Email Nurturing: Definition & Creating a Nurturing Campaign

Understand email nurturing and who should use it, then read our step-by-step process for creating an email nurturing campaign that works.

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Email nurturing is the act of using email marketing software to monitor a lead's online behavior and send them automated emails to move them through the buying process to deal-close. The goal of this email campaign is to warm up new leads and influence them to take an action, like buying your product or meeting with a sales rep. Email nurturing is a cost-effective tactic to be used independently or as part of a larger lead nurturing strategy.

The below focuses on lead nurturing through automated email marketing. If you're looking for an overall lead nurturing process and strategy, including manual and automated efforts, check out our complete guide on lead nurturing.

How Email Nurturing Works

First, marketers or salespeople identify online web pages with the most traffic or the largest opportunity to generate traffic. Then, they create a relevant lead magnet to offer on the page, which leads can download in return for their contact information. From there, they use email marketing software to send an automated sequence of emails based on the leads’ interests and online behaviors with the goal of providing the right content at the right time to get them to take an action.

To create a lead nurturing campaign, first generally plan out the lead magnet and lead nurturing email sequence you'll use. Then, set up email marketing or nurturing software and write the lead nurturing emails. Finally, create the automated triggers that'll send the emails to your leads. Email nurturing sequences are typically 5–7 emails alternating between helpful emails that share resources and sales emails that pitch an offer. Check out one of our own nurturing emails below:

Example nurturing email with lead magnet
Example nurturing email

With the campaign set up and the nurturing emails written, connect the campaign to the lead magnet and its fillable form so that when someone downloads it and gives their info, they’ll automatically enter the email nurture sequence for that specific magnet. The email marketing software will then track lead behavior with the emails and automate the sending of the nurturing campaign sequence.

Once the sequence is complete, it's best practice to roll unengaged leads into an ongoing, automated drip sequence such as a recurring newsletter. This drip sequence is slightly different from the nurturing campaign in that it isn't based on lead behavior, but instead automates the ongoing sending of emails to larger lists of leads for passive, long-term engagement.

Who Email Nurturing Is Right For

While email nurturing is most commonly used by marketers to generate and nurture online leads, it can also be used as part of a larger lead generation or nurturing strategy that includes salespeople. For example, marketers might use email nurturing to qualify leads before passing to a salesperson. Conversely, email nurturing can be used in conjunction with a manual sales prospecting strategy to warm the lead for when the salesperson reaches out.

Scroll through the specific use cases of businesses and people using email nurturing below:

Sellers or Marketers Who Book Meetings

An email nurturing sequence’s call-to-action (CTA) can be to schedule a meeting with a salesperson. The seller will have an easier time selling to a lead that’s already familiar with the brand. 

Marketers Who Drive Online Conversions

Email nurturing is a great way to nurture leads all the way to making a purchase decision and taking an online action without needing to engage with the prospect one-on-one.

Salepeople Conducting Manual Prospecting & Nurturing

For salespeople, executing an email nurturing campaign while also personally reaching out can be a powerful nurturing combination.

Businesses Needing to Automate Lead Nurturing

Your email nurturing software will send leads personalized emails automatically based on interests and behaviors, and it'll also track important metrics. 

Businesses That Prioritize Personalization

You can write emails with custom fields that autofill data in your email marketing software. The software can also move leads to more relevant sequences based on how they interact with emails. 

While the list above identifies the most common or important use cases, it's not exhaustive. Whether you’re a large service-based business hoping to book more sales meetings, a small ecommerce store trying to get people to buy your products, or anything in between, email nurturing is worth trying, as it can likely help you efficiently nuture your leads and achieve your marketing and sales goals.

How to Set Up an Email Nurturing Campaign

Every business’s email nurturing campaign will look different, but setting one up follows a specific step-by-step process using email nurturing software throughout. The process starts with choosing where to host your lead magnet, creating that magnet, defining your campaign goal, planning your email topics, and outlining your sequence. Next, you'll set up your software, write your emails and pick how often to send them, and finally connect your lead capture form and launch your campaign.

1. Identify Where You’ll Host Your Lead Magnet

Choose where you’ll put the lead magnet that will generate leads and auto-enter them into your email nurturing sequence. Ideal locations are web pages receiving a lot of traffic from potential leads, e.g., a popular blog post or your home page. Use Google Analytics to assess which pages are getting traffic. If you're targeting new pages, identify where you plan to generate traffic. You can also post the magnet on your social media profiles and take leads to a landing page to claim it.

