Is email automation for lead generation a viable prospect? Not only is it possible to utilise email automation for lead generation, but done well you can see unparalleled R.O.I from email.
No matter what the nature of your business or how long you have been in operation, lead generation is very likely one of the most sophisticated challenges you face. Even if you are already successful, with a range of happy, satisfied recurring clients, your future growth will still very much depend on your ability to generate new leads and gain new customers. It makes little difference if your company is a new startup or a seasoned FTSE100 or Fortune 500 company; without leads, your firm will be unable to grow and compete in the modern world.
Why is Email Sales Prospecting Automation so Hard and Confusing?
At first glance, the email automation process may seem like an arcane and confusing one, but the reality is much simpler. You can think of the email automation lead-generation process as a kind of funnel. You start by organically building a list of email addresses. All of those email addresses go into the top of the funnel, starting with the first email you send.
That first email may well even generate a number of positive responses, leads that can be passed on to your sales team for further action. The remaining email addresses continue in the funnel and after a period of time, the recipients receive a follow-up offer for a free video presentation, blog post, or similar. We will cover these and more in detail further on in this post.
Your follow up email may well again generate a number of new leads, which can in turn be fed to your sales team. The remaining email prospects will receive additional offers and finally a strong call to action email. At the end of each step, you will have new leads to work with, and that is good news for your sales team — and for you. But how does this work in practice? It is not simple, nor is it rocket science. Those that make the effort swear by the email channel for automation of their marketing and prospecting efforts.
The secret of winning at email marketing is simple enough, deliver what you promise and no more, ensure you have relevant permission for everything you send, ensure every message is worthy of the recipients time. Permission, Relevance, Value and Timing are the keys to email marketing success.
Lead Generation with Email Marketing Automation?
Lead generation has always been a tricky process, regardless of the methods used to generate those leads. As a business owner, you want to get as many leads as you can and pass them on to your sales team in a timely manner. At the same time, simply flooding your sales staff with hundreds of unqualified leads will only create problems, dissatisfaction in the ranks and reduce the efficiency of your operation overall.
Simply put, all leads are not the same, and not all leads are equally valuable. If you want to succeed and make the most of your limited time and staffing resources, you need a way to find fresh qualified leads on a consistent basis. That however is no excuse to start spamming or sending unsolicited email on mass. Direct outreach for new business by email is a viable opportunity if approached extremely carefully, however that is not the subject of this particular post.
This post looks at how you can approach email marketing as part of your marketing mix and lead generation plan, in a responsible, scalable way that will not endanger your brand and email sender reputation.
We will take a look at how email automation comes into play as part of the overall digital marketing strategy. Email automation can help marketers or owners of all kinds of businesses to generate a steady stream of valuable leads. Whether you are a larger organisation and need leads that you can pass on to your sales team or looking for new leads to follow up directly as the owner of a small business, agency or consultancy this article should help you formulate your strategy.
Trust is critical when it comes to doing business online. How long your firm has been in operation, social proof, professional presentation will all play a part in helping build trust.
However whether you have been in business 2 weeks or 2 decades customers will still not want to do business with you if they do not trust you or believe you can deliver on the promises you make. Building trust has always been an essential part of doing business, in a post COVID world with more and more being delivered online there are opportunities for new entrants into any space to establish trust and credibility. This is a vital first step in building the identity of your brand online, through to generating new leads, converting to customers and even helping maintain satisfaction after purchase.
All of this is I mention because Developing trust among your base of potential customers is also essential as you start to build your email list and fine tune your email marketing campaign strategy.
The more your potential and existing customers trust you, the more likely they will be to buy the products and services you have to offer. Building trust is not always an easy thing to do, and there are no shortcuts to success. Being genuine, truthful and honest is not enough. You will need to prove yourself to your audience before you can expect them to enter their credit card details or digitally sign your contract for services.
Building Your List
One of the best ways to begin developing trust among your base of website visitors, email recipients, and advertising targets is through premium giveaways. Everyone loves to get something for free, and offering a premium item of real and genuine value can serve to fulfill a number of important purposes.
First and foremost a free give-away provides you the opportunity to perform lead capture, you are able to gather the necessary contact information for someone potentially interested in your services. Not everyone is at the same point in the purchase cycle which is why it is imperative that you start to build your list, and this free give-away is a perfect incentive.
I always recommend you allow people to opt-in as part of the download process, not automatically subscribe them to your list. Although that is a legitimate way to build your list much faster, the quality of those subscriptions and the engagement levels you experience will differ greatly.
What can you offer that is of value that will not cost you an arm and a leg? This will very much depend on what your product or service is, what the offer entails and who your audience is. B2B Marketing Services are unlikely to find success with the exact same methods utilised by a college age online tution service. In the b2b space you will find that offering a free whitepaper for download is extremely popular, and this is due to how effective these fluff-free, take-away packed document formats are. Remember you are looking to build trust, do not dress a publicity brochure as a white paper.
