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What Is Lead Nurturing?

Written by:

Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

What Is Lead Nurturing?

What Is Lead Nurturing?

When consumers think about buying everyday items, such as food, apparel, or toothpaste, they usually expect an instantaneous sales transaction. Amazon, for example, for online customers, uses autofill features that enable checkout within a minute of selecting or choosing a product to purchase. 

However, when it comes to larger, higher-priced purchases, a sales transaction can be a more arduous process for consumers. As a potential buyer weighs the pros and cons of such products, it’s the job of a salesperson to guide them through the deliberation by using a process called lead nurturing. Employing this process can help to turn a deliberating consumer into a full-fledged customer.

If you own a business and have noticed that only a few leads are making it through your long sales funnel as a paying customer, a designated lead nurturing process could be exactly what you need to boost your conversion rates and sales figures. But what exactly is lead nurturing, and how exactly does it work? This guide will answer all those questions and more.

Key Takeaways

  • In lead nurturing, sales representatives continuously communicate and follow up with cold leads in order to gradually build their interest in a sale.

  • Lead nurturing improves a company’s conversion rates, profits, and brand reputation.

  • Four essential elements of a modern-day lead nurturing strategy include a lead scoring system, ample sales enablement material, multichannel communications, and sequential retargeting.

What is Lead Nurturing?

Lead nurturing is the process of cultivating relationships with inbound leads (potential customers) who aren’t yet ready to buy.

By anticipating and answering the lead’s needs and questions, sales representatives can build trust, brand awareness, and a steady rapport with the lead until they come to a purchase decision.

To help you remember what lead nurturing is, think of it like watering a planted seed every day until it sprouts and blossoms into a beautiful flower. You wouldn’t dump a gallon of water on the seed, ignore it for a month, and still expect it to grow, would you? But, in a season of drought, you might water the growing flower more than usual. The same is true for lead nurturing. Only through considered, consistent, and caring efforts can you nurture a lead into a sale.

Why is Lead Nurturing Important?

The prospective customer’s sales journey is usually called a sales “funnel” because the number of prospects diminishes the longer potential customers continue on the journey. While a hundred leads might go into the funnel, fewer than ten might make it to the end of the funnel, ending up as paying customers.

That’s because not every fresh lead is immediately ready to make a purchase. Although 60% of customers say “no” four times before saying “yes,” half of salespeople never make a single follow-up attempt, according to Invesp. This statistic leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to nurturing leads.

Lead nurturing means strategically offering objections to those initial “nos,” and following up with cold leads until they eventually warm up to the ideal of a sale. That means more money for your business without any further lead acquisition costs!

In terms of bringing in higher profits for your company, nurtured leads close at an average value that is 47% higher than non-nurtured leads, according to Annuitas Marketing Agency. The reason for this is likely because nurtured leads receive more personal attention from sales reps who make suggestions for upsells and add-ons that are tailored to each lead’s specific needs. If a lead trusts your brand and their sales rep, they will be comfortable with investing more time and consideration when it comes to your products.

Even if your nurtured lead never becomes a customer, at the very least they might walk away singing the praises of your friendly and attentive sales reps, boosting your brand’s reputation.

Is it Difficult to Set Up a Lead Nurturing Strategy?

So, how exactly do you implement a lead nurturing strategy? Is it as simple as sending out more lead nurturing emails to leads? Would that be enough to get the job done? Probably not. For this reason, we have highlighted four main components that are needed for setting up a solid lead nurturing campaign that will potentially allow you to garner success using this strategy.

1. Lead Scoring

First, you’ll need an objective way to measure your lead qualification process, which means you will need a way to assess each lead’s fit with your ideal customer profile and their purchase-readiness. This can be done through lead scoring, which assigns points to potential customers based on their purchase likelihood.

In the same way you measure a child’s growth by marking their height against a wall, lead scoring provides you a definitive, numerical measure against a benchmark that marks your lead’s progress to a sale.

Your lead scoring criteria should cover explicit attributes, such as demographics/firmographics and the BANT criteria. It should also include behavioral attributes your lead exhibits during the sales process, including such things as opening marketing emails and repeatedly visiting your website.

