What is Email Lead Generation? Definition, Best Practices with Examples

What is Email Lead Generation? 

Email lead generation is defined as the process of generating business leads using email marketing.

In 1996, Hotmail launched the first free web-based email service. In doing so, they opened up a direct line of communication to potentially 20 million American internet users. Marketers saw the opportunity and jumped in headfirst. 

As of 2019, there were about 5 Billion active email accounts and according to a 2020 Hubspot report, 93% of B2B marketers still use email as one of the primary marketing channels.

After all, in an Email Monday report, it stated that even in 2015, email was generating a 3000%+ ROI in lead generation. This is especially true today with laws like GDPR (since 2018) which make it mandatory for visitors to opt-in for email communication with brands, which filters email lists further and makes the marketing list much more conversion-ready since your audience has already shown intent and interest.

It is no doubt the most preferred form of digital marketing across the globe giving the highest conversion rate and effective ROI in terms of expense and results. It helps to gain insights into consumer interest and stage of buying journey and finally, to convert potential leads into profitable sales. 

Types of Email Lead Generations: 

Let’s dive into some of the preferred and successful types of emails in the lead generation funnel and their utilities:

1. Direct emails
Direct email involves sending an email solely to communicate a promotional message like a special offer or new product offerings. Companies usually collect a list of customer or prospect email addresses or they rent a list of email addresses from service companies.
This type of email is typically used for contacts that are towards the end of the buying funnel and have already shown signs that your product or service is in their shortlist. Direct emails are also used for filtered leads where you already have a fair idea on intent or interest of purchase, like someone from your social media contacts in platforms like LinkedIn or Facebook.

2. Newsletters
An email newsletter is an electronic report containing news concerning activities of an organization, industry or any topic of the reader’s interest. What sets apart newsletters from mass emails is that newsletters particularly focus on news and informative content, and typically avoid exclusive promotions of products or services. However, functionally newsletters are also a type of mass email since they are usually sent out in bulk to prospects.
It is a best practice to segment your audience and newsletters sent, based on intent signals and stage of buying journey to make your content more relevant and contextual.
The goal of newsletters is audience engagement. Therefore, newsletters are primarily used on top-funnel audiences, typically with the goal of leading them to the website where they can read the full article and may show interest in one of your commercial offerings as well.
For example, a digital store that sells designer plant pots may send out weekly newsletters on gardening tips, which contains links to the actual article on the website. Once a user lands on this page, he/she may now browse the article and site to find a product of their choice and may make a purchase.

3. Mass emails
We are all familiar with this type as recipients of mass emails, either in the form of newsletters or promotional emails. When we say mass email, here we are only talking about promotional mass emails (and not newsletters which are informative and contain news as well).
While mass emails have had the reputation for being notoriously spammy, recent changes in laws such as GDPR have forced companies to filter their data. Since opt-in emails are quickly becoming the law of the land in most countries, this has led to a more filtered and quality email list for companies as well.
This means that more contacts in your email database have already shown interest in communication and according to the 2020 Hubspot report, 59% of respondents said that marketing emails did impact their purchase decisions.
No wonder email marketing, especially in the B2B space where lists are more filtered and targeted, continues to be one of the key marketing lead generation activities even in 2020.

Advantages of email lead generation

Below are some of the key advantages of using email as a lead generation tool:

1. Brand Awareness
Mass emails and subscribed emails both help in getting your brand recognized. The brand stays longer in your subscribers’ minds due to watching consistent content coming in their inboxes from you. It also drives the belief of a functioning and an evolving company which later on helps to retain loyalty from your client list.

2. Personalization
All you need is a few skill sets like great designing, well thought, and catchy content and you can build a great looking email. There is no end to have much you can do in email design. It’s an effort to keep it simple and minimal but colorful and tempting to click. All of which is the brains of the marketer. The personalization is what makes emails interesting for users. It’s easy to share across information from time to time and keep the content interesting due to personalization.

3. Audience Segmentation
Mass mailing or subscriber lists can be easily stored in a CRM under different segments. You can customize your email design and content for different stakeholders. You can speak differently with your regular customers, new prospects, investors as well as your internal stakeholders.
You can also segment subscribers by:
Interests
Demographics
Recent open or link click activity
Purchase history
Subscription date
Others/none

4. Measurability
The beauty of technology is the permutations and combinations with which you can customize for your brand. It is very easy to track your email campaigns from a console. The more you do email lead generation campaigns, the more you can analyze everything about the campaign and thus figure out what works best for your brand. You also understand who opens your mail and furthers in the sales funnel or who is loyal to your offers sent on emails. What is your percentage of email not reaching your prospects? When leads are generated and how it has impacted overall sales. Every aspect is measurable and that makes it the longest-running and efficient way to promote digitally.

5. Cost-Effectiveness
Analyzing all streams of promoting and advertising online, email lead generation is the most cost-effective of all. The money spent on sending one mailer, the number of mailers that can be sent each day, every day, and consistently versus the reach and the rate of opening the mail and a prospective sale or interest in the brand when measured gives the best ROI value. It is no debate that then this does come with some cons of its own.

