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6 marketing automation examples for nurturing leads

By Steph Knapp · March 23, 2022
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You want to put your best foot forward to nurture leads, but using your human brain and time for every task isn't scalable. If you want to leverage the information you have about prospects to deliver personalized marketing at scale, marketing automation can help. 

What is marketing automation for lead nurture?

Marketing automation comes in all shapes and sizes, but the time between capturing a lead and making a sale is the perfect candidate for getting started. Automation lets you deliver relevant communications to nudge leads down the funnel, while also creating a consistent experience for all leads, so you can more easily assess what works and what doesn't. 

Pre-purchase marketing automations can target various goals. They can help you:

  • Collect lead preferences

  • Drive traffic to content

  • Encourage free trial users to log in

  • Build trust between the lead and your brand

  • Educate leads

  • Increase conversions

After you pick a lead nurturing goal, it's time to strategize the automation. Each pre-purchase automation has two components: a trigger and an action.  

A trigger is an event or condition that lets the automation know it's time to start. For example, when a lead:

An action is the event that the trigger sets in motion. For example:

  • Sending an email

  • Adding a lead to a new drip sequence

  • Sending an SMS

  • Updating your CRM

  • Sending a push notification

  • Creating an in-app message

  • Adding the lead to a direct mail list

You can automate any of these things using Zapier. No matter which apps are in your marketing stack, Zapier lets them talk to each other, so you don't have to do any manual work.

Zapier is a no-code automation tool that lets you connect your apps into automated workflows, so that every person and every business can move forward at growth speed. Learn more about how it works.

Marketing automation examples

Pre-purchase marketing automations are highly customizable, which means the combinations of goals, triggers, and actions are nearly limitless. To help you brainstorm your next great automation, here's a list of ideas. (And in the next section, we'll look at a few real-world examples.)

  1. Whenever someone starts a free trial, send an email (after a delay) with a calendar scheduling link, so that the lead can talk to a customer success manager.

  2. Whenever someone downloads a free eBook, send them an email that links to other related content they might be interested in.

  3. Whenever someone finishes a product demo, start an email sequence with more resources to educate them on the product.

  4. Whenever someone subscribes to your SMS list, A/B test texting a percent or dollar amount discount to see which results in more first-time sales.

  5. Whenever an introductory discount is about to expire, send a text message reminding the lead of the urgency.

  6. Whenever someone abandons a cart, send them a text with a link to the abandoned cart to make finishing the purchase easy.

  7. Whenever someone fills out a lead gen form, email them some introductory content and a link to schedule a meeting.

The list goes on, but hopefully that gives you an idea of what these automations can look like. 

You can use Zapier's pre-built free offer template to collect customer information through a highly customizable form. After someone submits the form, they'll immediately receive an automated email with your free offer. All this is happening while your leads' data is neatly organized in a connected table.

6 lead nurture automations to inspire you

Now that your mind is swirling with possibilities, triggers, and actions, let's look at some real-world marketing automation examples. 

1. Welcome

Welcome emails are the perfectly worn-in pair of jeans of automations: everyone can use one. Send an email as soon as you get a lead's contact information (e.g., from a lead magnet or newsletter subscription).

You can use the welcome email to introduce your brand, offer the next steps, or just say thank you. After signing up for the New York Times newsletter, the publishing giant sent me a letter from the editor. The initial message made the company's purpose clear and had links to various articles.

Marketing automation example: New York Times welcome email

If someone joins your email list or fills out a form, they have some level of initiative around the topic, product, or service. Use that momentum to encourage further exploration! I like when welcome emails give direction on what I can do next.

How to get started: Decide what you want new potential customers to know and do. This could vary by where and how you get their contact info. Separate personalized welcome emails for different triggers are great, but you can start with a general one.

2. Social proof

If someone is on your radar as a lead, they may be in the process of deciding whether they want to buy from you. To sway the person's decision your way, try sending customer reviews. Seeing social proof or highlights from your top sellers can build trust. 

For example, after I joined their email list, Paula's Choice sent me a roundup of their top sellers (and what customers have to say about them). Since their product lineup is extensive, and they didn't know my interests yet, they stuck to their best sellers.  

Marketing automation example: Paula's choice lead nurture email

It's interesting to note that two of the three testimonials in the message mention how long it took for customers to see results. If you need to set expectations about your product, you can do so subtly with reviews.

