The Roman god Janus had it right: Looking back while looking forward is the best way to take stock.
Herewith, a quick review of five business-to-business (B2B) email marketing fundamentals from 2001 and five predicted trends for 2002.
2001: Looking Back
Subject lines. Did the title of this article make you want to open and read it? The subject line is one of the most important elements of successful email marketing, but most email marketers still don’t know how to craft a good one. Think of the subject line as the purest distillation of your email marketing message. If you understand what motivates your target audience -- what their pain points are in relation to your product or service -- you have a good chance of getting a click.
The offer. B2B email recipients were inundated last year with offers for free white papers and Webinars. Do you have to come up with something completely new for 2002? No, but your white paper or free guide better be pretty darn informative. Remember, it’s about your buyers, not you.
Landing pages. Without a successful landing page, your email campaign is going to flop. The Web page your readers click to does the heavy lifting. Use concise yet friendly copy to request the basics, usually no more than name, title, company, phone number, and email address. Then make it easy and fast to download the offer. Ideally, it’s a sequence of quid pro quo pages. You politely ask for contact information to collect a lead. In return, your reader gets the opportunity to specify how she wants to continue a conversation with you (by e-newsletter, phone, postal mail, etc.).
Launching an e-newsletter. Hands down, this is the best way to build a relationship with prospects and customers by email.
Measuring success. It’s not about click-throughs, although it’s nice to boast of a double-digit percentage. Ultimately, it’s not about conversion (i.e., those who clicked through to the landing page, filled out your form, then downloaded your white paper). It’s about sales. B2B email marketing is a long-term game. The medium is fluid and fast. But the decision-making that goes into the purchase of high-end products or services is often very, very slow.
2002: Looking Ahead
Merge/purge. As more B2B email lists become available for rental, merge/purge becomes a B2B issue. According to the Association for Interactive Media (AIM), merge/purge is "the practice of purchasing multiple email lists, combining (merging) them, and eliminating (purging) any duplicate names." When you’re renting lists from several different sources for the same target audience (e.g., engineering product managers), find out if some form of merge/purge is possible so your intended recipients don’t get two copies of your message. You don’t want to be labeled as a spammer.
Appending. Attaching email addresses to postal mail addresses is another new trend that’s moving from consumer to B2B email. B2B marketing consultant Ruth P. Stevens says she doesn’t view it as a privacy issue. "Business buyers want to be connected to business sellers if they have something that will help them do their job better," she says. Her point is that a business relationship with a prospect or customer differs from a consumer one. They want to hear from you. I agree, as long as the messages you send are appropriate and highly targeted. Two companies doing B2B email appending are eDirect and Thumbprint Media. AIM recently formed an E-mail Append Committee to promote the "ethical addition" of email addresses to direct mail files.
Rich media. B2B rich media email will come of age this year. Why? The multidimensionality of rich media email is ideal for conveying more complex B2B messages. Plus, some of the cool new rich media technologies are being specifically adapted for email. For a peek of the future, see Rob Graham’s recent column on the gee-whiz factor. Also take a look at Impact Engine’s multimedia presentations, EyeWonder’s video email, and TMXInteractive’s application service provider (ASP) rich media email sales tool.
Online surveying. Market research has been largely ignored as one of the most powerful email marketing applications. Whether you’re prospecting with a rental list or sending an e-newsletter to your house list, include a link to an online survey in your message. Offer an incentive to get readers to click through, and make the survey itself easy and quick. You can find out all kinds of stuff if you ask the right questions. Two great online survey tools are Zoomerang and WebSurveyor.
Email sponsorship advertising. This is the sweet spot of email marketing. It means buying a text ad in a like-minded publisher’s e-newsletter (or email discussion list). Another form of sponsorship is renting the publisher’s list, then having him send a standalone message on your behalf. If the publisher includes an endorsement of your product or service, it can be extremely powerful. There’s plenty of email sponsorship inventory, so don’t hesitate to negotiate on the price or craft a swap deal. Or both. Everyone’s doing it!
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Debbie Weil is publisher of WordBiz Report, which focuses on the business of words online. It was awarded The Newsletter on Newsletters' Gold Award for Online Subscription Newsletter. A former newspaper reporter with an MBA and corporate marketing experience, Debbie is an expert on B2B online content and marketing at both the strategic and creative levels. She was Web content marketing manager for Network Solutions (now part of Verisign) before launching WordBiz.com.
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