March 29, 2015

How to Improve Your Use of Email for Lead Generation

Email buttonEmail isn’t getting as much buzz as social media is these days, but the tried-and-true marketing channel is still a great way to get a message out to a large group of people. When it comes to lead generation, email is a tool that requires preparation, testing and discernment in order to get the best results. Here are the thoughts of three experts who have tips to help marketers improve their use of email for generating leads.

Clean and segment
Scrubbing an email list and getting rid of invalid email addresses is a low-hanging fruit that marketers don’t take enough advantage of, according to Justin Helmig, vice president of marketing for cloud-based business data company StrikeIron.

“One of the key ingredients to inbox placement is minimizing bounces,” Helmig says. “Email verification provides an easy-to-implement, cost-effective way to maintain a very low bounce rate.”

Buying lead databases that haven’t been sufficiently cleaned and vetted is a fast track to problems, according to Dan Hudson, co-founder and president of B2B sales and leads company 3FORWARD. “Practicing poor list hygiene – continuing to message opt-outs – will cause spam complaints,” he says.

Cleaning email lists is a good start, but marketers should take it a step further and segment their lists, too. “Spend the time to segment your database based on key demographics and behavioral criteria, such as title or role, decision level, relationship, geography, vertical, engagement level, etc.,” says Hudson.

He also warns marketers not to over-message to each segment. Instead, Hudson recommends developing a multi-month messaging calendar to ensure that you have a thoughtful “messaging cadence” to each targeted segment. “Consider a blend of general messages, such as newsletters and targeted messages specific to role, level, etc.,” he says.

Test, test, test
As much as marketers would like to believe that their gut feelings are always correct when it comes to writing subject lines, A/B testing with a portion of an email database before sending emails to the whole database is a must.

“Too many marketers just blast the entire email in a single shot without testing,” says Skip Shuda, founder of online marketing firm Philly Marketing Labs. “We’ve found that you can often double — or better — the open rates with solid testing,” he adds.

Be relevant
What is one of the most common mistakes for marketers trying to use email for lead generation? “Generic messages that don’t resonate with an audience,” says Helmig. “Think about what your inbox looks like. I know I get many solicitations each day, most of which don’t engage me by demonstrating they understand my pain and can provide a solution and credibility.”

“Use knowledge of the lead’s situation and previous activity to target and personalize your messages,” says Paul Turnbull, product manager for email marketing solutions provider Campaigner. Turnbull also encourages marketers to have clear goals for each message and to make use of appropriate content for each stage of the buying cycle.

Relevance doesn’t just relate to the content of a message – it relates to the timing of the message. Turnbull recommends using automation to trigger sends at the right times, providing value and spurring action with each message.

Be a guide
Marketers should also be helpful guides to email recipients, not just relentless sellers. Hudson encourages marketers to avoid selling in every email, but to instead provide prospects with educational information that will help them solve problems. “However, include value-add calls-to-action so you know which prospects are potentially in a buying mode.”

“Design a strategy for guiding these people to the outcome you wish to achieve,” says Helmig. “I don’t like the term ‘email blast,’ since it infers a one-time push. I rather like to think of email lead generation as an ‘email Sherpa,’ where the customer is guided down the purchase path.”

By Jason Hahn

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