Email is one of the most powerful marketing channels out there. It’s the 21st-century equivalent of knocking on your prospect’s door and telling them why your solution is the only one that meets their needs.

But like any personal communication, your messages have to be welcome. In other words, people have to opt into your list. 

Marketers call this process email lead generation. Getting email leads requires a solid strategy to build your mailing list with excited subscribers, and it’s easier than you might think. To understand why, you need to know what makes a lead valuable.

What are leads?

A lead is someone who’s interested in your business and the products and services it provides. They might not be ready to purchase immediately, but they’re aware of your brand and how it can help them achieve their goals, fulfill their wishes, or make their lives easier. 

What are email leads?

Email leads have expressed interest by sharing their email address with you, usually via an online opt-in form. The form adds the lead to your email list — sometimes offering a freebie or other incentive — so you can engage them with email marketing.

Email leads have a high targeting potential. In other words, because they’re a smaller segment of your audience who’s interested in your business, you can develop personalized messages. 

What is email lead generation, and why is it important?

Once someone submits their email address on your website or social media page, the email lead generation process starts. 

Your email list is a high-value marketing tool, generating an average of $36 for every dollar spent. Subscribers have opted into receiving your marketing messages, so they’re “warm” leads, meaning they’ve at least thought about buying from you.

Email keeps your brand at the top of their mind. It cultivates the kind of meaningful relationship that only comes from direct communication. Plus, because modern technology lets you connect your email strategy to your other marketing efforts, it’s an excellent opportunity for retargeting — or messaging people who have reached out to you in other ways.

To reap those benefits, you need to consistently grow your list of contacts.

Importance of having an email lead generation strategy

Opt-in forms help you to build your email list, but if that’s all your email lead generation strategy includes, you’re leaving money on the table. 

Once you’ve generated valuable email marketing leads, you need to engage them with your content. Consumers open just over 20% of the newsletters they receive, and yours needs to make the cut.

The solution is a plan that goes beyond generating new leads. An effective lead generation strategy keeps your email list healthy by engaging subscribers and deleting invalid addresses.

Why you should not buy email leads

Purchased email lists offer no return on investment, and using them will hurt your deliverability. None of the recipients will have opted into receiving your messages, which means they will likely skip over your emails or unsubscribe immediately. Either way, your metrics will take a significant hit.

Some purchased addresses will be totally undeliverable, which means they’ll bounce back and register as spam. Email service providers may block you from sending if you have too many bounce-backs.

How to generate email leads the right way

The only ethical way to generate email address leads is to provide genuinely valuable content — the right content at the right time. Here’s how to get email leads using this simple yet effective strategy.

Identify and define your target audience

The key to email lead generation is understanding who you want to attract. Every business has a target audience, defined as the type of people most likely to respond to your marketing. 

Learn as much about your target audience as possible. Consider demographic information, such as age and income level, as well as personal interests and buying patterns. The more you know what motivates your readers, the more quickly you can convince them to sign up.

Create a great offer

Many consumers are more willing to share their email addresses if they get something concrete and valuable. Marketers call that offer a lead magnet, which is a freebie people receive when they sign up for your list. Examples of lead magnets include:

  • Promo codes
  • Exclusive discounts
  • Checklists
  • Workbooks or worksheets
  • Quick reference guides

Marketing experts sometimes refer to downloadable opt-in content as gated or tiered. A blog post, social media page, or video excites people to learn more from you, so they submit their email addresses to access exclusive content.

Design a simple opt-in form

Joining your email list should be as fast and friction-free as possible. Instead of asking for every possible detail about your prospect, limit opt-in fields to a name and email address. 

When you have someone in your funnel, ask for additional details in other ways. For instance, you might use your welcome email to invite people to submit their birthdays, offering special discounts to those who do. 

Design and optimize your landing page

An engaging landing page will help you to keep your opt-in form minimalistic. Opt-in landing pages encourage potential subscribers to share their email addresses by showing how they’ll benefit.

