When new inbound B2B sales leads contact your company for the first time, what happens? Do you…

A: start trying to sell to them right away? Or…

B: Unceremoniously transfer their phone call directly to the sales team or put them on a list of names for later follow-up (even if a few names sometimes fall through the cracks)? Or…

C: Start by having a clear, focused conversation where you ask the prospect some questions to get to know the prospect better and figure out if they’re a good fit for what you sell and determine how ready they are to buy?

Hopefully, your answer is C! It’s incredibly important to handle new sales prospects carefully, and that means starting out by asking some smart questions. The first conversation that new B2B sales leads have when they contact your organization is crucial to starting to build a solid sales relationship – and if you’re not careful, you might end up wasting time and losing deals while watching good prospects fall through the cracks. Too many B2B sales teams end up chasing after bad leads while not having time to focus on the BEST B2B sales leads because no one at the company took the time to do some pre-qualifying and ask some smart questions upfront.

Here are five key pre-qualifying questions that you need to ask your new B2B sales leads during the first conversation, and why they matter:

1. Ask you B2B sales leads how did they find out about your business?

B2B Sales Leads

Why it matters: This question will help open up the conversation to find out more about what the prospect knows about you and why they decided to call. For example: Did they see an ad or infographic? Did they get a referral from an existing customer? Did they find your website? Did they see a social media post on Facebook or Twitter that made them want to learn more? Find out how they learned about your company, and this can be a good way to understand more about the prospect’s needs as well.

2. Why are you calling today – what motivated you to contact us?

B2B Sales Leads

Why it matters: This question will help you drill down and get more specific about why your B2B sales leads are contacting you and what their particular pain points are. For example, they might say, “Our current system just crashed and I’m fed up with it,” or “We got a great referral from a current customer who said you helped them solve a similar problem and we wanted to learn more.” Again: your goal in asking this question is to build trust and uncover more details about the prospect’s problems and start thinking about how you can help.

3.What issues are you having with your current solution?

B2B Sales Leads

Why it matters: This is a great open-ended question that doesn’t assume anything – you’re just asking your B2B sales leads to share a bit more about what kind of problems they’re dealing with. This will give you insights into the situation and figure out which of the solutions you offer might be a good fit for the prospect’s needs.

4.How is it affecting your overall business operations?

B2B Sales Leads

Why it matters: This is a great follow-on question – go further into the prospect’s business and start to talk about the overall picture of how their current challenges are causing issues for their overall organization. For example, how many departments are involved? Who are the stakeholders? Who will want to be at the table during the sales process? Whom do you need to include in any future meetings or product demos?

5.What timeline do you have in mind for making a decision?

B2B Sales Leads

Why it matters: This question should be handled with care. Don’t make it seem like you are pressuring them – just keep it casual. Find out how urgently they’re looking to buy from you – maybe they say “right away!!” or maybe they say, “current fiscal year” or maybe they say “not until next year’s budget is done.” Whatever the answer, you’ll have insights into how eager they are to buy – whether they’re a serious buyer or whether they’re just beginning to do their research.

All of these questions are designed to be open-ended, non-confrontational, and low-pressure. The goal is to get your prospect talking, build trust, and start to establish a sales relationship. When you learn more from your prospect in this initial conversation, you have the power to start to sort and rank your sales leads and use this knowledge to guide your sales process from that point on. Better knowledge about what your sales prospects want – and how you can help – equals better sales results!

(Also, you can read more about how lead qualification helps in aligning sales and marketing.)

For an online business, your mailing list is your most prized asset. Though building one may look easy, when you start to actually do it, it can get challenging. Even reaching a small number of 5,000 targeted email subscribers may seem like a distant dream. Which is why marketers look for all possible ways to grow their email list. One of them is social media.

Social media is no longer just about increasing your brand presence, but also for generating leads with the favoured platforms being Facebook and LinkedIn. The new kid on the block in the marketing ecosystem is Instagram. Organizations and individuals are using Instagram for business to grow their influence and audience. Not just for exposure but more leads as well.

(Here are some more experts on how to generate leads with social media)

This post will teach you how to supercharge your lead generation process by using Instagram for business and how to make money on Instagram. To make this article more relatable, I am going to take the example of a case study to back my claims: Foundr Magazine. Foundr’s strategy of using Instagram for business has resulted in hundreds of new customers and thousands of dollars of profits for them.

Why Using Instagram for Business Should Be a Part of Your Marketing Strategy?

Instagram has fast become one of the most prominent social media platforms. A major chunk of the active subscribers belong to the generation we term as millennials.

using instagram for business - infographic

With this kind of solid facts, it is hard to ignore the platform, and you need to start using Instagram for business build a following on it as well. It’s time to include the platform into your marketing strategy.

Bonus: Here are other channels you should focus upon for B2B lead generation.

How Foundr did it:

Foundr has a huge email list (more than 100,000 subscribers), and using Instagram for business was a big driver for them to reach this milestone.

Foundr was able to grow their Instagram following from 0-400,000 in just 11 months

Yes, you read that right in just 11 months! How did they accomplish this through Instagram?

