There’s no denying the power of email. After all is said and done, it continues to be the most effective marketing channel on all fronts—from awareness to conversion.

The problem? Launching an effective, lead-generating email campaign is no easy task.

First, let’s define what we mean by “lead.” In the general sense of the word, a “lead” is anyone who has given you their contact information or expressed some sort of interest in your company. But a “lead” as we define it here is exclusively a Marketing Qualified Lead (also known as an MQL) or a lead that is more likely to become a customer, based on demonstrated interest and engagement. Until your leads show a certain level of interest, they are not MQLs.

So the question is: how can you create an email campaign that turns your leads into highly qualified leads or MQLs? Read on to find out.

1. Build Your List

First things first, only send emails to those who have opted in. The days of buying email lists are over. Not only would this possibly affect your IP address reputation (since many of your emails could be marked as spam), which could seriously damage your email deliverability rate long term, but these also wouldn’t be high quality leads.

Instead, gather a list of leads that are actually expecting to be emailed or have somehow engaged with your company in the past.

2. Segment Your Emails

If you are sending out the same emails to everyone, they are probably not going to be very effective. Consider the behavior and interests of your leads, and then segment accordingly. What webpages have they been browsing? What blog posts have they been reading? What stage of the buyer’s journey are they in? You will obviously not want to send the same email to the user who was reading a blog post as you would to the user who abandoned items in a shopping cart.

At SUCCESS agency, we like to send out what we call a “Welcome Series” of emails, which are sent out after someone expresses interest for the first time (such as entering a list or filling out a form). We send out two to four emails spread out over a few days. The goal is to build trust, so generally the email comes from a single person’s point of view (like the CEO).

Think of the “Welcome Series” as the first few dates you have with someone, when you want to show off your best traits and let them know how wonderful you are. This is your first impression, so make it count. You don’t want to bombard people with emails all at once (just like you don’t want to bombard someone with text messages or phone calls right after meeting them). But you do want to use this time to let your leads know how much you appreciate them and provide them with value right off the bat.

Your emails should become more and more tailored and relevant with time, as you continue to learn more about your leads. One way to facilitate customization is, after the user opts in, to send an email with a series of questions (or even just one or two questions) to determine what their interests are exactly. That way, subsequent emails can be as personalized as possible.

Finally, after sending out your first email, you can segment emails further based on the actions that subscribers take. Do people click on the CTA in your email but not convert on the landing page? Maybe you could send them emails offering a discount or a related offer. Did they not even open the email? Time to resend (but this time, switch up the subject line to increase the probability of the email being opened).

If you’ve noticed that some users have been dormant recently, retention emails can be a good way to remind them that you exist and get these users back in the game. A good rule of thumb is to send retention emails when users have been inactive for more than 28 days.

3. Think About the Timing

As with anything, timing is key. Get into your leads’ heads as much as possible and ask yourself: What’s going through their minds as they are opening this email? Is there a particular event, holiday, trend or happening that I can connect them to?

SUCCESS agency has been especially successful with more intentional, sales-oriented emails, especially when it’s tied to something throughout the year. For instance, the New Year is that time when everyone makes resolutions and tries to better themselves. So marketers might ask themselves: How can I use this time to market my product or service? If your company sells health food drinks, January would be the perfect time to send out emails encouraging people to start the year off right with healthy nutrition.

If you have a consumable product that will need to be replenished or repurchased after a certain time period, you can send replenishment emails around the time that the product is running out. The emails can be timed either based on the customer’s order frequency (most accurate) or based on the average customer reordering time frame.

Gazelle, an eCommerce company that allows people to buy and sell used electronics, is well aware of the importance of timing. They capitalize on the fact that people generally make a huge fuss whenever the latest iPhone is released, and send out emails around this time that encourage people to sell their old iPhones on Gazelle. DMN News claims that, “…the average open rate for an e-commerce company [is]16.89%. Gazelle email messages directed to Apple-interested customers during various 2014 Apple events generated email open rates of roughly double that: 37.3% during an iPhone event; 32.4% during an iPad event; and 29.5% during a MacBook unveiling.” See? Timing really is everything.

4. Write Captivating Subject Lines

Did you know that 33% of people decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject line alone? You’ve got about 35 characters to convince people to open your email. So you better make it good.

Just what makes a good subject line? This will of course depend on what your campaign revolves around, but generally, the benefit should be stated upfront and the email summarized in as few characters as possible. The subject line should be explicit and enticing, and while it may seem obvious, it should make the recipient want to click. Ask a question. If possible, create a sense of urgency in the subject line. Whatever you do, steer clear of excessive exclamation points or all caps.

Finally, don’t forget about the preview text (which appears right next to the subject line in many inboxes). This can often be an addendum to your subject line and when implemented correctly, can further tempt your leads to open that email.

5. Use a Recognizable Sender Name

Hubspot found that emails sent from an individual had a higher click-through rate (CTR) than those sent from a company name. Test to find out what works best for your business, but whatever sender name you go with, don’t use a spam-like email address, such as the notoriously unfriendly “noreply@brand.com.”

