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Is B2B email marketing dead? Has social media replaced it? Despite what you may have heard, the answer to both questions is “no.”
Email Marketing Gets Results
If your marketing strategy relies on email communications, you’ll be glad to know that email marketing is alive and well. According to a March 2011 study by research firm Econsultancy, “Email continues to be a vital component of the marketing mix and the vast majority of companies (72%) rate email as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ in terms of ROI.”
There’s one caveat, though: to succeed with B2B email marketing today, you’ll need a sound knowledge of email design best practices, an eye for email deliverability, and a flair for developing engaging content that targets specific audiences.
Getting Started with B2B Email Marketing
If you’re delving into B2B email marketing, you should first determine how you’ll send messages, track responses, and keep up with unsubscribers. You may also need to choose an email service provider (ESP) or marketing automation vendor. Your choice will depend on your budget, feature requirements, and the number of contacts in your database (and don’t forget to allow for database growth).
Email service providers offer a solid solution for basic, mass volume email campaigns. Marketing automation vendors such as Eloqua offer a broader set of features for targeted, 1-to-1 communications. These features make it easy to personalize, automate, engage sales with, and report on your email campaigns – ultimately increasing their effectiveness.
Here are some of the differences between what typical email service providers and marketing automation vendors have to offer:
Email Services offer:
Marketing Automation offers:
Building Your List
Once you’ve chosen a solution for sending messages and managing responses, you’ll want to focus on building your email list. To be clear, B2B email marketing is not spamming – it usually begins when website visitors voluntarily “opt in” to be added to a database of marketable names.
A key part of B2B email marketing is to build traffic on websites, blogs, and social outposts and make it easy for a visitor to opt in by providing their email address. Keep your opt-in forms short and simple and make sure they link to a privacy statement. Make the site visitor feel confident about providing their information by explicitly stating that you will not send them unsolicited emails or sell their name to another organization. It pays to remember that Europe and Canada have a much stricter view of opt-in than the U.S., and the penalties can be quite severe.
Targeting Your Audience
Once you have your database and a growing list of opt-in subscribers, you’ll need to monitor your communication volume and ensure that the messages you send are targeted and relevant. This is how you’ll increase your conversion rates and decrease opt-outs. Most ESPs will allow you to market to a select audience based on demographic data such as geography and job title. Marketing automation tools help marketers build relevancy by providing easy-to-use filters that group individuals based on their past behavior. By using demographic or profile data along with digital body language, you can increase your open and click-through rates to more than four times what you’d achieve with demographic data alone.
Designing for Today’s Devices
It’s not just what you send, and it’s not just who you send it to – it’s how you design it. As more and more B2B and B2C prospects adopt mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, best practices for email design are evolving rapidly. That means you should design your messages using basic HTML elements that will adapt easily to widely diverse email clients, which may or may not display the images in your design.
When you’re designing emails, remember to:
And when you’re designing specifically for mobile devices:
Ensuring Email Deliverability
Email deliverability is the art of making sure your emails actually reach their recipients without being flagged by spam filters. It’s an important topic, with many specific design requirements. Taking the time to implement email deliverability best practices will boost the overall results of your email campaigns. You should also look into the deliverability ratings of your ESP, email marketing software, or marketing automation vendor.
Using Email Marketing Analytics and Implementing Closed-Loop Reporting
Using the detailed analytics built into most email marketing systems, you can thoroughly test new email campaigns and analyze the results before sending them to a larger list. The most common metrics marketers look at are open rates, click-through rates, unsubscribe rates, and bounce rates. It’s also interesting to look at the open-to-click ratio (or "effectiveness") of your email, which will help you understand how compelling your content was for the people who opened it. With these basic metrics in hand, you can evaluate different subject lines and design options, or find out how your efforts compare with well-established email marketing benchmarks.
Of course, good email marketing doesn’t just affect the marketing department. Consider your sales team, and how they’ll react and respond to the activity your efforts generate. Equipping your sales team with sales enablement tools, as well as insights on the messages and offers that are driving engagement, can help them shorten the sales cycle and increase their chances of winning. When revenue is the shared goal, Marketing and Sales can no longer afford to work in separate silos.
That’s why reporting on basic email metrics is just the beginning. Today’s marketers need to understand how their efforts have paid off in terms of generating quality activity for Sales, and ultimately creating revenue for their company. For large-ticket items in the B2B marketing space, marketers often must track multiple email touches by several people over many months to a single sale. Get more information on how to take advantage of revenue performance management.