Nurturing vs Nagging: Finding the lead nurturing sweet spot [QUIZ]

Is your email marketing strategy nurturing or nagging people? Using lead nurturing best practices you can hit the sweet spot every time ensuring you’re nurturing prospects down the funnel... not chasing them away.

Is your email marketing strategy nurturing or nagging people? Using lead nurturing best practices you can hit the sweet spot every time ensuring you’re nurturing prospects down the funnel... not chasing them away.

Guiding leads down the path to purchase takes patience and a well thought out strategy. Lead nurturing is the term used to describe taking leads on a journey that allows them to explore your products, answers their questions and stay engaged even if they are not yet ready to buy your product. Automated email marketing is a great tool that can be used to slowly drip feed useful content to your prospects, while keeping them engaged with your brand until they are ready to start doing research or have a conversation with a sales person. Done correctly, this useful nurturing tactic can improve conversion rates and prevent contacts from slipping away, never to be seen again.

But there’s a fine line between nurturing people through useful, relevant content and nagging them. Every marketer knows that dreaded feeling when you send out an email and people start unsubscribing, or worse… mark your emails as SPAM. Unfortunately, this is a reality as people can get annoyed by the clutter in their inbox.

Take a moment to think about how many emails you receive everyday… Now stop and think about how many of those you actually read. The average office worker receives a massive 121 emails per day.  With 269 billion emails being sent a day globally and an expected increase of 4.4% per annum, this means that by 2021, 316 billion emails will be sent each day!

With those numbers in mind, it’s unlikely prospects or customers will read emails that fade into the background.

Find out how lead nurturing fits in with your sales team and processes, download our Guide to Lead Nurturing and Sales.

Download Guide

So, how do you stand out?

It all starts with a well defined and effective lead nurturing strategy… and the root of a good lead nurturing strategy is of course a great inbound email.

As sales funnels lengthen, buyers become more independent, and attention spans shrink, the case for strategic, effective lead nurturing continues to grow. If your brand isn’t nurturing a buyer, your competitors probably are, and you will lose sales and market share to the more attentive voice. - Marketo

Let’s start with the important factors to consider when creating an email which will help your emails stand out:

  • Personalisation: Ensure your emails are personalised to the reader. This doesn't just mean we should throw in the odd personalisation token and consider the job complete. It’s about sending highly relevant emails to targeted groups. This helps boost open and click-through-rate (CTR).

  • Timely: When you send an email is nearly as important as what you are sending. Don’t get lost in the Friday afternoon shutdown or send mails in the middle of the night. Choose times when your buyer persona is likely to be engaged and can read your email. If you have a tool like HubSpot, you can track the success of your emails and analyse the data to determine the best time for your buyer personas. Seventh Sense is a tool that offers advanced sending personalisation by sending emails to each individual at a time that they are most likely to engage. This offers allows you to send out email at times that suit each person as an individual. 

  • Respect: Research shows that email subject lines that include the words "thank you" have the highest above-average engagement levels. Showing respect for the reader and their time earns their attention (increasing email opens), so it’s key to get to the point. Their time is valuable and they probably don’t care about the tuna sandwich you had for lunch.

  • Mobile first: Internationally, two-thirds of emails are read either on smartphones or tablets, and South Africans are no different. This means image heavy HTML emails might not be so easy to read and could take time to open (depending on the internet connection). So it’s vital to ensure you create mobile friendly emails and test them across devices. Keep in mind that this should apply to the pages you link to as well.

  • Subject line: Did you know? 33% of email recipients open emails based on subject line alone. So ask yourself... is your subject line at least capable of standing out among the clutter? If not, why bother?

So now you have some insight into how to create a great email but when you plan on nurturing prospects and sending them an entire series of emails, you run the risk of annoying and frustrating your prospects. Which is why you need a lead nurturing strategy.

This leads to the real question…

What makes a stellar lead nurturing strategy?

A great strategy takes all the aspects of lead nurturing into consideration, it looks at the whole picture from how many emails you should send, what delay you should include between each email, and what the core messaging of each email should be, to what format each email should follow and the trigger of your workflow emails. It also looks at who should, and just as important, who shouldn’t receive your emails.

