Secrets of a Lead Nurturing Maestro

J. David Green
September 9, 2018

If you’re not getting the conversion rate you hoped with your nurture campaigns, listen to what Jon Powell has to say, excerpted from my podcast with Jon.

Jon Powell is an original thinker with keen insights into digital marketing, storytelling, and human behavior. In fact, he is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.

 Jon has reviewed dozens of academic research studies on buyer psychology, thousands of case studies and tests, has run thousands of A/B and multivariate tests, and is a top-rated speaker at conferences like Dreamforce, MarketingSherpa and the AMA. Currently, Jon is a Senior Director of Research and Education at NextAfter.

“For me, my passion is psychology. What’s going on in a human, down into the subliminal in some cases. I like to live there. I like to see what’s really going on and what’s making the clock tick.”

Jon’s career has been dedicated to bridging the gap between research and practice. As he puts it, “I’m in the middle where I’m translating what the academic is saying and I’m reading what they’re saying. Nobody else has the patience to read all of the evidence. Then I’m giving practical advice based off my own practice.”

 The Essence of Lead Nurturing

“When I think of lead nurturing… I think ‘I am trying to build a relationship… to influence a desired action.’”

Jon goes on to say that it is a marketing and sales job to “nurture somebody to a higher purpose or calling”, which in B2B sales means buying your very complex product, something that takes time and trust.

How do you build trust to influence a desired action?

“Nobody is going to engage with somebody or with an organization that they do not feel like they have some sort of connection with. I truly believe that people, they really don’t buy from organizations, they really buy from people”

When only 46% of buyers feel vendors deliver on promises, it is crucial that your sales and marketing teams are instilling this personal confidence in a scalable way while nurturing leads.

Get the infographic: How to Convert More Marketing Leads into Pipeline


Three Principles of Successful Lead Nurturing

 Timing. “Once you’ve gotten their attention, you receive their information in some sort of an opt-in. If you know the timetable they’re operating on and you know they have to make a decision at a certain point, you can nurture them with the right kind of content.”

Timing, in this context, is all about understanding how close someone is to buying. There are many ways a team can analyze timing without ever having a conversation, including:

  • The type of content someone reviews (a case study versus a top-of-funnel infographic)
  • The frequency of engaging your site
  • Content sharing
  • Explicit questions about timing in your lead forms

By analyzing these and other factors, you can see how invested a prospect might be in your brand, sales and marketing teams can tailor their outreach.

Feelings. Every marketer’s job is to tell stories that create feelings which result in an action.

By continuously creating feelings in your nurture process by “send[ing] them content that you know is going to be relevant to them, the problem they’re trying to figure out, and that doesn’t have any kind of implication of, ‘I want you to make your buying decision now.’”

People want to feel valued and it is your job in marketing to create that feeling in your nurture campaigns.

 Service. Marketing teams need to “focus on serving the person you’re nurturing completely without appearance of an ulterior motive.”

As Jon says, “let nurturing be nurturing. Let a sales email be a sales email.”

“Many times, when we nurture, we want to try and squeeze in a ‘buy now’ or some sort of call to action about accelerating the buying process ‘just in case’ they are ready.”

To your prospect, this feels as though they’re being squeezed to make a decision, and as Jon points out, people are like rubber bands. They need to be continually stretched out. When you shove aggressive sales tactics into nurture strategies, the prospect hasn’t been primed and “what ends up happening is you may lose the positive effect of nurturing because you may come across as disingenuous.”

How to Optimize Your Nurture Campaigns

 Jon shared one simple tactic to increase conversions in lead nurturing. “What would happen if we sent them a response email that was directly related to the form that they came in on?”

Powell found that when a window company did this, “they had a 150% increase in clicks and engagement into that content.”


In Jon’s typical subconscious analysis, when you send relevant content, you’re priming someone. “You know that they’re being prepared” with relevant information that creates a feeling that facilitates an action.

I asked him to show a specific example of how teams can begin to optimize campaigns. We came up with an example of a company who has five separate white papers and they’re trying to optimize their nurture campaigns to convert more leads.

You should ask the following questions:

  • Which white paper brought in which leads?
  • Did keywords bring them in? If so, which ones are ranking?
  • How much time are they spending reading the white paper?
  • How can I customize the email nurture to best reflect the content in the white paper?
  • How can I prime the individual on the next step?

The easiest opportunity to execute a successful nurture strategy in this situation is to break down the white paper into digestible pieces to use in the nurture campaign. So, if a prospect downloaded a longform piece about online cart abandonment, the nurture strategy would involve expanding on the sub-topics in the piece like:

  • Why prospects abandon their cart
  • How to decrease shopping cart abandonment onsite
  • How to get customers to come back to their shopping carts

Some other quick tips Jon gave on creating a successful sales nurture strategy:

  • Personalized communication

“Right now, I see people are very hungry for the personal communication… It’s about making somebody feel as if they’re important enough to have something customized for them as long as it doesn’t feel creepy.”

  • Plain Text Emails

It’s funny how the world comes full circle, but as Jon says, “people eat that stuff up. They love it. I see this on both sides of the coin, right? And it’s so strange because that’s the way we started out.”

Just take a look at Drift’s email strategy and their hypergrowth. They’ve been using straightforward, casual plain text emails since their inception to lean into their “conversational marketing” niche.

Get More Insights into Jon’s Lead Gen & Nurture Strategies

Jon’s full interview dives deeper into the tactical tips you need to start optimizing your lead generation and nurture strategies into fine-tuned machines. He’s truly a rock star and we appreciate him joining us on the B2B Marketing Jukebox Podcast which you can listen to here.



Further Reading

Savannah Mudd
October 31, 2019
. 8 min read
Lainey Mebust
October 15, 2019
Lainey Mebust
October 2, 2019