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Developing an Email Nurture Program for B2B: Enhancing Customer Engagement and Conversion Rates


August 7, 2023


Email remains a powerful tool for engaging potential customers and nurturing leads through the sales funnel. But to get the best results, you need to build an email nurture program focused on enhancing customer engagement and driving conversion from the start.

In this article, we’ll dive into the key steps to creating a successful email nurture program for B2B. And we’ll explore how a great program can impact customer engagement and conversion rates—while contributing to the optimization of your overall marketing strategy.

Define Your Customer Journey

The first step in building an effective email nurture program for B2B marketing is to define your customer journey. Sound familiar? This is an essential first step in creating any effective marketing program, regardless of the channel.

Mapping out your customers’ journey helps you gain insights into their needs, motivations, and behaviors at each stage of the buying process. It provides a holistic view of the customer experience, enabling you to identify pain points, opportunities, and areas for improvement.

To get started, break down your customer journey into steps a customer might take when evaluating your product or service. We generally suggest using awareness, consideration, decision, and loyalty as the primary phases of the journey, but you should use the paths and terminology that align with your overarching marketing strategy.

Once you define each of the steps along your customer journey, the next step is to map out the specific actions or behaviors a prospect might take during each phase of their journey. For example, in the decision stage, they may be looking for online reviews of your solution, reading customer stories or case studies, and comparing your features and benefits with others. Contrast that with someone in the awareness phase, who may click on one of your ads, navigate to (and hopefully read) your homepage, or engage with a social post.

Finally, define your customer journey to ensure that all members of your marketing team understand and agree upon each stage and their associated actions. In doing so, your team can deliver relevant content, offers, and experiences that resonate with your prospect’s needs and preferences, increasing the chances of engagement and conversion within your email nurture program.

Create Engaging Content for Each Stage of Your Customer Journey

Now that you have your customer journey mapped and behaviors defined, it’s time to create and align your content accordingly. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on nurture programs for a new audience. If you’re interested in creating an email nurture program specifically for trial users, learn how to convert free trial users to paying customers.

Remember that different types of content have different goals and values—some offer educational material, some are more focused on your product or service, and other types help compare options to drive decision making. And don’t forget about content for people who are already your customers.

While some B2B content strategies and formats lend themselves better to certain parts of the funnel than others, there’s no hard and fast rule—for example, customer stories are typically used down-funnel, but it could also work higher up if presented the right way. In most cases, it’s less about the type of content and more about how effectively it can answer the customer’s question at the right stage.

Here are some ideas for what types of content to prioritize along the journey:


In the awareness stage, prospects are least familiar with your products or services, and probably don’t know much about your company and its specific offerings. They could have come in through a cold list purchase, LinkedIn ad, content syndication, etc., and are trying to find a solution to their problem.

At this stage, you should serve up content that is helpful and informative about the problem, not about your company. Examples include best practices, benchmarks, trends, and useful tips.

A quick note before we move on to the next stage—the customer journey is not always linear or direct. There may be long periods of time between each stage and customers can even leapfrog back and forth between spots along their purchase path. Be sure to consider all possible routes your customer could take to conversion.


As a prospect engages with your informative content that outlines a solution to their problem, they may begin to consider your company as a potential solution. From here, you can start to offer content that still provides answers to the problem, but you should also weave in elements that positions you as the right provider. Examples include longer form content like guides, customer examples, and how-to videos.


As the potential customer begins to evaluate multiple companies who can solve their problem, they enter into a decision phase where content should be geared toward helping them choose a provider (ideally, you). Content examples include third-party validation, pricing, and implementation guides.


Finally, once a prospect makes a purchase from your company, they’re now a customer and will need helpful onboarding and activation email content, like getting started guides and customer support tips. At this point, a customer will enter into an entirely different set of email nurture programs meant to drive loyalty and potential upsell or cross sell opportunities.  

Wayfinding along the journey

As you start building out your ideal content for each journey, it’s important to document where it sits within the journey stages. It’s also helpful to map out how each of these journeys connect, and which content is tieing to additional content to help move users down the funnel. This will help you visualize the different paths possible for your prospective customers.

We suggest creating a journey map for each campaign that involves several pieces of content. Your map will look different depending on the type of campaign. For example, if you are doing an upsell campaign for current customers vs. a totally new logo campaign, your stages and content associated with that stage will differ. This is why you shouldn't just default to using a generic journey map.

Below is an example of a mapped journey for a campaign geared toward ecommerce companies. Plotting the paths will also help you identify gaps and opportunities for future content, and may inspire ideas for further segmentation.