Use lead scoring to better optimize campaigns

Every lead you capture is valuable, but some are more valuable than others. Lead scoring helps you assess the purchase readiness of each person on your list so you can assign them to the right email marketing campaigns. 

Lead scoring lets you focus more on warmer leads while assigning cooler leads to less intensive stay-in-touch campaigns. When businesses use this technique, the return on their lead generation investment is 77% higher.

Automate response emails

Every new email lead should receive a message when they opt into your email list. These messages make new subscribers feel welcome and reinforce the one-on-one relationship they’ve started to build with you. Automating this process lets you create a message to send each time you receive a signup.

Leverage social media channels by linking lead-generation forms

Another way to maximize your email lead generation efforts is to link your opt-in form to your social media profiles. Instead of waiting for people to visit your website, you can capture them organically when they check out your social media page.

Reward referrals from current leads

Your email leads are valuable as more than just potential buyers. Recommendations from friends and family carry more weight than any other source of brand information. In fact, 93% of consumers say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations.

Only share highly relevant content

Potential customers draw conclusions about your business every time they encounter your content. They’re much more likely to subscribe to your email list if that content is relevant to their needs and offers valuable information. 

Email lead generation best practices

Now that you’ve learned how to get email leads, it’s time to learn how to keep them. 

Create catchy and to-the-point messages

Did you know the average person spends just nine seconds reading an email? That’s a 33% decrease between 2018 and 2022. To keep today’s audiences engaged, you need to provide valuable information as concisely as possible. 

Avoid flowery language and craft your email message in the simplest way possible. Use an active voice and make sure your content is to-the-point, cutting any words that don’t add value.

Avoid no-reply emails

Imagine how you would feel if someone told you to call if you needed help, then walked away when you asked for their phone number. That’s the message no-reply emails send to audiences. They offer value and expertise but make asking follow-up questions difficult, if not impossible. You’ll come across as much more welcoming by allowing replies to your email. 

Plus, no-reply addresses are popular with spammers. This means some service providers could flag your emails as spam. Even if that doesn’t happen, many consumers automatically delete them as unwanted marketing messages due to high spam risks. Keep the lines of communication open by choosing fully functional email addresses instead.

Send personalized emails

Personalization builds better relationships and generates more sales. Fifty-six percent of customers say they’re more likely to buy from a company again after a personalized experience, and business leaders report they spend 38% more when they do so. 

Fortunately, automation tools make sending personalized emails easy. Decide what audience characteristics or shopping choices you want to target, then set up campaigns accordingly.

Clean your email list profile

You’ll end up in spam if you have too many unsubscribes, bounce-backs, or too few opens. Stay deliverable by regularly cleaning your email list. That means:

  • Removing addresses that bounce consistently
  • Checking your email deliverability and making adjustments where necessary 
  • Creating a separate email group for less active subscribers and messaging that group less frequently
  • Sending a re-engagement email to inactive subscribers

Re-engagement emails improve your stats and give you another chance to convert subscribers. Consider this top-notch example from e-retailer Redbubble:

This re-engagement message includes an enticing exclusive offer and reminds the reader what’s unique about Redbubble: fun original art and a casual brand personality. Image source: Pinterest, Fresh Relevance

For subscribers who don’t respond to this type of email, you can send a follow-up email asking if they want to stay on your list. If they don’t confirm, remove them before they can unsubscribe and affect your stats.

How to design emails for lead generation

Every email message is part of your lead generation strategy. Keep people as active subscribers by engaging them consistently.

Craft a subject line that encourages opens

Good email subject lines tell readers why they should stop scrolling and click. They’re concise and don’t use spammy language, like “Click now” or “Save money.” Your goal is to promise and deliver valuable content.

Use engaging graphics and imagery

Using images in email marketing is the surest way to boost interest and keep readers hooked. Opt for an image that adds value to your content, such as:

  • An original photo of your team, location, or customers
  • An enticing collage of product photos
  • An infographic or other data visualization

Whenever possible, aim to coordinate your graphics with your brand’s color scheme and visual style.

