Every business has unconverted, or lost leads.  These might be prospects you met in person, over the phone, or maybe they completed a contact form on your website.  Regardless, they expressed interest in your product or service and did not become customers.  Now what?

I’ve found that for many businesses the answer is unfortunately, nothing.  The belief is that these are “dead” leads, so the business cards and digital contact information is either thrown away, or stored away and forgotten. It’s kind of funny when you think about the paradoxical nature of sales.  We know, based on experience and loads of research studies, that it’s easier to sell warm leads who already know us and who already took a small step toward doing business with us.  However, old leads are old! It’s much more exciting to focus on the shiny new leads who just raised their hands.

Does that sound familiar?  I’ve referenced studies before and one, by the Inquiry Handling Service, showed that about half of all people who raise their hands will end up making a purchase within 18 months. So if you’re throwing away 10 lost leads per month, then you could be passing up 5 new customers.  Extrapolate that out over the course of a year and you’re missing out on 60 new paying customers!  Run the numbers in your own business and see how much you’re leaving on the table.  (That exercise might make you nauseous so make sure you sit down first.)

Lots of options… Which is the best?

There’s no shortage of online marketing options when it comes to following up with your prospects.

The cool kid on the block is social media.  Lots of businesses use Facebook and Twitter to stay in touch.

Blogging (and subsequently commenting) is another tool to communicate, which can help push prospects over the sales line.

If you have an ad budget, then retargeting advertising can be very effective.

And SMS text messaging is another option gaining popularity as mobile device usage explodes.

But none of the tools listed above come close to being as effective as one of the oldest online marketing tactics.  In fact, I know many are reading this article solely because I used this tool.

Can you guess what I’m talking about?

Drum roll please…

The best way to convert your leads into customers is email marketing.  Yup, that old, outdated, heavily-abused-by-spammers, tool that everyone and their mother checks religiously every single day.  Email beats social media, blogging, commenting, retargeting, and text messaging, hands down–especially when you use great email marketing subject lines.

Here’s why email marketing should be your default follow-up technique:

  • Email marketing is free in low volume (using Gmail etc.) and still affordable at high volume (using email software providers).
  • People typically check email at least every day.  Oftentimes, your prospects will check email multiple times per day.  That means your messages will get in front of your prospects almost immediately.  This is not true with blogging.  Blogging requires your prospects to visit your blog in order to read your articles and comments.
  • Emails are marked read or unread and most people will go through all of the unread emails.  This is not true on social media.  If a tweet or Facebook post is not read when it’s visible in the news feed, then it’s probably never going to be seen.  Few people take the time to go through “unread” social media posts like they do with email.
  • Despite all the spam, people prefer receiving commercial messages via email versus other media.  I don’t know about you, but I do not want businesses text messaging me.  This may change in the near future, but for now be very careful if you’re using SMS text messages to follow up with prospects.

I know email marketing isn’t sexy and many believe it’s no longer effective due to all the spam.  But that’s not true!  In my experience, email marketing is still the most effective way to follow up and convert leads into customers.