Every Email is an Opportunity: Tips for Automated Nurture Campaigns

Every email marketing campaign is an opportunity to learn more about your audience. With every email sent, you have a chance to refine your messaging, hone your segments, and improve personalization for your audience. But what about new contacts?

New subscribers to your email list represent a bit of a blank slate. You likely won’t have any engagement data for them, but you can still use their interest to gather valuable information about their wants, needs, and expectations.

We’ll go over some of the best practices for designing and executing an automated email nurture campaign for new contacts, and how to maximize the benefits for both you and your growing audience.

What is a Nurture campaign?

A Nurture campaign is simply a planned journey for your new contact, taking them through an automated series of 3, 4, or even as many as 12 emails. Nurture campaigns are designed to build trust with your new contact, reassure them that they’ve made the right decision in signing up, and that you can solve their problem.

Anatomy of a Nurture

Not all of these emails are “selling” emails, as it’s best not to be too aggressive. Mix in a few general knowledge and valuable information emails, such as case studies or white papers. Informational emails will signal your customer that you know what’s happening in your industry and what keeps them up at night.

The Opt-In Form

When creating the form that your new contact will fill out to join your email list, only ask for necessary information. Forms are a perfect example of “less is more”: the fewer fields a contact must fill out, the more prospects will submit the form.

For instance, one study showed that when an 11-field form was replaced with a four-field form, completion rates jumped 120%. In another study, requiring a phone number cut the number of completed submissions by 39%. So, with that in mind, do you really need their phone number?

A little less data is better than no data at all.

Of course, feeding all of your contacts into one generic funnel is likely to end with the contact unsubscribing quickly. If your company provides a range of products and services, allowing your contact to express their interest in specific offerings will significantly impact personalization.

In other words, find out what you can about your contact upfront without getting too personal, with as few form fields as possible.

And absolutely do not buy a contact list and send out cold emails. Your email sender reputation will nosedive, and email service providers will redirect all your communications to the Junk folder.

What are the Goals of the Campaign?

What are the specific goals of your nurture campaign? Goals can vary greatly depending on the type of product or service your offering, the sales cycle, and the lead journey.

Nurture GoalsConsider not only your goals as a business, but also the goals of your leads.  What do your contacts want to learn?  What concerns do they have?  How can you build trust?  What value do they expect from your communications?  It's perfectly alright not to know the answers to these questions.  In fact, these are the kinds of questions that can guide your approach to optimization using message testing.

The Nurture Campaign Journey

For contacts entering your funnel for the first time, it’s best to use a Message Testing or Simple step. 

There are two reasons not to use a Send Time AI step for the Welcome email.

First is because these are new contacts, we won’t have any engagement data on which to build predictions.

The second reason not to use an STO step for the first email is customer expectation: if they’ve just subscribed to your email list, they’re expecting to receive the Welcome email pretty quickly. STO may take up to seven days to deliver the first email, which will send the wrong message to your new contact. First impressions matter.

Message Testing

For the first few steps of an automated nurture campaign, we recommend using a Message Testing step to learn about your new contacts. A Simple step will also work, but Message Testing is preferable because you can design experiments that reveal more about your contacts' goals.

Also, think about the number of contacts you anticipate will be flowing into your campaign. With a Message Testing step, more data is better. For example, if you have 150 contacts flowing in every day, the MT step will be able to determine a winner much more quickly than it could with 150 contacts a month.

From there, you can decide what your message test will be designed to uncover. For example, you may want to experiment with various topics related to the product or service that your contact expressed interest in, or you can try out different tones in the email to determine what motivates your contact to move along in the funnel.

As always, be bold in your message testing! Two emails in an A/B test is a good start, but try three or more and see what insights they produce. If an email truly doesn’t resonate, you’ll know pretty quickly, and that email will be automatically sidelined so only a bare minimum of contacts will ever see it.

And if an email performs unexpectedly well, it can uncover new segments for you to target. The risk is minimal, and the upsides can be huge.

Once you’ve found a winner, you can either let the Message Testing step run indefinitely since we only send the strongest emails. Or you can devise a new email test and see how they perform against one another.

On your Eloqua canvas, after you’ve configured your MT step, we recommend putting in a Wait step of at least three days, then an evaluation step (such as Opened? or Clicked?). This will allow a reasonable amount of time for your contact to engage (or not) and give you a solid basis from which to move forward.

After the evaluation step, you’ll still want to stick with either a Message Testing or Simple step for the first 3-4 emails in a sequence. We’re still learning what makes your contact tick and when they engage, so either of these will work better than STO.

Send Time AI

After you send 3-4 emails in your nurture sequence, we will have gathered some initial engagement data from your contacts that we can use for optimizing send time.

The rest of the emails in your nurture can be Send Time AI steps.  Send Time AI sends over the course of 7 days so that means the cadence of your nurture will switch to once per week, but contacts will receive your email at the time they are most likely to engage based on their previous activity.

The number of steps in the customer journey will depend on your industry and business goals. For example, some industries have much longer sales cycles, so it makes sense to have longer nurture campaigns. Others are much shorter, so fewer emails are necessary.

Your Eloqua canvas should start to look something like this:Eloqua-Nurture-Canvas

How it proceeds from there will vary by individual use case, but that's an overview of how to configure an automated Nurture campaign that balances the goals of the contact and the goals of the business.

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