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Sing for Your Supper: An E-mail Inspiration

  |  October 14, 2009   |  Comments

How are you nurturing prospects and customers via e-mail today?

Selling to business professionals through any channel requires discipline about when to push for the close and when to simply build the relationship. Some will claim that if you build the relationship correctly, you never have to lay on the hard sell. This explains why there's so much emphasis on nurturing in B2B marketing.

Hesitation might mean missed opportunities, however. At a great conference for technology marketers, hosted by software marketing exchange provider Capterra, President Michael Ortner didn't hesitate to make attendees "pay" for their dinner with participation in a feedback session.

I liken it to singing for your supper. While we were all enjoying the networking and good meal at the end of the first day of the conference, Ortner asked us all to sit up, pay attention, and refocus into an impromptu focus group on some key challenges for the Capterra solution.

The result was impressive. Turns out that data analysis and reporting are key challenges -- and something that Capterra can help marketers address. Some smaller companies had issues that completely contradicted the needs of larger companies -- a nice segmentation opportunity.

Ortner and his team walked away with dozens of great ideas around marketing the service, product enhancements, and growing revenue. There was also great enthusiasm and energy in giving the feedback. What a wonderful way to engage and nurture relationships -- and get some free consulting and product insight to boot!

It made me think about ways to optimize every touch point for nurturing business professionals through our e-mail marketing, too. He who hesitates is lost, as Cato supposedly once said.

Gather Feedback at Every Decision Point

Professionals value what other professionals say much more than what the company says. Gathering testimonials throughout the sales cycle, and not just at the happy ending, could encourage faster movement through the cycle and higher conversions.

E-mail is a great way to manage this feedback channel. For example, ask if the training Webinar was helpful for new users. Ask if the whitepaper answers someone's questions about how to research solutions. Ask if the customer service desk was helpful for someone comparing pricing.

Note, however, that asking for too much feedback before providing real value can be overwhelming. Take care with it.

Use Feedback Data Prominently

Once you capture this data, make it easy to access. Celebrate it.

Include it in the e-mail series for free trial downloads. Put it in the sidebar of your newsletter. Call it out on the landing pages for offers and research. Twitter about it and ask for feedback on the feedback in your LinkedIn group.

Provide Incentives for People to Participate

There's no shame in bribing customers and prospects to participate. One tool manufacturer and e-commerce company offers $2 toward the next order to individuals for every product review, and $100 to large bulk buyers.

The math works out fine for them, as the incentive is still within acceptable margin. The number of product reviews increased 300-fold. They are the most popular area of the site, and boosted search listings as well.

Focus on Being a Trusted Source

It's no longer a given that a company is trusted until proven guilty. Take a step back and share knowledge about trends, utility, benchmarks, troubleshooting, and the product roadmap in order to be a trusted source for more than just product information.

This isn't a new idea. Credibility and authenticity must be brand attributes for everyone, which is why everyone claims expert status. To break through the noise, focus in the areas where you can truly add value and limit your thought leadership around topics you can legitimately own.

Be sure to link back and forth with outside experts. If you link first and credibly join the conversation on outside blogs or forums, they are likely to link back. E-mail is a great way to distribute this information, especially if you provide a preference center so that subscribers can select the topics of most interest to them.

Blogging about these issues is also a great distribution method. Many people still don't realize they're reading a blog -- it looks like any other Web site or e-mail newsletter to them.

How are you nurturing prospects and customers via e-mail today? Are there ways you're integrating with other channels? Please submit feedback and ideas in the comments below.

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Stephanie Miller

Stephanie Miller is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable online experiences. A digital marketing expert, she helps responsible data-driven marketers connect with the people, resources, and ideas they need to optimize response and revenue. She speaks and writes regularly and leads many industry initiatives as VP, Member Relations and Chief Listening Officer at the Direct Marketing Association (www.the-dma.org). Feedback and column ideas most welcome, to smiller AT the-dma DOT org or @stephanieSAM.

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