Whenever possible, discuss the problem you solve in vivid detail. Use numbers, stories, and real people in talking about the problem. Interviewing customers is one of the best ways to find out how they see the problem you solve.
Your approach to solving the problem can also take different forms. You can address the problem from a macro perspective (i.e., save 1000 hours per week on invoice processing) and a micro approach (i.e., eliminate 99% of invoice processing errors in SAP). Your emails should also include links to other resources like webinars, demos, and customer stories that discuss the solution further.
In some situations, you will need to spend more problem on discussing the problem. For example, imagine it is the year 2000, and you are running marketing at Salesforce. At that time, the company was one of the first to pioneer cloud software for the enterprise in contrast to on-premise software. The company first had to discuss why the on-premise software approach was a problem. On-premise business software had been the status quo for a long time, so there was an uphill battle.
• Stay top of mind. Email nurture campaigns give you the opportunity to follow up with prospects at scale. Your nurture emails can carry part of the burden rather than asking your sales professionals to follow up manually with every lead.
Staying top of mind is essential because circumstances change in businesses throughout the year. For example, businesses that use a calendar year for financial planning might be more flexible with new spending proposals in the fall before new budgets are agreed upon. Regularly sending valuable emails to your prospects means luck is more likely to work in your favor.
To stay top of mind, consistency in your email nurture sequences is critically essential. As a guideline, it is best to choose either weekly or monthly emails. Once you start sending nurture emails less frequently than monthly, prospects are more likely to forget your company exists.
• Turn cold leads into warm
leads. You can use your nurture emails to make a direct sales
pitch to your subscribers from time to time. The specific approach you
take depends on your business. In a smaller company, your objective
might be to sign up people for your free trial.
For an enterprise company, your next step will be to start a sales conversation. In this case, your emails might ask people to reply to the email. Alternatively, you can ask subscribers to click a link to sign up for a webinar or book a call.
• Convert churned customers into reactivated customers. It might sound like a long shot, but it can win back customers through email nurturing. Invite former customers to sign up for your email newsletter so that you can continue to provide value to them. By showing up consistently in the prospect’s inbox, you may get another chance to win the customer back.
By the way, your nurture emails should also include product news from time to time. In some cases, customers cancel their accounts because you lack features like a mission-critical integration with Microsoft Teams. Once you announce that new feature or capability in your emails, former customers might be willing to give you another chance.
What if you have a list of former customers who are not on your email list? All hope is not lost. It is still possible to follow up through email, but you have to be more creative. Instead of staying in touch with former customers through your newsletter, follow up manually. Make a list of your most valuable former customers and encourage the sales team to manually follow up with their contacts. They can leverage content from your email list and website to add value to the email list. This type of follow-up also requires common sense. If a customer angrily canceled their subscription yesterday, avoid following up with them immediately. Instead, give them time to cool off and see if you can take action on their concern when you follow up with them.
To inspire your email nurturing process, take a look at these case studies. Take inspiration from what they are doing right and where they could make improvements.
An email newsletter is one of the most commonly used types of a .,nurture email. It is a way to introduce yourself and highlight some of your best content. To identify your best content, check your website analytics to see which content gets the most views.
Email Credit: Mixpanel
Analysis of Mixpanel’s Newsletter Sign Up Email
Mixpanel’s newsletter shows how to make a strong impression by leading with valuable content.
• Balancing Value Vs Pitch. The Mixpanel email showcases four pieces of content and only one of them is directly about the company. However, the email showcases an exciting approach to creating valuable content. You can interview employees to create content. In Mixpanel’s case, they interviewed Mixpanel’s VP of Product and Design, Neil Rahilly, for an article on goal setting techniques: 6 goal-setting techniques from Mixpanel’s VP of Product and Design.
• Graphic Design and Layout. The Mixpanel newsletter email is quite long. However, the two-column layout makes life easier for the subscriber to navigate the content.
• Set Subscriber Expectations. At the bottom of the email, we learn that the newsletter is "usually sent every other week on Tuesdays." That wording tells subscribers what to expect while still preserving some flexibility for Mixpanel.
• Move The Email From The Promotions Tab. At the top of the email, subscribers are encouraged to drag the email from the Promotions tab to the Primary tab. This step is important because users are more likely to open emails in the primary tab. If you are seeing low engagement in your emails, consider following Mixpanel’s lead. If you are unfamiliar with the promotions tab and its impact on email, check out Google's explanation of Gmail's tabbed inbox.
There are some ways that Mixpanel can improve their email further.
• Experiment With A Shorter Format. The body of the email has no less than five calls to action! That might be a bit overwhelming for busy users. It would be worth testing a short version of the email highlighting two pieces of content rather than the current four.
• Add Personalization. The email has no personalization, so adding a first name greeting would be an easy win.
In a nurture email, you are providing valuable information to your prospects. By demonstrating expertise, your prospects will see you as an authority. If they make progress by using your free content, they may be open to hearing a pitch for your product.
Email Credit: Unbounce
Analysis of Unbounce’s Nurture Email
Unbounce’s email shows that you can build a single email around one piece of content.
• Focus On The Problem. Unbounce helps marketers get more leads. Paying for pay per click (PPC) campaigns can get very expensive. Therefore, marketers are open to hearing tips to get more bang for their advertising buck.
Unbounce can make their email newsletter more effective in a few ways.
