In the world of acquisition and conversion marketing, email is a unique channel. It’s rarely the initial driver of conversion from a visitor to a lead or customer, but rather a tool that nurtures prospects through the buying process.

Put another way, you cannot (legally) mass email a list of prospects who are not already opted to receive emails from your program. Their original conversion (the moment they became a lead and provided their email) originates from other channels, such as SEM, SEO/content/inbound, display, social, etc. Email marketing then takes over to drive movement down the rest of the funnel.

Nevertheless, we marketers still consider email to be a channel–making apples-to-apples attribution a massive challenge.

At SendGrid we think of email as a complementary channel because it’s never the original source of a lead, but it touches virtually every record in our funnel and contributes to conversion and, ultimately, dollars.

Here are some ways we use email to enhance our lead generation and marketing strategy:

Email activity-based lead scoring

Every lead that comes through our doors receives a lead “score” which gauges both the quality and “hotness” of leads during their time in the funnel. Most scoring programs categorize scoring in two ways: demographic (company, location, etc.) and behavioral (engagement actions).

Demographic scores will vary from program to program. While services such as FullContact enrich your email list with granular demographics automatically, email itslef generates activity that can inform the behavioral portion of the scoring algorithm. For example, your scoring system might resemble:

  • Did a prospect open an email? +1 points
  • Click? +5
  • Click multiple times in a week? +10
  • Unsubscribe? -50

The aggregate score for a given lead can then be used to determine which leads your sales team should prioritize (or spend any time on at all).

Requalification campaigns

Have a new feature coming out that may interest some of your dormant leads? Email win back campaigns are a powerful tool to connect with leads already in your database (read: you’ve already paid for them!) and pull them back into your funnel. This requires a close relationship with the product team at your company or organization to make sure the timing and messaging are aligned.

Be careful to not email leads that have been out of the funnel for too long. Doing so could open your email program up to more bounces and spam complaints.

If recipients haven’t responded in more than three months, it’s better to cut them loose and remove them from your email list. 

Messaging around conversion milestones

The quality of leads generated is often measured by the rate at which they convert down the funnel. It’s no longer sufficient to evaluate a lead generation program by the top of the funnel “leads delivered” metric.

Leads accepted by sales and/or converted to revenue is a better metric to track. Targeting milestones in your funnel via email provides value to your prospects by speaking directly to their current experience.

For example, in the awareness stage, prospects benefit from best practices that pertain to your product. Further down the funnel, they may be interested in case studies from other successful customers. If you’re able to segment email and trigger communications via data from your app or product, you can further align your messaging with the customer journey.


Lead generation, like everything else, is ultimately measured by dollars, and if those dollars aren’t retained over time, it puts a serious cloud over the program’s performance. Email is a great channel for keeping your paying customers engaged and active with your product. 

While email isn’t a lead generation channel on its own, it’s still a vital tool in our overall lead gen strategy and can maximize ROI from other channels’ activity. Remember, the more engaged your customers are with your product, the better their retention and potential for using other products you offer. For more on email best practices, check out our 2017 A-Z Email Marketing Guide. 

Matt Rushing is SendGrid's Senior Manager of Conversion Marketing. He makes sure our marketing systems are running smoothly and keeps our email platforms up to date with the latest best practices.