I don’t know how many times I have heard people say ‘cold calling is dead.’ In fact, I’ve been known to say it myself, yet companies keep using the phone to win business. I have also heard that spam filters and general indifference have contributed to the demise of email marketing but some people have made it the core of their new business strategies. So what is the truth?

Timely, Relevant and Personal

To some extent email marketing, in the sense of blasting out generic e-shots and hoping for the phone to start ringing is dead.  To put some perspective on this: according to the research by the Radicati Group, around 300 billion emails are sent every day worldwide, while Symantec Message Labs reported in January 2011 that although 78.6% of these emails are spam and viruses, 64 billion are actually genuine emails.

Even when bona fide B2B emails contain useful information that might help you improve your business, the sheer volume means you are still likely to mentally block them out and be unreceptive to their content. Unless they are very timely, very relevant and personalised they don’t get a look in. Even then, if you open them when you have no engagement with the sender, you either buy or ask for more information or you move on, leaving no trace of who you are, what you do and whether you are in the market now or indeed, ever.

Some organisations claim they can trace visitors by tracking who clicks on marketing emails, but what do these people do after they have clicked? How can you approach them meaningfully when you don’t know what they were specifically interested in and you don’t know how interested they are because you cannot tell how long they stayed on a certain page or how often they have come back?

Turning Leads into Prospects

So yes, email marketing in its traditional form is declining; but email marketing with intelligence is taking off in a big way. Some would say that B2B vendors will see a revival of the art of telephone selling as a result of intelligent marketing and sales. This is because when sales people have valuable prospect information, it allows them to do what they do best – build relationships and close sales, rather than waste time prospecting for leads.

So what do you mean by intelligence in email marketing?

Intelligent email marketing is, in short, the ability to turn leads into prospects. This can be achieved first of all by establishing who is reading your emails, what they do, what type and size of business they represent, where they are based, and what, in your portfolio of products and services, they actually want to buy either now or at some point in the future? The more information you can gather about individuals the better you can profile them. This means that you can then tailor your email marketing accurately.

Rapid Payback for Marketing Automation

Using marketing automation to improve the performance of your email marketing need not mean landing yourself with a whole load of work in order to get any benefits at all. I know of one client who has just sent out emails without whitepapers or case studies and has still managed to improve the results of his campaigns by threefold in three months compared to six months of telemarketing. This success is due to the high level of personalisation and automation that is achieved with targeted, intelligent email marketing. Plus, a leading training company saw its ROI from email marketing grow by 150% in 2010 by introducing a programme of whitepapers which were promoted via email and downloaded from the website.

Visitors that do not score highly in the early days are still kept in touch with targeted and timely follow up emails. This can mean a simple monthly email to keep prospects engaged or the more sophisticated approach of sending specific emails once prospects have hit a given score.

Activity Alerts Help You Time that Sales Call for Maximum Effect

One great way to use marketing automation to turbo charge your email marketing and lead generation is real time web entry and exit alerts. We have all missed that big deal by phoning up the day after the customer went somewhere else. If you have tagged and tracked a lead in the first place you can set the system up to provide email alerts every time a prospect enters or leaves the site. Based on their lead score, certain prospects can be assigned to a hot list, allowing you to focus sales efforts where they are likely to have the maximum impact.

If there is a frenzy of activity from one of the prospects on your hot list you can then make a direct approach, knowing that the prospect is likely to be receptive to your call.  Based on their activity levels, for example the whitepapers, case studies and tip sheets they have downloaded, you know that this prospect is engaged and you can understand their profile much better. This means you are going to have far more meaningful conversations and that these conversations are much more likely to result in new business.

Email Marketing is Dead – Long Live Intelligent Email Marketing

It’s fair to say that email marketing very nearly died and, in its old form, would certainly be consigned to the nether world of ‘noise on the line’ at best and spam at worst.  However, using intelligent email marketing systems or marketing automation solutions, you can begin to understand why visitors and businesses are starting to see real benefits and a tangible payback.

Matt Hall

Matt Hall


Matt Hall is the Managing Director of Profunnel.