In an interview several years ago, Bill Gates noted that email was the “only way” he stayed in touch with things. The richest man in the world is not alone. With the average worker spending as much as three months a year on email in the UK, the importance of email as a communication and collaboration tool in the workplace needs no validation. Given the time spent on this platform, emails present a terrific opportunity for businesses looking to source new leads for their business.
Inbound vs. Outbound
The good thing about email as a lead generation platform is that it can be both inbound and outbound. Outbound emails generally tend to be cold outreaches. While this is extremely effective as a lead generation source, it can also be controversial given the fine line between an email outreach and spam. Inbound emails, on the other hand, are a perfect way to communicate, follow up and convert new customers to your business.
Cold email for lead generation
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to come into effect in just over ten months from now and the implications this has for email marketing as a lead generation source are immense. In short, GDPR is applicable to any business that handles the data of an EU citizen and unsolicited emails and calls to individuals from these countries can invite fines worth several million euros. You can read more about GDPR in this article from Jason Lark of Celerity.
Even under the present circumstances, the United Kingdom has strict laws against spam and these protect consumers from unsolicited marketing emails. The sender is liable for fines as high as £5,000. This however is not applicable to corporate recipients if the email you send them is related to their line of work. The definition of ‘corporate user’ is fuzzy though. Sole traders and partners in business partnerships are considered ‘consumers’ in England and Wales.
If you are a consumer-focused business, you must stop using cold emails as a lead generation source right away. B2B marketers however have relatively more leeway when it comes to cold email outreach. GDPR majorly retains the same definition of ‘individual’ as defined by the current data protection regulation. Consequently, B2B email outreach to addresses that do not specifically identify an individual are not permissible while you are still allowed to reach out to the sales department or IT department of an organization with cold email. It is highly recommended that you go through all the regulations of GDPR and how it affects your business before you start your cold email outreach.
Given that you are clear about this, here are some pointers to keep in mind while sending an unsolicited cold email to business prospects.
Crisp subject line: The subject line of your email should summarize the point of your outreach in less than four to five words. Do not use deceptive prefixes like Re: or FWD: - while they may potentially increase your open rates, it inevitably causes a drop in your credibility and conversion.
Establish credibility: Your recipient potentially receives dozens of emails each day and they are not going to stick around to read everything you have written unless there is a reason to do so. Establishing strong credibility in the opening few lines of your email makes your outreach important and improves response rates.
Keep email short: The first email you send your prospect needs to be short and to the point. Breach the subject of your outreach in a short paragraph. You may explain your proposal in detail either in a follow up email or over a phone call or meeting.
Optimize your email signature: A professional email signature lends credibility to your profile and thus elicits higher response rates. But it is important to maintain a fine line between maximizing your signature real estate and cluttering your outreach. Your signature must contain information that your recipients needs to see and also wants to see. Your signature must also be spaced out optimally and be limited to two or three fonts. Also, do not forget to include social links to your business - Unilever reported an increase of followers from 40,000 to 230,000 in a ten month period simply by adding a LinkedIn Follow button to the email signature.
The strategy used for inbound email marketing is inherently different from those used for outbound email in the sense that the sender (your organization) has more leverage in terms of price. This is of course only true in the case of inbound requests from customers looking to buy your product or service. In addition to this, inbound email marketing also includes newsletter outreaches. In this case, visitors to your company landing page submit their email details in exchange for discount coupons, industry newsletters or other information from your side. Here are a few pointers to note here.
Evaluate the readiness of the subscriber: A subscriber who has requested a price quote is different from one who has subscribed to your newsletter. Your outreach should be tailored to cater to this subscriber’s specific profile.
Limit your sales pitch: If you have a newsletter, make sure that the sales pitch in your emails are limited. Warming up your leads for conversion is a gradual process. Frequent sales pitches disrupt the process and could lead to your subscriber opting out from future communication.
Keep offers time-bound: The objective of your sales pitch is to elicit immediate conversion. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is by sending time-bound offers as part of your newsletters. Keeping your offers time-bound pushes your recipients to act fast which improves conversion rate.
Email marketing has the highest ROI among the various marketing channels. However, it needs a lot of trial and error before getting this strategy right. Split testing your campaigns and constantly monitoring the conversions is by far the most sustainable way to ensure your organization gains the most from this marketing channel.