The B2B Marketer’s Guide to Creating High-Performing Email Nurture Campaigns (With Examples!)

Written by Ash Hoffman

Think about the last time you took advantage of a free offer from some company you were interested in.

You download it and go on about your day. Within just a few minutes, you receive an email with a link to your free download. Then, a few days later, you get another email, offering another piece of helpful content that gets you one step toward solving your problem.

Flash forward a few weeks and now you’re on the phone with their sales rep, getting the pricing for a product you’ve been eyeing for a while now. How did you get there? 

This is what’s known as an email nurture campaign. It’s a set of emails — usually automated — that get delivered to someone’s inbox after they’ve taken action on your website (i.e. downloading a free piece of content).

Nurture campaigns have gotten a bad rap over the last couple of years. That’s mostly because a lot of companies are doing them wrong. 

You know that annoying spam that keeps piling up in the special folder for it? Yep, that’s a prime example of an email nurture campaign gone wrong.

So...What is a High-Performing Email Campaign?

As we look back on some of our highest performing drip campaigns in 2019, here are some of the results we saw:

  • 47.7% open rate, 35.9% click-through rate — B2B client in marketing
  • 30.6% open rate, 26.6% click-through rate — B2B client in marketing
  • 39.1% open rate, 42% click-through rate — B2B client in tech

High-Performing-Email-Nurture-Campaigns-Results

Now let’s compare those against what other people in similar industries are seeing:

And finally, as we look at the industry benchmarks for B2B, we see that open rates are around 25.2% and click-through rates are between 2.5-2.6%. 

So those are the numbers. But what do they actually mean? And how on earth do you get there?

Email has changed a lot over the years. It’s a little like scrunchies — something that was cool at one point, then extremely uncool, and now beginning to be cool again (even if it takes some convincing). 

Put simply, a high performing B2B email nurture campaign is highly targeted, has an end-goal in mind, and provides value over simply selling.

Before we jump into specific examples, let’s break that down a little bit more.

A) Highly Targeted

"The biggest missed opportunity in marketing is putting a ton of effort into getting attention from people who have no interest instead of mobilizing people who already show interest."

— David Meerman Scott

If you’ve ever been a single person in their twenties not really thinking about having children anytime soon who’s been served an ad for diapers, you know exactly what an untargeted marketing approach looks like.

If you want people to listen, you’ve gotta speak to the right ones. 

Fortunately, email nurture campaigns make it easy because you should have at least some sort of idea of what kind of content they’re interested in. For example, someone who downloads an eBook on AI is most likely interested in AI as a topic. 

We could write an entire article on highly targeted email strategies, but for now, we’ll keep it simple. Think about who you’re sending the email to, and write it for them. Segment your lists as much as possible and personalize the content based on what you know.

B) Have an End-Goal in Mind

Have you ever opened an email with 5,023 different links and not known exactly what you were supposed to do next?

Having an end-goal in mind isn’t only effective for tracking and measuring against that objective, but it also generally provides for a much easier user experience. With one goal, you just need one call-to-action (or CTA).

Pro Tip: Can’t help but add that 2nd CTA in there? No worries. Make the primary ask first and bold (e.g. “Contact our team”). If your recipient isn’t ready to act on that, you can add a second, smaller, more inconspicuous CTA to a smaller ask (e.g. “Get this eBook you might like”). 

C) Provide Value Over Selling

...But isn’t the goal to nurture them to a sale?

Yes, but they’re not going to get there overnight, especially if your product costs hundreds of thousands — or even millions — of dollars. That’s like asking someone to marry you, like, the day after meeting them. I mean, more power to you, but you’re probably not going to get a yes…

So no matter how long your email nurture campaign is, make sure you provide real, tangible value before making your sales pitch. Trust me, your (future) clients will thank you.

Alright, so now we know some of the components that go into an awesome email campaign. So let’s take a look at some examples. 

Email 1: Thank You/Content Delivery

In most cases, a nurture campaign happens after someone takes action on your site. For many of our clients, that means downloading a piece of content or gaining access to a template of some sort. 

Within just a few minutes of submitting that form, you’ll want to thank them and provide a link to easily access that content at any point in time. 

High-Performing-Email-Nurture-Campaigns-Example1

Don’t go over the top here. Instead, just focus on that one goal: getting them what they asked for. 

P.S. Did you know adding “P.S.” is really effective in marketing emails? Here’s why! 

Email 2: Add More Value with Additional Content

Remember how we talked about being super targeted earlier? Well, here’s where that really comes into play.

Again, at this point, you should have at least a basic understanding of the kind of content your new friend is interested in. So this is another chance to dive a little deeper, or maybe even suggest something similar.

High-Performing-Email-Nurture-Campaigns-Example2

In this example, a related piece of content is being suggested based on their actions. However, if you don’t have another piece or if you want to try a different tactic, you can also provide more information by diving deeper into the original topic. 

Whichever you decide, the key here is to continue to focus on providing value. Remember, you’re still courting your reader! 

Note: In the examples pictured, “Friend” is just a placeholder, this is typically a personalization token set to their first name.

Email 3: Link Your Product to the Topic

Depending on how long your sales cycle is or how in-depth your topic is, you may want to continue diving deeper and providing value through additional content over more emails. 

However, for the sake of example, we’re going to jump straight into the transition period — the moment you go from strictly value to a little bit of value, a little bit of sales.

High-Performing-Email-Nurture-Campaigns-Example3

At this point, you still want to give them something before asking for anything. Provide guidance or give them something new and unexpected. Whatever you can do to help solve their challenges.

You know the best way to solve their challenge is to work with you. So make that known, and link their concern to your solution. And start asking for a call. Now’s the time to do it — before they get bored.

Email 4: Hard Ask: Make The Close

We’re not the sales team, but we’re here to make sure they’re getting highly qualified leads. That’s why, at the end of the nurture campaign, it’s time to go all-in with the sales pitch. 

High-Performing-Email-Nurture-Campaigns-Example4

Tell them why your business is the best. Then make sure the only CTA on the page is to book a call with your sales team. 

By the time you’re done with this, your lead should be jumping at the chance to give you a call. And if they’re not, then it’s time to optimize, set up a follow-up nurture campaign, and try all over again. 

We know this is a lot of work — but as you can see in the results above, it works.

When you’re ready to take your nurture campaigns to the next level, let's talk. We’ll take this approach and customize it for your own needs. You’ll be getting calls booked in no time.

Written by Ash Hoffman on 02.19.2020
Category Inbound Marketing  

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