Disadvantages of email lead generation:
1. Spam
Not all email campaigns reach the inbox of every subscriber you send to. Given the policies of email hosting providers, most of your emails will land up in the Spam folder. Sending emails quite frequently may also rub your prospect the wrong way and he can mark you as spam. That’s why it’s important to follow important guidelines in creating email campaigns and on the limit of sending of emails. If being marked spam for your company email becomes frequent, it acts against building your brand reputation.

2. Time Consuming
The biggest issue with email marketing is that it takes time. You can’t expect to build your list over the night. With time and also using other mediums to give out valuable content – like blogs, white papers or video or some value-based ebook or course that unlocks with a subscription. It takes time to start showing the measurable results in your campaigns.

3. Difficult getting attention
Given the fact that most people don’t check their inboxes every day, it is very likely your marketing email may never be opened by consumers. Bulk email programs are unpredictable because a marketing email can be seen as unimportant or caught in the spam folder and never seen by consumers. Also, the number of emails people get in their inboxes means actually checking your email, and taking action on it can be a very less percentage of people.

4. Design, content & Implementation
There is a resource time and money cost to creating a good email campaign that has a design, well-thought content for high click ratio, and a sense of what the customers may be looking forward to. Developing good content and implementing it takes time and effort. Hence a lot goes into an email campaign and it will be long before it starts to fetch results to our liking. 

8 Best Practices for Email Lead generation in 2020

1. Email video marketing for lead generation:
Today more than 50% of consumers prefer video content over other forms of content, and with 2020 consumption of video content is only increasing. As a landing page where engagement of the highest standard matters it is a wonderful opportunity for marketers to capitalize on.
A video of your product or range of products and gating this behind a landing page form or video of a direct sale benefit with benefit upon sign up.
Marketers using videos on landing pages into their campaigns can achieve up to 34% higher conversion rates.
Including CTAs and annotation links in your videos. This can be done through Youtube or Wistia.

2. State a clear call-to-action
The emails should have a clear purpose, which you can achieve with an effective call-to-action.
Make the direction of your user very clear upon opening the email. This is a critical component on which the success of your emailer depends. Like do you want your readers to visit your website or subscribe to your newsletter? Do you want them to Like your Facebook Page or make a purchase in your online store? Lead them to these goals with an effective CTA.

3. Maintain a healthy frequency of emailing
An average office worker receives 121 emails per day! That's a lot, and you don't want your message to be sent to the spam folder because you've been a little too enthusiastic in contacting your subscribers.
People have signed up for your updates and newsletters because they’re interested in your brand, products, or services, they want to stay connected. But this doesn't give you permission to bombard them with emails. You have to respect your loyal user and his attention. Hence, consider limiting your messages once a week.

4. Craft catchy subject lines or headlines
Around 50% of subscribers decide to open a message based on the subject line. Your email recipients will generally only see three things before they decide to open or ignore your message:
Sender name
Subject line
This is a make or break to decide the success of your campaign. Readers can easily ignore or delete your email with a boring headline or clickbait or worse something that is an irrelevant headline. MailChimp conducted an email marketing study, and they found that short, descriptive subject lines best entice readers. Use your segmented email list to craft direct and catchy headlines customized as per your readers.

5. Make sure your emails are mobile-friendly
More people are browsing the web, scrolling through social media pages, and checking their emails via their handheld devices. And as such, you need to ensure that your email promotions are mobile-optimized.
To create a mobile-friendly digital asset, consider the length of texts and visuals. Some image files may not display on smartphones, and others may slow downloading time.

6. Customization in emails
Email marketing tools should speak directly to a specific reader. There's no better way of doing this than by customizing the content of your emails.
What appeals to them? What are they looking for when browsing for products and services? How do they define good customer service? What made them visit a website and subscribe? These are the analysis that you can learn from and keep implementing.

7. Do not use a do-not-reply email address
Nothing will put off your prospective user like getting emails from the email id @no-reply as a sender. It is very impersonal and also the user will stop taking it seriously. Being authentic as a brand name or a person name in the Subject you can make sure to make your user open up to you and engage with you.

8. Offer authentic lead magnets
It’s also because some marketers have abused the privilege of getting into their subscribers’ inbox. They’ve sent too many misleading email campaigns. That means website visitors are already vary of filling out forms and giving away their personal information. And, they’ll expect far more value in return for their details.
A good e-book, a helpful course or tips and tricks that will make a direct impact on your prospective user will go a long way in making sure your subscriber looks forward to an email communication from you. This helps build a good reputation and eventually lead to conversions.
Email lead generation has only gained more importance over the years and henceforth it will continue to gain more importance. It has some cons but they can be taken care of to as much extent as possible with best practices. There comes no other form of marketing as efficient and cost-effective as generating leads through email and keeping one to one connect with your subscribers.