Lead Nurture: As a marketing verb, it’s the process of warming up leads  through targeted communications until they’re so hot for your company that all sales has to do is drop an unassuming hello before the buyer demands to be invoiced.

As a marketing noun, it’s a tool in a marketing automation platform (MAP) that enables you to build out a series of customized email campaigns in advance and automatically place people into different tracks based on their actions and status changes in CRM.

When I first started researching nurture processes, I found a lot of resources that told me why I should nurture, but not so many on how to nurture. If you’re looking to build a nurture strategy at your company, these steps should help you get started:

From conception to close, what does the typical purchase process look like for your organization?  What naming conventions do you apply to leads at each stage? Draw the full lead lifecycle in front of you and can start to identify where touchpoints are needed.

Should marketing communication stop at a certain  point to handoff to sales? Should it start again if sales decides the lead isn’t ready for sales engagement? Have a conversation about the options and envision the ideal experience for your leads.

You’ll likely need to nurture a fresh lead differently than a mature lead, and a lost opportunity differently than a delayed opportunity. Identify the start and end points for each type of message, and find out how each change is initiated in the system. For example, a warm lead moving from the marketing automation platform  to the CRM might undergo a status change, indicating they’re sales ready. If your marketing automation platform  is synced with your CRM, you will be able to automatically listen for that change and trigger an action on that change — like removal from a nurture.

Before you build anything out, create a spreadsheet for each nurture program indicating the type of content and messaging, time between emails and scoring potential if applicable. This will help you identify content gaps, prioritize execution and serve as a reference for each build.

Use your nurture program sheets as a guide for building out each nurture program. Set up your field change listeners and work with your CRM admin to check back-end CRM workflows  that might impact your lead flow between systems. Create a fake record to test all the triggers, field changes and flows.

In Sugar Market, previously Salesfusion, we have a pretty cool nurture dashboard that lets us see which nurtures are performing the best, what the top lead sources are for nurture entry and SQL (sales qualified lead) conversions from nurtures. Over time, you will be able to see how successful your programs are and adjust as needed.

If you’d like to learn more about the awesome nurturing capabilities you gain when you integrate CRM with marketing automation, download our integration guide for marketers and salespeople