Use E-Mail to Enhance Lead Generation and Sales

I’ve worked a lot with e-commerce sites over the years. Recently, though, I work more with sites seeking to generate leads rather than sales. As a result, I developed 10 questions to ask to see if clients use email as an effective part of lead-generation and sales programs.

1. Do you use Web analytics to understand how people navigate your site?

I know, I know. This is an email column. Why are we talking about Web analytics? Because email relationships often begin on a Web site. The more you understand about how people use the site, the better you can position email sign-up mechanisms and target email content. Web analytics are critical to identify sign-up pages with high abandon rates, just one example of how they relate to your email program.

2. Is there a mechanism for people to provide email addresses and get more information above the fold on your home page?

I’m surprised how many people bury their leads. Most sites see most of their traffic arrive on the home page, and there’s no guarantee visitors will scroll. Use this prime real estate to give visitors a way to initiate a relationship with you. Some will delve deeper into your site; some won’t. Many want some basic information then to speak with a person to get specific questions answered.

3. Is there a similar mechanism on every page of your site?

You don’t know where people will be ready to request more information and begin a relationship. Have a mechanism on each page. Use a consistent button, link, or box in the same place on every page.

4. Do you ask only for the information you need?

If standard procedure is to follow up with a phone call, you don’t need a physical address up front. Requesting too much information is a barrier to opt-in.

5. Do you use the online form to qualify prospects?

If you use some basic information (industry, revenue, hardware configuration, etc.) to qualify prospects, request it without going overboard. If prospects are in the market for your product, they probably won’t mind telling you a little about their company. Keep it relevant.

6. Do prospects dictate the terms of your relationship?

Ask prospects how they want you to communicate with them. A phone call? A live demo? Just the e-newsletter? Do they have specific questions about your product they’d like answered? Do they want to speak with someone right away? Ask, and they’ll tell you.

7. Is email a secondary contact when you’re unable to reach a prospect via phone?

Few organizations reach via phone every person who contacts them. A quick email requesting to set a time to talk, can reap large benefits as a secondary contact mechanism. Although I haven’t seen much success with email as the initial contact, it can be an effective tool for sweeping up people who are hard to reach by phone.

8. Do you use an automated sequence of email messages to educate prospects about your products or services?

Automated, sequential email can be a great way to educate prospects about the benefits and features of your product and to hit those buttons that heat up a warm or cool lead. Use sequential email at the beginning of the relationship while the prospect’s still engaged with your product.

Sequential email doesn’t require lots of creative resources, just a one-time commitment to develop content based on your unique selling propositions. Throw in customer testimonials, quantitative data on cost savings, or increased efficiencies to make it stronger. Don’t forget a clear call to action and contact information. Timing is key. Send at least weekly, until the sequence is complete.

Once you’ve developed the creative, you can use it for a year or more, as each prospect only sees it once. The ongoing cost to run the program is minimal. Many email service providers offer sequential capabilities along with their standard offerings.

9. Do you publish at least one email newsletter to keep your brand top of mind with prospects?

I’ve been very successful with good email newsletters (and I hate bad ones). They can be a cost-effective way to build a relationship with and educate prospects. Publish monthly, at minimum. Include contact information so readers can follow up. I could write an entire column on good versus bad email newsletters (and perhaps I will soon).

10. Do you have a comprehensive, consistent strategy for using email in your lead-generation or sales process?

Organic email initiatives that sprout up here and there can be effective to a point, but you’ll outgrow them. When that happens, have someone look at everything your organization and individual sales reps do with email. Then, make the successful initiatives part of standard operating procedure; less-effective initiatives should be dropped. Added benefits including eliminating duplicate efforts and creating consistency across initiatives.

Look at what competitors and organizations in other industries are doing. It’s good to get a fresh set of eyes for this internal/external analysis. People further from your product can often identify weaknesses people within your organization will miss.

Properly implemented, email can be a cost-effective way to boost lead-generation and sales efforts. Give it a try, and let me know how you do.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

Related reading