Missed B2B E-Mail Opportunities

How many great leads slip through your fingers because you don’t have an e-newsletter?

Recently, I was chatting with my colleague Dianna Huff of DH Communications, a business-to-business (B2B) marketing communications and SEO (define) consultancy. She relayed this story about a missed e-newsletter opportunity, which I think says it all.

The Client Disconnect

Huff had an insurance agent for many years, but the nature of that business is you can go for a long time without needing to update your policy or talk with your agent.

When Huff decided it was time to upgrade her coverage, she called the agent. She discovered the office had moved and the phone was disconnected. So she got another agent.

Later, the former agent called her out of the blue to discuss upgrading coverage. By then, it was too late.

Huff says, “If the agent had been sending an e-newsletter, I could have found the phone number from that and kept the relationship going.”

Be Top of Mind…or You Won’t Be on Their Minds

I’ve seen this happen myself. Despite sending a quarterly e-newsletter and a printed moving card when I got a new office, a former client still had my old phone number in her database. She had to track me down via my Web site. Luckily, I’d been sending her those e-newsletters. If she hadn’t had them, she might not have known how to find me.

What’s more, just having your name in the sender line in their inbox can remind clients and prospects that you’re around.

Another good friend and colleague, Dana Delibovi of Pharmhand.net, specializes in healthcare copywriting. I chat with her regularly, recommend her to others, and think of her often. One day when I had a big healthcare project that was more than I could handle, her e-newsletter popped into my inbox and reminded me, “Oh, I can call Dana!”

If you really think your clients know to call when they need your services, think again. As the saying goes, “They’re just not that into you.”

Be There When the Buying Cycle Peaks

B2B buying cycles can range from a few months to over a year. The prospect you meet today may not be ready to buy for a while.

An e-newsletter can keep you in the game throughout a long consideration process. For example, a recent Enquiro Search Solutions study cites that although the top influencer of the B2B purchasing decision is the vendor’s own Web site, other online influencers are important, such as trade publications, business publications, and opt-in e-mail.

While prospects review your Web site, they’re likely to opt in for your e-newsletter, allowing you to begin the sales conversation at the height of their research process and throughout an extended buying cycle.

Give Prospects What They Want to Read

I asked Huff what content appeals most to readers. She pointed me to a recent MarketingSherpa survey that shows what topics people most want to read (in order of priority):

  1. Case study on how to use a product to improve a business process

  2. New research on some aspect of the industry
  3. How-to guide for using a product or service to greater advantage
  4. Top 10 list of ways to improve business by better leveraging a tactic or process
  5. Case study on how a company used a product to learn something new
  6. Interview with a top analyst on the state of the industry
  7. Interview with a top executive on the state of the industry

Keep these content ideas in mind when writing your e-newsletter. With my newsletter, I’ve seen case studies and how-tos generate very high readership. This list reminded me of the evergreen popularity of top 10 lists, which I’ve used in promotional email for clients but never in an e-newsletter. It’s really a no-brainer to put them into an e-newsletter as an easy-to-scan feature for busy readers.

No Canned or Warmed-Over Copy

Huff goes ballistic when she sees B2B marketers using canned press releases as newsletter content. She says, “Add some potatoes to the stew — by investigating the information in the press release further. You’ll probably find quite a few kernels of new information that will turn the corporate-speak into a real story.”

Don’t be afraid to add something personal. As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, the coaching tips in my e-newsletter are usually the number-one read article. Huff concurs and says when she wrote a personal story about an experience she had ordering from Ikea, she got deluged with e-mail from readers with whom the story resonated.

Don’t Bury the E-Newsletter Sign-Up Box

Claiming a piece of home page for an e-newsletter sign-up isn’t easy, particularly when companies have so many priority items to feature on that prime piece of real estate.

But if you don’t make your e-newsletter sign-up button easy to find, readers won’t search for it.

I know this sounds obvious. But I recently had an e-mail chat with a very successful information-product publisher. He referred me to his e-newsletter. I went back to his site no fewer than three times, sending him an e-mail in between asking “Where the heck do I sign up?” I finally found the e-newsletter sign-up box all the way at the bottom of his home page, at the end of a lengthy introductory letter.

He has 500,000 subscribers, so he must be doing something extremely right. But my sense is the better place is at the top of the Web site, near the banner.

How are you attracting and nurturing leads throughout the long B2B e-mail cycle? Send your case studies to Karen.

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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