The B2B SaaS Marketing Blog

    Convert More B2B SaaS Leads into MQLs with Email Nurture


    Last updated: April 8th, 2024

    B2B SaaS marketers often dedicate significant time, effort, and resources into attracting and engaging right-fit traffic only for most of it to never advance beyond the lead stage.

    When this happens, the lessons learned can focus too much on trying to improve what’s working well and ignoring the deeper issue.

    For example, let’s say you’re investing tens of thousands of dollars per month into a paid media campaign to generate lead magnet downloads, like a checklist or template. You’re getting seemingly healthy clickthrough rates and lead magnet downloads but the sales team keeps asking why they aren’t seeing an increase in demos.

    You start to wonder ‘what’s wrong with my paid media campaign?’ So you revamp your ad copy to boost clickthrough rates and update your lead magnet landing page to improve CRO believing that must be where the problem lies. While some updates do help improve CTR and downloads, the sales teams still isn’t seeing a meaningful increase in demos booked.

    If this is happening in your B2B SaaS marketing campaigns and leads are stalling out from turning into MQLs despite consistently improving your lead generation, look closer into what happens after a visitor downloads that lead magnet.

    • Is the lead passed to the sales team manually?
    • Do you have workflows set up but rely on them to run unattended in the background?
    • Does nothing happen and the lead is left on their own to take the next step in their buying journey to advance to MQL?

    When partnering with B2B SaaS teams, we find that it’s a mix of all 3 cases. Solutions require internal marketing operations improvements,  close collaboration between marketing and sales stakeholders, and most importantly – nurturing the prospect’s journey from lead to MQL.

    In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at what you can do to make it easier for leads to take the right next step to becoming a MQL.

    How we’re going to do that is by showing you our process for an effective 14-21 day lead-to-MQL email nurture sequence.

    We implemented this sequence for a B2B data governance SaaS and generated 56 sales conversations in 30 days from leads that otherwise would have likely gone cold.

    Do you need help turning more leads into MQLs? Reach out for your Free Marketing Plan and we’ll show you how.

    Common Mistakes Impacting Lead to MQL Nurture Emails

    Email nurture sequences are still highly effective when executed correctly, yet there are a few key mistakes we see SaaS companies making that kill their lead to MQL conversion rate.

    #1: You Don’t Have An Email Nurture Sequence

    Many SaaS marketers feel overwhelmed at the effort of creating an email nurture sequence. What does an effective email nurture sequence look like? What kind of copy should it include? How many emails should it contain, and when should they be sent?

    However, if you delay implementing an email nurture sequence to engage prospects and build a relationship, your current marketing efforts are wasted as leads won’t convert into customers. This is because prospects will forget they need your solution, or they’ll opt into your competitors’ email sequences and have built more trust with that brand instead.

    If this is the category you currently fall under, we’ll solve it by showing you the proven email nurture sequence blueprint we use later in the post.

    #2: The Email Sequencing Is Poorly Optimized

    If you have an email sequence in place but engagement is low, many marketers counteract the problem by sending too many emails within a short period of time. However, if your send frequency is too high, people will likely begin to ignore your emails. A high percentage of unopened emails will also lower your deliverability rate, meaning emails to new prospects may go straight to spam.

    On the other hand, if a prospect opts in for a lead magnet and then never hears from your brand for a month, they’ll probably simply delete any emails you send after that point because the prospect either won’t remember your brand, or the pain point they originally opted-in to solve is no longer top of mind.

    Another problem we see is that the spacing between your send times doesn’t correlate well with the customer journey (i.e., you send two emails fairly immediately, and then there’s no communication until the sixth or seventh day). This issue also negatively impacts your nurture sequence’s engagement rate.

    We’ve tested various send frequencies, and while there is slight nuance for each brand depending on the buyer journey, we’ve found that a staggered delivery of 6 emails over 14-21 days tends to be the sweet spot of send frequencies.

    #3: The Messaging Fails To Resonate With Prospects

    You can spend hours crafting the email copy for your nurture sequence but only seconds on the email subject line.