2. Create a Lead Magnet to Capture Leads

Create a relevant lead magnet that you’ll host on the chosen page. This will be your point of entry for leads into your email nurturing sequence. The lead magnet is a piece of gated content that’s valuable to your leads and requires them to give you their contact information to receive it. Once they submit this info in a lead capture form, they’ll start receiving your emails, the first of which will give them access to the magnet and thank them for downloading it.

To make sure page visitors will want to download this gated content, make it relevant to the page it's on. For example, a high-ranking blog post about SEO might offer a free SEO video course. Creating the lead magnet before you start writing your emails is important because it later informs the content of those emails. They’ll be related to the magnet since by downloading it, the lead suggested that they want to learn more about the topic.


Additional Reading:

We have an entire guide on how to create lead magnets that convert. Give it a read to learn the step-by-step process for creating one and to see some types and examples of effective lead magnets.

3. Determine the Goal of Your Nurture Campaign

With the lead magnet saved for later, choose the goal of your email campaign. Decide what specific action you want your emails to influence. Sometimes, this action is to make an online purchase, but it could also be to accept a meeting with a salesperson if you have a longer sales cycle. This goal will determine the CTA that your emails will pitch.

Common goals for your email nurture campaign could be the following:  

  • Make a Purchase: Get leads to click a link that takes them to a page where they buy your product or service. B2C companies or others with transactional sales generally use this. 
  • Schedule a Free Live Demo: Influence leads to schedule a live demo with a salesperson. This is popular for B2B product companies. 
  • Start a Free Trial: Many companies will offer free trials to get people hooked on their product or service and show them its value. 
  • Schedule a Sales Call: Businesses such as financial advisory, law, or consulting firms will offer a call with a sales rep to learn more about how the business can help.  

Think of this as your ultimate CTA. While you’ll have smaller requests throughout your emails, like “download this ebook” or “check out our product page,” they’re simply means to this larger end.

4. Brainstorm Content to Offer in Your Emails

Start thinking of content that leads who downloaded your lead magnet might want. It can be helpful to think in terms of common questions they have. For example, if the lead magnet was a cryptocurrency ebook, think of other questions they might have that weren't included in the magnet, like “which crypto should I buy?” An email in your sequence could then answer that for them.

Knowing your leads’ questions tells you their interests, pain points, and goals and therefore helps you pick the right content (e.g., ebooks, blogs, videos) to send in your content-oriented emails. To figure these out, review past customer journeys and their communications, and refer to your buyer persona. Write down the 3–4 most common questions so you can later craft emails around them.

5. Outline Your Email Sequence

Next, determine the order of your email sequence and the purpose of each individual email. Typically, you’ll alternate between a few different types of emails: the content-related trust builders and the sales emails with big CTAs. The content-focused emails should comprise 75% of the campaign since it’s crucial to build trust before you make a sales pitch to the leads. 

Here’s an example of an effective email flow that builds up to the ultimate CTA: 

  • Email 1 (Thank-You Email): Thank the lead for submitting their contact info and give them the lead magnet, and tell them what type of content to expect in their inbox moving forward. 
  • Em ail 2 (Content Email): Share a valuable piece of content with the lead like a relevant ebook, webinar, or blog post.
  • Email 3 (Product Introduction): Briefly introduce the solution you’re selling. Doing this early without pitching hard can help estimate the buyer’s stage based on how they interact with this email. It can also pique their curiosity. 
  • Emails 4–5 (Content Emails): Share more content answering frequently asked questions from the appropriate segment of your audience.
  • Email 6 (Credibility Email): Tell a success story or case study about one or more clients who had success with your solution, and highlight your unique selling proposition in the story. 
  • Email 7 (Sales Email): Ask the lead to take certain next steps, whether that’s buying your solution or scheduling a sales call. 

After the lead has gone through the entire welcome series, you can set up your email nurturing software to automatically place them into another email sequence, like a general newsletter.

Pro Tip:

Think about common objections your leads have that prevent them from accepting the offer you pitch in the sales emails. You can handle those objections in the email body copy by mentioning them and writing logical rebuttals. For instance, if you want leads to buy shoes, you might anticipate a concern about the shoe not fitting. In the sales email copy, include “refunds if the shoe doesn’t fit.”

