You've got leads! It's a thrilling part of the marketing process. This means you put an offer out into the digital world, and people were intrigued enough to give you a name and email.
And — now what? Depending on your offer, there's a rich opportunity here. It's also a balancing act. You don't want to overwhelm people with emails. You also don't want to “cut them loose” too quickly. Many small- to mid-size companies grapple with this.
Here at Zoe Marketing & Communications, we've helped hundreds of clients manage their leads and usher them to the next steps. In this blog, we'll share our top tips with you, too, including:
Segmenting prospects as cold, warm or hot
Allowing for opt-outs and vetting leads
Giving fast gratification and validation
Nurturing your leads with quality content
Staying engaged or shifting to 'dormant' status
You'll walk away with a clear idea of how to engage your newfound prospects. You'll also feel more confident in how often to contact them — and for how long.
1. Segmenting prospects as cold, warm or hot
Before diving in, it's essential to understand where your prospects are coming from. Are they brand-new to you? Have they engaged with you before? Are they getting closer to buying?
This is easier to track if you have a customer relationship management system, or CRM. This lets you observe people's behavior on your website, based on having their email addresses.
Even if you don't, though, there are three primary buckets you can put people into:
Cold. They're brand-new to you. Often they're downloading or registering for a free offering. They're curious, but it's unclear if they'll choose your company yet.
Warm. They've interacted with your site a few times. Perhaps they've signed up for a newsletter. There's a higher commitment.
Hot. They're very interested in picking you. Maybe they've filled out a “get more info” form. They're close to jumping in.
The criteria can vary, but it comes down to at least two things: They're a bit interested or very interested. Creating these layers is important because you'll craft emails that speak to each audience based on their needs (more on that in #4).
2. Allowing for opt-outs and vetting leads
Next, let's talk about how you're getting your leads. There are two typical options:
People fill out a form on your website that feeds them directly into your email system.
Folks complete a form on another platform, such as a lead-gen ad on Facebook Ads. To “pipe” that data over to your system, you use an API, which is basically a plug-in to connect your software to theirs, or you can manually add them.
Either way, you'll want to ensure you're being transparent about your intentions — and that you have quality leads on your hands.
Be clear in your communication
Right from the start, when people sign up for whatever you're offering, be transparent. Let them know that, by giving their email, they agree to hear from you occasionally. (Ditto any partners you might be teaming up with, if that applies.)
Also, let them know that they can opt-out anytime if they don't want those emails. Of course, be sure any email you send gives them that opt-out option!
Run a bit of quality control
You'll want to ensure your “input” system is smooth, whether your CRM handles it or not. Start with clear labels for your fields. For instance, say you run a business that sells kayaks, and you're promoting a “Kayak Buying Guide.” Some key fields might include:
Source (e.g., “Kayak Buying Guide”)
Date (e.g., the date they first appeared in your database)
If you're using an API or doing a manual upload with a CSV spreadsheet, make sure the fields are correctly named on both sides. And, if an email is already in your system, make sure you're updating the correct user's profile — and not creating a duplicate “new” user.
Finally, consider using an email verification service like Kickbox or Bouncer. For a relatively small fee, they'll weed out incorrect or fake emails, keeping your bounce rate lower and quality higher.
3. Giving fast gratification and validation
Now, for the action! All that setup is crucial to quickly respond to your new prospects — giving them what they've asked for in your form.
Don't dawdle on your first follow-up
Fulfill what you promised fast. Make sure you can deliver; otherwise, it can leave a bad impression. Remember, it's a trade: their email for your offer.
Here are a few examples of the kind of turnaround people tend to expect:
A free download or event registration: Pretty instantaneous; within minutes. For events, you'll also want to send reminder emails a day and a few hours beforehand.
Enewsletter registration: Assure them they'll receive the first email on the next scheduled delivery date. A prompt confirmation and “welcome” style email is a good practice.
Reaching out to learn more: A confirmation email sent within minutes is ideal. If you're asking for a phone number, calling within five minutes is best practice.
