Permission email marketing comes in two distinct flavors: acquisition, with a focus on acquiring email addresses, and retention, with a focus on keeping the customers you’ve got by mailing to your house list.
This may sound like Email Marketing 101, but it’s an important distinction and one that is often glossed over.
These are two different ball games in terms of strategy and implementation. And when it comes to working with outside technology or service providers, you are dealing with two sets of players.
Last time, I promised I would run down the outsourced members of an email marketing team. I’ll start with the acquisition players. Next time, I’ll tackle the subject of email vendors for retention, or relationship-building, email marketing.
(Plus, at the end of this article, you can read several great tips on curing email addiction by gaining control of your inbox.)
The Big Three
The big players in business-to-business (B2B) acquisition email can be divided into three categories: list brokers, list managers, and list owners. There are also full-service agencies that offer “email” as part of an integrated marketing strategy that crosses all media. Smaller direct marketing agencies may offer “email marketing,” but beware: You may not be able to judge how experienced they are in choosing qualified opt-in lists to meet your particular objectives.
For the purpose of our discussion, I will stick with the three main players (and focus on the U.S. market). I will explain who does what and what some of the advantages and disadvantages are of working with each. Caveat: There is some overlap among these categories; many list brokers are also list managers, and so on.
A good B2B email list broker acts as a consultant who helps you define your marketing objectives and understands your target market and overall business strategy.
You have to build a relationship with a broker, says Reggie Brady, vice president of strategy and partnerships for FloNetwork Inc., a leading player in retention email marketing. “If you start out testing 5,000 names at a time,” she explained, “the broker is not going to make much money. So he or she is in it for the longer term.”
List brokers’ services include researching dozens or hundreds of B2B email lists based on your campaign objectives, negotiating a price, putting together a recommendation that meets your budget, advising you on segmenting and testing — and more.
Well-regarded B2B list brokers include 21st Century Marketing, Direct Media Inc., Impower, MeritDirect, and Worldata/WebConnect.
“We don’t write copy,” explained Jay Schwedelson, corporate vice president of Worldata/WebConnect, “but we’ve seen enough of it that we can help you nab the low-hanging fruit.” A good broker has experience in testing HTML versus text, different subject lines, different copy, different delivery days, and so on, he said.
Despite taking a transaction fee, brokers do not necessarily cost more. They may, in fact, get a quantity discount if they are negotiating with list managers on behalf of several clients.
One thing email list brokers do not do is deliver your messages. What Worldata/WebConnect and others do, however, is aggregate responses from the various lists you rent in order to present you with consolidated tracking.
When you rent a third-party opt-in list, the list manager is the acquisition player who delivers your messages and tracks response rates, including click-throughs, open rates, bounce-backs, and unsubscribes.
In addition to providing you with the technology and infrastructure that you need to acquire names, list managers also offer you access to their network of e-newsletters in which you can purchase sponsorship ads.
In fact, one of the most powerful ways to acquire the email addresses of qualified B2B prospects is by advertising in highly targeted e-newsletters with niche audiences predisposed to learning more about your product or service.
The cost per thousand email addresses is considerably lower than for direct email lists. Response rates can be lower as well — a click-through rate (CTR) of 2.6 percent is average, according to a recent study by Opt-in News. But the respondents are usually more qualified prospects. The same study reports that the average CTR for direct email marketing last year was 4.8 percent.
Some of the B2B-focused list managers who offer both opt-in email-list rental and e-newsletter networks are B2BWorks, eDirect.com, Engage Business Media, and IDG. A new B2B e-newsletter network is FatTail.com. PostMasterDirect, which is primarily consumer-oriented, offers technology-related and small-business B2B lists.
List Owners and Guerrilla Email Marketing
Opt-in list owners useful to B2B marketers are publishers who have collected (and therefore “own”) the email addresses of their print and/or e-newsletter subscribers and want to rent them out for an additional revenue stream. Respected B2B publishers include The Industry Standard, CahnersDirect, Business 2.0, and internet.com.
It takes a lot of legwork to deal directly with the smaller e-newsletter publishers, but if you’re on a tight budget, you might want to go the “guerrilla email marketing” route.
Think more broadly about “email” as a marketing tool. Think about e-newsletters or local Web sites under the radar screen of bigtime list brokers and list managers. You can contact them directly to see if they accept sponsorship ads. Particularly in narrow niche markets (e.g., the hotel industry), they may run news about your product launch at no charge.
Another tactic is to join discussion groups relevant to your industry and post an intelligent comment now and then. Position yourself as an expert in your field.
Of course, your signature (.sig file) will include your basic contact info. But instead of providing the URL to your home page, include a link — and a compelling tag line — pointing to the landing page for your email campaign.
How You Control Email Addiction
Two weeks ago, I asked for input on how to manage the deluge of inbox messages. Part of email addiction, of course, is that you’re so busy reading all your new mail that you’re probably not deleting or filing your messages. One reader cheerfully wrote to say that he has 11,000 messages in his inbox.
The best response came from Sherry Kinavey, a marketing manager who is also a professional organizer: “It’s the same people who have paper all over their office that also have emails cluttering their inboxes,” she wrote. Ouch!
Sherry and several other organized readers recommend the following approaches to keeping your inbox empty. (Ha! Is this even possible?)
Make a decision. Decide what you need the message for. Then make a folder for it. Steven Schwartz of Cohera Corp. suggests that you create just five: Trash, File Cabinet (organized subfolders should help you find messages you need), Pending (you’re waiting on a response), Library (all those references or e-newsletters you want to read “later”), and Turtle. The latter is a term for all the messages relating to what you have to do that day. He also recommends printing out all of those messages.
If it’s too difficult for you to decide what goes into which of these five folders (it would be for me), then make a folder for everything you can think of — from individual people’s names to Need to Do. Not sure what it’s for but can’t bear to part with it? You can have an Inspiration folder.
Let a few months pass; then force yourself to delete the folders you’re not using. “It’s scary but if you haven’t even ventured near that folder, odds are you don’t need the files in it,” writes Rich Ellinger of Where2getit.com.
And you may find that you’ve never touched your Inspiration folder…
One click at a time. Just do it, Sherry advises (quoting Nike). And that means create those folders and move those messages now. She calls it “completing a task,” versus trying to achieve a goal.
Purge. Sherry uses the 30-day rule. If a message is more than 30 days old and you haven’t filed it or acted on it, delete it. Ask yourself why you’re keeping the message. Is it to feel more secure, like stacking old newspapers under the dining-room table?
If you can’t bring yourself to delete emails, then create a For Review file. Look in it once a month, and you’ll probably find you’re ready to “let go,” says Sherry.
Simplify. Unsubscribe from the e-newsletters you never read. Delete some of the bookmarked Web pages in your browser’s Favorites folder. And, suggests Scott Chait, an account manager with TMP Worldwide, pick one day a week to not log on at all.
My suggestion is to also pick one workday when you don’t log on until late in the afternoon, thus keeping your head calm and clear for what used to pass as “work” — i.e., thinking, analyzing, writing.
This is the end of our string on “email addiction.” But if you have a tip you want to share, feel free to email it to me. No doubt I’ll read it, as I do almost everything that comes into my inbox (except spam). And, at some point, I’ll do another roundup on how to control email addiction.
Oh, and don’t forget to email me with ideas and comments on future topics relating to B2B email marketing that you’d like to see covered.