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3 Strategies to Supercharge your B2B Email Program

  |  June 15, 2011   |  Comments

The email inbox isn't going away, but you need to keep it fresh for your subscribers and effective in meeting your marketing goals.

Forrester's recent report, "How US Marketers Use Email," had some sobering statistics: although 71 percent of B2B firms use email, 33 percent don't clean bad email addresses out of their lists, and only 22 percent delete users who haven't recently opened or clicked on messages.

Further, few marketers coordinate email with search marketing or allow users to select message preferences at registration. Just over six of 10 B2B firms (65 percent) are keeping their budgets flat in 2011. It's no wonder that less than half of marketers (43 percent) still think that email marketing will become more effective over the next three years.

Although email might be the oldest channel in your digital marketing arsenal, it has plenty of potential to grow if you invest in the channel.

Consider the following strategies as you tune up your email program to supercharge your results:

1. Segment using email analytics. Using email analytics is one of the most effective methods you can use to segment your list. Segmenting based upon the links the subscriber is clicking on offers key information for what they are "in-market" for.

If you categorize your links, you can track key data such as what product categories or subcategories subscribers are interested in or whether they engage with your social links.

Clicking on the "view mobile version" link is a good indicator that subscribers are reading your email on mobile devices. Classifying your links as "buy now" or "more info" will help you determine where they are in the customer decision-making process.

Once you collect the data, use it to follow up with segmented mailings that provide more details about the product or service or include dynamic content modules that address what they are in-market for to boost content relevancy.

2. Clean your list regularly. Focus on the quality of the recipients on your list instead of the quantity of recipients on your list. A list uncluttered by incorrect, outdated, or inactive addresses drives better email campaign results. Focus on the recipients that want to receive your emails and have a chance to respond.

A clean list also enhances your sender reputation, which is the main criterion that ISPs use to determine whether your email will end up in the inbox or the bulk folder.

Start by cleaning up your list and reputation:

  • Remove fake, incomplete, or badly formatted email addresses in your list that drive high hard bounce rates.
  • Monitor soft bounce rates and spam complaints by ISP to identify potential blocking issues with a specific ISP or domain.
  • Move your unsubscribe link to the top of the creative for any ISPs or domains that report high soft bounces or complaints. This will encourage recipients to unsubscribe themselves from your list rather than report your message as spam and potentially block your mail from recipients who do want to receive your email.

Next, monitor how your subscribers are engaging with your email:

  • Look for recipients that haven't opened or clicked one of your emails in the past nine months and separate them from the list.
  • Develop a "repermission" campaign that reaches out to non-subscriber inactives and attempts to re-engage them with email. If they don't respond after several messages, add them to your archive and stop mailing them.

3. Freshen your content. B2B marketers often include similar content in their email newsletter month after month. Why? "That is what we always have done."

But is that content what your subscribers are interested in? Subscribers' preferences are ever-changing, so it's imperative to stay on top of what content they prefer. The following three tactics can help drive this strategy:

  • Analyze your email metrics. This is an excellent way to determine subscriber interest. What types of content are your subscribers clicking and engaging with? Do they prefer content about your products or content related to solutions?

    The best way to determine this is to look at your campaign link reports and creative heat maps. Look for trends in the type of content your subscribers are drawn to. Once you find a pattern, use the information to adjust your editorial calendar and optimize your creative.
  • Survey your subscribers and ask them what type of content they prefer. Include a link to a survey in your email newsletter or social sites on a regular basis. Compile the results, and use the data to influence your content.
  • Add interactivity by linking your email content to your social networks. Include user-generated content in your emails, and encourage your subscribers to participate in your social community. Listen to your network. Respond to their praise or concerns. Your marketing message will become even more credible and your brand stature will rise as your subscribers market your products and services for you.

The Last Word

As Forrester pointed out, the email inbox isn't going away. However, as with any strategy, you need to keep it fresh for your subscribers and effective in meeting your marketing goals.

Invest some time and effort in your email analytics. Keep your email list clean. Focus on content that is relevant to your subscribers. Incorporate social media into your email programs. Just a little effort will ensure that email remains a strong and viable channel in your digital marketing arsenal.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Hotz

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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