Leveraging One-to-One E-Mail Marketing

When your customers think of your company, do they associate it with one person or a vague marketing department? Successful business-to-business (B2B) companies know it’s ideal to build one-to-one relationships between sales consultants and prospects. Taking advantage of these relationships can greatly increase your email marketing effectiveness, as today’s case study illustrates.

Cisco Systems calls itself the “worldwide leader in networking for the Internet”; it’s tough to argue with that claim. Like many other companies, Cisco found broadcast email results were diminishing. Recipients were so overwhelmed with spam, they experienced email fatigue. In addition, Cisco conducted research and found its contacts (prospects and current customers) viewed their account executives as “trusted advisors.” Cisco combined these two findings to come up with an email marketing approach that generated response rates nearly 1,100 percent higher than previous campaigns.

Here’s how. The company began using Adaptive Media Messenger, H2F Media’s Web services application. The tool allows Cisco account executives to personalize a message, send it to one or more recipients, track opens and CTRs, and obtain real-time reporting on how each recipient used the message. It’s available through Cisco’s sales dashboard, the Web-based access to all company enterprise applications.

Salespeople have access to over two dozen templates, which were defined and designed by internal marketers and agencies. (In this case, kirshenbaum bond & partners west and Ogilvy & Mather were the primary designers.) The templates contain fixed elements, such as the Cisco logo; variable elements, such as a 3-D product model; and variable elements the sales representative changes manually, such as the sender field. Important to note is each message adapts itself to the recipient’s computing environment, including operating system, media players, and bandwidth.

The account executive logs on to the secure Cisco Web application and chooses the desired template. For example, a rep might choose the template titled, “3550 Upgrade.” Next, she addresses and personalizes the message. Then, she sends the message and tracks response. Metrics could include how long a recipient interacted with a 3-D model and which links he clicked.

As you can see, this approach allows each salesperson to create one-to-one messages that come directly from the account executive with whom the recipient has a relationship.

Cisco is reporting response rates — that is, open rates and CTRs — nearly 11 times higher than earlier campaigns. That’s not just a one-time blip. Cisco implemented the program in North America in March, where it’s used by a multi-thousand sales force. Within the last month, it was deployed to thousands of European account executives. Company officials say they plan to continue and expand the program’s reach.

Benefits are clear. The email comes from a trusted sender, a name the recipient is likely to recognize. I’m not in the B2B space, but I know as a consumer I tend to scroll quickly through the hundreds of messages I receive each day and automatically delete any that appear generic. If I recognize the sender’s name, I’m much less likely to consign it to the trash without a look. Other benefits include an ability to send timely and relevant messages with a consistent brand identity and the ability to retrieve up-to-the-minute statistical data.

My one remaining question (I’m sure you’ll come up with others) is if there are time drawbacks. After all, in what I think of as more traditional email marketing, one marketing department employee can blast thousands of recipients at once, whereas this approach requires each account rep to enter recipients’ addresses. But the folks who designed the Adaptive Media Messenger say no, this takes no more time than preparing and sending traditional email. Both Cisco as a company and its individual account executives appreciate that the salespeople are “stewards of the brand.” The personalized performance tracking is another key benefit.

It’s tough to argue with a nearly 11-fold increase in response.

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