The Image:

To create a successful lead generating funnel you need to drive your audience to take the action that you desire. Over here, we want them to subscribe to our email list. Foundr crafted a great strategy for this. They knew they needed to create content that actually converts. They focused on “Images with Quotes.” Why? You might think. Simply because it provides instant value. People read the quotes, and they relate to them as it makes them feel good. Also, since Foundr is in a niche, their quotes were a reflection of that, and hence the brand became easier to identify with.

They also focused on the design aspect. Instead of creating normal looking images, they used psychological hacks. Images which grabs attention while providing the desired value in return. Such images make people stop while scrolling and actually engage with the pictures.

using instagram for business - foundr

Protip: No need to be daunted about creating similar images and worrying about hiring a designer. There are many free tools available online. I recommend Canva, WordswagTyporama, and Pablo by Buffer.

Now you might be thinking of replicating the same process for yourself right. Don’t do that. You need to first understand and decide on what kind of images will be most accepted by your audience.

The CTA:

You might now think that you just need to create a bunch of images and you are followers will keep increasing. However, that would count for too much wishful thinking. It may work to a certain extent, but to truly utilize and maximize the effect of your Instagram marketing you need to be smarter than that. Without a “Call to Action”, you will just be increasing your follower base, now your customers.

In the case of Foundr, a CTA did not make sense, so they decided to use the caption field. As Instagram only allows 2-3 line of content in the caption, you need to make the caption catchy enough to make the user click on the ‘Read more’ button. Foundr did exactly that to great effect. One of the things that worked for them is to use the line “Double tap if you agree” or “Tag a friend” in their caption. Now if you don’t give this choice to your audience they will just scroll to the other picture, but when you give them a choice, there will be a percentage of people who will take that action.

The Bio:

The challenge, however, is getting people into your sales funnel. Unfortunately, Instagram does not allow you to add links in the caption or comments. The only place you can add links is in the bio. So your audience needs to go all the way to your profile and click the link in your bio. Now, why would anyone take the trouble of doing multiple actions?

Well, this is the tough part. You need to sell your idea, and you need to be an amazing salesman for this.

In your caption create the curiosity and urgency for people to check out your bio and hence click on the link and enter your sales funnel. See how Foundr is doing this.

using instagram for business - bio

Now your Bio is crucial, and what you write there is insanely important. Here are few tips that will help you.

  1. Be concise – Don’t write a story rather only what describes your brands in few words
  2. Use Emojis – Yes they do help. Using a Hand emoji to drive people to click on your bio link helps
  3. Use shorter a good looking URLs – For this, you can use Bit.ly or PrettyLink plugin if you are on WordPress
  4. A call to action giving people a reason to click on your Bio. A Free Guide or Free trial etc

Here are some more examples for inspiration.

using instagram for business - sumome
using instagram for business- green

The landing page:

What is sales funnel without a landing page, right? Till now you have created and optimized your Instagram account, you have an amazing bio and people are even clicking on the same. Now you need to create an amazing Landing page to go with it.

Now if I go into the semantics of how to create a high-converting landing page then I will have to write one more post. So I will mention the best tips that you can use.

  1. Lesser the actions, better the conversion
  2. Optimized for mobile – Remember it is Instagram so people will be coming from mobile phones, so if your page is not optimized for mobile then forget conversions.
  3. Simple and minimal design
  4. An outcome-driven headline- The headline is very important so make sure the bait you were offering in your bio aligns with the headline of the landing page. If there is a variation in this you will see a drop in your conversion rate.

This is how Foundr is doing an amazing job with their landing pages.

using instagram for business - landing page

This is a landing page for a course that they are selling in partnership with another brand (the one that was active while I was writing the article).

The lesson you can take from here is that by offering something that is insanely valuable with actionable advice, you can drive your opt-in rate really high. Foundr has got a conversion rate of a whopping 70% (I know! I’m still in shock too).

Now that you have set up a funnel for your visitors, the next step is to increase traffic to your posts.

Also, here’s a bulletproof Instagram marketing strategy for your e-commerce business.

Ways to increase your Instagram followers:

Here are some best practices that you can follow:

Connecting already established influencers:

Try leaving high-quality comments in the posts of influencers in your industry. Instead of cliche comments like “Nice” or “Good post”, try to respond with something long and meaningful that adds more value. This will get attention and makes you stand out. Provide value before you expect it in return.

Use popular hashtags:

Studies reveal that Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement than those without. So research on the most popular and relevant hashtags in your audience group and try to use those along with your posts.

Try running contests:

Contests are a good way to engage people on Instagram. You can always cross promote your contests on your other platforms and cajole them to follow you on Instagram.

Shout for shout (S4S):

An increasingly popular strategy on Instagram for business, it means that two people will give a shout out to each other on their Instagram accounts by sharing the others posts or videos. Even if one big influencer gives you a shout out, this could mean a lot for your follower count.

Now, there are a few things to keep in mind before using this strategy. You can either use KIK or Instagram messages to look for S4S. If the other account has a similar number of followers, then you can do one S4S each. But if the account is much larger you can offer to do 3-4 shout outs in exchange for one. You can also pay for shout outs if you are willing to.

