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What’s the first step in email marketing? Email marketers often begin with an empty email list and a pressing task: email lead generation. Building your list the right way takes a little time and thought, but it’s definitely worth the trouble of generating leads and building your subscriber list.

On average, email conversion rates are 40 times higher than social media conversion rates. The online form of communication is also one of the most prevalent in the world, with the number of active email accounts around the globe in 2019 expected to reach more than 5.5 billion.

That said, an email marketing initiative won’t perform well without a proper strategy and an audience. Email lead generation is crucial to the long-term success of your email marketing campaigns.

What is lead generation?

In general terms, lead generation is a critical part of a marketing strategy that concentrates on collecting customer information instead of overtly soliciting or pushing for a direct sale. It’s usually executed during a potential customer’s first interaction with a brand.

Most lead generation actions happen online these days, but the idea applies to physical situations too. For example, when you drop a calling card in a fishbowl at a store’s checkout counter, you’re participating in lead generation.

You may be wondering how lead generation applies to email marketing. It starts with getting a subscriber’s email address. The easiest and steadiest way to do this is to have a lead capture page on your brand website. Think of this as a signup sheet for your email list, but with an extra incentive. Email marketers may offer free downloads, promo codes, and other bonus content in exchange for signup.

Lead generation draws out details that can turn strangers into leads, leads into loyal subscribers, and loyal subscribers into loyal customers. This would be near impossible to do with just email addresses. You’d need specific information like age, gender, location, and more to segment your email list and personalize your content.

How can you implement lead generation in email marketing?

An email marketer that’s just starting out may populate their email lists with friends or family, but this isn’t a sustainable idea.

There’s no way around building up an organic and genuine email list that’s genuinely interested in your brand and what you have to say. Anything less than this can make your email campaigns prone to mediocre or inadequate metrics.

Below are some tactics you can employ to facilitate and accelerate effective email lead generation for your brand.

1. Keep tabs on your competition.

This isn’t an invitation to outright copy what your competition is doing. It’s a simple but effective way to address gaps your brand can fill, as well as note improvements you can make in your processes to be better than a similar brand.

Things to monitor include your competition’s copywriting, lead generation actions, social media activity, and more.

2. Use exit intent boxes and other navigational tools on your website.

If you have a website that performs well but has trouble generating leads, you may not be asking your visitors for their pertinent information at the right moment.

One of the best times to collect information from a website visitor is after they’ve consumed the content that brought them to your online home. You may set up your website to automatically trigger an exit intent pop-up box at this point.

This strategy works because pop-up windows create a sense of urgency. Gratitude after consuming your content may also drive website visitors to sign up for your email list.

Other website-based tactics include using sidebars, slide-ins, and top bars as additional navigational options. These make it easier to add an unobtrusive email subscription to your brand’s website.

3. Run email drip campaigns.

An email drip campaign is a series of prepared messages from your brand, usually sent to subscribers at regular intervals via automation. The purpose is to get subscribers used to your pattern of sending email messages. This kind of predictability helps build a personal connection between you and your audience.

These email campaigns can go on for months, keeping your brand in the minds of your subscribers as you provide them with the information they want. It can be in the form of a mini online course, a chapter-based story, or any other subdivided content. All email drip campaigns end with a culminating conversion point, at which a CTA or a big ask can appear.

POGO email showing an example of the start of a drip campaign

Source: Really Good Emails

4. Offer lead magnets with gated content behind them.

If it makes things more understandable, think of the lead magnet as a more compelling lead capture page. A lead magnet sounds exactly like what it is: something that attracts and lures in potential leads. It’s usually a piece of content that demonstrates expertise or professional knowledge offered for free.

As with a lead capture page, something of greater value should be behind the lead magnet. Along with the lead magnet should be an ask for a potential lead’s email address and other optional details to unlock said content. The fact that providing an email address is tantamount to subscribing to an email list should be clear.

A lead magnet could be a checklist or an infographic, while gated content should be much more substantial.

For example, Hipmunk uses to travel planning visual as a lead magnet, and the promise of expert flight advice as the gated content. Because this campaign is already done through email, the lead information needed to unlock the content is in the form of more specific details: home airport, destination, and travel dates.

Hipmunk email showing an example of a lead magnet

Source: Really Good Emails

5. Automate your email send schedule.

Automated messages and trigger emails give you more time to worry about other aspects of email marketing, first and foremost. You can auto-send emails upon signup, registration for an online event, purchase of a product, or some other routine action.

While it may take some creative thinking to use this tactic to help with lead generation directly, its purpose is to free up your time so you can work on gathering leads instead of writing and sending all of your emails one by one.

For example, sends out this email upon opting in. It provides instructions for further interactions between the new subscriber and the brand. email showing an example of an automated welcome message

Source: Really Good Emails

6. Encourage subscribers to forward and share your emails.

You add a line or two specifically to do this after your CTA. Something like: “Did you find this email interesting? Share it with a friend!” will do, with social-sharing buttons underneath. You may even add a link to forward the email, in case a subscriber doesn’t know how to do it using their own email client, for some reason.

This method is a way to grow your email list through the help of existing leads. Like trigger emails, if you do this right, you may find leads generated even during the most unproductive of your days.

7. Consider a referral program.

A referral program is to email forwarding like lead magnets are to lead capture pages. Lead magnets and referral programs are more efficient tactics that provide more inherent value to existing subscribers and current leads, while email forwarding and lead capture pages don’t lure new leads in as much as they just lie in wait for potential subscribers to pass by.

Bombas email showing an example of a referral program

Source: Really Good Emails

8. Hold contests or giveaways with relevant prizes.

A word of warning: before adding email addresses gained from initiatives like these, consider vetting them first. The more attractive your prizes are, the most likely it is that at least one person tried to enter the contest or giveaway more than once.

Setting a deadline for joining the contest or giving away a very limited quantity of a product are definitely tactics that’ll create a sense of urgency, which may push engagement up. However, it’s essential to be honest about these details. If you plan to run a contest indefinitely, don’t list a deadline. If your limited quantity of items surpasses the number of subscribers in your email list, it’s definitely not scarce. Don’t start cultivating leads based on a lie.

Deakin University email showing an example of a contest

Source: Really Good Emails

Wrap up

Lead generation is a foundational marketing concept that refers to collecting much-needed information on potential customers to strengthen connections with them and build enough trust to lead up to a sale.

The idea isn’t so different when applied to email marketing, although the tactics used to generate leads and grow email lists may not be as simple as the old “calling card in a fishbowl” strategy of traditional marketing.

Here are some concrete initiatives you can implement to generate email leads:

  • Keep tabs on your competition.
  • Use exit-intent boxes and other navigational tools on your website.
  • Run email drip campaigns
  • Offer lead magnets with gated content behind them.
  • Automate your email send schedule.
  • Encourage subscribers to forward and share your emails.
  • Consider a referral program.
  • Hold contests or giveaways with relevant prizes.

You’ve got a whole new batch of generated leads. Now what? Read up on lead nurturing and start getting more conversions and completing more sales.

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This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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