How to Generate Leads with Email Automation

Even with the unprecedented rise of social media over the past decade, email remains the most cost-effective and broad-reaching platform of all. In fact, according to Forrester, email accounts for 87% of all corporate communications. Email marketing promises the highest return on investment of any form of marketing, digital or otherwise, provided you don't fall foul of the spam filter. However, there's far more to an email marketing campaign than hitting the send button and hoping for the best. Nonetheless, a lot of companies still fail to tap into the enormous benefits that a solid email marketing strategy can bring.

Before we begin going into details about how to generate and nurture leads through email marketing, it's important to emphasis the things you shouldn't be doing when building your marketing strategy. Most importantly, the days of buying mailing lists, loading them into your email automation platform and sending out unsolicited newsletters en-masse are long over. With legislation such as the CAN-SPAM act now being in full force, it's also illegal and can lead to costly fines on top of a destroyed reputation and countless frustrated would-be customers.

How Email Marketing Helps Generate Leads

Email is a valuable tool for marketing for two main reasons: generating leads and nurturing existing customers. A survey conducted by Marketing Sherpa found that 81% of respondents stated that email marketing was their number-one channel for generating leads.

Long gone are the days of sending the same email newsletters out to a vast list of recipients. Today, the world of email marketing is moving closer towards one-to-one communication whereby no two recipients receive the same email. Of course, this would be impossible to achieve manually when you have thousands of potential leads, but that's where automation comes in.

Email marketing platforms are immeasurably more sophisticated than they were 10 years ago. By working with a reputable mailing platform, you'll be able to bring context into your marketing emails. In other words, your recipients will receive the content that's most relevant to them. They should be able to identify immediately upon seeing nothing more than the subject line why they're receiving the email and why it's useful to them. If the value isn't obvious right away, then you've failed to generate a potentially valuable lead.

Understanding the Email Lead Generation Process

Marketers typically define a lead as someone who has shown a fledgling interest in a business or one of its products and services. A person might become a lead by signing up to your email newsletters, attending an online or offline event organized by your company or downloading a free publication from your website. However, lead generation through email marketing may also include reaching out to people who have probably never even heard of your company. As such, it may involve sending cold emails which, while potentially extremely effective, is all-too-often abused. Nonetheless, there remains a clear distinction between cold mailing and SPAM in that the latter is email that your recipients don't want to receive.

There are a few crucial rules to follow to ensure that your emails not just conform to current legislation, but also help you achieve your goal of generating leads:

.   Never misrepresent yourself by attempting to mask the from, to and reply-to fields. Transparency is critical. It needs to be immediately obvious to the recipient who you are. The same goes for being upfront about the content of your email - if it's an advertisement, then you should not try to hide it. Remember, that social engineering tactics belong to the realm of cybercrime.

.   Always provide an opt-out option. Providing an unsubscribe link at the bottom of your newsletter is typically a legal requirement, even if most people don't pay attention to it. What's more effective, however, is to keep things personal by asking them if they are interested in the content you offer. Honoring opt-outs should also go without saying.

.   Remember that you are still legally responsible for the content you send and who you send it to, regardless of which company or platform you're using to take care of your email outreach. This rule is doubly true when using an automated outreach strategy, where it can be tempting to leave everything on autopilot and hope for the best.

What Are the Key Steps to Generating Leads with Email Automation?

Email automation is the most effective, and oftentimes, the only practical way to operate an email marketing campaign. It enables you to send mail to practically any number of prospects, leads or existing customers at designated times and frequencies. It also helps you maintain consistent branding, manage your subscribers and engage with your recipients on a regular basis. You can use email automation in many situations, such as when a potential customer clicks a specific link or downloads material from your website, when following up after a purchase or getting in touch with a referral.

Understand Your Target Audience

The key to generating fresh leads with email marketing is to show that you understand your target audience. By putting yourself in their shoes, you'll be in a better position to understand their problems and, consequently, how your business might be able to solve them. If your email is little more than marketing copy, most people will recognize it as such right away, so it's always best to use a personal, albeit professional, tone in all your correspondence. Of course, the exact voice you should use will depend on your industry, but the importance of delivering value applies across the board.

Get Right to the Point

Particularly in the case of B2B marketing, people like CMOs and other high-level personnel are constantly strapped for time. Attention spans are low and patience is limited. Easily the greatest challenge is coming up with a compelling enough offer (and presenting it as such) to generate a new lead. Your potential leads need to have a good reason to act on your email before they even open it. As such, the subject line is the most essential element of all, since it's what counts as a first impression.

It's also wise to ditch the initial introduction, going straight into a value-adding proposition, at least in the case of the subject line. Particularly on mobile devices, if the first line shows nothing more than your name and company, most people will assume it's nothing more than an unsolicited email and bin it right away.

Make Things Easy for People

The last thing you want is for a prospect to show an interest in your business and then not know what to do next. You should always make it as straightforward as possible for your subscribers or cold-mailing recipients to become leads. In most cases, your goal should be to build interest with your initial email before driving people to your landing page. Always include clear and concise calls to action, remembering that brevity is one of the most important elements. Never ask for any more information than you need, and avoid including any unexpected steps.

Choose Your Timing Wisely

Email automation will also help you get your timing right so that your message reaches the right people when they're most likely to respond. If you get your timing wrong, recipients will either ignore you or forget to follow up later. Your email marketing platform should allow you to easily configure follow-up schedules, but just make sure not to overdo it. If you don't hear from a prospect after a couple of follow-ups, it most likely means that they are not interested.

Always Test Everything

An important advantage in virtually all areas of digital marketing is that every activity generates data that you can use to improve your response rate. It's often not easy to make sense of all this data and apply it to real-world situations, but any full-featured email automation platform should be able to help enormously. Be sure to try different hooks with different messages, such as providing more or fewer details, using different templates and trying different links and calls to action. You cannot reasonably expect to get everything right the first time, so it will take some perseverance to optimize your strategy.

Most successful marketing teams use A/B testing to help uncover which subject lines, calls to action and other elements perform the best. A/B testing can also help you figure out how to best personalize your emails to help you reach out to the prospects who matter most.

Final Words

Above all, you need to remember that marketing automation is an ongoing process that requires constant refinement. Although you must not rely so much on automation that it starts detracting from your brand's human element, having the right set of tools on your side can help you achieve some important benefits:

.   Free up valuable man hours by automating and streamlining workflows

.   Capture new leads and nurture existing ones

.   Increase brand awareness through personalization

.   Reduce the risk of potentially costly human errors

          .  Adopt a consistent, but constantly evolving long-term email strategy