Graphic showing a journey map of what happens after a prospect downloads an ebook

Choose the Right Email Platform for your Email Nurture Program

Email nurture programs for B2B can be as simple or complex as you need them to be. Which email service provider (ESP) you choose depends on how many stages, content pieces, or triggers you’d like to create in your nurture programs, the size of your lists or database, and your budget.

Some of the most popular ESPs used to build an email nurture program for B2B marketing are Marketo and Pardot. Marketo is a sophisticated platform that allows for multi-stream nurtures to be built using complex logic to move users to a new stream in their journey. Pardot is simpler because it allows you to visualize the journey within the platform using a feature called the Engagement Studio.

Other common enterprise-level ESPs include Hubspot, ActiveCampaign, and Eloqua, though many options, like Mailchimp and SendGrid, exist at varying price points and for all sizes of B2B companies.

No matter which email platform you choose, it’s crucial to ensure you’re able to build nurture programs based on prospect behaviors and you’re not limited to just scheduled sends. This is the key component to finding the right provider: can it execute on your vision?

A few other things to look for when choosing a provider include price, volume of sends per month, complexity, ease of use, and measurement capability.

Build Nurtures Based on Customer Behavior and Journey Stages

Now that you’ve defined your prospect journey, aligned your content to that path, and chosen an email platform that allows nurture programs, it’s time for the fun part—building your email nurture sequences.

Determine triggers and create email flows

First, you’ll want to determine what triggers will cause someone to move to the next stream or content piece. Let’s start with an easy example in a linear nurture stream. In this scenario, a prospect enters the nurture due to a few criteria points. For example, they downloaded a certain asset or have a job title you’d like to target.

Once in the email nurture program, they receive an initial email followed by several follow-up emails. In this case, the prospect receives four emails on specific days, regardless of their engagement. After the fourth email, there’s a one-week wait step followed by three options: Enter general consideration stage flow, sales follow-up, or, if they signed up for a trial, emails specific to that trial and conversion to paying customer.

This type of email nurture program is less targeted and more lightly personalized to the prospect’s situation, but is helpful for maintaining consistent communication after a specific event or trigger. This is the baseline from which you should build a more specific nurture programs.

A graphic showing a basic B2B email nurture program where prospects enter the sequence base on an action or attribute, then get a pre-defined sequence of emails on pre-defined dates. Their action does not change the sequence.

Customize your email nurture flow

You’ll likely want to put a bit more rigor into your email nurture program for B2B marketing and tie it to actions taken by a prospect. In this next example, a user is sent down a certain path depending on what action they take.

A graphic showing a sample email nurture program where an action taken by the prospect determines which email they get next in B2B email marketing.

There’s a yes or no split for each step, so upon the first trigger, say a download of an ebook, if they download, they get a specific email; if they don’t download, they get a different email. And so on. The idea is to use email to inspire engagement and tailor each subsequent email touch based on whether that engagement occurred.

Now let’s take a look at a more complex nurture stream where the prospect must take a certain action to be moved to another stream. In this case, a prospect must engage (download an asset, visit the company's website in a certain time period, etc.) to move to the consideration phase of a nurture. If a prospect doesn’t engage, then they’ll continue to be served up additional awareness content until they do engage or exhaust all content.

A visual graphic showing a trigger-based email nurture program designed to move someone through the funnel

In this example again, there is a specific trigger event that launches an email. If the prospect clicks within the email, they get email 1 from the awareness column. They continue down the awareness series of emails—sent with a pre-determined cadence—until they click. Upon click, they skip the rest of the awareness emails and move to the consideration column, and so on.

The ultimate goal is to get prospects to sign up for a trial or schedule a demo. With this flow, if no action is taken from the decision column, there’s a one-week wait before putting that person into their next actions, including dropping into a different sequence or getting a direct outreach from sales.

This type of nurture is more complex, but as you can see, more tailored toward the actual prospect experience.

Tip: If you decide to create a highly complex email nurture program, use a flowchart to visualize it before building in your email platform. We also recommend naming each email with a title that  describes its content. Your system can get confusing quickly if you call emails by generic names, like 1, 2, and 3. Naming them something like “customer success ebook” is also helpful if you decide to move around your content or insert new content into your journey.

As you start building more complex email nurture programs for B2B, consider how you manage your audience. For example, if someone is in a consideration sequence because they work for a brand on your target account list, but then they download an ebook that has its own sequence attached, does this individual get the emails from both sequences? Build your settings to account for overriding or exiting sequences as other actions are taken. The goal should always be to provide a pleasant, helpful experience to the prospect, with confusing or overwhelming them.

