How does online lead nurturing work?

You may have heard about online lead nurturing or Marketing Automation, and wondered what all the fuss is about.

You may have read about the ROI that automated lead nurturing produces, and wondered whether it is something you should or could be doing to grow your business.

In most cases, the answer is, yes you should!


To give you a better understanding of how online lead nurturing works, let’s take a few moments to look at:

  1. Why you’d want to do it
  2. How it works, and
  3. Your options for getting it done.

1. Why use online lead nurturing?

One of the biggest investments you make in your business is your sales team.

Every hour, they are costing you money. And you want to make sure that you get the best possible return from this outlay, right? 

Ideally, your salespeople would be spending their time with potential buyers who are serious about taking the next step in the sales process. In our world as Inbound Marketing specialists, we refer to such people as Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs).

But most salespeople don’t get to focus on SQLs.

Not by a long shot.

It’s estimated that sales teams that don’t have an automated lead nurturing system in place (and therefore are following up leads manually) waste up to 50% of their time, because they are NOT talking just to SQLs.

Instead, they are spending unproductive time on people who are nowhere near that stage in the buying cycle.

Time wasted

Do the maths.

Take your wages bill for your sales team and visualise 50% of that going down the gurgler. 

dollars spiraling

It isn’t pretty. 

Online lead nurturing goes a long way to fixing this. It enables your leads to be pre-qualified BEFORE your sales team even get involved, thus making their time WAY more productive.

What is a Sales Qualified Lead?

Your business will have different criteria from other businesses for what makes an SQL. But  in essence, they are your potential buyers who have ticked the boxes across a number of criteria. These might be things like:

  • That they have a project starting in the near future
  • They have “XXX” problem that needs to be solved
  • They are looking for a “YYYY” type of solution
  • They have a budget of “ZZZ”
  • They live in a certain geographic area
  • And so it goes.

Whatever your criteria are, with marketing automation your website’s lead funnel can be set up to automatically nurture potential buyers over time. You can imagine how this reduces the time-suck of your sales team talking to people who are still waking up, scratching, yawning, and figuring out up from down.

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2. How does lead nurturing (Marketing Automation) work?

As we talked about above, not all of your potential buyers are ready to buy — just yet. Some will be visiting your website to learn more about their options. Some will just be doing initial research, trying to figure out which is  the best way for them to move forward.

Two things to think about with this:

a) Each one of these visitors is an opportunity

Although they have some interest, they are not ready to speak to sales just yet. (And remember, if they aren’t ready to speak to sales, then you don’t want your sales team grinding away, trying to chase them down – wasting time! 

If your website offers them just one choice (to make a serious enquiry), odds are they will bounce off without making a connection.

Sure, you’ll get a warm glow when you see them as ‘sessions’ in your Analytics report. But that’s about it. You don’t know who they are, what they wanted, or where they were in their Buyer’s Journey.

In short: opportunity lost.



If you have a pathway for these visitors to engage with your content and gather more information (in the form of a downloadable eBook, guide, checklist or explainer), WITHOUT them having to talk to a salesperson, then you have a chance to begin a more solid relationship.

It is a simple exchange:

  • If they provide you with some basic information about themselves
  • You will provide them with some helpful information

If you’d like to dig in deeper and learn more about how this exchange works, read our article about Making Inbound Marketing more profitable by using low bar offers to engage buyers.

Putting this strategy in place should be the cornerstone of your online lead nurturing strategy. It means you can start to build lists of potential buyers, each with a known ‘Lead Status’.

Which brings us to…

b) You can NOW begin your automated nurturing programme

As you build out your lists of prospects, you can begin your online nurturing campaign to bring them to the point where they are a Sales Qualified Lead — ready for handover to your sales team.

This is done by offering:

  • Specific information offers, to
  • Specific lists of people, all
  • Without your sales team getting involved.

As someone who has been in marketing for over 30 years (sigh), I cannot begin to tell you how important that word ‘specific’ is.

Frankly, as we see this taking shape for our clients as their Inbound Marketing campaigns take hold, watching those lists growing on a daily basis is an absolute delight.

Think about how this could work for your business.

Let’s say, for example, you sell legal services. (You can insert your business’s own ‘xxxxx’ service here as we unpack this).