6. Set Up Your Email Nurturing Software

Email nurturing software, or email marketing software, are your headquarters for running your email nurturing campaign. These tools are typically CRMs that do a lot of the heavy lifting for you, including streamlining the email writing process, auto-sending the emails, and automatically rolling leads to other lists depending on rules you set up in the system. 

Here are the best email nurturing software features to take advantage of: 

  • Email Templates: Take advantage of the partially prewritten emails and all the cool graphic and branding options to customize the look of your emails.  
  • Metric Tracking: Track key metrics like open rate and conversion rate to find weaknesses and strengths in your campaign. 
  • Automated Email Sends: Set up the software with your ideal frequency to automatically send out emails to each lead at the right time. 
  • Automatic Personalization: Configure the software to automatically populate fields in your email templates with the lead’s name, job title, and more. 
  • Automatic Email List Segmentation: Set up the software to automatically and constantly segment your audience and put them into the right email sequences based on how they interact with your emails. 

The exact steps you’ll take within the platform to set up the sequence will depend on which software you’re using. Typically though, there will be a wizard that walks you through the setup process. We discuss the best platforms in our guide on the best CRMs for email marketing.

7. Write Your Nurturing Emails

Next, write your emails within the email marketing software. These will include your initial thank-you email, your content-focused emails that provide value, and your sales emails asking the lead to take that momentous next step with your brand. Regardless of which type of email you’re writing, there are some best practices you can follow to make them engaging and effective.  

Here are some general tips for writing your emails: 

  • Use Custom Fields: These are fields in your email marketing tool that you place throughout your email copy. They help you personalize each email by auto-filling with data your email marketing tool has on the recipient, which you can capture in your opt-in forms. 
  • Save Templates: If you wrote a killer email and want to reuse it for another email sequence, save it as a template. This speeds up the creation process. Also, use (and modify, if needed) templates offered by the email marketing tool. 
  • Develop a Brand Voice: Use a consistent brand voice throughout your email campaign so that leads become familiar with you. If you’re often playful, keep that up throughout each email. Regardless of voice, a conversational tone often works best. 
  • Include Pictures: Images, photos, or GIFs can help you evoke an emotional response from the recipient. For example, in a sales email pitching a restaurant reservation, you might include a picture of the most popular meal. 

A well-written nurturing email can be enough to inspire action in any lead. In the next section on how to write a lead nurture email, we’ll tell you the ideal structure of a lead nurturing email and get more in the weeds about how to craft one.

8. Choose the Lead Nurturing Email Frequency

In your welcome series of 5–7 emails, we recommend hitting your leads with one email every 3–4 days. That’s when they're at their hottest. From there, the lead might interact with your emails in ways that get them switched into different email sequences according to the rules you’ve set up in your software.

If the lead hasn't replied to any emails or clicked on any CTA buttons after a month, switch them into a lower frequency drip sequence that might send one email a week. You can set this up in your email marketing tool, as well. Weekly emails will allow you to continue nurturing them without frustrating them and causing them to unsubscribe from your list.

9. Connect Your Opt-In Form & Kick Off Your Campaign

To start your campaign, place your lead magnet on the appropriate pages of your website. Then, connect that lead magnet’s opt-in form to your email marketing software. In the tool, set it up so that when a form is submitted, the email nurturing campaign is automatically triggered for that lead. Now you’re ready to go live — start the campaign and track the results in the software.

How to Write a Lead Nurturing Email

Each email in your campaign will serve a different purpose. Three out of every four emails will be to share some sort of content with the lead and get them to click on it, thereby building trust with the lead. Others will be sales emails focused on pitching your ultimate CTA. Different software also offer unique email templates. So, of course, each of your emails will look different. However, there are certain steps you should follow when writing each email: 

  1. Set the Goal for the Email: Determine the outcome you want — the action you’d like the recipient to take. This way, you can craft an email with elements that influence this action.
  2. Write an Eye-Catching Subject Line: Make the lead want to open the email by mentioning a major pain point or goal. Keep it to under 60 characters so it's fully visible. 
  3. Craft a Simple Introduction: Write a friendly greeting and, in a few sentences, introduce the topic you’ll be educating the reader about in the email. This’ll get them excited to read on. 
  4. Write the Body: The body will usually preview the content you want them to download or click, or for your product or service. A financial advisor might write 200 words about “two stocks to buy” with a CTA to click a guide that goes in-depth on the stocks. 
  5. Make Your CTA: Ask your lead to take an action, whether it's downloading an ebook or purchasing a product. Make it super easy for them to comply by using direct language and including a hyperlink, button, calendar link, or even an embedded form. 

