Engagement Is Important, But What Does It Mean?

Most B2B (define) marketers look to customer engagement as the main goal for their e-mail marketing programs. In fact, in a June survey of ClickZ readers, nearly one half of respondents (44 percent) cited it as the main way their e-mail program is measured. But, what does customer engagement mean, and how do you measure engagement success?

Anticipate and Answer “What’s in It for Me?”

The overwhelming majority of salespeople continually report that they don’t have enough high-quality leads. With this in mind, marketers must maximize every marketing opportunity with prospects and customers by providing relevant, valuable content that also helps move the sales process along.

Savvy marketers know their e-mails must offer subscribers something relevant that they want or expect. Prospects and customers are asking, “What’s in it for me? Why should I take time from my busy day to engage with your content?” The challenge is determining what relevance really means to each segment of subscribers.

Follow these tips to help create relevant content that can lead to increased engagement:

Educate your subscribers: Your prospects and customers want help solving their business problems, but most B2B e-mail programs promote products and services over answers and advice.

Content that focuses on solving business problems will capture the attention of key decision makers and persuade them to engage with your brand.

Keep it simple: Don’t include all your content in the e-mail message itself. Subscribers will spend an average of eight seconds or less on your e-mail. Once they find interesting content, they will most likely click to find out more on your website and will likely not return to your e-mail.

Assume your reader is only scanning the content when you design your message. Use bullets, white space, and strong calls to action to encourage the click throughs.

Offer strong value: Give away valuable content in return for contact information. Offer a broad selection of materials, such as webinars and white papers that show how subscribers can better serve their customers.

Make it easy, too. Avoid long registration forms. You can always go back and elicit more information later in the relationship.

Segment for success: Not all your subscribers’ business problems are the same, so don’t treat every subscriber the same. Instead of sending the same e-mail newsletter to all subscribers, segment your list using data from preference pages, customer relationship management (CRM) data integration, or Web analytics and create a more relevant version for each segment.

Know What to Measure

When you ask B2B e-mail marketers how they measure engagement, most cite their open rates. But with most ISPs and e-mail clients blocking HTML e-mail images, measuring open rates just isn’t enough anymore.

Consider these metrics when measuring engagement with your e-mail programs:

Open rate: Despite their decline, open rates continue to be the gateway to the engagement process. A strong open rate is a great sign that your subject line is communicating value to the subscriber and that your brand is well recognized.

A big difference in the number of total opens over unique opens shows you that subscribers are interested in the content and looking at it multiple times.

Click-through rate: This metric is the best indication of your subscriber’s engagement level. Strong click-through rates indicate your subscriber is intrigued with your content and has acted to learn more.

A big difference between total clicks and unique clicks shows that subscribers have found multiple calls to action valuable, or they are revisiting the same link multiple times. Beyond open rates, click-through rates indicate a positive response to your e-mail content, especially your call to action.

Metrics Beyond the Click

Average time on site: The longer subscribers stay on your website, the more likely they are highly engaged with your products, services, and brand.

Page views: Engaged subscribers continue clicking through site content. The more pages they view, the higher their engagement level.

Short visits: A high number of short visits signals landing page failure, a registration form that is too long, or unengaged visitors.

Conversion events: Signs of high visitor engagement include filling out and submitting a lead-generation form, downloading a white paper, specific on-site search, and viewing a detailed in-depth product specifications page.

Don’t Forget Social Media

A social media connection is also an effective measure of subscriber engagement. B2B social media use continues to climb, with 78 percent of businesses using Twitter, 65 percent with a presence on a social network, and 47 percent having a corporate or brand blog.

A key indicator of very high engagement: customers that share your content with their social networks.

Making it easy for your subscribers to share your e-mail content will also lead to an increase in brand awareness. I have seen a lift in response of as much as 15 percent when an e-mail encourages the subscriber to share content with networks and colleagues with links to relevant networks.

The Last Word

Remember, the key to maximizing engagement with your e-mail content is to effectively answer the subscriber’s question, “What is in it for me?”

When you succeed, you can easily identify highly engaged prospects and deliver highly qualified prospects to your salespeople, making it easier to make their quotas, even in a tough economy.

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