24 May 2023 |

Mastering nurture streams

By Tracey Wallace

On the path to driving more revenue from your content (and tracking it directly), you’re going to need to learn more about nurture streams. Yes, even if you have an email marketing or lifecycle marketing team––you still need to know how nurture streams work, how they are measured, testing possibilities, and more. 

This is because it’s likely that even if you have a team that can help set these types of emails up for you, you’ll still need to write them, or work closely with copywriters to write them. 

Let’s start with the basics on these, and drive deeper from there:

What are nurture streams?

Nurture streams are a sequence of emails (and sometimes SMS messages!) from a brand following you taking an action with that brand. For ecommerce companies, nurture streams can be abandoned cart flows or even welcome flows, and I bet all of us have been in several of those.

For B2B companies, nurture streams usually come after someone downloads a piece of content, starts a trial, or signs up for a demo. 

What is the goal of a nurture stream?

The goal of a nurture stream is to get folks to take the next steps in the customer journey. You can imagine when you are in the abandoned cart flow for an ecommerce brand, they want you to come back and buy that item. It’s a similar concept for B2B brands, too. 

  • Once you download a piece of content, the nurture stream is there to get you to either download another piece of content, start a trial, or schedule a demo.
  • Once you start a trial, the nurture stream is there to help you set everything up, and ultimately become a paying customer. 
  • Once you schedule a demo, the nurture stream is there to make sure you show up to that demo. 

Who creates nurture streams?

Well, it depends. At many companies, an email marketer or a lifecycle marketer (or a team of them) will set up nurture streams in tools like Klaviyo (for ecommerce), Hubspot (for B2B), and Salesforce (for both ecommerce and B2B). 

These tools are sometimes called CRMs or ESPs, depending on the depth of their capabilities. The B2B tools, like Hubspot and Salesforce, are more known as CRMs since they also have the capacity for lead scoring, and lead management by the sales team. 

Some email marketers write their own copy, but I haven’t seen that be incredible common. Think of this split as a similar one between SEO marketers and content marketers. SEO folks can typically write copy––esp. with all the new AI tools out there––but I’d caution any organization away from having their SEO person also write their content. They are simply two different specializations––albeit ones that work closely together. 

So, email marketers typically work closely with copywriters for the content and graphic designers for the design. 

These teams usually live under a mention marketing, performance marketing, or campaign marketing umbrella––and are responsible for email marketing conversion rate reporting (typically you can to see about 30% of your revenue coming from the email channel), conversion rate optimization, email deliverability, form management, data flow management between various aspects of the CRM (honestly, not even going to touch this one in this newsletter. We can do a deeper dive at another point if anyone is at all interested, because WHEW there’s a lot to unpack here). 

Why should a content team create content for nurture streams?

Well, because it speeds up the process, and because your team is the closest to the copy you already wrote for your content. Now, you just need to further that conversation you started in a blog and bring it through in your email communications. 

Plus, if you write it, it helps solve for the “who’s going to write it” question that will inevitably come up. Take the initiative here, and help your email marketing team help you. 

There are several types of emails and nurture streams content folks should be thinking about often, and all of them tie back to content marketing CRO. 