Depending on your vertical you could offer an exclusive track (meditation courses), video or workout template. Something of value that can be shared (opportunity to go viral) and have some genuinely worthy of the recipients time.
Make the offer focussed on something that would be of value to your target audience, and whilst competitions can generate huge growth, they tend to be low quality email subscriber, so approach your give-away’s with caution. Otherwise you may end up with a huge list of subscribers with poor engagement leading to deliverability issues and those high value prospects may miss your emails. You will always want to use confirmed optin for your list building process any time you are incentivising a signup this will help protect your sender reputation and deliverability KPIs.
Promoting your Offer
Placing the premium offer on your company website, linking to it in your blog posts, announcing it across your social media channels and featuring it prominently in your print advertising is a great way to gather leads while building trust among your customer base. Offering to give away a valuable item is a a way for you to pay it forward and over time if you deliver on your promises you will find you build trust with your subscribers.
A great way to promote a whitepaper, video, ebook or other is to have an infographic designed that covers a few of the key takeaways. A well designed punchy infographic can capture a reader’s attention and help drive people to your lead capture pages. Reach out to influencers and others sites in your space asking them to share your infographic. Share it directly yourself on your relevant social channels, with the right hashtags and be sure to have a prominent and easy to type in address for your landing page displayed on your infographic.
Offering a free downloadable whitepaper, exclusive video, eBook, audio-book, webinar on demand or other soft training material of value, if done properly is an extremely effective way to build your brand identity and establish yourself as a thought leader in the space.
Creating a compelling brand narrative has never been more important than it is today, given the fact that so many consumers now speed through commercials and have learned to tune out the plethora of marketing messages. That said with much of the world still in lockdown, or now working from home and commuting less people do have more time for and are consuming more and more quality content online.
A well-written whitepaper, professionally produced video or other presentation gets your company and your brand in front of readers and helps them develop a level of respect and ongoing trust going forward.
Offering a downloadable product should be an opportunity for you to showcase your expertise and skills. In 2020 consumers whether retail or business are looking for genuine expertise and authenticity of voice from the companies, brands and individuals they do business with.
Once you have gained the trust of your target audience, by delivering on your promise you can look to further nurture the relatonship.
Do remember not everyone will have opted in to your email list, so use your freely given away premium content to again promote the opportunity to get on the list and discuss and promote the additional offers you have in store as part of your lead nurture program.
Additional Email Offers
That downloadable whitepaper/video/audio-book/other is an excellent place to start, but it is just the beginning of the trust-building and lead-generation process. Once you have the attention of your prospects your plan is to convert them to customers, you can slowly start to offer other items they will find valuable. This strategy will serve to further build trust and cement your reputation as an expert in your chosen industry.
The additional items can be anything your customer base or prospect list is likely to find valuable. If your product or service is visual in nature, additional short video clips are a good way to demonstrate its benefits and encourage casual browsers to become shoppers. Whether you are selling a garden implement, a piece of cookware, or sports equipment, a real-world video demonstration is a useful sales tool. Likewise detailed video customer testimonials also work well.
Let potential subscribers know that you will share a series of valuable content if they subscribe to your list. For example case studies can be just as valuable in terms of lead generation. Modern consumers are more savvy than ever before, and they rely on much more than the claims of manufacturers and resellers to make their purchase decisions. Giving your prospects real-world case studies and offering reviews by real customers is a vital part of the trust-building process. The more case studies you can provide the better; embedding one in each email you send is one smart strategy, if executed properly will lead to success.
If you maintain a blog, be sure to update the site regularly and use it to build brand loyalty and engender trust among your list of prospects, when you publish noteworthy new content reach out to your subscribers and let them know about it. Blogging is a great way to convey information, but it is also a valuable sales tool for all kinds of businesses. Utilise your blog to expand on points raised in your emails and to provide topical updates and re-promotion of past whitepapers. Any good content marketing strategy will take account of the opportunities for content repurposing.
Automating the All Important Follow-Up Prospecting Emails
No matter how compelling your message or how valuable your premium downloadable items are, you cannot expect to get a huge response rate with a single message campaign. That is why having a follow-up strategy is so important. However the hard work is put into getting the subscribers to join your list in the first instance, your concept and strategy around your follow-up campaigns. If your hook was a white paper, then follow-up white papers and case studies make the most sense as you know the user values them.
Likewise if you hooked your prospect with a video then more videos are likely the way to go. Beware giving away too much, you do not want to just encourage expensive to host freeloaders. Do include additional information about the value added services you offer alongside the free content your sharing with subscribers in your lead funnel.