6. Use Simple Design

The best emails often have the simplest designs. Use no more than two to three fonts, abundant whitespace and whenever possible, images. The human brain is able to process images 60,000 times faster than text. So if possible, find a way to convey your message with attention-grabbing images, instead of words.

The amount of images you use and how they are used will of course depend on your brand and your end goal. If you’re an e-commerce brand, it will be much more effective to showcase images of your products than to talk about them. A news source, on the other hand, will obviously be much more text-based, but can include snippets of copy, instead of long, rambling paragraphs.

Which brings me to my next point…

7. Keep It Concise

As Mark Twain once said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Keeping your email short and to the point is not always easy, but if you can achieve this, you will drastically increase the probability of it being read in full—and acted upon. People simply don’t have time to read long emails, and it’s presumptuous to assume otherwise. So give them something that they can absorb quickly and on the go.

8. Have a Compelling Call-to-Action

Email marketing is an opportunity to help build trust in your brand. But if your emails don’t have a specific purpose, they probably aren’t going to be very effective.

SUCCESS agency CEO, Avin Kline, relates it to the “…kid in school who always talks to the girl but never asks her out…many marketers try to blog more and more and send nice helpful emails but never take it to the next step to try and make sales.” Instead of just making small talk with your prospects, really think about what action you want your users to take. Do you want people to make a purchase? Go to your website?

Whatever the end goal is, determine it beforehand, and from there, construct a compelling call-to-action that revolves around this end goal. Just like on a landing page, CTAs should be kept above the fold. And use buttons instead of links to increase click-throughs. We won’t ramble on, but in case you’re curious, here are some more ways that you can create a clickable call-to-action.

9. Charm Your Audience

At the end of the day, this is what it’s really all about. Can you bring a smile to peoples’ faces? How happy are your recipients to hear from you?
If this is something that you struggle with, consider including GIFs and videos in your emails. This way, you’re bound to get your audience excited—and if nothing else, your email will at least stand out from all the other static emails.

Make your audience feel special, like they are part of an exclusive club. Spoil them with discounts or promos. Or make it a two-way exchange: they bring you a referral, in exchange for a discount on your product or service.

10. Encourage Engagement

Technically, an email is supposed to be a two-sided form of communication. Start a conversation. Show your recipients that you actually care about what they have to say—and encourage them to respond to you.

Let’s say you send out an email with some product recommendations. Towards the end of the email, you could write, “I would love to hear your thoughts on these recommendations. Reply to this email and let me know what you think! And for the record, even if I don’t respond, I do read each and every email.” By opening the lines of communication, you are humanizing your brand and showing that there really is someone behind that email (as opposed to just some automated machine). This will help to build trust and increase the percentage of open rates in the future.

An added bonus is that you can use the responses to better understand your audience. If you find that many people are responding, saying that the product recommendations provided were totally off base, then you know that you need to start rethinking your data analytics strategy.

In order to encourage recipients to respond, your reply email address should be friendly, or at least show that there is someone behind that email address.

From there, make sure that the reply email address is actually monitored and that if possible, emails are responded to (and if you won’t be able to respond to all, it’s a good idea to state that upfront).

11. Make Sure It’s Mobile-Responsive

You can expect at least half of your recipients to open your emails from a mobile device. This means that if your emails aren’t mobile responsive, your conversion rates are going to suffer. Period. After all, who wants to struggle to read tiny font and patiently zoom in and out to get the email looking just right?

One Last Piece of Advice

There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to designing an email campaign. While following the above steps will likely help you generate highly qualified leads, as with anything, there are no guarantees. What works for one company might not work for you. The only way to really find out what works best for your business is to continually test…Over and over again.

If you do that, you are certain to turn all those leads into high quality, sales-ready leads. See the difference?

Mary Blackiston
About the author of this post - Mary Blackiston
Mary Blackiston is the Content Marketing Specialist for SUCCESS agency.
View all posts by Mary Blackiston ➔
About the author of this post
Mary Blackiston
Mary Blackiston
Mary Blackiston is the Content Marketing Specialist for SUCCESS agency.
View all posts by Mary Blackiston ➔
  • Hello!

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    Aspiring Team

  • Shubham Bangade

    Great Article! Even with all of the new marketing technologies and tactics available to us, it’s still the simplest–email marketing, that remains most effective.I personally used a tool called AeroLeads for email-marketing and it really helped me a lot for my business growth.

    • Mary Blackiston

      Great, thanks Shubham! Glad you found it helpful. 🙂

  • Hey Mary, appreciate the great article. I have been having trouble growing my email list as fast as I think it should be growing. I have good content, optimized process, etc. Do you know of any programs to help evaluate the user experience to find gaps, or are there tools that you recommend to capture for subscribers? Appreciate your help and look forward to reading more articles!

    • Mary Blackiston

      Hey Chris. Sorry for the delay here. We recommend Hotjar.com to evaluate user experience and the conversion funnel. And Sumo.com has some good lead capture tools. Hope that helps and good luck! Feel free to get in touch if you have any more questions. -Mary