Write compelling email copy

With your customer journey defined, content aligned to the journey, and a mapped-out email flow, it’s time to write compelling copy for your email nurture program that will entice users to move along the path to conversion.

Here are a few tips on email marketing best practices to make the most of your copy:

  1. Grab attention with your subject line: Your subject line should be clear, concise, and attention-grabbing. Use powerful language that entices readers to open the email and learn more.
  2. Keep it simple and engaging: Your email copy should be engaging, easy to read, and relevant to your audience. Use a conversational tone and avoid using overly technical or complicated language.
  3. Focus on the benefits: Make sure your email copy highlights the benefits your product or service will bring to the customer. Explain how it can help solve your reader's problems or improve their life in some way.
  4. Give a clear call-to-action: Your email should have a clear call to action that tells your reader what to do next. Whether it's to download an ebook or sign up for a newsletter, make sure it's easy to understand and takes the reader directly to the desired destination.
  5. Use the eight-second rule: People receive a lot of emails every day, so keep your email copy short and to the point. You have about eight seconds to grab someone's attention. If you can’t read or scan the email in that amount of time the email is too long.

Test the email nurture sequences

Once you’ve built your email program, it’s time to test it out before setting it live. One of the biggest mistakes we see when building email nurture programs is a lack of rigorous testing to identify bugs and ensure a smooth flow. Mistakes happen with emails all the time, and even more so when you’re building highly complex B2B email flows.

Before launching your program to the masses, have several team members go through the email flow as if they were a prospect and document any disconnects or errors they find. Even if you’ve looked over it a hundred times, it’s always a safe bet to get a second pair of eyes to confirm everything is set. Take the extra time to perfect your program before it reaches your customers—you don’t want to risk an embarrassing mistake that could turn customers off from your company completely.

Analyze Results and Optimize Your Email Nurture Program for B2B

You’ve launched your carefully crafted email nurture program and ensured that all the bugs were worked out. So now what?

Take a breath and give it some time to let prospects start trickling into your program. Once a sizable amount of users have received the program, you can start evaluating its success.

The marketing goal of your program will help you determine what to measure. For example, if your goal is meetings booked with sales, track appointments scheduled and attended. If it’s signups for your product trial, track signups and initial logins. Whatever your goal is, make sure you have a way to measure the impact.

Using UTM parameters can help measure the impact of your emails. Additionally, keep an eye on vanity metrics, including open rate, click-to-open rate, click-through rate, and unsubscribe rate. While these may not be the end goal, they can help you understand how to optimize your content and email copy.

In general, B2B companies should compare their vanity metrics to the following benchmarks:

  • greater than 20% open rate
  • greater than 12% click-to-open rate
  • less than 1% unsubscribe rate

Note that these will vary depending on your industry and it’s always smart to also establish internal benchmarks to see how you improve over time. A full breakdown of benchmarks by industry can be found here.

But keep in mind, building your first email nurture program isn’t a one-and-done deal. You’ll likely have multiple email nurtures depending on the amount of campaigns and programs you run. It’s also important to remember that email nurtures that are trigger based will continuously run until someone shuts the program off. You’ll need to have someone dedicated to monitoring, optimizing, and measuring every email program.

Pulling it All Together

B2B companies can reap huge benefits from using email marketing as part of a nurture program because of its direct, cost-effective, and scalable means of communication. Email enables relationship building, lead nurturing, and measurable results. When used strategically, email can be a powerful tool for generating leads, driving conversions, and fostering long-term customer relationships.

When set up and optimized correctly, an email nurture program for B2B allow you to communicate with prospects at the right time, with content appropriate to where they are in their buying journey.

Need help building sophisticated email nurture programs that convert? Email growth@rightsideup.co to find experienced B2B email marketers.

A highly motivated, critical thinker, Maysen is a young professional with energy and passion for simplifying technology. With her undergraduate degree in Marketing and a Master of Business Administration, she's held countless roles in marketing and sales within the technology industry. Maysen is a gifted communicator and storyteller that is dedicated to educating, equipping and empowering go-to-market teams through campaign management, content management, demand generation strategy and sales enablement. She recently led marketing strategy for the Cloud SaaS sector at Elastic where she developed, managed, and executed on the cloud trial program. Since then, she's taken her expertise in SaaS to expand her role to campaign management leading several product-led growth initiatives.

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