Getting a B2B Campaign Off the Ground

“Even I can write five lines of copy and hit the send button. So what’s the big deal? Why do I need an email marketing service provider or consultant?”

With marketing and sales budgets tightening, you may be hearing comments like this from potential clients. Or perhaps you are one of the clients and are muttering something to this effect.

Read on to find out why it ain’t that easy!

Where Art Meets Science

Email marketing is an art and a science. The analytical tools telling you how many messages bounced, how many were delivered, who clicked through, who converted, and so on are part of the science. The art is trickier to describe, but — no surprise — it’s usually responsible for the longer-term success of an email marketing program.

And in business-to-business (B2B) email marketing, believe it or not, the art is the bigger factor in measuring success.

Here’s my reasoning: B2B email marketing has a much longer decision-making cycle. It may take you six to nine months or longer to measure the return on investment (ROI) of an email marketing program, because that’s how long the buying cycle is for five- and six-figure technology services, for example.

In business-to-consumer (B2C) email marketing, the goal of the campaign is often focused on immediate results. You’re offering a special on office products, women’s running shoes, or some other easily understandable product. If you’ve launched a smart campaign, targeting the right audience with the right message, you’re making it seamlessly easy for the recipient to make a decision, click, and buy.

In B2B you are most likely using email to generate leads, such as employing an invitation to a free seminar as your offer. Now think about the multiple interactions you must have with the recipient of your message, on- and offline, over a period of months, to move him or her closer to purchase.

Plotting these interactions requires creativity and strategic thinking. Interactions might include a second or third email invitation to the free seminar, a follow-up email for those who’ve registered, a confirming phone call, a handshake at the seminar, a meeting to walk the prospect through a customized demo, a follow-up email offering a free, downloadable white paper, or a personal email message to the prospect from a sales rep.

The Players in the Email Marketing Arena

So who are the players in this unfolding drama of email to sale? How do they work together to jump-start the buying process and make the ongoing dialogue a seamless experience for a B2B prospect?

Here is a quick rundown of the B2B email marketing roster, starting with your in-house team. Next time we’ll take a look at the outsourced players — those email technology vendors, service providers, and consultants.

And hopefully, I can convince any skeptics that there’s more to email marketing than pressing the Send button.

The in-house players start with the marketing VP and the marketing manager(s). If you’re in a small company, these positions are probably filled by the same person. If you work for a larger enterprise with a much bigger budget, there might be an online manager charged with coordinating strategy and tactics with print and corporate communications, for example.

Then there are the Web site owner(s). This role is often the stickiest, because it’s rarely one person or even one department. But without the cooperation of your company’s in-house Web folks, you’re going to have difficulty launching a successful email campaign.

You’ll need a Web designer for your landing page. And a great copywriter for your message. If you don’t have one in-house, outsource. (And good luck, because they’re hard to find.) A really good email copywriter is a direct marketing pro with a keen understanding of the Web and the online experience.

If you’ve got a large house list, you’ll probably also have a database manager. Make friends with this person. He or she can help you segment your list and test different offers and different creative.

If your offer is a free seminar, your sales team will be intimately involved with your email campaign. And don’t forget that you’re relying on your sales folks to help you with the numerous on- and offline interactions that will follow your first email campaign.

As for the outsourced members of your team, you’ll be talking to list broker(s) and list managers if you’re launching an acquisition campaign and want to rent third-party email lists. Then there are the email software solutions, application service provider (ASP) technology vendors, and full-service providers, which will offer to sell you everything from database management to copywriting.

Yup, you’ll need to think through who can deliver your messages, manage your campaign from bounce-backs to undeliverables, and analyze responses from click-through to conversion on your site.

And that’s just for starters. There are still more questions. What message or offer will you test next time? Which segment of your in-house list is most responsive? How can you minimize costs and maximize results? Stay tuned.

Soliciting… Email Addiction Tips

A thoughtful reader described a common scenario: “I hate to throw away pearls of wisdom that I may need someday… So what to store and what to keep is the big issue for me.”

Good question. Which messages do you delete and which do you save? C’mon. Be honest. How many messages do you routinely have in your inbox? If you have 1,000 or more (no, I’m not kidding), you’ve got email pack-rat syndrome.

The first step is to recognize that this is part of email addiction. If you’re like me, you love getting and reading new messages, but you hate sorting and deleting them.

I’d like to hear from anyone who can offer practical tips on how to quickly triage messages — delete, act on later, save into a folder — to control the digital deluge. Write me, and I’ll pass along your wisdom.

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