I hope this was helpful to you in terms of using Instagram for business to generate leads. Do you have any ideas I may have missed out on? Please let me know in the comments below!

(Learn more about how to generate leads for your business)

Also, here are Top 10 Examples of B2B Companies on Instagram in 2017.

Before we begin, just ask yourself this question: why does my business need sales tracking? Maybe I can draw a parallel to Game of Thrones. If you, like the majority of the world, have been following the show, you would know what I am talking about. If not, let me do a quick recap. Two of the major characters, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen meet for the first time. While the former has come to request help, the latter assumes he has come to surrender. This leads to a pretty awkward situation!

sales tracking - game of thrones

But why did this happen to the Mother of Dragons? Simply because she hadn’t prepared enough for the meeting and gone into it with her own assumptions. Had she taken some pains to learn more about him, maybe she could have convinced him to surrender.

Of course, one disadvantage was that the world of Westeros had no sales tracking tool. So, she couldn’t know what her target audience was thinking. But we in the digital era do. Knowing your lead before you have the first point of contact is important. Else, you may lose out on that valuable first opportunity to make an impression on them. But is that all sales tracking is about?

What is Sales Tracking?

sales tracking - banner

The process of documenting the interactions a lead has with your business, right from the point of entry, emails and phone calls that they receive, and how they move down your funnel, to ultimately become your customer is called sales tracking. This allows you to get a visual idea of how a lead is conversing with you and any pain points that may be present in your sales cycle. It also helps you understand the effectiveness of your sales funnel.

How do you set up a sales tracking process?

sales tracking - process

Step 1: Identify your target audience

As is the norm with most sales and marketing processes, you always need to begin with knowing who your customer is. This step will help you plan out the remainder of your process with much more clarity. Know who would be the influencers, decision makers and buyers for what you sell.

Step 2: Identify your sources

Next, you need to know the platforms that this audience would be present in, both online and offline. Figure out which social media platforms they would frequent the most, which keywords they search for, and what websites they frequent. If you have an app, you can try in-app advertisements as well. You can now make a complete list of all possible points of entry.

Step 3: Set stages that each lead would fall into

Now define the different lead stages that your lead could possibly fall into. This could be something like cold lead, prospect, warm lead, hot lead, and customer. The stages would vary across businesses and industries. You can then recognize at a glance which stage in the sales funnel a lead is at any given time.

Step 4: Define the various ways your lead can engage with you

You need to identify the ways in which you aim to nurture your leads. This could be through email marketing, drip marketing, webinars, e-books or more. List out all the points of communication that your leads have with your business. This could be through social media, chat, web forms, email and over the phone. This step ensures that you can keep a track of what nurturing activities are helping a lead to convert.

Step 5: Set up metrics that need to be measured consistently

Now that you have the system in place the final step would be knowing what you should be measuring with the sales tracking system. Is it the amount of traffic your website gets? Or the number of people who come in from one particular source? Or the average time it takes for a lead to become a customer. You can then create reports based on your requirements to make the most out of your sales tracking process.

lead conversion strategies

Important metrics that you should measure:

You have successfully set up the process. Now, let’s take a more detailed look at the final step in the process. Your sales tracking doesn’t just stop with knowing how the lead interacts with you. It also involves knowing how they impact your business and its revenue. A good sales tracking process should help you measure these metrics

  • Sale per source:  Calculate the number of sales that happen through your various lead sources. This helps you find out which lead sources are giving you the maximum amount of business. This helps you to concentrate your sales and marketing efforts more on those channels.
  • Total sale in a given time period: Calculate the number of sales that have happened on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. Gives the management an idea of how the business is performing overall.
  • Sale per demography: This could tell you how many customers come in from a particular age group, job profile, or geography. This helps you to figure out who your ideal buyer persona is and you can target them better with paid campaigns as well as through content marketing.
  • Sale per sales person: Know which sales person is bringing in the maximum amount of revenue. You can use this as a performance monitor as well as a good way to keep the morale of your sales team up.
  • Average time to close a sale: This metric helps you to figure how long it takes for a lead to become a customer. For some businesses, especially B2C the sales cycle is much shorter compared to B2B businesses. By figuring this out, you can set optimal and achievable targets for your sales team.
  • New vs recurring customer sales: This metric lets you know how much business is coming from new customers and how much from older ones. You can also figure out how much it costs to get a new customer, compared to how much it costs to retain an old one.
  • Churn rate: Know the rate at which customers are leaving your business and why. You can then try to revive lost customers and get them back or try to prevent the same mistakes from happening again.
  • Average revenue per customer: Know how much revenue each customer is bringing you. This will help you fine tune your target audience as well. You would know that too high paying or too low paying leads would not fit your business.

Must-have features in your sales tracking tool:

Congratulations! You have now setup an exciting plan to track all your leads and how they move down the sales funnel. But, as we all know, ideas without execution isn’t going to fetch us many results. If you want to track your sales process properly, you need to have a tool that is equipped with the features that can help you out. Here are some necessary features that you need to look out for.