People want fast responses, which is why automating your email replies is ideal. If you can't avoid a delay, be sure to communicate it. This leads to the next point:
A confirmation or thank you page or email
Someone gave you their email. They naturally want to know what's next. Let them know immediately with a confirmation/thank you webpage, email, or, better yet, both.
A page is also a great way of letting people know if there will be a delay. For example: “Thanks for reaching out to learn more about our kayaks! A member of our team will be in touch within one business day. In the meantime, check out our pricing page for some basic details.”
4. Nurturing your leads with quality content
This step also takes some planning, and hinges on whether your lead is “cold,” “warm” or “hot” — or, more simply, a bit interested or very interested.
The ultimate goal is to use their email address responsibly to cultivate a relationship and continue a conversation. Here are some basic do's and don'ts:
Don't: Send emails that instantly push for a conversion or sale.
Don't: Ghost people — or, conversely, “spam” them with too many emails.
Don't: Be too generic. People should feel like you “get” them.
Do: Personalize your emails, especially since you have folks' first names!
Do: Warm people up with “value-packed” emails containing more info about their interests (based on the form they filled). Great “learn more” content can include:
Helpful stats or trends
Do: Keep your emails short and direct. Even 50-200 words is plenty, depending on the topic. Give people a flavor, and then link them to the great content on your site.
Do: Space out your emails. Give at least a week between sends.
Do: Limit your emails. A “nurturing” email campaign, as it's called, averages about 2-3 emails that follow up on your original “delivering the goods” email. Keep it contained.
Do: Make a pitch — but save it for a later email! In other words, build up to it.
Do: Make your sales offer something enticing or helpful. For instance, offer a promo code for 10% off their first purchase.
Do: Consider this an opportunity to ask for more details. Most lead-gen forms only ask for a full name and email address. Here's a chance to ask for a city, ZIP code, whether they plan on buying a kayak soon — etc. Again, save this request for a later email. Bonus: Perhaps even tie it to a discount promo.
Do: Use your company's voice/style, or have a little personality. Invite people to reply to you directly with questions. It's extra welcoming if the emails come from someone in your company (who can be responsive, of course).
The bottom line: Through your emails, your prospects should be more aware of you but not annoyed by you.
5. Staying engaged or shifting to 'dormant' status
Again, people should always have the option to opt-out of your nurturing email series, newsletter or any other emails you send. But what if they aren't engaging with your emails?
A rule of thumb: It can take time for people to choose your service or product. For a kayak, for example, it might be months. Picking a school might take even longer. Some decisions can take over a year.
Patience is vital in the buyer's journey. Bearing that in mind, follow these guidelines:
Cool your frequency. After your initial series of 2-3 emails, continue to send periodic, relevant emails — quarterly, for instance, or every few months. Dial down the frequency to show you're a good resource but not pushy.
Nudge your enewsletter. If you have one, and they haven't yet subscribed, send an email welcoming them to do so. Be clear about its frequency and that they can opt-out.
Don't delete people. Especially if you have a CRM that tracks their activity on your website. Remember, the decision-making process can take time. After six months of inactivity, you might label someone “dormant.” But don't give up on them.
What are my next steps for connecting with my leads?
Lead generation is the first step in turning prospects into customers. The experience you give them after filling out a form makes a big difference.
In this blog, we covered the key pieces, including vetting your emails, creating quality “nurturing” email campaigns and staying engaged with your potential customers over the long haul.
Are you trying to cultivate more leads of your own to connect with? Talk to your advisor at Zoe Marketing & Communications. We'll tap our 15+ years of email marketing experience to help you craft campaigns that can cultivate customers over time.
Or are you still exploring your email options? Read these blogs to boost your strategy:
For 17 years, Julia Elliott crafted strategies and stories for Zoe, along with its sister companies, Metro Parent and Chicago Parent. A deep background in journalism helped her create customized content marketing to drive client success.