Speak the Language of Your Audience

Dear [prospective customer],

You stopped by our booth at a recent trade show, so we know you’re as excited as we are about our browser-based application architected from the ground up using a metadata framework that integrates with enterprise applications and enables secure, real-time transactions.

Huh? Even if you are geeky enough to make sense out of that (and good luck, because I made it up), does it compel you to read on? Is there an offer or a benefit for you? And heck, let’s just come out and say it: “So what?”

One of the most important things to remember in B2B email marketing is that you’ve got to know enough about members of your audience to speak to them in a relevant and compelling manner.

We’ve all heard this, countless times. So let’s take this notion apart and figure out how, using a small house list, we can implement it.

We’ll start with the example of the email addresses gathered from business cards at several trade shows (and by the way, this is a very good way to compile a house list). Let’s say you’ve got 1,500 names. A willing intern enters them into a house database, creating profiles based on name, company, postal address, phone number, email address, job function, and title.

For the sake of argument, let’s segment the names into three groups: decision makers, influencers, and end users. You can do this fairly reliably using title and function: CIOs, CTOs, and VPs in group one; directors and managers in group two; and programmers, engineers, and developers in group three.

Now, how do you begin your conversation? How do you tailor your offer and message so that they are compelling enough to elicit a response from each of these three distinct segments? Experience and testing will help. But if it’s your first go at it, think logically about how your product or service solves a problem for each group.

This will lead you to benefits-oriented copy, and it may also lead you down some creative paths that you haven’t previously considered. Here’s an example: Your product is a cutting-edge, complex software application. Let’s call it an “environment” within which other applications are developed. (See above description for details… just kidding!)

End Users

For the software developers, your leverage point may be the “whiz! bang!” aspect of the technology you’re selling. They love playing with code. So, offer them a FREE download of Version 2.0 and an easy way to follow up and tell you about the product after using it. Is it stable? Does it make it easy to build other applications? You may not sell directly to developers and programmers, but if you don’t have their input, you don’t really understand your product.


Here it gets a little trickier. These folks have their eye on both the tactical and the long-term considerations. If you’re targeting a senior product manager, she wants to know how your application will improve her product-development cycle. Will it shorten go-to-market time? Will it enable her to create a higher-quality, more reliable product? Will this superior product result in increased sales so that she can meet or exceed her numbers?

Touch quickly and informatively on these benefits. Then offer a FREE downloadable white paper that expands not just on the merits of your product but also on the industry trend toward web-based applications. By doing so, you come across as serious and credible, and you remind the product manager that there is a growing market for both her product and yours.

Decision Makers

This segment is both the hardest and the easiest to address.

Stay high level when describing the benefits: Companies using your product are experiencing increased revenues, higher margins, faster time to market, and more efficient use of internal resources.

For the offer, be specific and concrete. Think like a journalist. Include a link to a short demo or PowerPoint presentation that uses visual cues to reiterate the benefits of your complex application. Offer the link to the downloadable white paper.

Tell these decision makers the names of other companies using your application. (Use your nonpaying beta customers, if you have to.) Who knows? They may recognize a company name and forward your email to a contact, with a “What do you guys think of this?” note.

And, finally, include a direct phone number for a real person in your organization who can speak knowledgeably enough to a CXO-level executive to set up an appointment.

This kind of thinking and segmenting will help you answer the “So what?” for each segment of your house list. And it will push your response rates higher.

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