• Sell The Click! The email includes a short blurb about what that reader will learn. The Unbounce guide - How To Optimize Your Landing Page For Better PPC - is excellent! However, the email could be better. For example: “Find out the PPC headline Shopify uses in their ads to get more clicks” is a lot more specific and leverages a well-known company.
• Add Personalization And A Preamble. The email has no salutation (i.e., “Dear Dan”) or introduction of any kind. Adding a short introduction of a few sentences would help this email feel a bit more personal.
Email Credit: Keap
Analysis of Keap’s Nurture Email
Keap’s nurture email takes a relatively minimal approach with one primary image.
• Leveraging Listicle Content. Keap does well in this email by sharing listicle-style content like: The 7 sales pipeline stages that every small business should use.
• Light Call To Action. The Keap email invites subscribers to see a demo video. We don’t always see a direct pitch like this in a nurture email. It works for Keap because they start by offering valuable content.
Unbounce can make their email newsletter more effective in a few ways.
• Make A Promise For The Demo. The benefit of watching the Keap demo is vague. The email states, "see how Keap helps you get organized, follow up with leads and clients consistently and automate your sales & marketing." It might be more effective to quantify the demo. For example, mention how long the demo video is if it is less than five minutes long. If the demo video is longer, make a more specific promise (e.g., save 4 hours a week in your sales follow-up).
• Streamline The Social Icons. Every button and link you add to an email needs to earn its place in the message. In Keap’s email, there are links to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. That’s a little much to include here. Consider highlighting one social network per email so that subscriber attention isn’t spread too thin.
Winning back a former customer to use your product is worth trying from time to time. For example, think about advertising-related products. Many companies cut their advertising spending in 2020 due to COVID-19 uncertainty, which probably impacted some companies. In that situation, the customer ended their account for reasons unrelated to the quality of the product. They are a good candidate for reactivation.
However, you don’t have to wait for weeks or months to pass before you attempt to send a reactivation email. Some companies make the pitch to bring back customers as they leave.
Email Credit: LinkedIn
Analysis of LinkedIn Reactivation Email
LinkedIn’s email is attempting to achieve two goals at the same time - cancellation notification and reactivation.
• Positioning The Reactivation Offer. The LinkedIn email starts by accomplishing its primary objective: informing the user that their account has been canceled. After that objective has been reached, the company offers a pitch.
• Focused Call To Action. The LinkedIn email includes one clear call to action button: upgrade account. There’s no confusion about what you should be doing next.
There are some ways to make the email more effective.
• Offer A Special Deal. The customer might have canceled their account because money is tight. LinkedIn could have addressed this worry directly by offering a discount.
Announcing a new feature or integration capability is another good reason to get in touch with your users. New features can boost retention when they help current customers get work done faster. In addition, a single new feature can be the key to persuading a prospect to start using your product finally.
There is a danger involved in feature and integration style announcement emails. Such announcements tend to showcase the company. If these emails are not carefully crafted, they can come across as bragging or irrelevant for customers. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to mitigate this risk. Before hitting send, ask yourself a simple question: why does this news matter for customers? After thinking about that question for a few minutes, you will probably find an opportunity to optimize your message.
Email Credit: Buffer
Analysis of Buffer’s Integration Announcement Email l
Buffer’s announcement email is one of the best user-centric announcement emails we’ve seen.
• Benefits For The User. The email gives three reasons why the new integration is beneficial for Buffer users. Bonus points for using emojis to add a bit of fun to the email.
• Custom Image. The email starts with an image illustrating a user using both Canva and Buffer together. The bottom of the email also includes a product screenshot to help the user imagine using the product.
While Buffer’s announcement email is good, there are some opportunities to enhance it further.
• Connect The Dots Further. The three bullets in the email start the conversation about benefits for the customer. However, these could all go further. For example, the second bullet talks about automatically sizing images based on a social channel. Why does that matter? The answer has to do with the fact that different social media platforms have different image size preferences. Posting the exact same image, without adjustment, across all social channels could make your brand look strange because the image will not look at its best without adjustments.
• Clarify Access and Pricing. Some companies restrict access to integrations based on the customer’s plan. It is unclear from the email if all Buffer customers can use the Canva integration. It is also unclear if there are additional charges. Addressing these points could help to increase engagement.
If your marketing strategy is working effectively, new prospects will keep hearing about your company day in and day out. However, only a small fraction of those people will be ready and willing to become paying customers right away. After all, corporate customers may have to wait for a new fiscal quarter or year to start before they can sign up for a new product. Regularly sending newsletters and other valuable content to your prospects keeps them engaged. Over time, nurturing emails helps prospects to see you as a trusted authority. Why do you think companies like Salesforce, IBM, and Oracle spend so many resources on content marketing? These nurturing activities help them to stay front and center with customers.
There are a few simple models to use when creating effective email nurture campaigns. The Mixpanel newsletter introduces the user to a well of content on the company's website. In addition, the email sets expectations for how often the email will come out (i.e., weekly). If you are already publishing valuable content on your blog and social media, get more mileage from that content by promoting it to your email list.
However, don't assume that nurture emails must only contain free valuable information. The Keap nurture email shows that you can include content and a direct pitch (i.e., click here to see a demo). As a result of thumb, it is best to share valuable content that builds trust and authority about 75% of the time. The rest of the time? Feel free to include a call to action like asking users to sign up for a free trial account. Since you are building up user trust over time by sharing helpful information, more people will likely give you a chance when you have something to sell in your nurture emails.
I am the founder and CEO of Messaged, the email marketing automation platform built for SaaS companies.