Imagine the decision makers at your top 100 target accounts. You know their title, their pain points, and how your product solves them. But now imagine if 77 of those 100 decision makers thought your buyer journey was complex and difficult. It’s your worst nightmare, right? Unfortunately, startup marketers can’t wake up from this one — because it’s true. 

A whopping 77% of B2B buyers find the buying process extremely complex or difficult, according to Gartner, which is why they coined the term “Buyer Enablement.” We talk so much about sales enablement, but what we really need to do is create a journey where buyers feel educated, empowered, and excited to move forward. The numbers bear this out: B2B buyers are three times more likely to buy a bigger deal with less regret when suppliers provide information that’s perceived as helpful in advancing the purchase process.

But how do you ensure buyers get the information they need to make a confident decision? After all, research also shows that B2B buyers are nearly finished with their journey before they’re willing to talk to a sales rep.

The solution is easy: take full advantage of email nurturing.

Using email to nurture leads puts the power in your hands; you get to guide them through the funnel and provide valuable information that differentiates you from the competition. Many startup marketers think their website, social channels, or paid media campaigns do a perfectly lovely job of showcasing their solution’s differentiators. But that’s not enough, and the research proves that B2B buyers will abandon their engagement with you if they can’t figure out what makes you different from the competition. 

When it comes to B2B software purchases in particular, 41% of buyers will drop a potential vendor from consideration if there’s a lack of clear product differentiation, according to Gartner’s 2024 Global Software Buying Trends report. In an email nurture, though, you can provide case studies, testimonials, and solution briefs to clearly differentiate yourself.

How do you make the most of email nurture campaigns?

1. Think of email nurture campaigns as your “Then What?”

Most startup marketers have thought of the big stuff that can generate much-needed awareness and leads: PR plans, paid media campaigns, and SEO strategies. Those are all great ways to put your brand on centerstage and drive conversions from net-new leads. But then what? Once someone clicks on your LinkedIn ad and fills out the form to complete your interactive maturity assessment, then what? What’s your plan to guide them through the funnel?  

If your organization’s “Then What?” is an email or phone call from Sales asking this net-new lead to book a demo immediately after they downloaded a gated asset, your buyer journey is all wrong. You’re trying to get them to go directly from net-new lead to sales opportunity, without taking any time to consider their various options — and B2B buyers simply don’t act that way. In fact, a majority of B2B buyers consume three to five pieces of content before engaging with a salesperson, while 30% consume more than five pieces of content.

An email nurture is the perfect way to drip feed those crucial pieces of content to them. Think of what you could share in four or five emails! Otherwise, you’re stuck crossing your fingers and hoping that they browse your website and consume the right content assets.

2. Balance serving with selling

Startup marketing is like a balancing scale. If you hit leads with nothing but sales pitches, they’re not getting the answers and insights they need to determine which solution is best for their specific problem. That’s why every email nurture must balance serving with selling. Think of your nurture as its own little full-funnel journey: start with the more top-funnel thought leadership that serves helpful information, then send them a case study or two to serve them with lessons from a similar company’s success, then move down to sales collateral like product one-pagers and solution briefs in the final emails.

I always suggest ending nurture streams with an email that asks the recipient to book a demo. After all, you’ve guided them down the funnel and provided the multiple assets they need. Because the request is coming from Marketing instead of Sales, it’s a lower-pressure ask. If they’re not ready, they simply won’t click on the “Let’s Chat” CTA button. They’re not ready yet, and sending Sales after them is simply a waste of your reps’ time.

3. Go with the (right) flow

No one wants to be bombarded with emails, no matter how much helpful information they might contain. For net-new leads, I typically suggest a cadence of one email per week because it’s frequent enough to keep your brand top of mind, but it’s not annoying. In some cases — like when there’s five weeks to go in Q3 and you’ve got an absolute-must-hit sales qualified lead goal — you can speed this cadence up a bit. However, I would always recommend leaving a minimum of three business days in between email sends. Otherwise, those leads you worked so hard to generate will dismiss your brand as annoying.

How many emails is the “right” amount? Typically, I suggest four or five. That gives you a month or so to guide these leads down the funnel. If they don’t respond to your “Let’s Chat” email at the end, consider waiting a few weeks and enrolling them in another nurture based on their persona or industry. If your nurture strategy isn’t quite that robust yet, rest easy knowing you’ve added them to your newsletter send list (you do have one, right?) which will keep your brand top of mind AND provide valuable content that helps with their decision process.

4. Make it personal

Email nurtures are a great way to create a personalized journey for every net-new lead; simply base the content featured in your emails on what triggered their entrance into the nurture. Their form fill tells you what they’re interested in, now give them more of it. 

For example, if they downloaded an ebook about AI’s role in consumer financial services, their post-download nurture should provide other relevant insights and use cases. Send them an infographic that details current consumer expectation trends. Send them a case study that shows how one of your bank clients accelerated its consumer loan processing by turning previously-manual tasks over to AI. Send them a one pager that explains how financial services institutions can use AI responsibly, ethically, and in line with industry regulations.

5. Make automation your friend

If all these nurture emails and campaigns sound like a monumental struggle to manage, remember that everything can be automated in your CRM. Build the workflow and the emails once, set the cadence for delivery, and sit back and wait for the engagement metrics to come in. You may have to make some tweaks (after all, the data always tells the real story) but for the most part, you can let these campaigns run on autopilot while you focus on other initiatives.

6. Remember that good things come to those who wait

You’ve likely heard a bunch of others repeat this stat: only 5% of your total addressable market is ready to buy today. It’s so frequently referenced because it’s such a powerful reminder that marketers have to operate on their buyers’ timelines, no matter how frustrating that may be. Startups in particular face massive pressure to drive pipeline and close deals, like, now. However, trying to push leads before they’re ready to buy will only turn them off from your brand. 

Email nurturing gives you a chance to create an ongoing conversation that subtly points them in the direction of closed-won. It’s your opportunity to prove that you understand their pain, have the expertise they need to buy with confidence, and will be a valuable partner to them over the long haul.

The verdict is in: email nurture campaigns are a can’t-skip

No matter who you target or what you sell, email nurturing is an absolute must. B2B buyers have made their intentions clear — they have to do their due diligence before they can justify using up precious budget. B2B sales cycles are long, especially in tech, and email nurturing is the best way to keep a quality conversation going until they’re ready to move forward. 

About the Author

Nicole Pytel is Vice President of Content Marketing at Firebrand Communications. With 15 years of content marketing and branding experience, she loves combining multimedia creativity with strategic data analysis to help clients reach their biggest goals.