1. Define your goals

Before you embark on lead nurturing, ask yourself what you want to achieve with your emails. This should drive the story you will be telling within your nurturing emails. Determine the goal of your nurturing campaign and understand the best way to get to this goal.

2. Relationship building

The ultimate goal of a lead nurturing strategy is to build a relationship with prospects. The idea is to build a rapport with them and become an advisor to them.

3. Data Driven

A great lead nurturing strategy is not just well thought out but it is driven by the customer insights and data that you have. This means that the strategy may change as you gather more data. Research shows that consumers are four times more likely to respond to an offer if it’s personalised vs. generic.

TIP - you can also use emails to gather data - consider adding a question with clickable answers to your emails to get instant feedback that is easy for customers to do. My favourite is this one from marketing automation leader, Hubspot:


4. Well segmented

A well segmented database means that you’re grouping contacts based on what they have shown interest in, their demographics, or behaviour. This allows you to target your messaging to these people and personalise your emails based on your prospects specific interests or needs. Segmenting your contacts will ensure that your messaging is relevant and helpful to prospects and will boost engagement.

5. Calls to action (CTA)

Every email you send should have one targeted call to action (CTA). This CTA should drive users to complete a desired action which would lead them towards completing the overall nurturing goal. Should the CTA of every email in a nurturing sequence have the same CTA? I don’t think so, this depends on the goal of the workflow and the story you are telling.


If you use marketing automation tools like Hubspot or MailChimp, be sure to use the data you have to customise both the nurturing journey and your email content to be more personalised for contacts. Personalisation is about so much more than using a standard first name token in an email or a subject line. Ask yourself what you know about your prospects and what you could include that would help tell your story.

7. Let format match function

Prospects may respond to different email formats. Consider testing out various email formats and styles and matching the content in your email with a suitable email format. A short note to thank a person for booking an email may be best suited as a plain text email while an e-newsletter is best suited to an image-rich HTML format.

8. Close the loop between marketing and sales

While lead nurturing can be used in many ways such as educating prospects, re-engaging with cold leads, boosting social media following, opening conversation or cleaning databases to name a few. Lead nurturing is often used to help prospects make more informed decisions and deliver leads that are ready to buy to the sales executive. This means that tight alignment between your marketing team and your sales team is crucial for closing deals. This can be done by communicating to the sales team what you are doing in your lead nurturing efforts and allowing them to provide their input into the strategy process. Ask the sales team what questions they get asked most frequently and answer those questions in your nurturing to help educate buyers and answer the questions they have been asking.

9. Measure and optimise

A lead nurturing strategy should never just be set-it-and-forget-it! Although many lead nurturing campaigns are sent out via marketing automation software, that doesn't mean they should remain the same forever. The best way to stay relevant and ensure that your campaigns keep meeting the needs of your prospects is to measure how people are engaging with your campaigns and then optimise your emails, cadence, CTAs, and format based on the data. This doesn't just apply to your current campaigns, use the data you have gathered in your past and current campaigns to build better campaigns in the future and leverage the insights and learnings to build more personalised and better optimised nurturing strategies.

How many emails is too many?

Now you have a plan in place but how do you determine how many emails to include in each workflow of your strategy? Remember, even the best emails can become a nag if the timing and amount of emails sent is wrong.

When considering how many emails to send, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of each email?
  2. Are you adding value to the reader in exchange for their time?
  3. Would you appreciate receiving all the emails you are sending?
  4. Have you varied the call to action, format, and content sufficiently?
  5. What is the story are you trying to tell?
  6. Where is the prospect in their buyers journey?
  7. Have you matched your strategy to your buyer persona and the stage of their buyer's journey?
  8. Are you communicating with the prospect on other channels at the same time as these emails?

Remember, a lead nurturing strategy can be ineffective if you are too conservative but it can also be frustrating to prospects if it is not strategic, data-driven, and well thought out. It’s all about finding the sweet spot for your  buyer personas. So, use your data well and consider the questions above before you hit send on your next lead nurturing campaign.

Before you can send emails to anyone you need to attract as many leads as possible. Download our Inbound Touchpoints eBook and find out how using multiple touchpoints helps attract more leads.

Download Inbound Touchpoints Guide



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