What should your email nurture campaign look like? Here is a step-by-step guide


When you acquire new leads, you can’t just start blasting them with hard sells. They signed up for a reason—and a sales pitch wasn’t it. There was a problem your lead magnet promised to help them solve or a goal you said you could help them reach. 

You need a system in place to build on the reason they signed up for your list and warm them up for what you want them to do next. That’s where your nurture campaign comes in. This series of emails keep your leads engaged and prepares them for your pitch.

Here are the five things a successful nurture campaign needs to do.

1. The welcome email: set expectations

When someone first joins your email list, what do you know about them? Probably not much. Maybe nothing. All you really have to work with when crafting your initial message is the call-to-action (CTA) that led them to your list. What did you tell them they would get for signing up? What are they expecting to hear about? 

The first thing your nurture campaign needs to do is deliver on the promise you made when they signed up for your list. That’s your welcome email’s primary job.

As the first email in your campaign, the welcome email frames the conversation. These generally include some sort of a “thank you” message, thanking subscribers for signing up, along with confirmation that they will receive what they signed up for. If they signed up to receive “news,” “tips,” or something vague like that, your welcome email could jump right in on delivering that, or it could simply affirm that they will start receiving that content in future emails.

The next thing every welcome email should include is a timeline. You don’t have to tell them about every email that’s coming down the pike, but you should give them some sort of an idea of how often they should expect to hear from you, and what they’re going to hear about. (And again, the content should be related to the problem or aspiration mentioned in the CTA that led them to your list). 

You might say something like, “Over the next few weeks, we’re going to share some of our favorite ministry insights with you.” This is your chance to reinforce the value of being on your email list, so they’ll look forward to hearing from you again.

Note: You’ll need to find the frequency that works best for your audience, but keep in mind: sending too many emails too early is a recipe for unsubscribes and spam complaints, and sending too few emails over too long of a period is a recipe for being forgotten.

2. Add value first: earn the right to make your pitch

Unless the CTA on your email capture was something like “sign up to get deals,” your leads probably don’t want to hear a sales pitch right away. They’re not ready yet. Before you ever ask your leads for money, you need to deliver on the expectations set in your CTA. Otherwise, it feels like a bait and switch. They won’t just leave your list—they’ll leave mad.

After your welcome email, you should send several emails that only add value to being on your list. Make people feel special. Give them a treat.

Depending on the type of list you’re building, it might be appropriate to offer them an exclusive coupon code. But in most cases, you should probably save that for later, once people feel like they’ve “gotten something” out of being on your list.

Content marketing is a great way to add value to your email list. Your nurture campaign could point people toward your most popular blog content, or your most helpful articles about a topic in your niche. You might also consider giving them free ebooks or tools. The point is to send them things that they will find valuable, regardless of whether or not they’re currently interested in your product or service.

3. Make the ask: move them down the funnel

Once you’ve built up some rapport with your new audience and you’ve given them valuable content that speaks to their problems or aspirations, you’ve earned the right to make an ask. This doesn’t mean it’s time for an in-your-face sales pitch, but you can find the overlap between what they’ve been getting out of the list and what your product or service can do for them.

In other words: position your offer as a specific benefit. You likely already do this (right?) in your other marketing materials, but the difference here is that you have a much better idea of who you’re speaking to, what they’re familiar with, and what appeals to them. This ask should be consistent with the messaging they’ve already received.

Depending on how much your product costs and how long your sales cycle tends to be, you might consider starting with a smaller ask, such as filling out a survey or making a low-cost purchase. (This can help you segment your list to filter out the most qualified leads, too.)

Your goal here depends on where your audience is in your sales funnel. You could jump all the way to the end of the funnel with a big ask, but you’ll have more success if you can identify the most appropriate next step.

4. Segment your list: adjust to new information

The more relevant your message is, the more effective it will be. Segmenting your list allows you to craft more relevant messages by dividing your leads based on the information you have. This could be demographic information, such as profession or age, or it could be engagement information—have they been spending time on specific pages on your website?

The key here is that each segment gets its own messaging based on what you know about the people in it.

An occasional survey is a great way to collect information and create new segments of your list. You can also get really granular and create new segments based on whether or not someone opened your most recent email. Then for every email, you have at least two potential follow up emails that send depending on how someone reacts to the previous one.

You could even segment your lists based on the problems your leads have or the aspirations they want you to help them with.

This might sound complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Some organizations collect this information upfront on signup forms, so the very first email they send is more relevant. Others ask for it in their welcome email, so people have the opportunity to decide what kind of content they want to receive.

How you collect segmentation information is up to you, just be sure that if you collect it, you use it!

5. Rinse and repeat

When your nurture campaign ends, it can feed into your other email workflows. You can even end one nurture campaign by promoting another nurture campaign, so your automated campaigns continue for months, and your leads are exposed to more opportunities to head further down your funnel.

But a nurture campaign doesn’t ever really have to end, either. You can continue alternating between providing value and making asks indefinitely.
Drip campaigns take some work upfront, but they continue providing value for as long as you let them run. While you focus on your other marketing efforts, they quietly develop leads and generate sales in the background.

And who doesn’t want that?