Detailed web tracking: The tool should be able to capture every point of contact that the leads have with your business, be it email, phone or chat. You should be able to know which pages they visited, how much time was spent on it and which forms they submitted. It should also have the ability to notify users based when one particular page is visited. Additionally, it should be able to track the email and phone conversations that the lead has with you, to figure out how and why they convert or why they don’t.

Easy to use interface: The tool should be simple and straightforward so that you do not need to waste valuable time in trying to learn how it works. The longer time it takes to implement and learn the software, the more time you waste that could be spent reaching out to your leads.

Easy customization: You should be able to add your own lead fields and stages to make more sense to your business. Some tools come with predefined fields and it is very hard to make changes. Such tools would cause some amount of error is properly tracking your sales cycle.

Clear sales pipelines: Your sales pipelines should be easily visible and should not require for you to dig too deep to find out what is happening at each stage with the lead. You should also be able to manage leads and build lists of leads in similar stages for your sales and marketing efforts. If the tool does not allow you to do this, then it is not for you.

Detailed reports: Reports are what are going to tell you how successful all your efforts have been. Therefore, you should be able to get detailed analytics from your tool. It should allow you to create custom reports as well, so that you can create reports that are more suited to your business.

Advantages of sales tracking:

Here is a list of the tangible and intangible benefits that you get from implementing a sales tracking process for your business:

  • More detailed and deeper insights into your sales funnel
  • Monitor the performance of your team and perform quality checks from time to time.
  • Get to know which products/services, geographies, and sales persons bring in the maximum revenue and why
  • Learn when something goes wrong and avoid risks.
  • Have better communications with your target audience by monitoring their behavior.
  • Increase customer satisfaction by addressing their queries and providing customized services to them.

So, this is everything and more that you need to know about sales tracking. I hope you find it useful and stay tuned for more.

These days many companies seem to be in the cusps of a huge dilemma when it comes to choosing a CRM: the debate between choosing a on premise vs cloud CRM. There are many arguments that support each one and narrowing down into one can be a bit harrowing. But worry you not. I am going to break it down for you and list out the pros and cons of each. This should help you to make a much more informed decision.

on premise vs cloud CRM - banner

Decoding your requirements:

But, before you set out to choose a CRM for your business, there are some questions that you should be asking yourself.

  1. Can you afford the upfront costs that come with building an in-house CRM?
  2. Is your business constantly expanding? In which case, would you require continuous upgrades and customisation?
  3. How confidential is the data that you will be handling and how important is security to your business?
  4. Do you have sufficient infrastructure and manpower in place that comes with an on premise CRM?
  5.  Do you use other software for your business activities and how would they interact with your CRM?

Once you have figured out the answers to these questions, you will have much more clarity. You will know whether you need to purchase a CRM or build one.

Cloud CRM:

The world has been taken by storm (no pun intended), even since cloud services were formally introduced way back in 1999. With Amazon web services fast becoming a leader in the segment, many followed. So, for the uninitiated, you may wonder what a cloud service is all about.

“A cloud service is any service that a user may access via the internet. The actual program and servers are not located locally but rather available on the servers of the service provider.”

Now, there are many CRM tools in the market that make use of cloud services. You can choose your vendor based on your requirements. (If you are customer facing business, make sure you choose a suitable CRM).

Back in 2008, only 13% of CRMs were hosted on a cloud server. Fast forward to 2017 and a whopping 87% CRMs are cloud based. This is a huge indication of the adoption rates that cloud CRMs enjoy.

Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of having a cloud CRM.

Advantages:

  • There is no need to dish out a huge sum as set up costs as all the hardware and servers for running the CRM are hosted by the vendor.
  • You don’t have to worry about maintenance and the additional costs and hassle that come with it, as it is the responsibility of the vendor.
  • The service provider takes care of upgrades and other technological glitches. As these upgrades are handled externally, the deployment time of these updates is also less.
  • As all the data is stored in the cloud, you have easy access to it. You can use the CRM anywhere, even when you are on the go.
  • Hosting data in the cloud allows you to create mobile CRMs which take data from cloud servers while on the go. These apps can be hosted on app stores and downloaded by your team.
  • Customization of the software is easily and readily available through cloud services and can be deployed almost instantly.

Disadvantages:

  • You do not have complete control of your data and systems. The data is still hosted on another server.
  • Autonomy on when you want to upgrade the system is not in your hands.
  • Downtimes may occur when the servers are upgraded or repaired. These are not under your control and could clash with your work.
  • You might have to reach out to the vendor’s support to get things done which is not really an ideal situation in most cases.

On-premise CRM:

These are CRM solutions that are built by a company for their own usage. Some companies prefer not to let a third party vendor handle their data. This is especially true of companies handling sensitive information such as banks and insurance companies.

Building a CRM in their own premises would incur a lot of initial set up costs. This would include hiring new people to build the software or outsourcing it to another vendor. Purchasing and installing the necessary hardware would also burn a hole in your pocket. Additionally, you may have to be ready to incur occasional maintenance and updating costs.

