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Using Cadence to Build B2B Email Engagement

  |  August 10, 2011   |  Comments

Rephrase the question "How often should we send?" to "When should we send the information our subscribers really want to read?"

Need to shake up your B2B email marketing program to get more activity from your readers? Perhaps it's time to take another tip from your B2C colleagues and change your email schedule to one that better reflects your subscribers' needs, wants, and situations.

This idea expands the concepts I touched on in my last column ("3 B2C Marketing Tactics to Improve Your B2B Newsletter"). This time, instead of focusing on the newsletter itself, consider changing your email cadence so that your messages reach recipients at more optimal times instead of whenever the schedule says it's time to broadcast.

Think 'Cadence,' Not Just 'Frequency'

"Cadence" is a significant term among B2C marketers who typically email their lists more frequently than B2B marketers, usually because consumers are ready to buy sooner and more often than businesses.

Cadence often is mistaken for "frequency," because it considers how often you mail to your database. However, cadence is more customer-centric and aligned with engagement.

In other words, cadence doesn't ask, "How often should we send?" It rephrases the question: "When should we send the information our subscribers really want to read?"

Mail More Often, but Always With a Purpose

Suppose you email a monthly broadcast newsletter on the first Monday of every month and a weekly press-release digest every Thursday to every file in your email database. That's a monthly frequency of five messages. That probably fits your office workflow, but it's not necessarily customer-friendly.

If you aren't ready to step up your frequency, you could vary the sending date or days to more closely match when your subscribers are likely to act on or need to know your information.

You haven't increased your frequency; you've merely changed the cadence to better suit your subscribers.

However, you also have the opportunity within those five messages to send different content each time, which increases your visibility without stressing the inbox. That's the other half of the cadence equation.

How to Determine Cadence

Asking "How often should I send?" or "What's the best day of the week to send?" won't give you the answers you need. You must determine your own cadence.

Fortunately, you have the answers already, in the data you have on your customers, along with anything else you know about your market niche in general.

If you send only once a month, dig deep into your process-based analytics (click rates, for example, and open rates to a lesser extent) to find out when people were most likely to act on your messages. See if these questions yield significant data that could change your sending schedule:

  1. On which day of the week do I get the most clicks (unique and total) on my newsletter?
  2. On how many days during the month did my newsletter record clicks?
  3. Do I record clicks all through the month or do clicks fall off sharply the day after I send?
  4. Which items in my newsletter get the most clicks?
  5. Does my open rate vary according to the day I send the newsletter? (Caveat: the open rate is a relatively inaccurate engagement indicator by itself because it requires image downloading to register an open. Use it instead to register trends over time.)
  6. Do some articles register repeat opens more than others?

If you send two or more messages a month, compare them to find which times of the month generate more activity.

You might also find no significant differences, in which case you could increase frequency by changing your message content, as I explain below.

Content in Cadence-Driven Email Programs

Knowing when people are most active on your email messages is the first part of the content equation. Matching it with what you know about their needs and wants, as determined by where they're clicking on your emails and at your website as well as your general industry knowledge, will help guide your content decisions.

The answer might be to break up your monthly newsletter into relevant parts.

One message devoted to each of these topics, or others that are appropriate for your customers, can help you increase cadence without sending irrelevant or redundant messages:

  • Critical industry news that affects how your customers do their jobs or how their companies operate
  • Major updates or improvements to your products
  • Customer success stories
  • Content targeted to specific customer segments or to prospects
  • In-depth how-to information
  • Latest entries from your company blog or Twitter feed

The Last Word

None of these changes should happen without testing first, especially if you plan to increase frequency.

However, when you're guided by your customer and testing data, cadence rather than frequency alone can help you build engagement by resolving both content and frequency issues.

You also need an open mind and a willingness to shake things up in individual messages so that you can achieve both your company objectives for your email programs as well as meet customer needs.

Your return, however, can be newsletters that your readers seek out more often and value more highly.

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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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