    Yet the email subject line is essentially the gatekeeper to the email copy. If prospects aren’t first intrigued by the subject line to click on the email, the copy itself is useless. In addition, your subject line is competing with the subject lines of hundreds of other emails, while the body of your copy has essentially no competition.

    Related: How to Build a B2B SaaS Demand Generation Flywheel

    This is why spending more time optimizing the subject line is critical.

    To improve open rates, we analyze the top-performing subject lines from prior emails to understand the tone of voice and style that tend to be most successful for your brand. Then, A/B test various subject lines in that tone of voice and style to determine a winner.

    Once a reader opens your email, the content needs to align with the buyer’s current pain point. If the content is irrelevant to the reader, they won’t take the time to read it, regardless of how compelling the copy is.

    The key to creating relevant content is customer research and understanding how prospects move through the buyer journey. Prospects don’t conform to the buyer journey you create. Instead, you must craft a marketing funnel that meets them at each stage of their journey.

    Yet the key to transforming a reader into a customer is leading them to the next step in the buyer journey. Therefore, it’s imperative to include a CTA to that next step in the buyer journey at the end of your email.

    It’s also important to give readers only one CTA. If you provide more than one CTA, you’ll introduce confusion, and they likely won’t take any action.

    #4: The Handoff To The Sales Team is Broken

    Once a lead is ready to book a call with the sales team or engage with a real person at your company, they must receive a fast response.

    Otherwise, you run the risk of any of these three scenarios that could cost you the lead to MQL conversion:

    • Prospects have a negative impression of your brand. If the team isn’t responsive before they buy the product, prospects will assume the company won’t be responsive to support requests after they hand over their money.
    • The prospect’s pain point subsides as other priorities replace it, and they become disinterested in your solution.
    • The prospect turns to another competitor’s solution because they want an immediate solution to their problem.

    While this step is technically in the sales team’s hands, you’re still likely held accountable for MQLs and revenue.

    Therefore, audit the sales team handoff by going through the customer journey yourself. Then, collaborate with the sales team to better optimize response times.

    The Solution: The 14-21 Day Lead-to-MQL Nurture Sequence

    There’s a lot of nuance to creating an effective email nurture sequence, so we’ve taken the guesswork out of it for you by testing various sequences and have settled on the 14-21 day nurture sequence.

    Using this blueprint, you can be confident that you’re sending the right emails with the right message at the right time to convert more leads into MQLs.

    Here’s an overview of how it works, and then we’ll walk you through the step-by-step process to implement this nurture sequence into your marketing funnel.

    21 day email sequence
    • Day 0 – Asset Delivery: This email is sent immediately and delivers the asset that was downloaded.
    • Day 1 – Hot Button 1: This email is sent the next day and addresses the top pain point your audience feels.
    • Day 3 – Hot Button 2: This email addresses the second most pressing pain point your audience feels.
    • Day 5 – Hot Button 3: This email addresses the third most pressing pain point your audience feels.
    • Day 14 – Probing Question: The first three hot button emails nudge leads to become MQLs by addressing pain points. If they still haven’t converted, this email provides a stronger CTA by asking them directly to hop on a call or schedule a demo.
    • Day 21 – Breakup: It’s important to avoid over-communicating and sending too many emails, as that can hurt your email deliverability and annoy the receiver, creating a negative impression of your brand. Therefore, if a prospect hasn’t responded by this point, this email will let them know that this will be your last communication with them. If you also have a reactivation campaign set up, your workflow needs to move the lead there for a future follow-up at a much later date.

    To help you craft your own 14-21 day nurture sequence, let’s dive in a bit deeper below. We’ll include examples along the way.

    Email 1: The Asset Delivery

    The primary purpose of this email is delivering the asset the prospect requested, though it’s also a great opportunity to introduce what your brand does and how it helps solve their problems.

    You also want to ensure you’re moving the prospect to the next step in the buyer journey. So, after they’ve read the asset they downloaded, what is the next piece of content they need to continue progressing through the buyer journey?

