How to Turn Your HubSpot Marketing Automation Software into a Powerful Lead Nurturing Machine
by Frank Cowell | Updated May 19, 2022
Are you one of the many marketers frustrated by the fact that you haven’t taken advantage of HubSpot’s capabilities? You were so excited when you purchased HubSpot’s powerful marketing automation software - yet here you are several months later with only a few simple email campaigns under your belt.
You know HubSpot is a great marketing automation tool, but how do you use it in a way that’s both strategic and effective?
And, of course, in a way that doesn’t require you to reinvent the wheel every time you add a new initiative to your marketing mix?
We at Digitopia felt that same pain.
Like many of you reading this article, we fell in love with HubSpot’s seemingly limitless possibilities...and then when left to our own devices, we barely scratched the surface of the powerful tool. It’s not for lack of caring or trying, of course. It’s just that getting a marketing software application off the ground is a bigger undertaking than most people expect.
So, after a few months of frustration, we decided to buckle down and do something about it.
We set out to develop a standard implementation that would be strategic, effective, and would not require us to reinvent the wheel every time. Our needs were:
- Most importantly, we needed automation to move contacts through the buyer’s journey (from lifecycle stage to lifecycle stage). HubSpot does a great job of teaching the philosophy of the buyer’s journey, but falls a bit short when showing the mechanics of “how.” We wanted to solve that.
It took a lot of tests, failures, late nights, and (heated) internal debates. But, we came out of the other side with a standard HubSpot implementation for HubSpot's Marketing Hub that transformed our clients’ (and our own!) marketing automation into an awesome lead nurturing and conversion machine.
Now, we want to share those tactics and processes with you.
The HubSpot Setup Master Checklist
We developed a HubSpot Setup Master Checklist that walks you through every aspect of building your machine that harnesses the marketing automation power HubSpot provides. I won’t bore you with the details in this post, but I will leave you with a list of everything you need to do to complete your build.
The really exciting part of the HubSpot Setup is the development of your 5-Funnel Automation Sequence. That’s where I’ll focus the bulk of this post’s content.
But first, here is the HubSpot Setup Master Checklist:
- Google Analytics and Tag Manager Setup
- Buyer Personas
- Machine campaigns
- Default thank you page
- Email templates
- Landing page templates
- Blog templates
- Forms and lists
- Lead scoring
- Blog subscription emails
- Machine emails
- Default owner workflow
- Lifecycle update to MQL workflow
- Blog subscription from CTAs workflow
- 5-funnel automation sequence
The 5-Funnel Automation Sequence - Explained
The real meat and potatoes of Digitopia's HubSpot Marketing Automation Playbook come in the form of the 5-Funnel Automation Sequence. This sequence is what will organically move your contacts down the funnel, with very little extra work required from you or your team.
Before we dive into the 5- Funnel Automation Sequence, here are three overarching tips to keep in mind for these HubSpot workflows:
- No HTML emails - I know this one hurts. We marketers love to make beautiful emails, but the data never lies. While many people claim to prefer HTML emails (⅔ of respondents to a survey claimed they preferred HTML and image-based emails), they actually prefer plain text. In every single A/B test conducted by HubSpot, the simpler designed email won. Open and click rates even went down with the small addition of a company logo. That’s right, even the logos have to go.
- Specifically, use personal email templates - While the emails are automated, the contacts you’re nurturing don’t need to know that. Emails perform best when they seem to come from a real person (shocker, right?) who just sat down to shoot someone an email. Emails should come from a specific person in your organization and should be conversational, like a 1-on-1 interaction.
- Don’t make it salesy - The point of these automation campaigns is to offer high value to the contacts in your database. No one enjoys being sold to, nor do they tend to trust the person selling to them. They do, however, trust their friends. If you use these funnels to continue to add value and help your contacts, they will see your company as a friend who wants to help. Then, when it is time for a “pitch” they will be a lot more receptive.
1. The Welcome Series
The Welcome Series is a new contact’s first opportunity to get to know your company. Think of it as a “welcome to the family” series, where you will let them know what your business is all about, and how the content you’re going to share with them will change their lives.
Not only is the welcome series the perfect time to make a great first impression, it serves some important technical purposes as well.
New subscribers are more engaged. Welcome emails generate four times the total open rates and five times the click rates compared to other bulk promotions. And, welcome series are an opportunity to get “whitelisted” in someone’s inbox. While your new contact is open to engaging with your content, be sure to let them know how to add your email address to their accepted sender's list.
Your welcome series should consist of three to five emails. The first email of the series will be an introduction to your brand, the content you’ll deliver to their inbox, and whitelist instructions. It’s your “first impression.”
The remaining emails in the series are great opportunities to get contacts to subscribe to your blog, or let them know about other resources you may have to offer.
Segmentation is critical for understanding how to interact with, and nurture your database. Of course, it’s impossible to tap into every single interest of every single lead, but there are probably plenty of small buckets that your potential customers can fit into.
