Hit the Books to Succeed in B2B E-Mail Marketing

Most of us learned e-mail marketing on the fly, with no formal training.

Plus, from what I see when conducting training sessions at corporations, most people have significant gaps in their e-mail marketing knowledge, especially since the field is so rapidly evolving.

That’s why a new book and CD, “The Email Marketing Kit,” by my colleague Jeanne Jennings, is a valuable tool for e-mail marketers. The CD includes valuable worksheets, such fill-in-the-blank documents, spreadsheets, and sample e-mail messages.

Having collaborated with Jeanne on a complex campaign for a major client, I’ve seen her in action — crunching numbers, comparing metrics, and doing all sorts of amazing analyses. Her recommended techniques are field-tested and on the money.

Of all the content in the book, the most informative section examined how to conduct a competitive analysis.

Jeanne’s key points on analyzing your competition:

  • Get on your competitors’ lists. To find out what you’re up against in the mail space, subscribe to competitors’ e-newsletters and alerts. Use an e-mail address that doesn’t give away too much information about you or your business, as companies have been known to blacklist their competitors’ e-mail addresses.
  • Keep tabs on competitors. Track the types of e-mail is sent, when they are sent, and to whom. . Keep a copy of each mailmessage for future reference. Create a spreadsheet that shows the company’s e-mail cycle for a typical month. This could be something like:
    • Week 1: catalog

    • Week 2: e-newsletter
    • Week 3: postcard
    • Week 4: ad

  • Conduct a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.” By doing an analysis, you’ll be able to spot areas where you can gain the edge. If your competitor offers only paid content from other sources, for example, you could write your own in-depth articles to position your company as a thought leader. Conversely, if your competitor’s e-newsletters are dense and difficult to read, you could streamline yours to be scanned quickly by busy prospects.
  • Check your competitor’s timing and frequency. This is another way to outperform competitors. If your rivals broadcast their e-mail messages on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for example, by e-mailing on Mondays and Wednesdays you can get the scoop to readers first. If your competitors have a 4 p.m. daily broadcast, you could launch a morning edition to beat them to the inbox.

    Jeanne also recommends compiling industry e-mail benchmarks and case studies so you can get an idea of how your e-mail performance compares to the competition’s.

  • If I had one bone to pick with Jeanne’s book, it would be her budget guidelines for copywriting.

    While the fee range she quotes — $350 to $700 per one-page message — is generally an accepted standard, you aren’t really going to get top-notch copywriters at those rates unless you offer a multiple e-mail campaign or an integrated campaign including other components, such as brochures, letters, and landing pages. It’s just not worth it for most seasoned copywriters to spend time getting up to speed on your product, company, and marketing strategy for a one-off e-mail. (Of course, there are exceptions — particularly when a copywriter is in between projects or experiencing a low cash flow.)

    Beyond that one niggling point, this is an exceptional book by one of the few real masters in the e-mail marketing space. Make room for it on your cubicle book shelf, and keep the CD handy when you need to come up with an e-marketing related RFP, budget, or cost analysis.

    You may have read the “CliffsNotes” from Jeanne’s book in her recent columns, but do yourself a favor and get the whole kit, now while free worldwide shipping is available. The kit comes with a CD of great worksheets, fill-in-the-blank documents, spreadsheets, and sample e-mail messages. Believe me, I’ll be referring to — and using — many of these documents in my own business.

    What’s your favorite source of e-marketing intelligence (besides ClickZ, of course)? Send your book, Webinar, and podcast recommendations to Karen for future columns.

    Join us for ClickZ Specifics: E-Mail Marketing on October 2, in New York City.

    Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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