3 steps to make the most of your eMail list

By Neicole Crepeau, Contributing {grow} Columnist

You’ve got an email list and you’re continually adding to it. But are you using your email list effectively?  It’s a fine balancing act leveraging your database to keep in front of leads and move them toward a sale, without turning them off and creating unsubscribes.

Here are three steps to use your email list to better facilitate the sale:

  • Segment, nurture, and segment some more.
  • Create a trigger to identify prospects.
  • Give prospects content to engage other decision makers.

Segment, nurture, and segment some more

You’ve heard it before: to leverage your email list, it’s best to segment so you can provide personalized emails and content to users. The more data you have about users, the better able you are to segment them. The one piece of data you can most easily gather is the original source of the user’s email address.

If you are a B2B company, you probably get email addresses in a variety of ways.  You might acquire lists, attend tradeshows, do talks or sponsorships, use content marketing with free downloads in exchange for an email address, etc. If you are using marketing automation software or a CRM, it will make it easier to track and store information about sourcing. Otherwise, you’ll have to make the extra effort to structure your website, content, and activities to obtain the necessary information.

However you gather and store the addresses and lead gen source, you’ll want to create one or more email campaigns to nurture these leads and qualify them. The campaign serves several purposes: staying top-of-mind, building a trust relationship, providing information about your business as appropriate, and moving the user closer to a sale. Based on how you obtained the lead, you’ll want to deliver different content and messaging. Here are guidelines for some common scenarios:

Source Data to Gather and Follow-Up
Through your booth at a tradehow Record:  Record whether the lead saw a demo or spoke with a sales person and, if possible, what products/services were they interested in.Follow-up:  When you get leads from a show, create an email nurturing campaign to send a series of emails to users to stay top-of-mind and move them toward a sale. If the user saw you at a tradeshow, you can begin further down the sales funnel and message the user directly about your product/services.Take advantage of the information you recorded about whether they saw a demo or talked with someone, and the particular products/services they were interested in.  Personalize the campaign to reference and highlight them, messaging different groups of users from the tradeshow based on their interest and activity at the show.
An attendee at your
conference talk or webinar
Record: Record what talk/webinar the user attended, i.e. what topic the user was interested in. Consider including a question or two in the webinar sign-up form (or post-talk assessment).  Use questions that can help you better target the user post-webinar. For example, let the user select from a list of common business challenges that your product/service addresses, a list of technologies the customer uses, or the customers assessment of the skill level of the organization. Whatever will help you better message the customer.Follow-up:  Based on the talk/webinar topic or the questions you asked, follow up with people who attended by providing useful content. Create emails and free content that adds value to attendees: a checklist, more details on the webinar topic, information they can use to immediately improve their business, etc.  In this context, it’s reasonable to include a fairly direct pitch of your products/services as well.
Content marketing lead, such as someone downloading a free informational eBook or  whitepaper Record: Record the topic of the free content the user downloaded.Follow-up:  You know what the user is interested in, so give them more.  Follow-up here requires a light touch, though. In most cases, content marketing involves providing valuable, general information to users. These users didn’t come looking for your products or services. They were just looking for information. If you start off your relationship with them by sending a sales email, you have a higher chance of an unsubscribes.Instead, nurture the relationship with valuable content on the same or related topics to the one that originally garnered their email address. You can include soft sell information about your products/services in the content. If your automation software enables it, track which emails the user opens, and what content the user opens. Then segment the user again based on this data into a list that lets you send even more targeted emails and content.

Only after providing valuable, free content for some time should you attempt a more direct sales pitch. Try to personalize the pitch emails, too, leveraging the topics you know the user cares about to craft an email that covers the value your product/services provides in the context of that topic.

Newsletter/blog sign-up Record: If possible, record the topic of the post or newsletter that caused the user to sign up.Follow-up:  If you know what topics incented the user to sign up, use the same approach as content marketing above to nurture the user with valuable and free content. If you don’t have that information, your job is to use the newsletter and other emails to try to determine what the user cares about: what business challenges he/she is struggling with that are relevant to your products or services, what communities or technologies the customers is engaged with , or whatever other information will help you to engage with and sell to this lead.When you have that information, you can provide messaging and content of value to the user, and use the same content marketing approach to build trust before making a sales pitch—again customized around the particular user’s interests or needs.

Create a trigger to identify prospects

You’ve been nurturing your leads through email and some great, free content.  Maybe you’ve given the user insight into your products or services.   To keep leads moving to a sale, at some point you need to have a trigger or gate. The goal is to give the user the opportunity to move to the next stage and become a prospect: someone definitively interested in your product.

Offer the user something that, if accepted, will clearly indicate his or her interest. Examples of clear triggers might be a free evaluation or trial version of your product, a personal demo, a call from a sales representative, or a free analysis or consultation. A good trigger is something that requires a level of investment on the user’s part and that demonstrates sincere interest, if not a commitment to, purchasing.

Less than optimal but still advantageous are triggers such as signing up for a webinar that is clearly a demo of the product, downloading specific product information, and similar actions that show the user wants more information about the product or services, specifically. Users who pass this gate may still need nurturing with informational content, but also are ready for explicit messaging about your company’s products/services, special offers, etc.

Give prospects content to engage other decision makers

In a B2B sale, you need to keep in mind that your prospect may not be the only decision maker. The more costly your product or service, the more likely that others will have to approve the decision. Similarly, products or services that affect larger numbers of people in the organization or require changes to technology or processes are likely to require multiple approvers.

Here’s where your email list can once again be useful. You have a contact within the organization in the form of your prospect. Hopefully, you’ve managed to turn your prospect into an advocate for your product or services. At this point, it’s time to start providing ammunition for the prospect to use to inform and sway others in the organization.

If you haven’t already done so, analyze your sales cycle to understand who in customer organization is generally involved in the buy decision and those peoples’ concerns, barriers, and obstacles. If you don’t have that information, talk directly to your sales people who probably do have those insights.

Based on the information you receive, develop email messaging and supporting content that you can provide via email. Think about direct and indirect content. You might include facts, dollar figures, and statistics that support the benefits a purchase can bring. You might provide very direct content, such as white papers with titles like “5 Reasons to Upgrade to xxx” or “What yyy Can Do for Your Bottom Line.” Consider, also, creating webinars or events geared toward other decision-makers in the organization, such as the C-suite, and sending invites to your prospects that they can forward on at the correct time.

Leveraging your email list in this manner takes time and careful analysis. Depending upon the tools you’re using, it can also be challenging to fully implement. On the other hand, if you follow these three steps, you’ll be taking full advantage of your list, gathering more information about leads and prospects, and using that information to the best advantage to qualify leads and make sales.

Neicole Crepeau is the Senior Marketing Manager at Vizit Corporation, and blogs at Coherent Social Media. She’s the creator of CurateXpress, a content curation tool. Connect with Neicole on Twitter at @neicolec

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