A recent study by IBM's Institute for Business Value finds marketers and consumers are polar opposites when it comes to connecting via social media. It's fair to assume that this behavior applies to email as well, as email is the original social channel.
The report, "From Social Media to Social CRM: What Customers Want", found marketers thought customers gave much higher weight to the notion that followers mainly used social media to get more information on new products or share their opinions than.
Why did consumers say they followed a company in a social channel? Discounts and purchases.
Do you have a similar thought about the motivation of your B2B email subscribers? Your email newsletter may be much more attractive and valued if you take a few tips from your B2C colleagues and look at your email from your reader's perspective.
How B2C and B2B Marketers Differ
The most effective B2C email messages focus directly on the conversion, using copy and design to make it stand out.
B2B newsletters take an indirect approach, using market news and thought leadership to position the company, warm up new leads, and nudge leads already in the pipeline closer to the sale.
That's not to say you should immediately inject a hard-sell approach into your next newsletter. For most B2B communications, you would turn off prospects you want to nurture.
Instead, try the strategies below to freshen up your email program.
Adding Some B2C Flavor to Your Next Newsletter
1. Make your copy more personal.
One of the biggest differences between B2B and B2C marketing is the "voice" expressed in the newsletter. B2C email messages usually speak directly to the recipient and express a personality that matches the brand, product, or market niche.
If your newsletter had a voice, would it sound like a smart friend offering you business advice over a cup of coffee? Or would it be your CEO addressing a shareholder meeting from a podium?
No matter how big your company is or where it's located in the world, your company has a personality. Your newsletter copy should reflect that voice, filtered through the role your email communications play in your marketing plan.
Tactic: Remember that you are marketing to individual decision makers and not a faceless company. Always picture your recipients reading your copy, and write it as if you were speaking to that person, no matter how arcane or complicated your topic might be.
2. Ask the recipient to do something.
The heart of each B2C email focuses on a conversion, whether it's to buy something, create or update a profile of personal information or reconnect after a long period of inactivity.
B2B newsletters usually focus on information, whether it's about the company itself and its products, news in the market, or tips and advice on finding opportunities or solving problems that your customers face.
But what does your email do to turn a prospect into a solid lead, to convert a lead into a customer, and to keep new customers around to become long-term clients?
Too many B2B newsletters suffer from "everything but the kitchen sink" syndrome. Break up this information overload with a solid incentive to engage further. (I'll talk about how to overcome "kitchen sink" syndrome in a future column.)
Tactic: Have a specific goal in mind and tell your readers what to do in each newsletter, whether it's downloading a white paper, signing up for a webinar or a training session, requesting a product demo, taking advantage of a customer-only special offer, or whatever fits your business focus.
Example: Add a one-question survey or poll to your next newsletter. Ask readers to check or click the newsletter section they might most valuable. Be sure to report back to readers on poll results and how you'll incorporate them in future newsletters.
3. Target different segments of your newsletter database.
Successful B2C marketers divide their customer database into well-defined segments and sub-segments and then develop creative to address the needs of these segments. You may not have the resources to achieve this level of segmentation, but you do have some alternatives.
For example, simply segmenting by geography can provide big benefits over a generic newsletter. Send one version of the email to your North American customers and prospects and a different one to the European, Middle Eastern, and Asian audience. The EMEA version can be similar to the U.S. version but often has different articles or offers, and reflects other subtle differences that are more culturally appropriate.
Tactic: Divide your newsletter into copy containers to support dynamic content. Switch out at least one container each issue to appeal to a different segment. The most obvious segmentation is prospects versus customers, but you can also target those who have signed up to get more information (white paper, phone consult, webinar, etc.) separately from those who are still silent on your list.
The Last Word
B2C and B2B marketers share a focus on the customer, no matter whether that customer is minutes from making a purchase or someone who is only one person in a chain of decision-makers.
Bringing your newsletters closer to your readers, with a personal voice, an action they can take immediately without committing to a sale and copy that reflects their position in your pipeline can help you create newsletters your readers will be more likely to read, retain, and value.
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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.
December 12, 2013
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