Black Friday is lurking just around the corner. At this time of year, I am frequently asked what a B2B e-mail marketer should do during the busy holiday e-mail season, when customers are often more focused on their personal shopping than a company's newest widget.
It's a valid question. How do you compete in an inbox crowded with 50 percent-off savings offers and holiday-exclusive consumer deals?
As always, my answer is "relevance dictates frequency." If you have a message that is relevant to your customers during the holidays, you should mail. If the message isn't relevant, you shouldn't mail.
How do you know if your message is relevant? Consider the following tactics as you finish this year's mailings:
Focus on Event-Based Mailings
Certain events should always trigger an e-mail response, no matter the season. An e-mail message confirming a purchase or newsletter opt-in or welcoming a new e-mail subscriber is always highly relevant and should always be mailed.
Other opportunities which always call for a speedy e-mail message:
E-mail follow-ups to phone conversations and in-person meetings are excellent opportunities to continue nurturing the customer relationship with additional valuable information.
Thank your customers for visiting your trade show booth, calling customer service, stopping at your office, or meeting with a salesperson. Offer content that provides more detail about what was discussed during that contact.
Continue Behavior-Based Mailings
Newsletters that leverage Web analytics behavioral data by dynamically featuring articles or news items that reflect the customer's browse behavior are always relevant.
In the B2C online retail world, many retailers have captured potentially lost sales by e-mailing customers who abandon carts during the purchase process and inviting them to come back and complete the transaction.
In the B2B world, tracking when a customer spends a significant amount of time browsing specific content pages, views a Webinar, or downloads a whitepaper or trial can help you identify those who are "in market" for your product or service.
Similar to following up on abandoned carts, several of my clients have seen huge success in following up with relevant messages based upon these tips.
The best approach is to delay the follow-up for at least two to three days after the customer's site visit to lower the "Big Brother" effect where customers might feel as if you are tracking them too closely.
Also key to this strategy: cap the frequency of these messages to avoid sending this content too often.
Stay Focused on the Customer Lifecycle
Important events related to the typical customer lifecycle and purchase process are also natural opportunities for highly relevant triggered e-mails during the holiday season.
Request for proposal responses, contract renewals, pricing changes, and the anniversary of their first purchase are all relevant contacts. These messages can contain notices of pricing deadlines, upgrades or service offers, or a sincere thank you for their continued patronage.
Communicate News Important to Your Subscribers
Any news that might affect the customer's account or relationship with your brand is also highly relevant for a holiday season mailing. Any turnover should prompt an immediate message. Consider sending an e-mail when the company changes a value-added reseller, salesperson, or service provider.
Another relevant message reviews what the customer has purchased in the past year and provides updates on eligible upgrades, new products, and a current list of account or customer service contacts.
What to Avoid
Remember to always answer your subscriber's question: "What is in it for me?" Don't send a generic "Happy Holidays" e-mail that doesn't include valuable information for subscribers to your entire customer database.
Although you send this message with the best of intentions, your subscribers might not deem it relevant, especially when they are cleaning out crowded holiday season inboxes. They will either ignore it or, worse, unsubscribe.
A well-intended holiday greeting should not cause you to lose the ability to market to your customer via e-mail in the future.
The Last Word
Your B2B holiday e-mail strategy can be effective if you always remember to mail only when your message is truly relevant to your subscribers.
Continually putting yourself in your subscriber's shoes and answering their "What is in it for me?" questions will allow you to identify accurately which messages to mail and which messages to avoid.
When you succeed, you will continue to have a high-performing e-mail program during a season that many consider a dead zone for B2B e-mail marketing.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
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.
March 19, 2014