One thing that you have to remember while building your CRM is that you have to create a disaster management system. You should build a backup system that is kept far away from the original location. This is to avoid any losses or damage as a result of accidents or natural disasters.

Here is a list of benefits and drawbacks of using an on premise CRM for your business.

Advantages:

  • You get complete control of all your data and systems. You can decide and plan your upgrades, downtimes, and customizations.
  • You don’t have to worry about data theft, as your data is not hosted on a third party website.
  • If you have a large number of users, then you can actually save money. Many CRM vendors charge based on the number of users. Building your own CRM can be prudent in the long run.

Disadvantages:

  • Users will not be able to access the system from anywhere. It would be controlled based on location or IP addresses.
  • Building a mobile app can be a hassle, as most applications work on cloud servers.
  • Upgrading your software would be expensive and deployment can also take a while.
  • Requires upfront and maintenance costs. This can be costly for a small or medium sized business.

Cloud vs on premise CRM:

Take a look at this infographic, that summarizes everything that we have discussed so far. It highlights the main differences of a cloud vs on premise CRM and will help you choose the best fit.
on premise vs cloud CRM - infographic

Go to Chapter seven

You now know why you need a CRM for your business. But, there might still be some questions in your head about what could be the benefits of CRM and how it can impact your business and sales process. The myth that a customer relationship management system is only to for your customers is busted. A CRM brings many more uses and benefits to the table.

benefits of CRM - infographic

Benefits of CRM:

CRMs are no longer just for large organizations with a huge database of customers. They are being adopted and used widely by large, medium and small organizations. Most of these tools are built so that they can fit the requirement of almost every type of business. The fast adoption by businesses of all sizes is evident in this research report by Gartner:

Benefits of CRM - stats

Now, let’s take a look at some of the tangible benefits that you’ll see when you use a CRM:

#1. Streamline your sales process

Before CRMs came into the picture, most business’ sales process was managed by themselves on Excel sheets, email and a variety of other static tools.

While it’s fine to use it for a small number of leads, as the volume grows, it becomes harder to manage your leads and customers. A static tool like benefits of CRM - streamlineExcel will not be able to track your leads. This means that you will not know how they move down your sales funnel or how they interact with your business.

But with a CRM, you can track your lead’s journey down the sales funnel from the point of entry to the point of conversion and even after.

Website tracking | Follow your leads closely

A CRM helps you to make sure that there are no leaks in your sales funnel. All the leads that come into your system from any kind of lead source are accounted for.

#2. Manage your leads more efficiently

Most CRMs come with a lead management tool as well, which helps you to keep a check on your lead volume no matter how much it may be. As said before, instead of struggling to remember where and how your leads are coming in, a CRM gives you the option to easily manage and control these leads.

Instead of sifting through thousands of leads manually to find that one lead you need to contact, a CRM helps you to find the quality leads in your system easily.

Benefits of CRM - qualification

You can also figure out what interaction each lead is having with your company as well as which lead stage they belong to. Some CRMs even allow you to predict the closure of a particular lead.

#3. Prioritize who you call

When you have thousands of leads in your system, you might lose track of who to call first. This is because you don’t have enough data about these leads to know which one is of higher value. As a result, sales people spend their precious time calling every lead that comes their way. But leads that actually can provide business are sometimes missed out. Chances are that they have already bought your competitor’s products or have lost interest in making a purchase.

A CRM helps you prioritize your leads so that this does not happen. This could be through setting them a lead score or by grouping them in a list or by tracking their activities. This way you can group your leads into buckets and interact with them accordingly.

benefits of CRM - scoring

You can then communicate with each stage accordingly. Follow up with hot leads immediately to close the sale. Offer warm leads incentives such as discounts or coupons to buy from you. You can nurture cold leads through emails or other promotional content over a period of time to make them sales ready.

#4. Make your customer interactions more personalized

No matter how good a sales person you are, it would be difficult to gauge what exactly your leads want. They might be reluctant in sharing their buying intent with you most of the time. Unless you are a magician, you would not be able to read their minds.  A CRM, however, will help you to become exactly that!

Most CRMs come with a sales tracking or lead tracking feature. This will help you to know which pages on your website are being visited and how much time is being spent on it. If you sell products online, then you can find out which category is being visited the most. You can also track what conversations they have with your team.

Benefits of CRM - lead tracking

This way, you will be able to gauge the amount of interest that the lead has in buying from you as well as which product/service interests them the most. This is a sure shot way to cinch awesome deals.

#5. Save more time by automating routine tasks

The bane of a salesperson is the little tasks that take up most of their time. Imagine the amount of leads that come in on a daily basis. Now, if you have to manually check them and update their status and owner, then half yoru productive day is gone. CRM systems of today come with features that allow you to set rules and tasks and other features to help you to automate these routine tasks and concentrate on what you do best: selling!

benefits of CRM - funnel

The nuances such as filling out order forms, reminder emails and more are taken care of without you having to do much work.