If your prospects do not respond to the value added offers in your first message, you need not be overly concerned, your building a relationship on auto-pilot, if they did not subscribe at the outset, then subscribing to get more of your content after the first email is a massive win in itself. With proper email automation you can set up the schedule and forget about it, making the follow-up process that much easier and improving your long-term results.
Offering additional resources in your follow-up communications is important and do not be afraid to mix it up a bit. Those additional resources should be similar, but not identical, to the ones that were offered before they do not HAVE to be the same format either. If your previous email message contained a link to an online video, your follow-up message might include a case study or online review. They should all be designed to work together, even though each new message is its own unique entity and able to drive the sale process in and of itself.
Bringing It All Together – The All-Important Call to Action Email
Now that you have demonstrated your expertise, provided real value to your prospects and delivered information to your readers, it is time to bring it all together. No matter how great your previous messages may have been, without a solid call to action (CTA), you may never be able to close the sale.
At some point you will want to deviate from the free content and soft sell, and directly reach out in the hope of escalating the relationship.
If you have selected a good email marketing platform you will be able to put much of this on auto-pilot and target these messages directly to those users who have engaged with your previous messages and taken specific actions on site.
The CTA is a vital part of every lead-generation strategy, whether the communication takes place online or off. If you are prospecting for new leads through email, every previous step of the process has included a CTA, however the actual CTA Email is what your email automation program has been leading up to. The moment, the moment when you reach out to each prospect directly in an attempt to convert interested readers and bring them directly into a situation where they can become customers.
The content and format of the CTA email you send will be critical, and you need to give it the attention it deserves. Equally important is what behaviour and actions trigger this email. You do not want a simple, dumb time based sequence. You can only up the ante in terms of the sales process when you have seen interest through your recipients behaviour. You would not walk into a room witha. fresh prospect with contract in hand and ask them to sign and date a contract without first having had a conversation first. Otherwise you are sure to simply alienate a potentially profitable lead.
If you have put the proper effort into nurturing your relationship with your prospect then you will find a simple personal type email will be extremely effective. You should always tailor your call to action to the needs of your specific business, but if you are stuck envisaging what a warm email sales outreach might look like, consider this template:
Dear (First Name),
I hope you have found the resources I sent you interesting and useful. I would like to learn more about how you are making use of the resources, learn if there is something I could be doing better and explore if there is any way I can support your efforts. Would you be free to discuss some time next week?
If you get a response you can follow-up on a personal basis, including a link to your online meeting scheduler if the prospect agrees. There are also a number of people who will not respond to your first email.
The CTA Email does not need to be a request for a meeting or a call. As an example your CTA email could suggest a product demonstration, or a face-to-face meeting, a limited time freemium trial of a SaaS Service or any number of other conversion actions instead of a call. It is all up to you, but the goal of your email should be to get your lead to take positive action, or convert and move further down the lead funnel and one step further in the sales journey.
Be ready for a response along the line sof thanks but no thanks. If you have no more valuable content to offer by email as part of your planned lead capture campaign, then be ready to protect and nurture the contact. Thank them for their effort and invite them to join your Linkedin Group, like your Facebook page or similar so they can stay connected.
Know when to call it a day!
In a perfect world every call to action would result in a new lead your sales staff can follow up on, but we do not live in a perfect world. In the real world, even the most finely tuned CTA will not generate a 100 percent response rate.
Even if you have permission from a prospect to send them valuable resources as part of their subscription, it is not license to harass and harangue the subscriber with sales emails with little or no value. That is why you need to incorporate a final step into your sales email automation process. You cannot send endless Sales CTA Emails if your prospect is not responding.
Not everyone who receives your CTA will be comfortable reaching out to you directly or having a face-to-face meeting. That is why you need to provide additional alternatives that might help covert your freshly generated leads and drive real customers and turnover through your virtual doors.
Your email automation process may already indicate who has responded and engaged with different messages in your lead nurturing process, how they have behaved during the relationship, and what if any engagement they had with your CTA Email, will dictate if it is appropriate to follow-up more than one or two times and at what kind of frequency.
When it comes to your final email message you might want to consider simply re-confirming their position in the lead funnel, and have them agree to receive ad-hoc emails or your regular newsletter if you have one (if not why not?) in future.
Otherwise if you have a LinkedIn profile, company page or group, a Facebook page or Group or Insta profile, invite your email recipients to connect with you on the relevant social channels. Interacting with prospects, advocates and customers in a meaningful way is what social media for business is all about. Using it to your advantage is a key part of the lead-generation process. Engagement and interaction on social media is an important part of building credibility and trust through the amplification of social proof.
However like this post you need to know when to call it a day in terms of the selling. Switch back to delivering value and nurture the relationship for the future.