Note: If you happen to be a legal service, you can get more ‘insider tips’ from our article about the correct choice of keywords when marketing a law firm.

As people come to your site, you’d have different content offers in different sections.

  • If they are interested in your Family Law pages, there would be an offer of a booklet about separation or domestic violence for example
  • If they are interested in IP protection, there would be a checklist for IP rights
  • And so on.

As I said, you can substitute your own products/services into this example. The thing to understand is the principle behind it that makes it work.

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Once they download their free resource, (and give you their email address and some other basic info), you can then set up your lead nurturing software to AUTOMATICALLY wait for a specified time (it might be one day, it might be five days depending on your typical buying cycle), before sending them a personalised email offering them the next piece of useful information.


  • Your potential buyer is hearing from you (and not your competitors)
  • They are getting high quality, helpful information
  • You are winning their confidence and trust in your brand
  • Your salespeople are not even involved!

Setting up this infrastructure gives you untold advantages. It opens up the top of your Inbound funnel to engage a much wider market, and can fill your pipeline with opportunity — giving you a significant advantage over competitors who haven’t yet understood the power of this strategy.

3. Options for getting it done

There are a few things to think about here. The main two are:

  1. Which Marketing Automation platform do you use?
  2. Who does the work to make all the magic happen?

To unpack these two issues a little for you…

a) Which Marketing Automation platform do you use?

There are quite a few options platform-wise, and you’ll need to think about your commitment to the process and your budget.

At one end of the scale, there are low cost (or free) platforms such as MailChimp. At the other end of the scale are very powerful platforms such as HubSpot.

You can certainly get a fair bit done with MailChimp these days. Their automation is being steadily improved, and is offering increasing functionality. They also tick a lot of boxes with user friendliness, which is important if you are doing it on a DIY basis.

As a specialist digital marketing agency however, we found that MailChimp and other systems at that level don’t offer the power needed for high-level campaigns. That’s why we choose to use HubSpot with our clients.

Yes, it is a significant investment (at the time of writing, about $1,100 a month), but the ROI of well-structured HubSpot campaigns is very high — more than paying for the platform and for the expertise to make it sing and dance.

b) Who does the work to make all the magic happen?

Do you do it yourself in-house? Or do you outsource?

Clearly, from a marketing agency viewpoint, you might expect that I’m going to have a biased view.

And yes, I do.

But that comes from looking objectively at:

  • The hours of training each month we invest in learning/using/optimising the platform, and
  • The wide range of experienced people (copywriters, designers, coders, analysts, strategists, and more.) involved in running a profitable campaign.

The question is: do you have the in-house resources to make it work?

I have struck three different business owners now who have tried to use a high-end Marketing Automation platform like HubSpot and manage it in-house. One is doing OK, (they invested heavily in training), but the other two found that it just didn’t work, and gave up on it.

I have written another article about this, “Do I hire a Marketing Manager or outsource to a Marketing Agency” which you may find helpful. It looks at the pros and cons, and will give you some insights from lessons learned over the years.

In any event, you’ll need to think about this before you embark on the journey.

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Wondering about online lead nurturing for your business?

If you just want to ‘grow the business’ and don’t have a serious strategic plan to do so, then you probably should tread carefully. Marketing Automation requires both time and financial commitment to work effectively.

For example, in our case, we can’t work with clients who won’t at least commit to the time for a monthly meeting, (either face-to-face or via Zoom) to report in, check on lead quality, and set priorities. And there’s likely to be emails and phone calls on top of this to discuss new ideas and opportunities as they are identified by our team.

And finance-wise, at the time of writing, our Digital Partnership Plans start at $4,950 + GST per month.

So it isn’t something you’d want to do to ‘give it a try’.

On the other hand, if your decision to grow the business is strategic one and you are serious about it, then the ROI can be terrific — sending your sales graph on a steady climb once your campaigns mature.

If you would like to talk it through and explore the pros and cons, you can click this link to book a 15 minute phone call to go through a few things. Or you can just call us now on (07) 3891 3800

You won’t get an agency ‘sales pitch’.

Instead we can look at your objectives and what you are currently doing — and see if there’s a gap that could be bridged with Inbound Marketing and an online lead nurturing campaign.

I’ll answer your questions, help you to think things through and hopefully give you some confidence about the best way to move forward.




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