#6. Make your teams more transparent

For any organization or team to work efficiently and without any internal conflicts, it is necessary for the system to be transparent. Working together, sales teams may get demoralized if they think they are being treated unfairly or if they feel other are being favored more. CRMs help solve this problem as well. You can use them to communicate internally as well.

One of the major points of dispute would be the assignment of leads. By automating the entire process, your team would be rest assured that the process has been impartial. This is important in keeping up their morale.

Benefits of CRM - distribution

This way they will also know clearly who has achieved the most sales and why their work is being appreciated. By avoiding such clashes, you would have a happier team more ready to work with each other. This translates to more sales and more business.

#7. Get detailed analytics on your sales process

If you are unable to account for your actions, what is the point of all your efforts? An Excel sheet gives you access to only limited data and insights. But, a CRM comes with powerful analytics features to get deep insights into the effects of your sales activities.

benefits of CRM - analytics

You can find out the best lead sources, the geography, and demography that most of you leads or customers belong to. You can also find out the results of the email campaigns and drip campaigns that you run. Additionally, they also help you find out which customers are giving you the maximum revenue. You can also gauge the performance of individual sales people. These data can help the management make powerful business decisions, and help sales teams set more realistic targets.

Did you know that there are two different types of CRMs? No? Well then read more about it in the next chapter.

Go to Chapter four

I’m not a spammer if that’s what you are thinking. We just have a lot of subscribers for webinars and newsletters, and for the past 3 years, I have constantly engaged them with email marketing. So, these have mostly been nurturing emails to opt-in lists. And yes, sending more than 2 million emails has definitely taught me a thing or two about email marketing best practices.

Now some of you may already know that we conduct webinars once every two weeks and not to brag, but they are quite popular :D It was the goal of increasing the registrations and attendees for the webinars that had me experimenting with emails, and I am delighted with the results.

Email Marketing Best Practices: My learnings from sending over 2 million emails!

Of course, I am still learning, but if a few simple things could help me better my results, I am sure they can help you too. After all, be it a webinar email or a cold outreach or a newsletter, the intent is the same – to get a specific action from the recipient. So here is what I learned:

[Please note: Images aren’t great. Please click on them to zoom in]

I. Personalize – It helped us increase open rates by 327.75% and click rates by 543.75%!

I know you have heard this several times, but it’s important to reemphasize because this simple thing still goes ignored in many emails I get in my inbox.

When you meet someone, doesn’t it feel nicer if the person greets you by your name rather than just saying ‘Hi’ (there)? The same goes for emails.

a) Personalize the subject line (to increase open rate) 

Try to have the recipient’s name there, whenever it makes sense. Eg: Shibani, get answers to all your marketing queries!

As I mentioned earlier, I send webinar emails every two weeks. In this particular case, I sent 4 email invites for the same webinar (because I was testing something).

  • The content was the same in all four cases.
  • The subject line was different in one email – it was personalized, unlike the other ones.

So how did this impact the click rate?

The email with the personalized subject line (Shibani, get answers to all your marketing queries!)gave us an open rate of 59% as opposed to 5.9% and 9% and 17% (shown below). That’s a 327.75% increase in open rate! 

Email Marketing Best Practices

So personalize!

Check out this report by MarketingSherpa on personalized subject lines and this article on 21 cold email subject lines that get responses if you still need some convincing.

However, I must add here that you shouldn’t overdo it. As digital marketing expert, Prateek Shah says, “Personalization in subject lines and content helps, but following the same pattern bores people.” So keep trying new things. Don’t stick to one pattern. But personalize whenever it makes sense.

b) Personalize the email content (to increase click rates)

For instance, say hi to the recipient by using their name in the body of the email. Instead of saying, ‘Hey there,’ say ‘Hey Shibani’.

Try to implement this in the body of the email as well. It will make a difference. Let me show you how:

My colleagues Sai and Vishnu, from the sales team, sent out cold outreach emails a few weeks ago. Both emails were sent to leads from the real estate industry. Both had personalized subject lines.

  • Email Campaign 1 had a personalized opening/greeting/salutation but no personalization in the body of the mail.
  • Email Campaign 2 had a personalized opening and personalization in the body of the mail (which was the respective lead’s company).

Email Marketing Best Practices

So how did this impact the click rate?

Open RateClick Rate
Email Campaign 132.1%1.6%
Email Campaign 239.7%10.3%

That’s a 543.75% increase in click rate!

Personalization in the second mail showed that the sales person had done his homework and had researched the respective lead’s business and what they do. This also meant that the sales person would perhaps have a better idea of the lead’s marketing and sales problems.

Now one might argue that the content differs in both and therefore, the click rate, in this case, is not a direct impact of personalization. But hey, both had personalized subject lines, both had personalized salutations, both had CTAs, both were cold mails and both went to an audience from the same industry. That would count for something, right?

(Need an email marketing tool that can help you personalize? Try LeadSquared) :D

II. Experiment – Change is the only constant.

Don’t you get bored if you keep getting or doing the same thing over and over again? Be it what you eat or the clothes that you wear, everyone wants something different after a point.

a) Old school sales pitch vs Bob’s sales pitch

Now some of you may have read The Most Entertaining Google Adwords Guide on our blog. It about Bob’s adventure with Google Adwords.

