Ask the Expert: Best Practices for Email Nurturing

by Kaitlin Gunter, Copywriter - 03/27/17


You’ve purchased a marketing automation system and aren't sure where to start. No need to panic. Tyler Hardekopf, vice president of operations at True North Custom, is here to help.

Tyler-Hardekopf.jpgDuring the past decade at True North Custom—and his 20 years of experience in digital marketing—Tyler has honed his email marketing skills, implementing a score of successful behavior-based email campaigns for a large client base. Here, he shares his perspective for some of marketers’ common questions about email nurturing.

Q: Can you explain email nurturing in a fresh way for readers?

Tyler: Based on behavior and interests, email nurturing—a type of email marketing—is a set of deployments that are triggered by a consumer’s actions and interactions with the content. This series of communications allows a marketer to understand where the consumer is in the decision-making process and send a timely and informative email that will provide the consumer with the information he or she needs to progress toward making a decision.

The natural progression of an email nurturing campaign begins by defining the strategy, securing the audience, developing a workflow, and crafting quality content that closely aligns with the buyer’s journey and ends with measurable conversions.

Q: Why is email nurturing becoming an important part of the healthcare marketing mix?

Tyler: I think it’s a result of a number of factors.

  1. Healthcare marketers are more dialed in to optimizing performance. Every single piece of data they learn helps them get into the minds of potential consumers so they can better understand the consumers’ needs. This way, email messages reflect the right messaging at the right time.
  2. Marketing automation systems are prevalent and affordable. By tapping into the power of automation, marketers can extend their reach to the appropriate audience in a timely, efficient, productive way.
  3. Nurturing campaigns fit nicely within the service line marketing niche. Decision cycles can be long as healthcare consumers actively research and look for content to inform their decisions about non-emergent health care, so these longer, multistep campaigns work well.

Q: After building a subscriber list of potential consumers who’ve opted-in to receive healthcare emails, how do you manage next steps? What’s the appropriate timeframe to engage consumers through emails? Is there one proven formula for success?

Tyler: For a long decision cycle campaign, you trigger the initial welcome email immediately following a potential consumer’s action to opt-in. Then, you can adjust your cadence to every week or two weeks and test the results. Once the potential consumer takes an action—showing interest in X, Y, or Z— send a nurturing message that kicks in one to three days later. Every additional action acts as another domino, setting off another nurturing email. Remember to test your delivery timing to determine what cadence works best.

Q: How does True North Custom effectively engage consumers through email nurturing?

Tyler: Once we’ve established the goals of a campaign, we identify and often implement the appropriate lead sources. The leads are based on results collected from a designated landing page, for instance. A soft-sell call to action leads a potential consumer to visit this page and fill out an assessment, schedule a seminar, or download a guide.

From here, the emails are dripped based on the established interest. These messages complement each level of interest, providing additional points of engagement based on consumer behavior.

Q: Can you provide an example?

Tyler: Let’s look at a digital service line campaign for cardiology. A consumer fills out an online assessment located on the hospital’s service line landing page, and he or she is placed into a risk category—low, medium, or high. The marketer has specific campaigns designed for each level of risk, so he or she is able to send appropriate messages to potential consumers. People at low risk for heart disease don’t need to receive the same messaging as those who are experiencing every risk factor on the list and need immediate intervention.

The email messaging workflow follows the steps determined during the strategy portion of this service line campaign for each risk category. As the risk increases, so does the nurturing.

Q: What characteristics make an email campaign likely to succeed?

Tyler: It’s a two-part process: You have to have a well-crafted campaign that generates a continuous flow of potential consumers, and that has to be supported with a content mix that aligns and resonates with the target patient and his or her journey.

Together, these combine to make a recipe for success.

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