With a proper lead scoring system in place, your sales representatives will have a clear metric to determine whether their lead nurturing efforts are paying off. The higher the lead’s score, the closer the sales rep can come to closing a deal.

2. Sales Enablement Material

Lead nurturing is about more than simply striking up a friendly conversation. If executed well, the sales rep will first develop a lead’s interest in the product by providing content answering key questions and convincing them that a product can solve their problem. The process of offering content to potential buyers is called content marketing, and the materials sent to leads is called sales enablement material, because it is used to enable sales reps to make more sales.

Some examples of sales enablement material you could use include infographics, research and analysis articles for your industry, blog posts, and free sample tools or demos of your product. Leads who receive this content will have information at their disposal to help them think more critically about their pain points, and they will also appreciate the helpfulness of the company and sales rep as they are being nudged one step closer to a sale.

To practice lead nurturing well, it is a good idea to have a wide assortment of text, visual, audio, and video sales enablement material that you can use at different stages of the sales funnel. Generally, the less invested a consumer is with your brand, the more easily-digestible content you’ll want to send them.

3. Multichannel Communications

A common misconception about lead nurturing is that it simply means sending more emails out to a prospect, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. More emails does not necessarily mean more business. Consider this: although businesses upped their sales email volume by 50% during Covid-19, the response rates for those email campaigns were 10% lower than pre-Covid levels, according to HubSpot.

Rather than simply upping the volume of low-cost and low-effort emails, companies should instead find and reach out to leads through different communication channels for a richer and more immersive sales experience. Some channels your business could use for outreach include websites, social media, email, phone, and in-person events.

Different consumers and target audiences prefer different channels. By reaching out to them through the channel they’re most familiar with, you will be more likely to get a response that will help streamline the nurturing conversation. Plus, online channels, such as social media, are much more conducive for sharing video and audio sales enablement material, and sharing this material could provide the extra boost you need to bring a lead closer to the point of making a purchase.

4. Retargeting Methods

As companies grow larger and larger, it becomes impossible to assign a sales rep to nurture each individual lead, especially online. As more and more prospective customers come into the sales funnel, marketing managers might feel it is impossible to provide personalized advertising content to each lead.

However, using sequential retargeting ads, a business can attach browser cookies to the visit to identify which ads a consumer has seen and interacted with. With this information, it is possible to display unique follow-up marketing material based on a prospect’s browsing actions. Using retargeting ensures each prospective customer gets a never-ending flow of new content directed to them, hopefully piquing their interest and reinforcing their interest in your product or your company.

Most marketing and social media platforms, such as Facebook, can help you set up sequential retargeting ads.

Five Best Practices to Improve Your Lead Nurturing

Once you’ve got the basics of your lead nurturing strategy down, here are five quick tips to help you make the most of it.

1. Stay Consistent

Remember our metaphor of consistently watering a flower every day? Though you might not want to pester your lead daily, it’s still important to have a regular, consistent rhythm in your lead nurturing process.

According to email sales advisory Woodpecker, it’s best to send a follow-up email two days after your first email, giving your lead enough time to digest and ruminate on the message and content you’ve sent them.

If your sales reps are struggling to keep track of who to email and when to send them, workflow automation software can help your sales team stay organized by either sending automated reminders to your reps, or automating and sending the nurturing email to prospects.

2. Hire the Best Reps

A sales manager can set up the most effective lead nurturing workflow possible, but at the end of the day, it’s your sales team who will be talking one-on-one with customers and setting the tone for their interactions.

With that in mind, hiring managers and sales leaders should be sure to hire empathetic and patient reps who won’t grow frustrated with a long lead nurturing process, who can inspire a lead to open up about their pain points. The best lead nurturing comes from a place of real interest in the consumer’s problems, and an honest desire to see customers happy with their product choices.

3. Personalize Your Content

It should be obvious that customers want to be seen as individuals rather than another tick for your sales quota. As such, companies should be sure to personalize content by using a leads’ name while tailoring messages to appeal to their specific interests and needs.

According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, our human brains exhibit a unique activation pattern when we hear our name, similar to the patterns activated when people make judgments about themselves and their personal qualities. This means that using their name is a surefire way to build a connection with them and influence their decision-making process, hopefully in favor of making a purchase. A great example of this is Starbucks, which makes a point of asking for and calling your name rather than using an order number or a drink type.

