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Prospecting with email

October 17, 2009

In the past we’ve talked about how email can help build strong customer relationships and retain loyal customers. This month we thought we’d focus on another vital aspect of business activity – prospecting. Every business needs to build its customer base and for most, new business development is an ongoing process; a process in which email marketing has a vital role to play. In this article we discuss how email can be used to help identify prospects and move them along the sales process to the point at which they are ready to buy.
 

As any sales person will tell you, prospecting has an important series of stages that must be undertaken in order to find potential customers and turn them into the genuine article. An email based prospecting campaign is no different. 

Identifying new prospects 

The first stage in the campaign is to identify who your new prospects will be. This should involve several people within your organisation – after all it is a vital strategic decision. Sales teams will have a hook on who has responded best historically but business development will have a longer-term vision of where the business is headed. Once a target sector has been decided upon, the individual companies need to be found, and individuals within those companies identified.
 

The best way to acquire the names and email addresses of these individuals is to run a telemarketing campaign – this will also allow you to gain the requisite permission to make contact with them. In our experience telemarketing is the best way to begin an email prospecting campaign. Gone are the days (if they ever existed at all) when a company could buy a database of email addresses and fire off a generic introductory mail.

Without doubt the best results are to be gained by putting in some telephone work to qualify leads and get a valid address. It will also give you the opportunity to verify the area of business your target operates in to ensure that they fit your criteria. The reason for this is that the more your prospects can be segmented the better. A well-run telemarketing campaign will then give you the data you need to run a targeted campaign that is far more likely to return good results. 

The pitch 

The next stage in the prospecting campaign is the introductory pitch. The pitch should be short and to the point and appropriate in tone. Whatever you do, do not simply lift copy from your existing collateral; email copy is much more personal and conversational in style than traditional marketing copy. If in doubt, get an expert to the write to copy for you, or check out our previous articles on the subject: How to write a subject line that sells and How to write great email copy
 

Rather than saying everything in the body of the email, add links to a landing page on your website. Integrating your email with your website will enable you to track the click-throughs and see exactly what is working and what isn’t. Early in the sales process, prospects tend to like to gather the information they need in order to be informed about a potential purchase – but they don’t usually want to talk to a sales person just yet.

An integrated email and web strategy is therefore the perfect vehicle for providing this information in a format that draws the prospect in and lessens the risk of alienating them. The call to action of your email is then all-important. 

Newsletters

One of the most successful methods we use at extravision is the email newsletter. Although many companies use e-newsletters to communicate with customers they are also a valuable mechanism in a prospecting campaign. They are an excellent way to introduce potential customers to your company without the hard sell that so many prospects have become immune to. An email introduction to your newsletter with a link to a sign up page often draws a high response rate, but only if the content is relevant to your audience. The importance of good targeting in the first phase therefore cannot be emphasised enough. Subscription to your newsletter should also be available from a prominent place on your website so that prospects can come to you as well as you going to them. 

Offer an incentive

Another excellent way to begin a dialogue with a prospect is to offer an incentive that you can fulfill electronically. A well-written white paper or report can be a great way to draw new prospects in – but only if it is well written and highly relevant. The incentive should be attractive, but not so broadly appealing that it risks enticing a wide audience. In order to maximise the effort you will be putting into following up your prospects you should make as sure as possible that they are genuinely qualified leads. Whichever incentive you choose make it something that will only really interest your target segment. 

Personalisation

Once you have crafted an enticing pitch and call to action, email is great for communicating with your prospect in a way that draws them into a relationship right from the start. Personalisation is key to a successful prospecting campaign via email. Using the data you collect in the first stage of the campaign process and the knowledge you have about your target sector’s ‘pain points’ - personalise the email so that it appeals directly to their needs. This requires some creative thinking.

All too often we think in terms of the features we know our product or service offers – but sometimes this is not the same thing as the benefits a customer derives from it. Putting yourself in your customer’s shoes is essential when compiling your email.

Their inbox is a very private and personal space, and even though you have gained permission to be there in the first place it’s all too easy to blow it with overzealous marketing speak. People in every type of business are bombarded with sales messages from all quarters – yours needs to stand out from the crowd and say something different in a very direct and personable way in order to cut through the clutter. 

Building a rapport by tracking

This first email is only the start of the process; you are unlikely to achieve a sale with one hit. The key to bringing your prospects closer to a sale is to gradually build a rapport with them. The only way to do this is to learn more about your prospect and to tailor your subsequent offers very directly to their particular interests and desires.

Fortunately email offers the best mechanism for doing this. By tracking the responses to your emails you will able to build a very detailed picture about your prospect without having to ask them for a ream of supplementary information. In effect email technology allows you to see what the prospect is looking at when they are merely window-shopping.

Tracking the articles they click onto in a newsletter for example, you can build up a picture of where precisely their interests lie. This information can then be turned into ever more personalised emails that are highly likely to trigger a response. Email offers the ability to do this and make it feel like a one to one, when in fact you will be communicating with many. 

Summary

Of course we know that B2B prospecting, especially for products or services that are complex or expensive, can take a many months to run and email may not seem like the obvious choice for putting across a high value proposition. Used as part of multi-channel approach however, I think you’ll agree that email has a valuable contribution to make. By taking advantage of tracking and personalisation techniques, email can ensure that the prospect is well qualified, that the right information is fed to them at exactly the right time – and in so doing lead your prospect more quickly along the path to a sale.

If you would like any further information, please email [email protected] or call 0161 817 2929

Posted by Paul Latham
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