August 16, 2011
Case Study

Lead Nurturing: Old names yield 37% of customers

SUMMARY: More than half of B2B sales cycles range from one to six months, and many marketers focus their lead nurturing during this period. However, not every lead is average. What about the leads that take longer to convert?

Learn how a B2B company with a short sales cycle launched an email series to nurture older leads. Leads over three months old now account for 37% of customers. And see why the marketers don't care if the emails drive direct conversions.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter


Infusionsoft's average sales cycle was less than 30 days long. The first two weeks were an important part of that cycle. The marketing software vendor sent automated emails to nurture leads during that time. Leads typically came from the company's target audience of small businesses.

But not every lead was average; some took months to convert. Infusionsoft knew that some older leads could become customers if marketed to more directly.

"We want to build that relationship, provide value, have them start viewing us as the experts in our industry, and just maintain that relationship, so that when the time is right for them, they look to us instead of looking to a competitor," says Tyler Garns, Director, Marketing, Infusionsoft.

Garns' team needed an email series to nurture older leads over the long-term. But with multiple email programs already running, the team was at risk of overwhelming the audience.


The team designed a biweekly email series to reach leads that had finished Infusionsoft's primary lead nurturing series without converting. The emails would teach the audience, illustrate the company's expertise, and keep leads ready to respond to the company's calls-to-action.

Here are the steps the team followed:

Step #1. Nurture the fresh leads first

Infusionsoft's leads are often generated through advertising campaigns for free reports, e-books and other content. Downloading the content requires filling out a form. Leads are then placed into the team's short-term email nurturing program.

The team has four series of nurturing emails. The topic of the series depends on the topic of the content downloaded. For example, a person who downloads a report on business strategy would receive an email series on that topic.

Each series includes three emails per week for two weeks. The goal of these emails (and for most of the team's email marketing) is to encourage people to sign up for an online demo of the company's software.

"Once someone attends a demo, then it stops all lead nurturing and puts them into our sales process, and [then] our sales reps work those leads," Garns says.

- Work on fresh leads first

Leads generated within the last 30 days were the most likely to convert for Infusionsoft, and therefore were a good place to start the company's work in email nurturing. Only after establishing this short-term program, and ensuring its success, did the team move on to target leads that had extended beyond the average sales cycle.

Step #2. Maintain an on-going email program

Once leads finish the initial nurturing series without converting, Infusionsoft sends two other types of emails to the audience:

- Email newsletter

This monthly email includes short columns from the company CEO, as well as information on industry events, book reviews, marketing advice and other content related to the company.

These emails also feature Infusionsoft's monthly webinars, which are key tools for showcasing the team's expertise and encouraging leads to schedule an online demo of the software.

- Webinar invitations

Infusionsoft hosts a new webinar each month. Because the educational sessions are key drivers of demo registrations, the team sends a dedicated email each month to announce them and encourage leads to attend.

Each invitation email includes:

o The term "webinar" in its subject line
o Personal salutation
o Description of the event
o One link and one button to register
o Large header image linked to the registration page

- Maintain a preference center

Preference centers help subscribers tailor a company's emails to their personal needs and tastes. Infusionsoft maintains its own preference center where the audience can opt out of certain types of emails, such as the webinar invitations. This is an important aspect of the program, as it helps the team prevent overwhelming its audience.

Step #3. Design long-term "tips" email series

Leads older than 30 days continue to receive the company's newsletter and webinar invitations. However, the team felt it needed another email series to nurture leads after the short-term series ended.

In response, the team launched a biweekly email series that features marketing tips and other practical information for 12 months. Leads enter this series immediately after finishing the short-term series. The emails include:

o Infusionsoft-branded header
o A short article in the email's body

The content of these emails is generalized. They are not as targeted as the team's short-term nurture emails, of which there are four different topics.

These emails also include a call to action to schedule a demo of the company's software or contact a team member. However, this is deemphasized by being placed at the end of the message.

The primary goal of these emails is not to generate direct conversions, Garns says. Instead, they maintain contact with the leads and showcase the company's expertise. This makes leads more likely to respond to the team's webinar invitations, which are more effective at generating product demos, Garns says.

- Option to opt-out

Infusionsoft takes steps beyond the legal guidelines in CAN-SPAM to maintain its sender reputation and its audience's respect, Garns says. Even though leads can opt-out of these emails at any time, the team also sends an email three months into this series which gives them an opportunity to opt-out. This helped ensure the company stayed within the audience's good graces.

- Have an exit plan

These emails have the appearance of an on-going newsletter, but they are actually scheduled in a 12-month automated series. If a lead has not scheduled a product demo after 12 months, the series ends and the person continues receiving Infusionsoft's newsletters and webinar invitations.

Step #4. Avoid overwhelming the audience

Automated email series need to be thoroughly planned. Launching them without considering the other emails in your program is a recipe for disaster.

"You can really overwhelm them quickly with too many emails, and then they don't see you as the expert. They see you as annoying and they don't want your information," Garns says.

Infusionsoft's team thoroughly outlined the schedules and scenarios surrounding its email marketing. It set conditions to ensure that recipients did not fall through loopholes that could overload their inboxes. Here are two of the conditions:

- Stop emailing sales-ready leads

Leads that scheduled an online product demo stop receiving the team's nurturing emails and are handed to the company's sales team.

- Start over for new downloads

Any leads in the long-term series that fill out a form to download more content are taken out of the long-term series and placed into one of the team's four short-term series.

"The webinars are the best conversion points for us, throughout the long-term series. But, the long-term series allows us, I believe, to be able to send out those webinar invitations and get good response," Garns says.

The team's average sales cycle is under 30 days, however, Infusionsoft now sees:

o 37% of customers come from leads generated over three months ago

o 20% of customers come from leads generated over a year ago

"Lead nurturing is actually producing a decent amount of business for us that we would not have gotten if we were not doing this and staying in contact with these people," Garns says.

For the future, Garns hopes to create different segments within the long-term nurturing program to focus on certain topics. This will move the program away from general content and toward more targeted messages.

Here are metrics for three of the Infusionsoft emails featured in the links below. The performance of these emails is roughly average, Garns says.

Long-Term Nurture Email
Open rate: 14.1%
CTR: 0.5%

Open rate: 11.4%
CTR: 2.2%

Webinar Invitation *
Open rate: 10.5%
CTR: 1.1%

*: This email was sent to Infusionsoft's entire database. The team often sends webinar invitations to targeted segments of its database and sees significantly better average metrics, Garns says. One example Garns shared included a 45% open rate and a 19% CTR.

Infusionsoft found success with a biweekly email series. If you prefer more regular email sends, be sure to keep up with all our latest email marketing case studies and how-to articles in the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing newsletter.

Useful links related to this article

1. Long-term email
2. Newsletter
3. Webinar invitations
4. Preference center
5. Opt-out email

MarketingSherpa B2B Summit 2011

B2B Marketing Infographic: How are B2B marketers optimizing their funnel?

Email Testing: More specific subject line improves open rate by more than 35%

Members Library -- Marketing Research Chart: Top tactics for developing effective B2B marketing content

Members Library - B2B How-To: 5 lead nurturing tactics to get from lead gen to sales-qualified


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