Why is it so important to segment your contacts based on their interests? Consider this: You’re interested in buying a house. You’ve downloaded a lead magnet - a monthly payment calculator. Then, you get a bunch of emails about how to choose the right real estate agent. Sure, budgeting for a house and real estate agents are technically both related to buying houses, but nothing about your calculator download indicates an interest in real estate agents.
A much better series of emails for a person who downloads a payment calculator would be: additional expenses to keep in mind when purchasing a home, budgeting tips, and maybe even tips for price comparison shopping loans. You’d be far more likely to open those emails, right?
When you send relevant emails to your audience, your emails are naturally more engaging to that audience. As HubSpot puts it, your email reputation will improve, and your database will begin to trust that every email you send to them will be relevant and interesting because they always have been.
According to a Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, 39% of marketers who segmented their lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced greater revenue.
Digitopia’s segmentation series allows contacts to self-select what topic they’re interested in. It sends your unsegmented database a series of free offers to download, all of which are about different topics. If a contact converts on one of the free offers, we now know which topic they care about, and can send them straight to their topically relevant nurturing track.
Once you know your contacts’ topic of interest, you can nurture them with related content. The purpose of the nurturing series is pretty straightforward: send contacts helpful information related to things they care about. Remember that lead nurturing is not a sales pitch. It exists only to bring added value to your leads.
Make sure to get really good at lead nurturing campaigns because companies that excel at nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads at a 33% lower cost. And, nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
And it makes sense. After all, if you’ve been a helpful resource to someone for weeks (or months), they will see you as a trusted friend and will be more open to the natural progression of a sales conversation.
Consider the alternative - cold calls. Do you remember the last time you picked up the phone, and realized it was a cold call from someone trying to sell you something? Did you love the experience? Did you buy the product? No and no.
At Digitopia, our nurturing workflow consists of a series of quick but value-driven emails that direct the recipient to an interesting article, case study, video, infographic, et cetera. Many marketers worry because they don’t have a bunch of existing blogs or videos to share. That’s okay! The nurturing series doesn’t have to consist of only content from your brand. You can share helpful content from (non-competing) third parties, and supplement with what you do have.
The conversion series is the natural “next step” after a lead has gone through topical nurturing. In the conversion emails, you will offer the contact a high-value, low-cost offer related to their topic of interest.
First, consider the high-value portion of the offer. This is not about giving them your product for free. Instead, think of how you can help them solve a particular problem or answer a particular question that has them stumped. Consider my previous home-buying example. A natural conversion offer for someone who has downloaded a calculator may be a phone call to walk through all of the considerations that aren’t covered in the standard calculator tool - like property taxes for the area they’re interested in, HOA fees, closing costs, brokerage fees, etc. During that call, you could delve into their particular needs, and perhaps even create a good faith estimate one-sheet for them to use as a starting point for price shopping.
It’s important to remember that this is not a sales pitch, and you will need to reassure the contact of the same. You are simply delivering something of high value and relevance to them.
The other aspect of conversion is “low cost.” Ideally, your conversion offers will have no monetary cost, and will simply be paid for with your contact’s time.
While there is no exchange of money, getting on the phone or replying to an email with additional information will still trigger the feeling of a transaction. This kind of offer hits on all sorts of psychological principles, like consistency and commitment and reciprocity.
The conversion series should consist of at least three emails, with the first email presenting your irresistible free help. Keep the barrier to entry very low - ask them to respond directly to the email to claim their free offer.
The two (or more) follow-ups should simply remind the contact of the offer, and raise the stakes by either explaining the scarcity of such an offer, or by emphasizing its value.
So what happens if leads don’t take advantage of your extremely valuable conversion attempts, or don’t eventually become customers? They get sent through extraction, of course!
The extraction workflow should trigger after 90 days for leads, or a year for MQLs. The name “extraction” may indicate that this workflow kicks people out of the database, or removes them from nurturing, but really, it’s just one last effort to extract some value from the contact.
Our first extraction email asks for testimonials about the content they’ve consumed from us in the past. The second asks, “When it comes to the topic of [whatever their topic of interest is] what is your single biggest headache?” If someone chooses to give us a testimonial, we now have great content to add to our website. If they want to share their biggest headache, we gain valuable insight into how to nurture and target similar people in the future.
Other great options for extraction include: Asking for feedback on why they didn’t take you up on the conversion offer, asking what kind of content they’d like to see in the future, etc. Anything that can help you learn more about your target customers is always a great place to start.
The Powerful Lead Nurturing and Conversion Machine
Between the HubSpot Setup Checklist and Digitopia’s signature 5-Funnel Automation Sequence, your HubSpot platform will be a well-oiled conversion machine in no time that supports both your marketing and sales teams.
Don't Forget Your Strategy
Of course, the machine only works when combined with the right strategy. Make sure you understand your ideal customer, their journey, and your strengths as a business. Thinking strategically about the entire journey will help you craft the perfect emails for each portion of the automation funnel. If you haven't already, make sure to fill out your Digital Utopia Blueprint so that your automation is built on a stable, thoughtful strategic foundation. Download your free blueprint exercise here »