Email and Inbound Sales: A Closer Look

Email
The negative connotation that email is “dead” as a marketing tool is one that is growing in popularity and this is understandably so. When we as consumers think email marketing, there is no doubt some undesirable associations that exist there, and this makes it difficult to see email as an up in coming resource. However, data has been fighting back at this generally accepted idea and has proven that email marketing is not a dead beat marketing tool; it is actually quite the opposite. According to HubSpot, “76% of marketers say they use email more today than they did three years ago.” But why is this is so? The answer isn’t complicated. Email marketing is one of the most “cost effective” marketing mediums that organizations can employ, and it offers great power for lead generation because it “gives you the power to reach customers in a place that most people visit everyday-their inbox!” That last sentence is a powerful fact for organizations to consider; most consumers are checking their email on a daily basis. There are few marketing touch points, with the exception of television, regular mail, and some others, that consumers interact with on a daily basis; why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of that?

Like stated previously, email marketing is a great tool for lead generation and this is because it a marketing touch point that people interact with multiple times a day. For those out there that are still not completely sold on the idea of email, check out the following statistics presented by HubSpot:

  • There are more than 3.2 billion email accounts in existence today
  • 91% of consumers check email once a day, if not more
  • 75% of consumers would actually prefer the use of email for marketing communications
  • The ROI of email marketing is 4300%

While it is clear that email marketing is an advantageous tool for lead generation that organizations must be utilizing, there are some “best practices” that need to be followed in order to ensure that email is effective as possible; while there are many, these are a key few that I find important:

  • Only email people that know who you are: This is the very first tip that Constant Contact provides, and it is an essential one. In their ebook Constant Contact states, “people open email from people that they know, and then delete or mark as spam email from people that they do not recognize.” The key takeaway for marketers and organizations in this tip is to only email those that have signed up to receive your emails. Do not buy email lists from companies or “share lists” because those emails will go to waste; they will not get read, and even worse they may annoy the consumer before they know anything about the organization. In addition to bettering readership rates, organizations will benefit from only emailing those that have signed up for emails because this practice leads to “better relationships,” “repeat sales,” and “valuable word of mouth.” Marketers and organizations want to receive a positive return on investment from any marketing effort they employ, and to do that for emailing the emails must go to those that willingly want to see them. Along those same lines of building better customer relationships, only emailing those that know you and having “opt out” options can help prevent an organization from facing legal damages
  • “Target your Audience”: The Create the Bridge blog states, “knowing your target audience is, without a doubt, the most important step in executing a successful marketing campaign.” While this might seem like a cliché point to bring up, it is very crucial in email marketing because of the poor associations that people have about receiving promotional emails. Consumers do not like to open their inbox and see 15 emails full of content that is not relevant to them as a buyer, and this is where really understanding your audience comes into play. Constant Contact joins in on this same conversation when they say, “When you provide content that is helpful to your readers, you’ll have more people opening and acting on the content you send out.” This is an important best practice for organizations to keep in mind, and one that can benefit them, because it is the basis for creating content for emails. Organizations/marketers must think about who they are sending this email to, and what the person is interested in. Taking the time to understand “buyer personas” and consumers interests will create better quality leads, and, as Constant Contact says, increase opening rates and make consumers more likely to act on what is being said in the email
  • “Focus on Benefits”: Because consumers receive a fair amount of promotional emails, it is important that organizations send out emails that “get to the point” and emphasize the benefits for the consumer. HubSpot explains that the email should not spend a great deal of time focusing on the “features” of the product or features of the organization, rather it should highlight what’s in it for the customer and why they would benefit from whatever is being offered in the email. This is an important rule for organizations to follow because it is something that will again increase readership and ideally get consumers to participate. If the email is not focused, then consumers will stop reading because they will not realize what is in it for them. While it is tempting to use email as a way to expand further on your product/organization, it can be detrimental to the success of the email and thus detrimental to the organization in terms of lead generation and conversions.

Inbound Sales
If you’re like me, this may be an unfamiliar term to you. That being said, all organizations and marketers should become familiar with this topic. Inbound is a buzz word, that HubSpot is very well known for, and in terms of marketing it revolves around customers coming to you as an organization. Consumers seek out content posted by the organization, as opposed to being exposed to it in traditional forms. Inbound sales is similar in concept. Inbound sales is based off of the idea that consumers are able to find all of the information about a product/service on their own, and they do not need a sales representative to call them up and educate them about the product. The mass amounts of information have made consumers more independent, thus shifting the role of the sales person.

For clarification and a concrete understanding of the term, the definition of inbound sales is, “the process of focusing on individual buyers and their personal needs, points of pain, frustrations, and goals.” In my opinion, one important aspect that is missing from this definition is the role of the consumer in inbound sales. Yes it is important that the sales person focuses on the needs of the customer “over their own,” however it is also important to note that consumers are finding the information they need on their own; thus changing the role of the sales person in the selling process. An ebook by New Breed puts it best when they state, “They can educate themselves independently-no need to speak to a sales rep to find information on the product or determine how your pricing compares to that of your competitor. They can find all the information on their own and they will use it to their advantage.” The role of the sales person now is more about “helping” consumers and answering any curiosities or questions they might have about the information they have found; their role is not about “closing the sale.”

In order to make the transition to more of a “helping role” the most crucial aspect is that marketing and sales are on the same page. The two teams have to be working “cohesively” in order to focus on the needs of the consumers, and New Breed recommends that the best way to do this is through an SLA. By definition an SLA is, “an agreement, almost like a contract, between the two teams, designed to help them work cohesively, put equal effort into the process and hold each other accountable for the results.” Essentially, marketing’s role in inbound sales is to “generate a certain quantity of qualified leads” and then the sales team will follow up on those leads. The SLA outlines this and also states that the sales team will follow up on the leads “appropriately” meaning they will play the role of the sales person in the way that inbound sales requires. Organizations can benefit from employing this inbound sales strategy because it will make more effective use of sales persons. In this day and age, where there is an overabundance of information available to consumers, sales and marketing should not be spending their time/resources shoving product and price information at them. Organizations can better use their resources by employing inbound techniques such as blogs, and helping consumers make their final decisions.

New Breed offers a list of inbound sales tools for organizations to employ including:

  • HubSpot CRM
  • LinkedIn “Advanced Search”
  • Tinderbox
  • Ghoestery
  • Rebump

The HubSpot blog offers some very good examples of email marketing; one in particular being an email sent out by Canva:

In the discussion of email marketing, an important best practice was to “focus on benefits” for the consumer. You can see from the picture below that Canva is doing just that. They are highlighting that they have added new layouts to their sites for cards, presentations, posters etc. that will benefit the consumer by keeping them “inspired.” While they are highlighting their product by announcing new layouts, they are doing it in such a way that shows the benefit to customers. Checkout the HubSpot blog for more examples of effective emails.

All quotes and statistics came from the following sources:
Is Email Marketing Dead
Constant Contact
HubSpot
New Breed
Inbound Sales Definition
Canva Image

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