The post has a CTA at the end where readers can sign up if they want to be notified about Bob’s next adventure. Since the response was overwhelming, Bob wanted to check if they would be interested in his product as well. So he emailed them:

Email Marketing Best Practices

The email has an open rate of 63.23% and a click rate of 8.08% (until now). That’s not a bad number to start with considering the campaign started running a few weeks ago.

b) Regular style vs story-telling

This doesn’t always work but I’m sure it would be a pleasant change from the usual mails you get. Honestly, even I’m not much of a story teller but I have seen it work whenever I have tried it.

Here’s what I mean – an example by Neil Patel:

Email Marketing Best Practices

And here’s one that we tried – it’s not really a story but talks about Salil’s (the presenter) journey:

Email Marketing Best Practices

c) Formal vs casual

Be interactive in your mails. Ask questions. Add humor to it (wherever possible of course). Just be yourself and try to have a conversation.

Here’s another example by Neil Patel

Email Marketing Best Practices

d) Long form vs short form

I often make this mistake. But then I ask myself, would I read such a long mail?

It’s not really about the length actually. It’s more about the lack of time in my opinion. Have a chat with some of the senior members in your company. Ask them how many emails do they get in a day, and how many do they actually read, and you’ll have your answer.

e) Complex vs simple

Don’t use too many big words. Think about your target audience when you draft the content. In most cases, the target audience will vary. Not everyone’s language proficiency would be the same. Therefore, keep it simple.

Here’s an example (not by Neil Patel :D ):

Those of you who follow LeadSquared webinars would know that I share the webinar recording with all registrants once the webinar is over. In the mail, I share the deck (PPT) and the associated blog post (webinar Q&A) as well.

One day, I decided to change one word in the email.

Instead of saying:

Click here to download your copy of the webinar deck

I said:

Click here to download your copy of the webinar presentation.

You won’t believe what a difference it made to the click rates for that particular CTA. And here’s proof of that.

I compared the click rates of 5 emails prior to making the change and another 5 after the change was made. These are the results:

CTRCTR CTRCTRCTR
Before the change (webinar deck)24.44%32.43%30.43%20%31.57%
After the change (webinar recording)46%44.73%39.08%43.28%40.62%

So the average click rate can be estimated at

  • 27.774% – before the change
  • 42.742% – after the change

That means the change resulted in a 54% increase in click rate!

See how simple that was? Also, a simple Google search will show you what works:

Email Marketing Best Practices

The searches for ‘webinar presentation’ are far more than ‘webinar deck’. That should tell you that ‘webinar presentation’ is more widely used and perhaps, more understandable.

f) Regards vs cheers (or other variations of sign-offs) 

‘Regards’ is probably one of the most used closing lines out there. I use it as well, a lot actually. But we need to think out of the box. I have been implementing this and so should you. Here’s a post to help you get started.

III. Make your CTA count – Your CTR depends on it

a) Your CTA needs to stand out

When you send an email, you want the user to take an action, right? If the CTA doesn’t stand out, the chances of that happening are low.

Of course, the copy has to be good. It must motivate action, but a good CTA is what seals the deal.

Let’s say you want your readers to schedule an appointment with your counselor or consultant. Why not use “Book Your Appointment” instead of “Book An Appointment” for the CTA.

Here’s an example from one of my mails –

Click here to download the webinar presentation.

I changed that to…

Click here to download your copy of the webinar presentation.

See the difference?

You might find these examples useful as well.

Apart from the copy, you need to focus on the design aspects as well. Using a button for the CTA generally helps. Take a look at this:

Email Marketing Best Practices

You would have noticed that the content is exactly the same. The only difference is the way the CTA is presented – one in the form of a button and one without. Which according to you looks more click-worthy?

If you are not big on buttons, try underlining the CTA or making it bold? And if the CTA redirects to a form, use autofill.

b) Have the CTA in the top half of the page/email

CTAs or hyperlinked texts always perform better if they are above the fold or in the top half of the page/email.

You can take cues from this email I received a few weeks ago:

Email Marketing Best Practices

This is just a snippet of the mail (by Dave from Drift). But see how the language is really simple, sentences are short, storylike and it has an element of humor as well. It’s different from the webinar mails you might usually get and that makes it stand out.

IV. Use images and links wisely – They Affect Deliverability

a) Too many links can send your email straight to spam 

I’m sure some of you might disagree, but in my experience, more links (more than 5) means more chances of the email landing in spam. Your readers would need to manually move it back to the Inbox a couple of times until it automatically lands there. I suggest you avoid using too many links unless the mail really needs them to put the point across.

b) If you use images, use relevant ones

I’m sure you have noticed that image heavy emails tend to land in your junk folder. Images affect deliverability. But then there are certain businesses that can’t do without them (like e-commerce). So this definitely is a debatable topic.

Let me start with the cons.

We tested this a few months ago. The test involved two cold emails requesting for a survey. Both campaigns were sent twice (in two batches).

