Lead nurturing is about building relationships. And relationships require more than a one-size-fits-all formula.

Lead nurturing campaigns are a great way to guide your leads through each stage of the buyer journey and encourage more conversions, and to do that you must provide relevant, valuable content and meet a prospect’s needs at each stage. If you’ve already created and run lead nurturing campaigns, you know they take time to set up and require thorough planning. There also are a lot of companies vying for your target audience’s attention at once. Here are a few tips to help you improve your campaigns for maximum results.

1. Plan and create campaigns for each stage of the client journey

Lead nurturing (done right) takes a lot of planning and strategy. And it needs to be well thought out before the campaign goes live. One of the first, most important things you should do is identify your target audience and define them through buyer personas. This is at the heart of every part of your lead nurturing strategy, as the needs and interests of your prospects vary at each stage of the client journey. Therefore, you want to plan and create content for each of those stages. For prospects in the awareness stage, you should offer educational content that provides insights into a problem they’re trying to solve through blog posts, assessments, infographics, and video. Those in the consideration stage want to identify possible solutions to their problem, so relevant content would include ebooks, webinars, or case studies. And as a prospect moves into the decision stage, give them final encouragement through free trials and product/service demos. As video marketing increases in power and relevance, it will be a valuable tool to incorporate into your lead nurturing campaigns at all stages of the buyer journey. It’s easy to digest and can add more personalization.

2. Create a content map and set goals

Before you start scheduling and sending content to your prospects, it’s essential to set goals for your campaigns. Along with the content, this will be the foundation of your lead nurturing strategy. In order to measure success and plan strategically, you must set benchmarks for what you want to achieve through your campaigns, and then you can adjust your schedule, content and methods accordingly. As you set up a content map for emails in your campaign, be sure to wait to send the first email until you have at least three ready to go. Timing can be just as important as the content you’re serving up, so plan ahead. It’s so much better to tackle the majority of the content creation up front than to do it as you go, throwing together emails that may not be your best quality.

3. Have one clear call-to-action

Each of your lead nurturing emails or other touch points should have only one specific call-to-action. This will help prevent any confusion in your email, and when each email focuses on one subject at a time, your prospects and leads will be more likely to take action. Determine what is the one primary action you want your prospects to take and make that the focal point of your CTA. Your CTAs should also correspond with the lead’s current stage of the buyer journey. You wouldn’t want to lose someone by sending them information about your service or inviting them to try a free trial before they’re ready to.

4. Use lead scoring

One way to know where someone is in the client journey is to set up lead scoring in your marketing automation software. Lead scoring allows you to assign point values to different actions that a prospect takes and rank them against a scale of the value each lead represents to your firm. For example, a prospect could receive 5 points for downloading an eBook and 1 point for visiting a certain page on your company’s website. The score then helps you identify where a prospect is in the sales funnel. Over time, as a prospect receives more points, you can assume they are moving along the buyer journey, and it gives you insight into what kind of content to send them at each point.

5. Develop automated, behavior-based campaigns

Marketing automation software allows you to create automated and multi-step email campaigns that are triggered by a specific web-based behavior such as downloading an eBook, registering for a webinar, or visiting a particular page on your website. They can even be triggered by a specific combination of behaviors, such as downloading an eBook and then returning to your website during a specific time window. Consider creating a triggered campaign for leads with a high score or for leads that visit high-value web pages such as your pricing page. In general, it will be much more efficient to create several emails upfront and schedule them to be sent automatically every couple of weeks from the first interaction. Stay engaged with leads but avoid sending more than one email per week. It’s a delicate balance between being overbearing and staying top-of-mind.

6. Segment and use personalization

Segmenting your lead nurturing campaigns is especially important if you target different industry verticals or have several different buyer personas. For example, if you market services to the healthcare and commercial industries, you wouldn’t want companies in both industries going into the same lead nurturing campaign because they have different interests and different problems to solve. You could also segment your contacts based on how they interact with your content, from monitoring how many leads open your emails, who clicks through your links, etc. In order for your campaigns to be successful, they need to be segmented so that you send relevant information to your prospects and meet their particular needs. Most people recognize that just because you address them in an email by their name, it doesn’t mean it’s written specifically for them. They’ll recognize personalization when you modify content to be useful and relevant to a specific lead, and this helps build better relationships.

7. Be conversational

People want to interact with humans, not companies. For that reason, be sure your emails are written from a member of your marketing or sales team. Personalize the emails in any way that you can and use conversational language. This doesn’t mean you should sound informal or use slang, but rather type like you speak. Emails that sound boring, automated or computer-like are less likely to resonate with the reader and will probably get deleted.

8. Consider multiple channels

When you think of lead nurturing, most people think solely of email marketing. However, effective lead nurturing often involves a combination of email marketing and retargeting across multiple platforms, such as search, social media, or display retargeting. Consider your different buyer personas. Where do they get their news? Which social platforms do they use? Segment your leads depending on their stage in the buyer journey, their behavior, and their preferred channel. Then plan and promote content on these channels that doesn’t repeat what they’ve already seen through email or on your website. Targeting your leads through multiple channels increases the number of touch points and the likelihood of connecting and resonating with them. It also can increase their familiarity with the brand, and then increase email opens as a result.

9. Track, test, and adjust

Lastly, be sure to track the performance of your lead nurturing campaigns and adjust them accordingly. Study the analytics to determine what content is resonating the most, which channels are receiving the most engagement, when is the best time to contact a certain audience, etc. Use A/B testing to continue testing different subject lines, CTAs, content formats, and social media channels. Watch what your competitors are doing and think about where there are gaps that you can fill in or what you can do better. And remember that your email campaigns are only effective if your prospects see them. Therefore, monitor your delivery and open rates to make sure they are receiving and seeing your messages, and be sure your content is responsive to any of their devices. Continue researching best practices for email marketing, as they are often changing.

From beginning to end

Remember that the buyer’s journey does not last for forever, and lead nurturing must eventually include selling. So don’t forget to cater to those nearing a decision, and don’t be afraid to ask for their business when they’ve reached that point. As you research your target audience and develop buyer personas, you will see that different kinds of firms or prospects will have differing buyer journey timespans. But as you nurture those leads and build relationships through personalization and thorough research, you will know the best time and way to lead them to conversion.