Insert a compelling call-to-action button

Your call to action is the final push to the next stage of the funnel. Your subject line promises value, and your body copy builds anticipation. The call-to-action button should make action irresistible. 

Here’s a great example from Etsy shop MJInspire:

This engaging call-to-action takes readers to the next step with themed colors and a brief yet enticing message. Image source: Ellie Diamond (email screenshot), Etsy, MJInspire)

Also, notice the social media icons at the bottom of the page. Readers can click to buy or share the sale.

Encourage subscribers to share content

Direct referrals are only one way your subscribers can become brand ambassadors. If you add social media share buttons to your marketing emails, subscribers can post content they love and spread the word about your business.

Optimize emails for mobile

Mobile-friendly emails are more accessible and get more attention. After all, 60% of email opens happen on mobile devices like smartphones or tablets. If your emails look good on mobile, they’ll be easier for those users to read and engage with.

How to nurture email leads

Now that you have subscribers’ attention, it’s time to convert them into customers. Here’s how to deliver the valuable content you’ve promised.

Qualify and segment your list

Value means something different for each new subscriber. Some will be closer to purchase than others. They’ll need different products or services, and some may prefer a certain form or tone of communication than others.

To send each person the right content, you need to do two things:

  • Qualify each lead: Assess each subscriber’s readiness to buy
  • Segment your list: Group subscribers by interest so each person receives relevant messaging

You can use the same data for email list segmentation and qualification. Look at demographic data, purchase histories, and any information your email service provider’s analytics feature can offer. For example, someone who opens most of your emails is probably closer to a purchase than someone who reads your content less.

Set up automated drip email campaigns

Drip campaigns are automated email series that nudge subscribers from interest to purchase. They launch when someone takes a specific action, such as abandoning a cart or clicking on a message, and continue until the recipient clicks or has received all programmed messages.

Constant Contact’s platform makes it easy to browse email drip campaign examples and create your own. You choose trigger events and design each email with user-friendly templates, and the system handles the sending process.

Send relevant and informational content

People submit their email addresses to get valuable and exclusive content. Ensure everything you send is relevant to their interests and leaves them wanting more.

Aim to strike a balance between promotional and informational content. Everyone loves discounts and promo codes but also appreciates educational tips and tricks with no strings attached.

Ask for feedback

Data analytics give you plenty of information about your audiences, but asking is the best way to know what they want. Don’t be afraid to send occasional email surveys asking what topics or email types your subscribers prefer. 

Point leads to other channels

If you have content elsewhere, such as on your blog or YouTube channel, link to it in your email marketing. Enabling people to read more of your content will reinforce your expertise and build trust with your audience.

Be strategic about the links you choose. Make sure there’s a pathway to purchase, and don’t lose subscribers in an endless content cycle. Just as you would in a drip campaign, keep the subscriber’s needs in mind and know how each step will get them closer to buying.

Key takeaways

  • Email lead generation lets you stay in touch with your audience and gives you direct access to qualified leads.
  • Get more email leads by targeting your audience’s unique needs.
  • Offer value with every message, including the opt-in button they use to join.
  • Categorize new leads based on their interests and readiness to buy.
  • Send relevant and valuable content to nurture your subscribers to purchase.

The best way to manage your email leads generation

Now that you’ve learned the basics of this essential digital marketing technique, you’re ready to build your strategy and get it off the ground. Don’t be intimidated — you have all the building blocks here. 

You know what an enticing opt-in button looks like and how to get people to click. You also understand the importance of keeping readers engaged and why personalized content does the trick.

Most importantly, you don’t have to navigate this process alone. With AI-powered automation and segmentation tools, Constant Contact’s email marketing software simplifies email lead generation. This technology makes it easy to generate and nurture the right leads for your business.

Your first step is to create a landing page that compels people to sign up. Remember to craft persuasive messaging, a simple opt-in form, and a compelling call-to-action button. Get started today and watch your email list grow.