Keep in mind that each email can be personalized by including their name and other information you have about them. Do this by including custom fields like “first name” when writing them in your email marketing software. Also, note that the word count for each email differs as well. Some businesses write up to 1,000-word emails packed with valuable information, while others preview an article with 100 words and then link out to it to increase the chances that the recipient will read the email.

Best Email Nurturing Example

Below is a set of email nurturing examples laid out in a sequence meant to drive the purchase of a fitness program. It starts off with an email that delivers the content upgrade for which the lead traded their contact information. Then it sends an introduction, a sales email, some content-focused emails to build trust with the lead, and, finally, a pitch for the product in email six. This is a great example of an effective email nurturing sequence by Built With Science:

Email 1: Autoresponder After the Lead Submits the Form

Autoresponder After the Lead Submits the Form

Above is the welcome email people receive after they submit the form to access the lead magnet: a PDF of a strength training plan. This is likely an autoresponder the business set up with their email marketing software that triggers when someone submits the form. In the email, they give the lead the content upgrade and tell them what information they’ll be sending their way. In this case, it’s content that will help the lead achieve their fitness goals.

Email 2: Question Email for Lead Segmentation

Question Email for Lead Segmentation

This email is a segmentation email. Its function is to learn more about the lead’s needs so that the email marketing software can put them into a more specialized email sequence. Here, the business asks the lead to reply with either A, B, or C. When people reply, the email marketing software might even be configured to switch them into the right sequence. If you only have one sequence so far, use your second email to share helpful content or introduce your business.

Email 3: Sales Email Introducing the Business's Main Product

Sales Email Introducing the Business's Main Product

Here, the business introduces its product in an effort to influence action from the lead. Either the lead will press the first button to take a quiz that will recommend a fitness program to purchase, or they will click the second button and land on a landing page describing all the programs in depth. A smart move here would be to set up the software to switch leads who click one of the buttons to a more sales-focused email sequence.

Email 4: Content-Focused Email Linking Out to a Helpful Article

Content-Focused Email Linking Out to a Helpful Article

This email solves a common problem that their leads experience. This builds credibility for the brand and trust with their audience, both of which will help the business secure a purchase the next time they pitch their product. The email continues on past the image above, ending by linking out to an in-depth article and a YouTube video on the concept it just summarized: how to train your arms.

Email 5: Another Content-Focused Email

Another Content-Focused Email

This email answers a question on the minds of many of its ideal customers — how many calories should I eat a day? Like the last email, this one nurtures the lead with educational information in an article it links out to. If appropriate, consider also including buttons under your sign-off for the lead to take your ultimate CTA, as the business owner, Jeremy, has done here. This is a way to soft pitch your leads without coming off as aggressive.

Email 6: Sales Email Pitching the Product

Sales Email Pitching the Product

Here the business pitches their product a second time, this time with a little more force. The entire email is dedicated to discussing how the program helps them achieve their goals. It also does a great job using language to paint a world where the lead has achieved their dream physique and uses body transformation photos (out of the photo) to prove it’s possible, thereby reducing doubt. If leads click on the orange CTA button here, they’re taken to the sales page.

If you have the time, sign up for other businesses’ email nurturing sequences and read each one as it arrives in your inbox. Take note of the things they do that would motivate you to take action as a lead. Then, keep those ideas in mind as you craft your own unique email nurturing campaign. For more campaign inspiration, see our email nurturing campaign examples article.

3 Best Email Nurturing Software

Email nurturing software are CRMs or marketing platforms that help you set up nurturing campaigns in which emails are automatically sent and personalized to leads. They also help you track the messages, their open rates, and other key metrics. Lastly, AI features auto-switch leads into other buckets based on how they interact with your emails or how they behave on your site in general. Three of the best email nurturing software are Pipedrive, Mailchimp, and ActiveCampaign.




