by Brian Sun, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Autopilot

The Perfect Lead Nurture Email

Do you have a plan for staying top of mind with leads in your contact database who aren’t ready to buy yet? How do you guide their journey towards a sale? Whether you are a boutique marketing agency, an ecommerce wine company, or a venture funded tech startup, lead nurturing is an often untapped strategy to earn interest, engagement, and revenue.

In this post, we’ll go into the detail about the perfect lead nurture email—audience, send frequency, the best content to use, industry benchmarks, and more.

Audience and frequency

Lead nurturing emails are sent to prospective buyers (“leads”) in your contact database who are not ready to buy yet. Typical candidates for lead nurturing include:

  • Curious readers who signed up for your email newsletter
  • Early-stage researchers evaluating various products and services
  • People who want to get to know your company better
  • Subscribers who have downloaded a gated piece of content (ebook, free report, etc.)
  • Contacts you’ve acquired via co-marketing or sponsorship efforts

Communications are generally timed five days to four weeks apart, provide links to public or gated content, and offer ways to connect on social media or at upcoming events.

The best frequency to send depends on the length of your sales cycle, but a simple starting point is to send 3-5 emails, 10 days apart with your top-performing content and iterate from there. Here’s how to create a basic lead nurturing journey.

Type of content

Lead nurturing emails help companies stay top the mind of these not-yet-sales-ready leads by providing valuable content, including industry insights, best practices, community reviews, and customer case studies. Take stock of your existing content to get an idea of what you’re working with. To get started quickly, repurpose your highest traffic blog post into an email.

For a more advanced approach, personalize your lead nurturing content based on past activity and engagement. For example, if a reader downloads an ebook on how to become a better writer, send blog posts and other content to help them hone their skills. This is behavior-based lifecycle lead nurturing.

Email formatting and best practices

Use a simple, one-column, on-brand HTML template for your lead nurturing emails. Reserve plain-text emails for more personalized communications like invitations for feedback or to ask users for a quick phone call.

While a plain-text lead nurturing email could work, you’d be missing out an opportunity to incorporate strong visuals (colors, images, videos) and stand out call-to-actions that encourages clicks.

Below is an HTML lead nurturing email template you can use for your own sends:


With the above email, all you need to do is modify the content to fit your business. There is barely any original content creation that needs to happen. The majority of the work is already done by repurposing content—your blog posts, case studies, webinars, etc. It’s a quick win.

Here’s a different example to spark your creativity:

Screen Shot 2017 07 13 at 11.05.08 AM

Want to see more? Check out Zapier, Shopify, and Canva’s lead nurturing email examples.

Keep the following best practices in mind as you create the perfect lead nurture email for your business:

  • Irresistibly clickable subject line. Stick to a 6 to 10 word subject line that uses the tone and style that appeals to your target audience. Test different approaches like saying something surprising, asking a question, or simply stating what’s inside to see what drives opens.
  • Send from a real person. Address your email from a lead owner, account owner, customer success manager, community manager, or CEO to add a personal touch and drives higher open and response rates. Two different options include saying your full name like “Bob Goff” or “Bob at Cline Cellars.”
  • Follow personalization best practices. Use real first names, limit each email to two to three personalizations (to avoid the creeper factor), and go beyond just using name by sending different content based on lead history and behavior.
  • Eye-catching image. Reuse the same image or adapt from your source content (e.g. blog post) in your lead nurturing email. This grabs the reader’s attention and creates consistency after people click through to read more.
  • Short, relevant & informative hook. Give just enough to draw the reader in to learn more while saving the meat for after they click through.
  • Clear call-to-action. Make it a no-brainer to click by using contrasting colors on a large button with text like “Read more” or “Learn more”.

This email formula has driven tons of traffic back to our website and a similar one could do the same for your business. Aim for 10% of your leads in any given period (month, quarter) to come from people influenced by lead nurturing.


In our own experiments and across our customers, we see: 10-15% open rates for early stage leads (people who are just getting to know us) and upwards of 40-50% for interested prospective buyers who’ve engaged with our top-performing content. The results vary depending on the size of your contact database and industry, but expect to see increased traffic, more engaged leads, and new sales coming through the pipeline.

Wrapping it all up

Sometimes called the “heart of marketing,” lead nurturing emails are an important tool in the modern marketer’s strategy to guide prospective buyers to a sale. As you start sending nurturing emails of your most valuable content, you might be surprised to find a very live contact database clamoring to hear from you more frequently.

Want to learn more? Get more insight into what is lead nurturing and how to start.

Author Brian Sun, Senior Manager, Content Marketing, Autopilot

  • Your journey to sky-high growth starts here.

    Subscribe to join a savvy crew of journey marketers and learn the latest trends, tactics, and tools.

    More from Marketing
    How Virgin America Created a Wow Customer Experience

    How Virgin America Created a Wow Customer Experience

    Have you flown with Virgin America before? You should. The check-in area is like a hotel lobby. They have music  …

    The Keyword Research Tools You Need to Get the Job Done

    The Keyword Research Tools You Need to Get the Job Done

    Keyword research should be a staple in every marketer’s diet. Whether you’re a growth marketer in a brand new startup  …

    Remarkable Content Marketing Examples You’ll Want to Copy

    Remarkable Content Marketing Examples You’ll Want to Copy

    Whether you’re new to content marketing or already a seasoned expert, you can always learn from what other companies are  …