    These pieces of content are usually middle and bottom-of-funnel pieces, like case studies, rather than top-of-funnel pieces. If you send them top-of-funnel content, it won’t be relevant to the prospect, as you’ll actually be regressing back up the funnel.

    If you need help identifying the right content to include in your emails, refer to the buyer awareness matrix and prioritize sending product and solution-aware content relevant to where the prospect is currently in the buyer journey.

    The Buyer Awareness Matrix: A Content Strategy Tool for B2B SaaS

    You should also include a ‘super signature’ at the end in case a prospect is already ready to jump ahead in the journey and get on a call with your team or download a more advanced bottom of funnel asset.

    Subject: Download your {{assetName}}

    Howdy there,

    Here’s a copy of the {{assetName}} you requested.

    If we’re just meeting, you should know that we help {{persona}} solve {{painPoint}}.

    We do this by {{strategicNarrative}}.

    Plus, we share how we do that by documenting what’s working right now on our blog. There are many good articles, but here are a few of my recent favorites:

    1. {{article1}}
    2. {{article2}}
    3. {{article3}}

    I hope you enjoy!

    Thank you so much,


    P.S Whenever you’re ready, here are 3 ways we can help you improve {{pain point}} right away:

    1. {{bofuAsset1}}
    2. {{bofuAsset2}}
    3. {{demo}}

    And if you ever want to get some 1:1 help, we can jump on the phone for a quick call, and brainstorm how to {{solution}}. Here’s my calendar {{calendarLink}}.

    Let’s break this down.

    The first thing you might notice is that the template short and simple in terms of overall copy. It’s plain text and takes a few seconds to read.

    We find this to be very effective because it only needs to accomplish 2 things. 1) Give the reader their download, and 2) Offer options, but don’t demand their potential next steps.

    The lead is just getting to know you, so make that easy for them. But don’t overwhelm them. The email should avoid being too long (it won’t be read), and avoid design elements so that it feels like its coming from a real person.

    The next thing you might notice is that there’s a lot of placeholder text. This is because the email itself needs to uniquely speak to your SaaS’ ICP – who they are, what pain points they have, and how your solution helps them. We’ll work closely with our clients to understand exactly what that is using approaches like the B2B SaaS Positioning Canvas. Generic pain points and solutions won’t stick.

    You also need to be very targeted in recommending the next steps the lead should take in their journey with you. If the lead magnet is targeting a ‘problem unaware’ audience, then the top articles can’t jump too far into ‘solution aware’ as the lead isn’t yet at that stage in their journey.

    Then, for the ‘super signature’ this is an opportunity for a lead to effective jump ahead in their journey if they are ready to move faster. Only a few will take this shortcut. But by giving the option to engage with bottom-funnel assets (i.e. white papers, webinars) and effortlessly book a call or demo, you reduce friction for those that are ready to buy rather than requiring them to remain in the full 14-21 day sequence by default.

    Emails 2-4: Hot Button Emails

    The next few emails in this sequence a short series of 3 ‘hot button’ emails, at Day 1, Day 3, and Day 5.

    The hot button emails are designed to address a common problem your audience faces and then introduce how your product solves that problem.

    First, the subject line should catch their attention by foreshadowing that hot button.

    Then, within the copy, introduce not only the problem, but also the impact of that problem.

    For example, let’s say you offer email marketing software and the hot button is that prospects are struggling to increase their open rates.

    In that case, you might open by discussing the implications of a poor open rate, including:

    • You’re wasting marketing dollars earlier in the funnel as leads aren’t converting.
    • Your emails are often marked as spam.
    • You’re wasting time perfecting the email copy because nobody reads it anyway.

    However, it’s important to approach these pain points from an empathetic perspective rather than from a fear-based perspective. Then, introduce your product as the solution.

    The reason for 3 hot button emails instead of only 1 is that not every lead is going to have the exact same pain point. With 3 hot button emails, you can test different copywriting styles to ensure that at least one of your emails resonates with each prospect.

