Email Marketing vs. Inbound Sales Process and Lead Management: Know the Difference
Knowing that 50+% of all emails arrive in SPAM or a junk folder, it amazes me companies continue to build their lead management templates as if they’re email marketing campaigns. They aren’t. While email marketing has a role for inbound sales prospects, it is a very small one. It is time we distinguish, for those that are not familiar, the difference between building out email templates and follow-up action plans as part of your lead management, versus the way we use email marketing.
Email marketing is meant to be a blast. That doesn’t mean “fun”. It means it is a method to reach large segments of prospects through email with the same message. (Think one email sent to all active prospects in your database with the same message). That is email marketing.
Email marketing is still a very valuable means of pushing your message into inboxes, but it tends to generate slightly less of a return than individual emails sent to specific prospects as part of a lead follow-up process. With email marketing, you can have plenty of visuals. It can be designed with heavy HTML formatting. You can have countless links and calls to action. Email marketing pieces are meant to look “designed”, branded, clickable, and pleasing to the eye.
Emails to prospects (and email templates) are not meant to look “designed”. They should look personally written. The words used aren’t meant to be advertisements of your products, but rather crafted conversation pieces. A smart email back to a prospect as part of your inbound sales process should ideally be plain text. Responses aren’t meant to be calls-to-actions, but rather engaging questions to create a dialogue rather than a monologue. These do not need to look pretty. Lead management (the emails/templates/literature/video/texts and corresponding follow-up schedules) should be constructed as a means to build a relationship with a prospect, not just to push them your message.
Take a look at the content your team is sending to inbound sales prospects. Are they overly designed? Do they disregard specific interests of the shopper? Are they HTML heavy? Contain too many formatting elements (links, pictures, code, etc.) that can get their emails stuck in a SPAM folder? If so, it is time to rethink your communication efforts. Again, lead management must be personal. If you want to tell a group of prospects of an impending sale or event, it is more valuable as part of an email marketing campaign than it is to consumers you’ve already placed in the lead management funnel.
Email marketers will talk about the need to “target” and with them, I fully agree. A blast to all customers should be done quarterly at best (unless you’re a department store). Instead, customers must be segmented by group, product and date, and placed into more targeted buckets. Then the messaging can be more tailored to their specific needs/preferred products. This is considered “segmented email”.
The last concern of email marketing and lead management is from where the communication occurs. Regarding inbound sales opportunities, it is my belief that any follow-up must occur (or at the very least, be notated) in the CRM. If follow-up didn’t happen in the CRM, then it didn’t happen at all. That is one of the reasons DealerKnows’ TaskTeacher is so popular. It’s the extra layer of CRM accountability to ensure your team is following your process and completing their tasks that never existed before.
From videos sent, texts messaged, phone calls made, or emails sent, all are to be documented in the CRM (and, preferably, sent from the CRM. If you’re doing segmented messages to small groups, those too should be completed in the CRM. If you’re doing a large-scale email blast as part of an email marketing campaign, those are ideally sent from the servers of a 3rd party provider. No way do you want to send out 100,000 emails from your own account where if enough people opt-out and enough ISPs (Internet Service Providers) question the sender, it is your IP address getting blacklisted.
So here is how to distinguish what messaging goes from where and to whom:
Inbound Sales Process / Lead Management:
- Individual messages sent from one agent to one prospect.
- Must be individualized and personalized; meant to look like the words chosen were “crafted”, but the overall email was not “designed”.
- Creates a conversation by addressing their inquiry and asking questions to build a dialogue.
- Ideally plain text and read as if it is from an actual employee writing it.
- Needs to happen from and within the CRM.
- Can be sent every day if desired, but best if outbound emails are broken up to allow for engagement and not overwhelm.
- A similar message sent from one agent to several prospects (think 2 – 100 customers).
- Needs to be personalized down to customer name merge field inserts and product.
- Limited HTML and imagery, with a customized call-to-action.
- Ideally sent from your own Customer Relationship Management tool.
- Sent monthly with most updated specials/sale/product information.
- Advertising message regarding specials, sales, or events. (think 100 – 50,000 customers).
- Able to accommodate your own database of customers, or purchased customer profile lists.
- Can be used for data-mining purposes, or simply conquest.
- Professionally designed with links to the website, product/pricing information, dynamic graphics and call-to-actions throughout.
- Best if sent through a 3rd party provider’s servers and IP addresses to prevent blacklist.
- Tends to have the lowest percentage of engagement.
- Sent quarterly so as not to drown the public with noise.
Once you distinguish the different between your inbound sales process strategy and your email marketing campaign tactics, you will be able to better identify the right message to meet your audience. You will endear your brand to the public while engaging interested prospects with peer-to-peer communication. Know the difference between these strategies and you know how to sell today’s shoppers.