BlogFunnel optimizationHack the Sales Funnel with Lead Nurturing Emails

Hack the Sales Funnel with Lead Nurturing Emails

5 min read
Marketing Director @Ongage

If you closed escrow on a home with a vineyard, you wouldn’t expect wine to magically appear in six months.

For great wine, you must harvest the grapes, wash them, crush them, ferment them, age them, and then wait until just the right moment to bottle them. Likewise, your email audience requires specific, tailored content by way of lead nurturing emails in each stage of the sales funnel.

Read on to learn how to send the perfect lead nurturing email marketing campaigns for each stage of the buyer’s journey.

When to send Lead Nurturing Emails?

1. Your campaigns have come up with stale leads

No email marketer enjoys this stat, but if your leads do not engage with your emails or you fail to email them, they become stale after 3 to 6 months of no contact. Read on to see how to use email marketing campaigns to keep users engaged and progressing down the funnel until they are ripe for conversion.

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2. You want to run successful email marketing campaigns

Even if your open rate is above a 90 percent, your click rates are through the roof, celebrating can be preemptive pats on your proverbial back unless you know how to leverage the audience’s attention into conversions.

Email is still the “king of content” (so long as it provides relevant information to your audience) so creating lead nurturing email campaigns in a natural way to move the needle forward.

Read on for four important hacks that will drive conversions:

Hack # 1 – Never Forget the Sales Funnel in your Segmentations

We are going back to the beginning. Although keeping the sales funnel in the back of your mind seems like old-hat, one accidental email miscategorization can be disastrous. Consider the following situation:

Maria, age 35, goes to your client’s tech gadget website for the first time. She looks around, puts a few items in her cart, then gets distracted and abandons her purchase. In the meantime, your algorithm incorrectly categorized her as a repeat customer, sent an email suggesting items based on her recent purchase. Maria will be confused at best and at worst reach out to the customer service department with a complaint as her first point of contact with the company.

Avoid faux pas by paying close attention to the stages of the sales funnel and segmenting your audience based on the appropriate stage they are in.

Hack # 2: Segment your MQLs

In any email marketing campaign you will get different results from different leads from the same content. Savvy email marketers go beyond click rates and download rates and dig into the MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) who did the clicking. Segmenting your leads is the crucial first step in creating sophisticated tactics and strategies. MQL email segmentation turns leads into closed deals.

Use KPIs to separate your audience by open rates, clicks, and downloads

Inbound Marketing guru Beth Abbot advises to pay attention to subtle signs that a certain segment wants to hear more:

Let’s say you’re setting up a nurture campaign for a group of MQLs that had been marked as “Long Term Follow Up” and you had a separate campaign set up for MQLs who had downloaded 3 pieces of content in the last 2 weeks. You can be more aggressive in outreach with that second group because they’ve proven to be more engaged with content.

Beth Abbot, Love Your Leads (New Breed Blog)

In this sample we’ve got two specific segments of the leads stage of the funnel that have been intelligently separated based on content downloads.

Hack #3: Change Your Tune

Just as you wouldn’t re-wash grapes after you have crushed them, you have to match the tone of your content to the stage of the sales funnel your audience is in.

Here are some killer examples of email tone and content shift based on segmentation:


The tone of this email should be fun, light, and very engaging. You’re just getting started and need to build trust over time.

For your retail clients, their visitors are used to being bombarded with offers and discounts. Try something a little different: get visitors to picture themselves already enjoying the product, like this great introductory email from TopShop (via Campaign Monitor’s blog).


Take leads a little further down the road to buying by giving them a little something for free: education. Leads might not know they need your product – educate them – they might have a solution that they struggle with but didn’t know your solution exists. This example from Framebridge (via Hubspot’s blog) is excellent:


According to Hubspot’s blog, this is the point wherein the baton passes from the marketing team to the sales team. An MQL is:

  • A good fit for the product or service (financial decision maker who can benefit from the features of the product or service)
  • Ready to talk to a sales person (i.e. requesting pricing information or a demo)

This is a critical handoff point requiring a well-tailored email, like this one from DuoLingo (via Hubspot’s blog) with multiple Calls-to-Action based on the leads’ interest:

Sales Accepted Leads

These are sales leads that have been followed up on by your team or are ready for follow up. These are going to be very specific and personalized, but here are some guidelines to use:

  • Ask for a commitment

This stage of the sales process requires a bit of gumption. Your sales team’s follow up email needs to go forth boldly and ask for a time to get in touch, or better yet use a scheduling app like Calendly where the lead can pick a convenient time that works for both parties.

  • Remind them why they want you

Even though the SQL has expressed keen interest in the product or service, they haven’t bought yet. Make sure to remind them of the benefits (convenience, time-savings, stress reduction) rather than touting features (50 GB of cloud storage, 15 layers of whatcha-ma-call-it, three support people at your beck-and-call).


At this point it’s up to the nuance of your client to delineate between lead and opportunity as the definition of a sales opportunity is “likely to buy.”


Keeping customers engaged is an important aspect of lead nurturing email campaigns. Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior so use customers’ preference for the brand to your email marketing advantage with savvy, direct targeted emails like ModCloths’ wishlist follow up (via Hubspot’s blog):

Hack #4 – Send the Right Content at the Right Time

Leads are not always ready to buy; stagger emails so you can be there when they are ready.

Tools like Ongage’s Campaign Management and Tracking and Advanced Analytics Module send lead nurturing emails. You can base timing on open and click times, found in the Contact Activity Report. A great email campaign management tool should include the following stress-relieving features:

  • Aggregated report that includes analysis per campaign, per segment, per geo (country), per OS/device
  • Careful attention to soft-bounces to aid in understanding reputation and engagement
  • Events to automate responses when someone opens or clicks
  • A variety of analytic dashboards for campaigns, events (triggered), a/b split campaigns and transactional campaigns
  • Automatic tracking of all opens, clicks, and post click conversions

No matter how meticulous you are, it is easy to lose track of important metrics and send emails to all the right people at the right time.

Using an email campaign management tool to coordinate incredible lead nurturing emails takes away the stress of keeping track of all the KPIs and ensures you don’t miss a person ready to buy.

Click here to learn more about Ongage’s email campaign management tools today!

Marketing Director @Ongage
Marketing Director @Ongage. Sharon is an expert in online marketing, specializing in acquisition and growth strategies. On her downtime, she loves spending time with her family and catching up on classic cult movies.

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