What’s the best way to nurture leads through an e-mail marketing campaign?

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Answer: The key to successful lead nurturing is to move away from the traditional mindset that one can generate demand from prospects and to realize that customers control the buying process and will tune out, screen out or toss out any marketing that isn’t relevant to their needs. Today, the marketer’s job is to synchronize marketing activities to the buyer’s process. This means moving from a “demand generation” mindset to one of “demand management” or “demand facilitation.”

The key to this is relevance, which we all know means sending the right message at the right time. Here are three key tactics b-to-b marketers can use to increase relevance:

1) Use segmentation to target messages to the right customers. It’s important that you segment not just based on demographics, such as job title and industry, but also on prospect behaviors, such as visiting specific pages on your Web site.

2) Use e-mail dialogs, also called “drip marketing” campaigns, to deliver the right message at the right time. Even simple automated programs can yield a fourfold improvement in the percent of marketing inquiries that eventually turn into sales opportunities. The key is to define and automate the process so you ensure that the right message is delivered to prospects based on where they are in their buying process.

3) Trigger the e-mails based on specific customer behaviors—for example, registering for a webinar or engaging in various activities on your site. By integrating this level of data into your e-mail targeting, you can obtain dramatically higher response rates. JupiterResearch reported in late 2006 that targeting e-mails based on Web click-stream data increased open rates by more than 50% and increased conversion rates by more than 350%. Similar research from Gartner Inc. found that event-triggered campaigns performed five times better than traditional batch campaigns.

Jon Miller is VP-marketing for Marketo (, a provider of marketing automation software.

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