    For example, you can test multiple motivators:

    • A gain motivated email focus on what the lead gets or achieves by solving their pain point with your solution.
    • A loss aversion motivated email focuses on the negative impacts that a lead avoids or de-risks with your solution.
    • logic motivated email focuses on tangible impacts such as time saved, money made, or costs saved.

    Crafting the right copy for these emails requires a deep understanding of the lead’s needs, pain points, and what will trigger them to take action into becoming an MQL.

    This requires more critical thinking than simply copy/pasting a universal template, but generally you should still write them in plain text and keep the length relatively short.

    Here are two examples that we created for our B2B SaaS clients:

    Data Governance SaaS

    hot button email1

    Employee Management SaaS

    hot button email2

    Email 5: Probing Question

    After the 3rd Hot Button email is delivered, give the lead some time to consider their next step. By now you’ve given them their asset, educated them in multiple ways to encourage action, and provided them with several ways to learn more and get in touch with you.

    The next email in our sequence isn’t triggered again until day 14 for 2 reasons:

    1. A high volume of nudges after day 5 can start to appear spammy, and risks burning the lead.
    2. A pause over several days gives this next email a bit more power behind it as it appears natural and unexpectedly urgent.

    At this point, the buyer knows enough to take the next step in the buyer journey, so if they haven’t done so already, you can cut to the chase and ask them directly.

    Keep this email short, to the point, and make your CTA very clear. The purpose is to encourage a lead that is ready to buy to take action rather than remaining neutral and undecided.

    Here’s an example of this email:

    Subject: {{firstName}}?

    Would you like our help creating {{solution}}?

    P.S. Here’s a link to my calendar to book a 30 minute call {{calendarLink}}

    That’s it.

    It’s short, direct, and personable so that it triggers a clear ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ response from the lead, rather than an ambiguous non-reply.

    There are several variations of this email to test. Such as:

    • Would you like to work with us on {{outcome}}?
    • Are you still looking to solve {{painPoint}}?
    • Did you get {{result}}?

    The key here is to trigger action from the lead, whether that’s a direct email reply or opt-ing in your existing workflows.

    Email 6: The Breakup

    If a prospect hasn’t moved forward by this point, it probably isn’t the right time (assuming you’ve optimized your nurture sequence using the tips above).

    In that case, continuing to send them emails is ineffective and will become annoying, which creates a negative impression of your brand and could cause them to mark it as spam.

    Instead, we send a breakup email letting them know that if now is not the right time, that’s fine, and they’re welcome to reach out if their circumstances change in the future.

    From there, we move them into a re-engagement list and periodically reach out to them in the future.

    Subject: Goodbye from {{yourSaaS}}}

    Hi {{firstName}},

    I’ve reached out a few times to see if working together makes sense for you.

    Since I haven’t heard back yet, I’m going to assume the timing isn’t right.

    In the meantime, here are some resources that I think would be very helpful for you:

    • {{blogPost}}
    • {{mofuAsset}}
    • {{bofuAsset}}

    If {{solution}} does become a priority in the future, feel free to book a time with me personally here {{calendarLink}}. I’m always here to help.


    The key with this breakup email is that it’s ok if the lead is not ready to take the next step.

    You can’t force anyone to sit through a demo or buy your solution if they’re not ready.

    Give them a positive experience as they navigate their buying journey, and provide them with insight into how your SaaS solves their pain points. Then when they’re ready, you’ll stay in their consideration set.

    Maximize your Lead-to-MQL Conversion

    You can use these templates to get started with implementing your lead-to-MQL email nurture strategy, but success really depends on the pain points you select, how you craft the copy to address them, and the quality of the leads you’re driving.

    At Powered by Search, we’ve advised and implemented marketing operations workflows and email nurture campaigns just like this one for dozens of B2B SaaS teams.

    Reach out today and we’ll partner with you to diagnose your current strategy, identify the most promising opportunities for improvement, and help you implement a more effective nurture sequence.

    Do you need help converting more leads into MQLs? Get your Free Marketing Plan here.

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