Marketing automation and email automation software can help you customize content by automatically filling leads’ names into email templates, allowing you to send out personalized emails en masse.

4. Prioritize Your Leads

Remember lead scoring? Beyond acting as a measurement for your lead nurturing efforts, your lead scoring metrics can also be used to segment your leads for prioritization and the amount of effort you should put into retargeting each one.

For example, though a lead with a score of 20 and one with a score of five might both be considered cold leads, you would spend a little more time attempting to nurture the lead scoring 20 over the lead scored as a five. 

While the goal of lead nurturing is to turn colder leads into warmer ones, that doesn’t mean that your sales reps should be chasing the coldest leads first. Segmenting and prioritizing your cold leads, based on scoring metrics, could boost the overall effectiveness of your lead nurturing campaign.

5. Ask and Answer Questions

Sales isn’t a one-way persuasive speech, and lead nurturing is much the same. Rather than sending your cold lead a full-on essay on why they should be interested in your product, lead nurturing efforts should instead be a back-and-forth conversation. That way, your potential customers will feel like their voice is being heard, and your sales rep will have more information to use in creating their sales pitches.

A common mistake sales reps make is being too broad by asking such things as, “Do you have any questions?” A broad question like this will put pressure on your cold lead—someone who’s barely interested in the first place in your company and its product offerings. 

Instead, it’s best to start with small, simple, and detailed questions such as “Do you have any questions about [X]?” or “Would you like to know more about [Y]?” There’s no need to close the sale in the first conversation, so sales reps should take their time going through leads’ concerns one by one, building rapport along the way.


Slow and steady wins the race, and making a sale is no different. Rather than only focusing on ready-to-close hot leads, businesses can drive profit and improve their customer satisfaction through lead nurturing campaigns which cultivate cold leads into warmer leads, and, eventually, warmer leads into paying customers. 

Setting up a lead nurturing campaign and process can be quite tricky, as it relies on both the company’s capabilities and tools as well as the charm and patience of the individual salesperson. But by following this simple guide to all the key parts of the lead nurturing process, your business will be able to make the most of each lead and see more sales than ever before.


How is lead nurturing different from lead qualification?

Lead qualification is a stage in the sales funnel where a sales rep talks to an inbound lead to find out if they’re qualified and interested in purchasing or not. On the other hand, lead nurturing is a process used throughout the entire sales funnel, from prospecting all the way to close, in order to uncover more details about potential customers’ pain points and build strong relationships with them until they’re ready to close.

In other words, you would use lead nurturing before you would qualify a lead, as a lead may not be willing to divulge all their deepest thoughts to a stranger. Through lead nurturing, a sales rep can bond with a lead and organically learn more about them in order to turn them into a qualified lead and make progress toward making the sale.

What tools can I use to help with lead nurturing?

Lead nurturing is used from the beginning to the end of the customer journey, so there’s a lot of tools for each step of the customer journey that can help reps talk with leads. 

The most obvious software tool to help with lead generation is a customer relationship management (CRM) system, which helps reps oversee and manage the entire sales journey. At higher price points, some CRMs can integrate communications from all channels into one platform for easy viewing and management, or provide workflow automation that will automatically send nurturing communications to leads.

Marketing automation tools can help you manage your email marketing campaign by sending customized emails on a massive scale. Utilizing automation enables marketers to nurture and filter out the first wave of incoming leads without spreading themselves too thin.

But let’s be clear: if you’re a small business just starting out, you don’t need any fancy lead nurturing software yet. Instead, simply focus on building a good rapport with your leads and prospects on a one-on-one basis, and treat them as you would a new friend. It’s only when your sales funnel gets too full for effective one-on-one lead management that you should consider a designated lead nurturing tool.

How can I measure the effectiveness of my lead nurturing program?

As we said before, you can use lead scoring to measure the effectiveness of your lead nurturing for any individual lead.

On a broader scale, you can also use sales KPIs such as number of qualified leads, click through rates over time, conversation length, and average view time for communications to measure the effectiveness of your lead nurturing program. It’s best to set concrete goals for these metrics to help determine the ROI for your nurturing campaign.