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Automation is one of the most powerful tools for accelerating marketing and sales efforts. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most powerful ways marketers can trip over themselves, annoy people, create embarrassment and damage brand value when misused.

If you’re in charge of using marketing automation for lead nurturing purposes, there are major benefits and challenges to be aware of. On one hand, you have the technology to stay on top of a high number of prospects and to deliver helpful, personal messages tied to meaningful actions and intent. On the other hand, you’re relying on automated emails, which, when not carefully managed, are prone to delivering stale content, errors and tone-deaf messaging. 

Rather than taking a set-it-and-forget-it approach, lead nurturing best practices dictate that you should regularly analyze the performance of all active workflows. If a workflow isn’t converting, it’s not working. Isolate your underperforming nurture workflows and consider the following questions to guide your troubleshooting efforts. 

What can you learn from analytics?

Your analytics is a good place to start troubleshooting. Use your data to:

  • Learn whether your audience is ignoring your communications altogether, reading but not engaging, or engaging but not converting. For example, if nobody’s opening the email, then whatever you’re saying in your subject line isn’t aligned with their interests. If they’re reading the emails and clicking through to a landing page but not taking the next step, it’s time to work on that landing page and the corresponding call to action.
  • Pinpoint if there are any patterns in where people stop opening emails, unsubscribe or (oof) mark you as spam. Maybe that second email is really rubbing your readers the wrong way and needs the most attention.
  • Determine if there are days/times that perform better and worse than others. Look at past performances of your most successful emails and see if they share any commonalities, like sent in the morning, afternoon or on Tuesdays. This can provide valuable insights into when your readers are most likely to respond to you.

Does the workflow feel like an automated workflow?

Test your emails on multiple devices and review them carefully. Do they look like they’re coming from a real person or an annoying marketing robot? If you’re not sure, here are some things annoying marketing robots tend to do more than real people:

  • Send emails in the middle of the night
  • Use an inconsistent font, all caps and/or confusing formatting when using your first name and other personalized content. (“Hi CHARLIE !”)
  • Send you emails that overlap with similar emails sent by real people from the same company

Are the emails personalized, or just “personalized”?

There’s a lot more to personalization than using a person’s first name — and this is an especially important consideration when it comes to nurturing workflows. 

A great nurturing email workflow demonstrates to your prospects that you understand who they are and what their needs are, and it communicates how you can help them with these needs, what value you can offer them and why they should trust you. For more on how to improve your nurturing through better personalization, check out our post on how to personalize marketing. 

Did you anticipate and address potential objections?

Think about the sales conversations you (or your sales team) have had with prospects in the past: what are the common objections prospects raise in the sales process?

If someone is reading your nurturing emails and not responding or taking any action, it stands to reason that they may have these same objections. Rather than hide from them, address these objections head on. Give the reader an easy way, such as clickable buttons, to let you know if they have these concerns. 

For example, if you haven’t responded to my initial two follow-ups, I might include a third that says something along the lines of: “Since you haven’t taken advantage of my free consultation, I’m guessing it’s because of one of these reasons.” Then I’d provide a few options they can choose to click to let me know where they stand.

Now, I have some clear next steps: either explain to you how I can overcome the objection, reach out to chat, or if you’re just not a good fit, I can bid you good day and move on to leads who are better qualified.

Did you make it easy to talk to a human?

Once a lead becomes interested in your offering, they may want an easy way to speak to a real human being and ask questions. Yes, we’re in the age of AI and chat bots — and those can be great tools — but sometimes, people like being able to talk to other people about stuff.

If you can, set up your nurturing workflow to be sent from the right person who can actually answer their questions so that if they click reply, they won’t have to be re-routed to someone else.

Did you make giving feedback as easy as possible?

If your workflow consists of a series of “Hi (Name), just following up to see if it makes sense to schedule a call?” emails, the answer here is no. The people in your funnel are in different stages of the decision-making process and have different preferences for communication – not all of them are sitting around waiting for an invitation to jump on the phone for a sales conversation. Consider what potential next steps they could conceivably want to take, and make it easy for them to take those steps. 

For starters, you can make scheduling a call or consultation easier for them by integrating a meeting scheduler such as Calendly or HubSpot Meetings into your emails. And for those who have objections or don’t want to be contacted by you anymore, give them easy buttons like the ones in the example above to let you know. 

Did you explain what your company does?

Identifying what your company does seems like an obvious thing to miss, but it can slip through the cracks.

Consider this hypothetical: through an online search, I find a blog post of yours that links to an e-book, which I download. I get an automated email thanking me for downloading the email and providing some additional resources and suggested reading. Then I get another email asking if I have any questions on the e-book topic and proposing that I get in touch for a free consultation. 

It’s a logical enough flow, except for one problem: I never looked at any other pages on your site aside from the blog post and landing page — which means that if I had never heard of you before seeing that blog, I didn’t know what your company does before getting your emails, and I still don’t know after. Also, I’m lazy, which means I’m not going to take the initiative to figure that out on my own. 

While it’s good practice to be helpful and not just pitch to your prospects, you miss the opportunity to convert if you never communicate what it is that you do. Whether it’s a quick mention of how your experience as a (fill in the blank) informed a piece of content they downloaded, or a short, descriptive link in the signature of the email, keep your business description brief so that you’re not being overly sales-y or annoying people who already know what you offer. 

Did you give up too soon?

Depending on your market, your prospects may need some time to do some research and consult with their team before they’re ready to talk to a salesperson. Get feedback from your sales team to better understand if this is the case with your audience and what factors might shorten or lengthen the sales cycle.

If it’s a potentially long decision-making process, what content or resources might you provide to make them feel ready to talk to sales? For example, perhaps providing a relevant case study or a product comparison would make the decision-making process easier. 

If it’s just a matter of needing more time, consider extending the duration of the workflow or rethinking the cadence of the emails to account for this — just don’t blast them with a million emails over a long period of time. 

Have you updated the content recently?

If you’re dealing with a workflow that once performed but has degraded over time, it’s probably gotten stale. Remember that the needs and interests of your audience can and likely will evolve over time, and whether it’s due to changes in the market, competitor tactics or something else, a once-helpful approach can start to look outdated after a while. Take a look with fresh eyes, consider if the topics are still current and relevant, and whether the voice and messaging still align with your business and market.

As with all tactics, your lead nurturing workflows are works in progress. Allocate time to test, update, iterate and analyze your results so that you can continue to improve this tactic over time.