  • Email Campaign 1 did not have an image
  • Email Campaign 2 had an image

Email Marketing Best Practices

Now since they are cold mails after all, one cannot expect the open or click rates to be amazing (generally speaking). But what was surprising was the significant difference in open rate. Take a look:

Open RateClick Rate
Email Campaign 1 (without image)52.65%10.65%
Email Campaign 2 (with image)6%2.15%

See the difference? It’s a speculation really, but maybe the open rates were lower because the emails landed in spam. And it happened more than once, so that’s something. Therefore, if you must use images in your emails, use them wisely.

Also, with most email clients (Eg Outlook, Yahoo), you need to externally download images in the mail, in order to view them. That means the recipient has to take an additional action (which can be avoided) to view your email properly. Why would you want that?

Luckily, for those of us who like having images in the emails, Gmail has made that easier for us.

In Gmail, images in emails download by default. If you don’t want them to download automatically, you’ll need to manually change that from your ‘Settings’.

Email Marketing Best Practices

Naturally, unless images really annoy them, they won’t go and change the settings.

So the wise way to go about doing this (whether to use images or not) is to check how many of your email recipients use Gmail. I, for instance, know that around 60% of my email recipients use Gmail. But I mustn’t ignore the other 40. Therefore, I would not insert too many images in my mails.

Email Marketing Best Practices

Now for the pros.

Some of the most click-worthy campaigns have images. Like, emails from companies where visuals are very important (e-commerce, restaurants, food delivery services etc.). For them, it’s kind of the holy grail to CTR success. Let me explain this:

If the food looks appetizing, people would be more likely to order it. If the color of the dress seems amazing, again, the chances of the clicks increase.

Take a look at this example:

Email Marketing Best Practices

I think FreshMenu nailed it perfectly in this case. I know the timing played a huge role here. The mail was sent at the end of the month when ‘most’ people (I included) would have a money crunch. However, the use of appetizing pictures was very important as well.

So visuals are important when it comes to click rate. I found that out as well when I experimented with our monthly newsletter.

I sent out two variations of the same email. One campaign had an image. The other didn’t. The content remained the same. Surprisingly, there was no obvious difference in terms of deliverability (speculating based on open rates, again).

# of RecipientsOpen RateClick Rate
Email Campaign with Image193018.6%2.6%
Email Campaign without Image192918.95%1.85%

But as you can see (in the table above), the image made a difference to the click rate.

So If you want to use images in your campaigns, make sure they are relevant and make sense. One way to go about doing this is to ask others in your team. Ask them what they think of the image. A poor / irrelevant image might adversely affect your click rate.

V. Don’t ignore the technicalities – You might land in the SPAM folder

If email marketing is really important to your business and you send out bulk email campaigns on a regular basis, you must implement the following (without it, you simply cannot do profitable email marketing):

  • Be CAN-SPAM compliant

(This is not just for businesses sending bulk emails. It holds good for any business doing email marketing)

  • Incorporate DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) and SPF (Sender Policy Framework)

(Without this, probability of your email going into spam is higher)

At LeadSquared, we offer some of our customers a dedicated IP address. Having a dedicated IP address is good for businesses who have a high lead volume and largely depend on email marketing for conversion success.

There’s more to it. Here’s everything you need to know about email deliverability. (If the technicalities confuse you, ask your email campaign tool’s support team, and they’ll help you out.)

VI. Be responsive – People read emails on their phones

a) Your emails must be responsive

I really can’t find any reasons why you shouldn’t implement it. Take a look at this LeadSquared report on Email Opens by Device:

Email Marketing Best Practices

12.50% of LeadSquared’s email recipients view their emails on their mobile phones and that’s because we are B2B. Generally, for B2C, this number is way higher. The numbers are only going to increase going forward. In fact, it already has increased substantially in the US according to this report by eMailMonday:

Email Marketing Best Practices

So make your emails responsive.

VII. Be timely – Otherwise your emails will get missed

a) Send emails based on the target audience 

Lately, I have been reading a lot about the best time to send emails. I found that most articles say different things. There is no one day or time that works for every business. It completely depends on the industry and your target audience.

Earlier, we used to send our webinar mails on Fridays at 4pm IST. Then we moved to Thursday (same time). This week I sent it on Monday at 11am IST. And it worked very well. Our webinar registrations increased substantially because the open and click rates were higher.

So figure out what works for your business. Since we are a B2B product company, I can tell you that 11am IST works.

b) Send emails based on time zones

If your mailing list has people from different time zones (like PST, EST, GMT, etc.), you should ideally send the mail at a time that works for them. For instance, 4pm IST will not work from someone in Canada now, will it? So segregate and send, and then you’ll automatically see a hike in email opens and clicks.

So, that’s it for now. These were some of my learnings after sending over 2,000,000 emails in the last three years. They definitely worked for me. And, they might work for you too. I think the key is to understand your target audience and give them what they want.

Did you try something that worked? I would love to know. Or do you have any questions? Post them in the comments section and I’ll definitely get back to you.