Think about your audience, think beyond your product, think about the customer lifecycle, think multichannel, and think quality over quantity.
During the economic downturn over the last couple of years, many B2B marketers and sales forces have succumbed to marketing themselves a little too aggressively in an attempt to generate more leads and drive more sales.
They add so-called prospects to e-mail lists without permission and send more untargeted messages to audiences with little or no regard for what that audience wants or even if they're in market for the marketers' products or services. This "anything for a sale" attitude can have long-ranging effects on the B2B customer relationship.
The B2B market depends mainly on the interpersonal relationship the sales force builds with prospects. Maintaining a good reputation for your brand and products and respect for the employees that the brand represents is vital to this relationship.
No one wants to partner with an organization or buy thousands of dollars of equipment from a company they equate with a used-car lot on the edge of town.
As you are wrapping up details of your 2011 planning, take a moment to make these resolutions for the new marketing year:
1. Think about your audience.
We often tend to think about our own needs first, such as more leads or more revenue. This is especially true when economic times are tough. However, driving success in the digital channels depends heavily on building the relationship with your subscribers and then delivering relevant content to them.
The key is to identify the natural segments in your contact base and then create content that is meaningful to these different segments but which also meets your business objectives.
2. Think beyond your product.
We also tend to tout how great our products are rather than focusing on how we can provide a solution to our customer's business problem.
Think about your answer to the subscriber's question: "What's in it for me?" Communicating an effective answer to your audience will help you establish a solution-provider leadership position beyond just the product you're selling.
3. Think about the customer lifecycle.
Traditionally, e-mail campaigns were sent out on the marketer's schedule. The newsletter is mailed in the second week of the month. We need leads, so we send out another e-mail to the base.
Today, marketers are starting to realize that the secret to executing high-performing campaigns is to map critical programs to the customer lifecycle. Identify key milestones and barriers to purchase along the lifecycle and build automated programs to address the subscriber's specific needs.
4. Think multichannel.
It's new, it's got the buzz, and it works. Several recent reports are showing that social media and mobile use by B2B sales and marketing professionals is evolving in a similar fashion to that of consumers.
B2B users are now accessing mobile and social channels slightly more often than e-mail. Reinforcing your message across multiple digital channels will extend your reach, identify more leads, and drive more sales.
5. Think quality over quantity.
Marketers often focus on quantity ("How many total e-mail addresses do I have on my list?") rather than the quality of those contacts. All too often, they tend to blast the entire list with the same message over and over again in hopes that the good leads will raise their hands.
This is the e-mail marketing equivalent of telemarketers harassing you at dinnertime to switch your long-distance carrier. Resolve to focus on boosting your opt-in permission for key segments, and focus on leads or revenue per e-mail as a key metric for the success and efficiency of your e-mail campaigns.
The Final Word
For years, B2B marketing has allowed measurement to overcome logic. We have focused on tactics rather than strategy. Sometimes this has been by design and other times they have just felt downright desperate to make our numbers.
As B2B customer behavior and preferences evolve, sophisticated B2B e-mail marketers must shift their strategies to focus more on relevance. You must reevaluate your broad e-mail campaigns and start to send out more segmented campaigns.
Not only do these campaigns generate leads and more revenue, but they also will start to represent a larger portion of your overall digital program mix and volume.
As your e-mail program matures, you will have identified and automated your most successful customer life stage programs to work for you 24/7.
As you test, optimize, increase your segmentation, and grow your list, your programs will be ahead of the evolving marketing trends with a sophisticated and efficient multichannel strategy that identifies quality leads and drives revenue.
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Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.
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