The first ever banner ad earned a 44% click-through rate—that’s a story almost every marketer knows, but few are aware that the first marketing email makes that look like a vanity metric.

In 1978, a marketing manager earned $13 million in sales with one email to a list of 400 Arpanet users (the predecessor to the internet). Yet as marketers glommed onto these new mediums—display ads and email marketing—everyone’s results plummeted.

That’s the nature of mass-adoption: buyers become fatigued and growth hacks become stale.

And the conversion reaper may be coming for lead nurture campaigns next.

What’s wrong with lead nurture campaigns?

86 percent of marketers rate their lead nurture campaigns as “average or worse” according to a Demand Gen Report. More than one-third of teams say they can’t detect a difference between leads that have been nurtured and those that haven’t, and a majority of marketers—81 percent—say generating responses has grown more difficult in the past 12 to 18 months.

81% of marketers say generating responses has become more difficult in the past 12-18 months

Nurture campaigns are becoming tougher to execute thanks in part to everyone using one, but also because staying top of mind with prospects has gone from complicated to complex.

Sending the right email to the right person at the right time is easy when there are only one or two buyers and the sales cycle is quick. You can create a nurture stream to handle that. But according to the Demand Gen Report study:

  • Sales cycles are growing longer
  • Buying committees are getting bigger
  • Deals have more moving parts

Stakeholders now talk amongst themselves, meet, trade notes, and bounce around like atomic particles in the funnel taking longer to make buying decisions. Targeting the right individuals with the right emails has become as complex as predicting the weather.

But—and it’s a big but—nurtures are not dead!

Marketers who looked for ways to strategically update their nurture system are still seeing success.. They’re focusing efforts on key parts of the funnel, doubling down on new and more personal mediums (video, anyone?), and giving new life to old leads.

How are marketers refreshing their nurture systems?

48% of marketers now use account-based nurturing

Instead of simply keeping leads “warm” marketers are writing and designing specific messaging for each market, and in some cases, individual accounts. Although it can be more complex, it ensures that they send right-fit messages that increase response rates.

33% incorporate sales calls into their nurture stream

Marketers are making their automated drip nurtures feel more human by using actual humans. One-third send campaigns that notify sales development reps to call accounts. As of 2018, 29 percent of marketers are using video messaging to humanize nurture, 19 percent are using direct mail, and 9 percent are giving NPR a run for its money by launching podcasts.

73% now run alternative campaigns to reignite interest

Marketers are developing niche nurture campaigns to target prospects at key decision points in the buyer journey. These can be campaigns for prospects who just signed up,, campaigns for cold leads, and upsell campaigns for current clients.  

Want to see 25+ more interesting stats from the study? Download the full report.


It’s time to hear from you, the reader, how is your organization using nurture systems? Have you used any of the tactics above to generate more leads? Let us know in the comments below.

Chris Gillespie