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When is the right time to start nurturing my prospects with email?

Email is just one of many online marketing techniques that will help companies generate leads. When it comes to making investments in online strategy, it's important that marketing executives prioritize tasks and work up to a fully functional email-nurturing initiative. To determine which online marketing tactics are most effective in terms of lead generation, the Hinge Research Institute surveyed 500 professional services companies to get a sense of which techniques were most effective in producing new leads. (The survey was conducted online last year). The research team then segmented the data to show responses from high-growth companies versus average-growth companies in terms of year-over-year revenue. Average-growth companies rated email marketing and company newsletters as most effective techniques. In contrast, high-growth companies rated email marketing as the fourth most effective online marketing technique, behind SEO, blogging and Web analytics. The ratings from these high-growth companies are in line with what we've seen from companies successfully implementing an inbound marketing campaign. If you're looking to generate leads effectively, you'll find it makes sense to pause your email marketing until you have something truly valuable to offer. The idea is to build up a foundation of search engine-optimized content first, then begin nurturing prospects via email as a followup. Once your library of content hits a certain point, you can begin to focus your efforts on email outreach. When you do, follow these three overarching rules:
  1. Be consistent. Don't start and stop. Email recipients will appreciate your messages if they are expected. Once a month is a typical starting point for professional services companies.
  2. Lead with education. You are sending emails to nurture relationships first, not to make hard sales. Leverage the thought leadership from your library, and encourage content downloads as a primary goal.
  3. Make actions easy. Although you may not be leading with a sales pitch, you should always make it easy for someone to take the next step when they are ready to do business. A simple call to action at the bottom or sidebar of the email will allow readers to know you are ready to talk when they are.
Email marketing can be an important part of your lead-generation strategy. For optimal growth, focus on sound SEO and content strategy first. Then begin to nurture your list with all of that great knowledge. Lee Frederiksen is the managing partner atwww.hingemarketing.com, a provider of branding and marketing for professional services companies, and co-author of the book "Online Marketing for Professional Services" (Hinge, 2012).
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