  • Automated emails: These are the emails you send to someone when they take an action on your site—most often when they download a piece of content. With downloadable content, you can either, on download:
    • Redirect a user to the content (not recommended) 
    • Redirect the user to a thank you page that tell them the asset was emailed to them, and presents additional, relevant content (Most recommended). 
    • Replace the form with a thank you message advising the user to check their email for the asset (Most common). 
    • In all cases, you still want to send an automated email to thank the user and to give them the asset in a place they can easily access.
  • Dedicated emails: Dedicated emails are those sent to a dedicated segment or audience in your database (leads, MQLs, paid customers, mid-market customers, etc) about a specific message. Typically these are used in content to announce new research and reports, important webinars, product updates, etc.
    • A lot of folks create two dedicated emails and send the second to those who do not engage with the first. Engagement should be defined as “clicked” –– since “opens” are no longer a reliable metric.
      • Send this second email 24-48 hours after the first (in business-day time). 
  • Lead > MQL nurture streams: These streams are ones that work to convert leads into the next part of your funnel, typically an MQL (marketing qualified lead). Many organizations build content-specific lead > MQL flows that present content leads with even more content related to what they downloaded as a way to educate them more. It will be important here to know how your company classifies leads. Typically there are 3 ways, but not all companies use all 3:
    • Number of content downloads or lead score: Lead scoring measures engagement on a company’s website and keeps a score on a lead as they take various actions. Typically, downloading multiple pieces of content (at least 3) from your company can be a sign that they are highly engaged, and worth MQLing so the sales team can reach out. 
    • Starts a trial: If your company has a trial, then the starting of a trial typically MQLs the lead, and sends them into a trial flow that works to push them toward a paid account. If your company doesn’t do lead scoring or count multiple content downloads as an MQL, then you’ll want your lead > MQL flow to try to push folks to a trial (or a demo, below) to MQL them. 
    • Schedules a demo: If your company has a demo, then scheduling a demo typically MQLs the lead, and sends them into a demo flow that puts time on the lead’s calendar, and sends them follow up emails about the upcoming meeting to encourage them to attend. If your company doesn’t do lead scoring or count multiple content downloads as an MQL, then you’ll want your lead > MQL flow to try to push folks to a demo (or a trial, above) to MQL them, based on the audience. 
  • Newsletter: Most content marketing teams manage a weekly or monthly newsletter. A lot of these newsletters are just an RSS feed of the content most recently published. I’d encourage you to change this, but only if you have the time and have a solid content flywheel working (Which is, your content is driving decent organic search traffic and converting readers into leads). Content RSS feed newsletters aren’t incredibly effective, but of course creating a unique newsletter every week takes time. When you are ready to take your newsletter to the next level, consider the following:
    • Add a welcome email: Welcome readers to the newsletter and let them know what to expect in terms of sends and what will be in the email, how to unsubscribe if they ever want to, and of course, thank them for being there. Tell them how many others are on the list, and even give them some unique content that non-subscribers might not be able to see. Give them a reason to be here. Make this personal––ideally from your head of content. 
    • Give your email and look & feel, but don’t over-design it: Just look around at all the newsletters you read. Add a branded name and some color blockers, but don’t go all out in terms of design. Make your newsletter easily scannable, but not necessarily beautiful. Lean more heavily on the writing of great headlines and content in here, than on design or images. 
    • Link off to your blogs where it is relevant, but make the main content something unique: Give readers a reason to stay subscribed by giving them content everyone else doesn’t have, and won’t, or doesn’t have yet. For instance, at MarketerHire, we used to feature an interview with a high-profile marketer in every one of our newsletter sends. Readers got that interview on the blog the next day, but only our subscribers got it the day it went live. It gave folks a unique reason to stay subscribed. 
    • Curate around your unique content: Don’t just show folks the most recent content you’ve published. Instead, curate 1-3 blogs for them that support or are related to the unique content in the newsletter. This should make your newsletters themed, to an extent. And of course, figure out how to tie that theme into the current moment to make it relevant for readers. 
    • Finally, have a CTA to trial or demo: You don’t need to do a hard sell in your newsletter, but the goal is always to turn leads in here into MQLs, so get a trial or demo CTA in front of them somewhere in here. Some folks do it at the end. Others in the “navigation” section of the email. Either works, and your email marketing team can run tests on it, too.
      • Email marketing teams can also look at who is subscribed to your newsletter and change out this CTA based on if someone is a lead or existing customers (in which case, the CTA can be changed out to an upsell). Or, you can put a trial CTA in front of small business leads and a demo one in front of mid-market folks. Be sure to talk to your email marketing team about what is possible in your CRM or ESP. 

All right, that’s it for this week, y’all! Next week, I’ll gather some of the templates I use for these emails so you can have a head start on writing the content. Remember, AI content tools can help a lot here, too! 

See ya next week!