10 Ways to Leverage Email Marketing for Lead Generation

Whether you spend your days focused on content strategy, graphic design, email marketing, or — more likely — a little bit of everything, we’ll bet lead generation is the underlying goal for almost all of your 9-to-5 tasks. While connecting your products and ideas to their ideal customer can seem overwhelming at times, we’re here to show you our best tricks and cheer you on as you put them to work.

Why Is Lead Generation Important For Any Business?

To put it simply, lead generation is the most organic way to maintain an open line of communication with your potential customers. Once you’ve gathered their contact information, usually their name and email address, you’re set up to stay in touch long-term without immediately soliciting for a direct sale.

Growing Your Email List Using On-Site Tactics

First things first: Grow your email list using tools on your website. Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  1. Create a landing page to gather visitor information.
  2. If you’d prefer to use your existing homepage, make sure your subscription form is prominent and easy to find.
  3. Use a service like Hello Bar to create custom messages for your followers and call them to action. For example, you could create a pop-up box with an invitation to download a lead magnet, such as a free quote, survey results, or coupon.

Subscribers Vs. Leads

Let’s take a second to define the two MVPs of your email list: subscribers and leads. Subscribers are all of the people on your email list who receive your messages in their inbox, regardless of their level of engagement. If we’re talking in baseball terms, they’re every single person on the team roster.

But the goal isn’t to make it to the roster — it’s to win the game, right? A subscriber turns into a lead when they step up to the plate, engage your brand with interest, and are one swing away from becoming a customer. That’s what we’d like to call a home run.

Converting Subscribers Into Leads

Fortunately, there are several different options for helping your subscribers move from sitting on the sidelines to making an informed decision and becoming a customer. At Campaign Monitor, we like to simplify all of the options out there into our three favorite email marketing must-dos: segmentation, personalization, and automation. Together, we’ll dig deeper into examples of each, but for now, here’s what you need to know:

Segmentation is the key to continuously sharing relevant content your readers will continue to engage with.

Personalization moves the focus away from your brand and onto your subscriber. (Spoiler alert: They’re going to love this!)

Automation helps you scale your current efforts for optimal success.

Why Is Email Marketing the Best Way to Generate Leads?

We could talk forever about the benefits of email marketing, but in the spirit of lead generation, we’ll let the customers speak for themselves:

Studies show that 72% of people prefer to receive promotional content through email, compared to 17% who prefer it on social media. But how do you set yourself up for inbox success?

1. Interactive Content

We all know what it’s like to receive an inbox full of emails that will be skimmed, never opened, or worse — thrown in the trash. But the type of content inside the emails you’re sending sets your company apart from those whose messaging never even meets the customer’s eyes.

Giving the reader an opportunity to interact with your brand will build an experience that grabs their attention, teaches them about your company, and will keep them coming back for more. According to Content Marketing Institute, 79% of content marketers agree that interactive content enhances retention of brand messaging when combined with traditional marketing tactics.

Surprise your customers with memes, videos, or GIFs, like this Toms campaign featuring glow-in-the-dark shoes:


View the live campaign here.

2. Contests and Giveaways

Contests and giveaways are prime tools for lead generation simply because everyone loves to win. From bragging rights to sought-after prizes, nothing motivates users to provide their name and email address like the chance of a big reward. In fact, Psychology Today’s Sander van der Linden, Ph.D., notes that competitive nature is something that has co-evolved with our basic need for survival.

3. Educational events and webinars

No matter your industry, it’s important to establish your company as a thought leader within its expertise, and there’s no better way to do that than to put on educational events and webinars. Offering educational resources and online events not only provides you with a new email list of potential leads, but also equips potential customers with credible knowledge about your product and company. That’s what we call a win-win.

4. Imagery

Did you know that it only takes 13 milliseconds for our brains to process an image? With people’s ever-decreasing attention spans and other messages clamoring for your ideal customers’ time, it’s important to make the most of your email space using imagery. The addition of one inviting image could be the one thing that connects you with your potential new leads.

