When Should I Stop Nurturing a Lead?

A client asks:

“I know the answer is probably “it depends” but curious if you think there’s a best practice for how many follow-up nurture emails to send TOFU content syndication leads before you stop due to non-engagement?”

My response:

nurture programs

We typically design nurture programs for inbound leads like content syndication in 2 stages, as follows:

1) quickly determining if the person has an immediate need or otherwise merits sales follow-up; and then

2) staying in touch with that individual over time, educating the lead, building credibility, and maintaining brand awareness until he/she does have a relevant need.

As I wrote earlier in this space, Phase I is typically 3-4 emails sent in quick succession over a period of 1-2 weeks.  The intent here is engage the person at the point of interest, drive further engagement, leverage progressive profiling, and help qualify leads for potential sales follow-up. 

Note: the goal of this initial phase is not to convert, per se.  An early-stage nurture series is more about identifying and flagging those leads with a genuine need.  If the person doesn’t engage during this initial stage, it’s probably safe to assume they’re not ready for sales follow-up. 

When Should I Stop Nurturing a Lead? Share on X

However, that non-engagement in no way means you should stop nurturing.  In answer to your question, there is no set, finite number of emails that’s the right duration for a nurture program. If the individual meets basic demographic criteria (right title, right type/size of company), you should continue to nurture him or her for as long as you have content to send, or until the email address reaches some kind of defined threshold for non-responders (e.g. no opens for 12 months.)

Also, an ongoing nurture program doesn’t mean sending a monthly newsletter and whatever Webinar invitations happen to be on the calendar.  Instead, we typically structure core nurture programs (“engagement programs”) to serve up a regular cadence of informational content in a pre-defined sequence (Email 1, Email 2 …) and simply add new content to the tail end of the program as those assets become available.

Engagement programs can also be paused at any time for more tactical batch sends (ex: Webinars, product announcements) but otherwise should run indefinitely.  Again, the purpose of an engagement program isn’t about convincing someone within a fixed period of time to talk to sales or to buy your product.  As such, avoid the temptation to inflict a barrage of promotional content about your solution.  Focus on information that delivers real value vs. emails that ask: “are you ready to buy yet?” 

A successful lead nurturing program builds a relationship over time to where you’re the company that individual thinks of when the need occurs.  That could be months, or even years down the road.

For more nurture tips, see our earlier post: “18 Common Features of a Best-in-Class Nurture Program

Photo by Who’s Denilo ? on Unsplash


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