How should I develop content for a lead-generation e-mail?

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Before using a phone call, many lead-generation programs start with an e-mail. This e-mail softens the prospect to the call and, if the call is timed close to e-mail delivery, gives callers something to refer to.

To maximize the effectiveness of the e-mail, content should follow a few rules:

  1. Make the e-mail appear personalized. Although you may be sending dozens of e-mails at once, you can personalize them by using a text format, not HTML. In addition, make sure the e-mail comes from the person who will be calling.
  2. Take the sales pitch out of the subject line. Instead of using the subject line for the sales pitch, use language that will encourage the recipient to open the e-mail. Using a metric, such as “HR executives save 30% on recruiting fees,” is enticing. Words like “Learn how” and “How to” are not. Don't use full or initial letter capitalization because this is a flag to recipients and spam filters. Also, the subject line has to match the e-mail content. Don't use trickery.
  3. Make your opening line strong. Instead of a kitschy first line, write like you're writing to another professional. For example, instead of saying “I'd like to introduce myself,” dive in with “For your reference, I've included a link to a white paper I thought you'd find helpful.” This will make the prospect read past the opening.
  4. One link will do. Include just one link to some kind of credible content. This should be more than a product brochure or website link. Good content includes links to an analyst white paper, customer case study, article that features your company or a video demo or tutorial.
  5. Put the call to action in the e-mail. The call to action may be a phone conversation, viewing a demo or something else. Make sure you ask for it.
  6. Use language that doesn't turn off prospects. Instead of asking for a 30-minute call, cut the time in half and ask for a 15-to-30 minute call. You'll know in the first 15 minutes if the prospect is interested. If not, there's no point in moving forward. Also, avoid words that spook prospects, such as “appointment.” Use “phone conversation,” “demonstration,” “webinar” or “discussion” instead.
  7. Keep e-mails short. The first e-mail should be no longer than three paragraphs with a link. The first paragraph should talk about the value of the link, the second covers the benefits other companies have seen and the third includes the call to action. Keep paragraphs to three sentences or fewer.

Finally, don't use the e-mail to educate prospects fully on what you do. Rather, develop short content that opens their eyes to how you help others. Don't tell them what they will experience; tell them what others have experienced.

Jenny Vance is president of (LeadJen), a b-to-b lead-generation company.

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