5. Clear CTA

One of the biggest reasons users subscribe to your email list but haven’t become a potential lead is overwhelm and confusion due to mixed messaging. Your subscribers just aren’t sure what to do next. Whether it’s “Join Us Today” or “Reserve Yours Now,” a clear call-to-action simplifies the decision process into a yes-or-no question. Here’s one of our favorites from Birchbox:


6. Specific Targeting

Segmentation allows you to divide your subscriber list into groups of subscribers with similar traits, such as location, age, buyer history, and more. When you create email content that then speaks specifically to a particular segment, your subscribers are more likely to feel understood, making them more open to hearing what you have to say. Relevancy is what sets you apart and improves your open rates, which can long-term create new customers.

For example, the Knot sent this exclusive offer to a segment of customers who’d previously booked their services:


Segmenting your audience into demographics allows you to meet them in their everyday lives, whether it’s sending a birthday month coupon, a special mother’s day gift to the ladies on your list, or local recommendations, like this email for Lyft riders in Chicago:


7. A/B Testing

Not sure which phrase will grab your reader’s attention? Wondering if they’d prefer a picture of the beach or mountains? A/B testing brings experimentation to email marketing with the end goal of learning more about your ideal customers. By sending two versions of an email and seeing which had the highest engagement, you can continue to refine your lead generation process and convert subscribers into customers.

At Campaign Monitor, we decided to use A/B testing to see which call-to-action was more effective. In group A, we sent “Get the Formulas,” while group B received a simple “Read More.” We found that the more action-oriented “Get the Formulas” button improved click-rates by 10%.


To set up your own A/B test, choose one variable to test, such as images, subject line, or sender name, then send the two separate versions to different subsets of your audience and see which one receives better engagements and click rates. Use this data to learn more about the details your subscribers love and be sure to include them in future messages!

8. Personalized Content

Somewhere in-between your initial idea and the creation of your email to pass along that idea, it can be easy to forget that the person receiving your message is a real, live person. Maybe it’s cliche, but if you’re trying to reach a human instead of an inbox, it pays to remember who you’re talking to.

What’s their name? What do they like? When’s their birthday? Use the information you know about your subscribers to anticipate the emails they’d like to receive from you. You know how it feels when your Starbucks barista pronounces (and spells!) your name correctly, so pass along the virtual joy. Ritual shows us what it means to go above and beyond:


9. Provide a Valuable Offer

There’s a unique exclusivity to email inboxes. Rather than posting on social media or printing a magazine ad, email provides you with the control needed to surprise your customers with offers they can’t find anywhere else. Offering exclusive promotions or codes via email keeps your readers engaged and creates a higher chance of purchase.

10. Automation and Scheduling

Imagine your customer is standing in the rain and you just so happen to be nearby with an umbrella. That’s the beauty of scheduling and automation — you can be prepared for your customer’s needs before they even know they have them. Automating welcome emails or messaging based on behavior (like when they abandon their cart on your website) is the most efficient way to maintain customer relationships.


Bonus: Email Marketing Helps to Nurture Existing Leads

Hooray! You generated a lead. Now what? Thankfully, email marketing is also here to help you maintain your customer relationship once it begins. It’s a great way to gently remind readers of their positive experience, and encourage them to continue loving your product and supporting your brand. Now that you’re a pro, you can use segmentation, automation, and personalization to keep in touch with your customers and remind them how great you are.

Get Started With a Lead Generating Email Marketing Tool

Now that you know what tools to use, you can look out for them when choosing an email service provider. Make sure you choose software that makes it easy to get to know your email subscribers, break them into segments, create customized imagery and content, and analyze your results.

Wrap Up

Lead generation can seem like a daunting task for any business, but inboxes are the best place to start. By creating content that makes your reader feel understood, empowered, and excited, you set them up for the best possible chances of conversion. How have you “wow”-ed your subscribers’ inboxes lately?

Author Bio

Kaitlin Wernet is a content specialist at Campaign Monitor, an easy-to-use email marketing tool that allows every marketer to send targeted newsletters to grow their business. With beautiful templates, a drag-and-drop interface and engagement-based segmentation, Campaign Monitor has helped more than 250,000 growing businesses take their email marketing to the next level.