Pipedrive is a CRM that offers a visual pipeline for your leads plus a Campaigns add-on for email marketing features. Campaigns helps you segment your leads and make templates for each so the right leads receive the right nurturing emails and newsletters. Pipedrive is a great option for those wanting a CRM plus email marketing software — CRM plans start at $14.90 per user, per month, and Campaigns costs an additional $13.33 per user, per month.

Dashboard in Pipedrive

Mailchimp, an email marketing software, allows users to easily build and customize campaigns while reporting on key metrics. It also offers a free plan for up to 2,000 contacts. Mailchimp streamlines the email writing process with excellent design tools and flexible templates. They also offer automated list segmentation that sends leads the right emails based on their behavior and interactions. A free version is offered, with upgrades starting at $11 per month.

mailchimp dashboard example

ActiveCampaign's email marketing software enables users to create, manage, and track powerful, automated email nurturing campaigns. They’re known as an easy-to-use tool that will save you a ton of time, and they start at $9.00 per month. They also offer cool automation features like predictive sending — this feature analyzes a lead’s open rates and sends them the nurturing email at the best time of day for them.

active campaign dashboard example

To learn more about email nurturing software, check out our article on the best CRMs for email marketing. There, you’ll learn about the top options plus their pricing, features, and use cases so you can choose the right one for your business.

Top 6 Tips for Email Nurturing

When done correctly, email nurturing can be extremely lucrative. No matter the goal and strategy driving your campaign, there are some tactics that savvy marketers use that can help increase your conversion rates, including using a segmentation question, building rapport before giving a CTA, adding your CTA to the bottom of your email, writing conversationally, testing your emails, and supplementing your email nurturing campaign with a newsletter.

Segment Your Email Lists

In your intro email, try asking a "bucket question" giving the lead three options of topics they want to learn more about for better segmentation. If you have options A and B, put an option C that stands for interest in both. Then you can make a sequence that shares content about both.

Build Trust First

Before you state your ultimate CTA (purchase or meeting), build a relationship by sending content that helps them and presents your brand as an industry expert.

Plug Your Ultimate CTA Under Your Email Signature

In content-focused emails, below your signature, write P.S. and give a quick mention of your main CTA with a hyperlink to it. This catches them in case they’re ready for action now.

Use a Conversational Tone

Come across as personable and friendly by using short sentences, familiar words, storytelling techniques, and plenty of the word “you.”

A/B Test Your Emails

Test your emails' open rates by sending an email to half your list on a certain day and time and the other half on a different day and/or time. Plan to send future emails at the winning time. This type of A/B testing can also be used to find the subject line that prompts the most email opens.

Create a Supplemental Newsletter

After a lead runs their course through your personalized campaign, you can move them into a generic bucket where they receive your newsletter, which offers advice, product updates, and industry trends.

The more value you provide the lead in your nurturing campaign, the more they will come to trust and depend on your brand. So, along with these tips, remember that consistency is critical.


Additional Reading:

For more best practices to consider when creating, sending, and optimizing campaigns, check out our round up of expert tips on email nurturing campaigns.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Many Emails Are in a Nurturing Campaign?

There are typically 5–7 emails that are sent as part of an email nurturing campaign. These emails are often behavior-based, having automatic triggers that send the emails to leads who express certain interests or take certain online actions. Afterward, unengaged or less engaged leads are rolled into a drip campaign for ongoing nurturing.

When Should You Send a Nurture Email?

Lead nurturing emails should be sent at least six days apart (so leads aren't annoyed) and no less than once a month (so leads don't forget about you). A good rule of thumb is to send one nurture email a week.

What Is an Email Nurturing Campaign vs Drip Campaign?

An email nurturing campaign is an automated series of emails sent to interested leads based on online behaviors, such as website visits, email opens, email clicks, and more. There are typically 5–7 emails in a nurturing sequence with the goal of priming the lead to make a purchase.

A drip campaign, on the other hand, is an automated email marketing tactic where emails are sent to leads on a set schedule indefinitely, much like a preset welcome series that rolls leads into an ongoing weekly newsletter.

Bottom Line: Email Nurturing Campaign

Email nurturing campaigns are preset email sequences that give leads valuable content based on their interests. All of this giving is meant to build enough trust with the lead for them to accept your ultimate CTA, typically to make a purchase or meet with a salesperson. So, hold back on the salesy language and plan out a series of emails that show your interest in helping your recipients.

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