“Exclude personal email addresses (ie: Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, etc.).”
Seeing this sentence on an insertion order gives me the shivers.
Why? Because I know it means that someone is about to miss out on a potential treasure trove of leads.
Don’t get me wrong, I can certainly see the logic behind trying to exclude personal email addresses when collecting leads. At first glance, you’d imagine they’re probably fake addresses, fake leads, or even bots. But is that actually true?
According to David Fortino, SVP of Audience and Product at lead generation powerhouse NetLine Corporation, “...we have found that on average, 55% of professionals are using their personal email to download long-form content” (MarketingSherpa, 2017).
To find out more about how B2B clients can solve the personal-versus-business-email conundrum, I reached out to Henry Hansch, Senior Digital Marketing Manager, and Brent Tomasino, Digital Marketing Manager, here at Advantage Business Media.
Why might legitimate leads choose to use personal email addresses when filling out forms?
Some people only use work email for direct, internal work-related messages. Many would rather send articles and longer pieces of research to personal emails because they have more time to read outside of work hours. Another thing - sometimes folks who work for larger companies don’t want you to know that right off the bat, so they use personal email to make sure they’re downloading content incognito.
Consider this, too: what if a large company is using a consultant to research and that consultant uses Gmail? Are you going to totally discount them? You’ll be sorry when you find out they work for a Fortune 500 c-level executive!
Also, start-ups and smaller companies may not have corporate email yet. Everyone wants the large companies, but let’s be serious - most of those companies started in someone’s garage. Don’t discount companies based only on size, and don’t discriminate by email address.
Which do you use yourselves? Why?
I like to use my personal email when filling out lead generation forms. I do marketing work outside of my 9-5 at Advantage, so I like to have the content I request available at my fingertips any time of day. I also get way too much email in my corporate inbox, so there’s no way I’ll ever get to reading a white paper during the day.
I tend to use my corporate email, because in my mind I like the ability to separate work and personal information. I do sometimes forward myself the emails to my personal address, but I like having the ability to choose to do that. I don’t really want iReports sent to my Gmail account.
What’s the benefit of including personal emails in lead collection?
Broaden the base and ensure no one is excluded. Including all possible email options will grow your lead list while giving it richness and depth.
Also, remember that people don’t typically stay at one job for more than a few years. As a result, many people use their personal email because of its promise of consistency. If they want to keep your content for a long time, they’ll use a personal email. That means these specific people within the “non-corporate email” segment are actually really engaged with your content.
How would you suggest tackling this issue when creating forms?
Encourage people to use business emails but don’t prevent them from entering personal emails on the form. Make it easy - the harder you make a form to fill out, the more likely someone will get frustrated and enter a fake email.
What advice do you have for folks who still aren’t fully convinced?
If you’re afraid of personal emails, then you may not be nurturing your leads well. A good lead funnel will take in nearly any lead, vet it, cleanse out the obvious duds, and then a human being will nurture the lead.
How do you properly nurture a lead?
Having a good plan in place for nurturing each lead is really important. We have a great lead-nurturing guide from another one of our Digital Marketing Managers that addresses this.
All too often, we have clients who just take leads from us and hand them over to their sales team. While they will definitely be able to convert some of those, generated leads are generally marketing-ready—not sales-ready. They need a little more work before they can be converted.
Putting a solid plan in place for nurturing leads will increase sales conversions, without fail. I can’t say this enough. We also have a Q&A about how Advantage handles lead vetting, which isn’t the same as nurturing, to help clients understand what they’re getting when we pass over leads [view Q&A here].
Any final thoughts?
Let’s not forget that everyone uses personal email for everything. Without naming names, it goes all the way up to the Senate and the White House, for better or worse. Using personal email is just more convenient for most people, especially high-level folks who manage tons of emails all day.
We’ve tracked leads back from their personal email address many, many times and proven them to be top-level decision-makers from huge companies. It’s hard to watch people automatically discount personal emails when I’ve seen this so, so many times.
On top of that, we’ve got plenty of audience members listed under personal emails that we meet at our events or at common trade shows. We know for a fact these people are who they say they are, and they are important. Even our high-powered executive conference speakers use their personal email addresses. Heck, we’ve had execs here at Advantage who use them!
When possible, it’s always best practice to cater to as many different people and styles as possible. Keep the personal emails in, nurture your leads, and you will gain a diverse group of new clients that cover your target market more fully.
Of course, it's up to you how you handle your leads. But we believe its worthwhile to investigate all leads, only using filters that truly make sense for your target audience segment.
- Lindsay Jawor, Digital Marketing Specialist