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7 Must-Haves Before Starting to Build Your Lead Nurturing Automations

October 22, 2019 8 minute read
if you’re just getting started with lead nurturing automation, make sure you've completed these 7 things.
woman sending emails

Launching a successful lead nurturing campaign can seem like an intimidating task. These campaigns often have many moving parts and usually require participation and sign-off from different teams and/or members of management. Unforeseen roadblocks in your data, process or automation platform can result in the scope of the project shifting dramatically or growing out of control. So, if you’re just getting started with a new project or are revamping your current campaign process, make sure your team is set up for success by checking off these 7 points before hitting the start button.

1. Design your database to fit (and fuel) your strategy

Put your database to work and add as many custom fields as you need. Custom fields are critical for segmentation as they allow you to zero in on specific target lists and deliver truly personalized experiences and communications. These fields will also help you report out and gather insights at a much more granular level during or after the campaign. Examples of custom fields may include site behavior/engagement items like site visits (lifetime/last 30 days, etc.), app opens, newsletter signup dates, content downloads, etc. They can (see: should) also include more specific and personal items relevant to your business and your customers’/consumers’ lives. Some examples:

  • A retail business might want to think about collecting info such as favorite brand, shoe size and color preferences
  • An automotive business would want to know what kind of car their customer drives, and if they prefer to pay for oil changes or do that themselves
  • And a technology company would want to know when prospects may be looking to evaluate a new solution (within the next 3 months? 6 months? 1 year?) and what solutions those prospects are using today.

Depending on your technology choices, the task of setting up custom fields might require development work outside of marketing or sales, so it is important to understand the scope of your project. Define the exact work needed and ask for timelines if you require assistance from a developer or CRM admin.

Pro Tip: If your CRM system allows for descriptions for each field – use them! If not, keep a running library in an excel document of what each field’s name is, what data it’s capturing and storing, the data type, if any behavior will update the field and any special notes like which automation it triggers or influences.

2. Have a visual campaign flow

This recommendation might seem subjective or optional at first, but having colors and shapes that correspond with the decisions and actions in your campaign flow are important. This is how the human brain recognizes and processes information best. A visual builder will help you create more easily and logically, and it will make your campaigns more digestible for other team members.

Additionally, your campaign builder should be editable and adaptable to accommodate updates after its been launched. For example, if a new whitepaper or webinar recording becomes available and you want to incorporate it into a campaign, you’ll want to be able to quickly and easily make edits without causing delays or having to create a new campaign from scratch.

Pro Tip: Open your plans up, and invite more team members to offer feedback about possible improvements. New perspectives from around your organization (and even outside of it) can help you find new triggers and paths to success. And when your campaigns are mapped out visually, getting someone new up to speed is painless and they can begin contributing immediately.

3. Get personal

If building a lasting 1:1 relationship with contacts is your ultimate goal, then personalization is your most charming weapon. Having a marketing automation platform that allows you to speak with your audience on the level they expect is very powerful. This means being able to identify any piece of valuable contact data and display it where appropriate throughout the customer journey. But, truth be told, at this point, personalized greetings (“Hello [First Name]”) and field displays (“I see you are [position] at [company]”) are table stakes.

Expectations have been elevated. Today, impactful personalization means delivering communications through the channels your contacts prefer. It means presenting content in the format that they prefer. It means recognizing when you have content or an offer that matches up with a contact’s persona, a specific field value or recent engagement history (from anywhere across your organization), and optimizing that contact’s experience in real time, or at the very least, realigning/coordinating the best next communication. Ultimately, your leads are giving you personal data every time they interact – make sure your system is able to take advantage of it!

Pro tip: Date and time fields are incredibly valuable pieces of personal information for sales teams. Make sure your team is paying attention to exactly when their leads are interacting. Did a lead visit the website immediately after a webinar? They must have liked what they heard – prioritize following up ASAP to catch them while your brand and product are top-of-mind. Notice a lead downloaded an e-book over the weekend? Make them the first call Monday morning to ask about their interest. A good marketing automation platform will not only see all of this, they will allow you to set up internal notification triggers to exactly the right team or person responsible for taking action (and you can even automate that best next action).

4. Define your success metrics

In addition to generating more revenue, start thinking about what else should be considered a win. Is it more phone connections, driving more records into a specific nurture path, more data gathered, increasing your social media following? Also, be prepared to identify improvement areas – sometimes you’ll find new data stories from areas that don’t initially make sense.

Pro tip: Avoid focusing on vanity metrics (e.g. impressions, email opens, link clicks, etc.). You want your goals and measures of success to be specific and actionable – ask yourself, what are the true benchmarks you need to meet in order to claim victory and take decisive action?

5. Get each team to approve

At the very least, get them to buy-in. Make sure decision-makers, managers and actual users are well-informed of the goal, campaign flow and reporting associated with the campaign. If there are planned internal email alerts associated with the campaign, send the recipients an example of those alerts so they know what to expect and look for. You don’t want a sales team member missing an alert because they’ve set up automatic folder filtering in their email accounts. And you don’t want to lose time or opportunities because a sales team member isn’t clear about what’s expected after receiving those alerts.

When more than one team has a stake in a lead nurture process, it’ll be more likely to have eyes on it.

Pro Tip: You know you should expect feedback. Don’t brace yourself, embrace it. Proactively meet often to ensure goals and results are over-communicated. Put docs and resources in a shared location. Take the lead and own the process and the transparency will ensure there are no surprises for you most of all.

6. Have engaging and score-able content to share

Keep leads engaged with easy-to-access content. Stunning HTML emails from marketing aren’t the only way to reach them. Suggest that sales include links to e-books, relevant blog posts or webinar recordings in their signature. Use something actionable that can bring a lead back to the site or elicit an email response. A modern marketing automation platform will be able to record the leads’ behavior and match it up with the right contact record behind the scenes, rather than requiring the lead to fill out a new form every time they engage.

Pro Tip: If you have different types of content suited to specific profiles or personas, create different paths for each one. Be intentional and strategic with your paths. The more specific you become with your nurture campaigns, and the more context you can provide on why you’re serving up certain content in certain situations, the fewer questions you’ll have to answer about the data later on.

7. Invest in a platform that both sales and marketing can use

Make sure to pick a marketing automation solution that integrates completely with your CRM system in real time. This visibility into what is happening with your engagement data is critical to effectively map out your lead nurture strategy. When both teams have access, everyone speaks the same language, understands the same results, and shares the same expectations.

Pro Tip: Make sure your platform also has the flexibility to adapt to future business changes, such as shifting strategies, upgrades of internal tools, or additions of new tools.


Prioritizing each of these items before launching an automated lead nurture campaign will help set you up for success. Giving yourself and your team the ability to pivot and make changes to a program is also important as company goals and/or your approach to connecting with and converting leads may change.

The campaign builder in our Acquia Campaign Studio offers flexibility and transparency. The visual flow is representative of an actual whiteboard. It is color-coded for decisions (behaviors), conditions (field-value filters), and actions (operations and communications). I have found I need no explanation when presenting a campaign to stakeholders. Paths are clear and simple to understand.

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