Many businesses spend great resources to acquire leads – either buying lists or building their own through customer interaction. And most businesses are happy spending to acquire a list, blast out a few emails, and sit back and wait. But if that’s your strategy when it comes to email marketing, you could be missing out on the huge returns that come through targeted lead nurturing. A recent study by Marketo found that an email-based lead nurturing campaign increases sales opportunities by as much as 20%. The bottom line: lead generation is a waste of resources if it is not integrated with a lead nurturing system.
This is especially true when it comes to complex or large purchases (in both the B2B and B2C world). Big purchases will require extensive hand-holding to close the sale – and an email-based lead nurturing system is one of the best ways to walk a potential customer through the sales cycle. A targeted lead-nurturing strategy allows a business to tailor content to customers depending on where they are in that cycle – with unique messages for those who have showed initial interest, a continued interest based on earlier emails, those facing decision-paralysis, and those nearing the final sale.
Let me tell a personal story: I recently sold my first home, it was a sad day (except for the fact that I was selling it to move to a better place with a better job). And now I’m in the market for a new home – you know, that perfect one that is freshly remodeled, hip, in a great neighborhood, and cheap (those exist, right?).
I’ve done my research – that’s what I call binge watching HGTV – and now I’m ready to take the next step. Venturing out to see what’s available, I came across Zillow – loved its features, signed-up, and started browsing. After a few hours, I come across the perfect house (if you can see through the peeling paint, moldy carpets, and busy intersection), and I find a handy little ‘save this house’ button. I add the house to my list and move on; life gets busy and I put the house hunt on hold, all but forgetting about the few hours I spent pouring over every listing on Zillow.
Becoming a Target
I may have forgotten about Zillow, but Zillow sure hadn’t forgotten about me. Zillow is great at lead nurturing – because their business model relies on it. Take a minute and check out their website, I’ll wait.
Now that you’re back, the thing that stands out about Zillow is that it is a free service with a lack of obvious advertisement. Zillow makes its money by offering membership and ‘featured status’ to Realtors and lenders – and so if Zillow isn’t bringing new business to these paying members, then they’re going to quit paying Zillow. Buying a house is a big deal (probably the biggest investment you’ll ever make), so Zillow must focus on that hand-holding process we talked about earlier. And they have nailed their email-based lead nurturing. Let’s look at how they bring customers from mildly interested to under contract:
Welcome Email – At the time of sign up Zillow sends out an initial welcome email. This is a simple message that includes a few calls to action. Featured prominently is the ‘Search for homes now’ button which returns you to the Zillow homepage. A few other options populate the bottom of the email, but overall it is a very simple design – just enough to remind you that Zillow is there waiting when you’re ready to shop more.
Saved Home – The emails take on a more custom approach once you’ve saved a home to your account. Shortly after adding a home to the saved list, one of these emails shows up in your inbox. Having taken a step toward a decision, the copy on these emails is more urgent (“Go for it!” “Contact to visit this home or learn more about it.”). The email also offers options for more shopping, with links to see similar homes, find an agent, or contact a lender.
For Sale Report – If you’ve ignored the calls to action in the saved home email, Zillow follows up later with a ‘Sale Report’ on saved homes. These emails focus less on pushing an immediate sale and more on educating and motivating the shopper past decision paralysis. The Sale Report email is more data-driven than the previous emails – including Zillow’s estimated price (‘Zestimate’), estimated change over the next 12 months, and a rent estimate. A sense of urgency is also created by including the home’s popularity on Zillow – showing the number of views and saves on the property.
Other Events – There seem to be a few other events that will trigger an automated email message based on your saved homes, these include price changes, open houses, and pending sales. All three deliver a straightforward message: keep shopping for that dream home.
Zillow does a great job of nurturing leads on a big purchase – holding customer’s hands from initial interest through putting in an offer. Their follow up is strong without being spammy and their goal is simple and straightforward. They don’t clog up your inbox with a thousand tips and tricks to finding a home, instead they trust their website to do that for you. They just need you to keep using it, to keep coming back until you find the house just right for you.
But, of course, there is always more that a company can do. I love the simple and straightforward design of Zillow’s emails, but I think they could be strengthened with just a little bit more content. The ‘Saved Home’ emails do a great job of pushing urgency and action, and that could easily be carried across into the other emails – the most obvious example being the pending sale emails. If the home I loved was sold before I could put in the offer, I am primed to be pushed to action. Including a simple call to action like, “Don’t let the next one get away” could go a long way toward getting a consumer past the decision paralysis stage.
Despite that, Zillow is providing a great example of how email can be used to nurture leads from initial contact through closed sale. Remember that statistic I opened with? A 20% increase in sales opportunities. That is a huge return on the relatively small investment of lead-nurturing emails – especially if you have already invested in establishing a list of potential leads.