How to get started: Review your customer testimonials to find the most compelling social proof. If you don't have any, you can use automation to collect them. Customize emails based on what content or products a lead has expressed interest in for a more advanced strategy.

3. Discount

Giving new leads a discount is a common strategy to boost first-time purchases. The intent is that the deal helps convince them to buy, and then the quality or experience brings them back for a second (full-price) purchase. 

If you want to go above and beyond a simple discount, you can use Yankee Candle's fragrance quiz as inspiration, which you'll get when you sign up for their email list. I like that they have an interactive experience that helps me decide what to buy—and gives the company a heads up on what types of products I like. 

Marekting automation example: Yankee Candle fragrance quiz sent via email after subscribing

The quiz and discount make a purchase more accessible for me now, and after taking the quiz, Yankee Candle can send me targeted promotions about new products in the scent families I prefer. 

How to get started: Not every company wants to send a discount, and that's ok. If you're going to incentivize leads, you'll need to decide how much of a deal you want to offer and the stipulations (like minimum order amount). Then, create a Zap for unique coupon codes so you can place them in emails and track usage. 

4. Product education

Education matters if leads are beginning to use your product—maybe they're on a free trial or you have a freemium service. Teaching potential customers how to use your product and highlighting use cases can help them recognize the value quicker. 

For example, when you sign up for the free plan on Zapier, you'll receive a "getting started" series with foundational information about the tool. Since everyone learns differently, I like that there's an explainer video, images, and an option to explore Zaps by role. The education options turn the message into a "choose your learning style" adventure. 

Marketing automation example: Zapier product onboarding series from a free trial

Since your product likely has more than one feature, you can send new leads an entire drip email sequence to aid in onboarding. The messages can highlight top features, share customer success stories, and branch off, depending on which links they click on in previous emails. 

How to get started: Think about what a potential customer needs to know to succeed with your product or service. Then, create a touchpoint for each of those moments. Repurposing existing content makes it quicker to get your first version of a drip email sequence up and running. 

5. Learn about the customer

Using automated pre-purchase messages to learn about leads allows you to stow away information to leverage later. After I signed up for Manic Panic's newsletter and went a week without purchasing, the company used an email to segment me.

The email showed real customers with different base hair colors, along with a CTA to explore customized products. Manic Panic could note which CTA I clicked to put me into a customer segment based on my current hair color. 

Marketing automation example: Manic Panic email with segmented links

Using a lead nurture email to lay out a buffet of options with triggered links has two benefits. First, you get to show off products to potential customers. Second, you learn what they're interested in—that's information you can use to send targeted messages in the future. Most consumers appreciate personalization as long as it's based on information they've given you, so go ahead and ask for their preferences.

How to get started: Identify customer segments or preferences that influence purchasing. Most email marketing tools have "tagging" capabilities to log a person's choice.

6. Abandoned cart

Sometimes a potential customer comes close to completing a sale, only to abandon their cart. But just because someone doesn't buy immediately doesn't mean they never will. So it's worthwhile to send a reminder to convert more lookers to buyers. 

If you send an abandoned cart message, make it as easy as possible to keep shopping. For example, Goldbelly sends a text message with a link to the cart to finish checking out. 

Marketing automation example: an abandoned cart text message from Goldbelly

It's also nice when a brand references which items you've left behind. You could also send social proof about the item or even a discount to make the offer more enticing. 

How to get started: Most eCommerce platforms will allow you to set up abandoned cart automations. Then, you can decide how you want to persuade customers, like reiterating free returns, offering a discount, or sharing more customer reviews.  

Automate all your marketing apps

Many marketing tools can handle some level of automation or dripped content natively. Depending on the type of automation, you can set it up in your CRM, your email marketing tool, your SMS marketing app, or your eCommerce site. But if you want to step up your lead nurturing, Zapier allows you to connect all your marketing apps, so you can deliver personalized experiences on any platform—and turn those leads into customers.

Want to find more ways to automate your marketing? Learn how to grow your business with marketing automation.

Want to learn more about managing leads through their entire lifecycle? Check out this free lead management course featuring Zapier.

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A Zap with the trigger 'When I get a new lead from Facebook,' and the action 'Notify my team in Slack'