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Are You Harnessing the Power of the Email Channel?

  |  May 16, 2012   |  Comments

Developing highly engaged email subscribers is a strategic process that emphasizes content quality over quantity.

Email continues to be the power channel in the B2B marketer's digital arsenal. It is an excellent medium for nurturing prospects, driving sales, and retaining customers. However, B2B marketers continue to worry that they will alienate their subscribers if they mail non-newsletter content more than once a month.

As a rule of thumb, you need to send an email communication to your subscribers on average once per week and certainly no less than once a month to keep your database warm.

Mailing less often might cause your subscribers to forget that they signed up to receive your email and make them more likely to click the "This is Spam" button.

However, the secret to email success is not frequency or the quantity of names you are mailing, but focusing on the quality subscribers in your database.

Failing to communicate with your subscribers regularly is a big mistake. You can avoid alienating your subscribers by looking at the signals your subscribers are sending you by their actions. Responding properly to those signals will ensure a healthy B2B email program.

Marketers who shift their focus to a quality-over-quantity approach to their email programs should consider including the following tactics and programs in their email marketing arsenals:

Step 1: Increased Segmentation

Segmentation in an email program is an effective tactic that many marketers miss. My company has found that properly targeted email messages drive three times the revenue per email of broadcast messages. However, segmentation is not based just on past purchase. Consider these segmentation factors:

  • Behavior
  • Current engagement level
  • Types of content a subscriber is clicking on
  • Types of content that they are browsing on your site

When you focus on your active subscribers' behavior, you can determine what they are specifically in-market for and send follow-up messages to drive conversion. Subscribers who are inactive (no opens or clicks) should have their frequency reduced by at least 20 percent.

Step 2: Implement a Welcome Program

The first 30 days after your customer or prospect has signed up to receive email from you is critical. This is when the subscriber's interest in your brand is at an all-time high, and they are highly likely to open and click your email messages.

Because this interest diminishes over time, you should design a welcome program that walks new subscribers down a path to success for working with your brand.

An effective welcome program performs these functions:

  • Sets expectations for the email program
  • Educates new subscribers about the information and tools available on your site
  • Exposes them to your other products and services
  • Introduces them to their sales support staff

Version the content according to their status - prospect vs. customer – as well as where they signed up, their industry vertical, etc., to ensure the content is highly relevant.

Step 3: Trigger Messages Based Upon Web Behavior

Tap into the behavioral data that your web analytics provider or e-commerce platform provides to trigger relevant content to your subscribers:

  • Utilize abandoned shopping carts or request-form sessions to trigger a follow-up message to complete an action
  • Identify your top revenue-producing categories, and trigger follow-up messages based upon page view and abandon activity

Be subtle in how you use this data. Utilize the abandon data to drive your merchandising, but don't directly refer to their abandoned carts, processes, or browse sessions. Indicating that you are watching their behavior closely can be creepy for some subscribers.

Step 4: Develop a Lead-Nurture Program

Developing a lead-nurture program that supports the sales team by generating leads is a key opportunity for your email program. Work with your sales organization to define the sales cycle and identify key milestones where an email contact with qualified prospects can help move the prospects further down the sales funnel.

  • Highlight ROI or configuration tools
  • Provide thought leadership and source of authority information
  • Identify when a lead is ready for sales follow-up
  • Offer detailed, timely follow-up information after a salesperson contact

Your lead-nurture program should be closely aligned with how the best salesperson in your organization would handle the prospect. The email messages can provide strong support for the best salespeople and spackle over holes left when salespeople don't perform at their best.

The Last Word

Email can be a power channel for B2B marketers only if you approach it correctly. Email marketing today is much more than sending out a blast to all subscribers once a month along with your newsletter. Developing highly engaged email subscribers is a strategic process that emphasizes content quality over quantity.

By taking some time and effort to determine what types of content your customers and prospects like, you can open a path to more engaged subscribers who will move along the sales funnel more quickly, remain as satisfied customers, and generate more referrals.


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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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