Since 2012, click-through rates (CTRs) for email marketing messages have flattened, according to research by MailerMailer.com. And only 5 percent of B2B marketers cite electronic newsletters and email as highly effective top-of-funnel tactics, according to Forrester.
So what can B2B marketers do to make email marketing more effective? What are the challenges and opportunities? B2B News Network is here to answer those questions.
They’re just not that into you!
As often said, familiarity breeds contempt—or at least indifference. For example, some B2B email marketers blast their lists so often that readers become sick of them, causing open rates to plummet.
“When I took over as the head of marketing in August 2014 our open rates—on a 70K-plus list—were around 11 percent,” says Ryan Hanley, vice president of marketing, TrustedChoice.com, a B2B insurance clearinghouse. “This was primarily due to my predecessor bombarding the list with heavy sales messages. After a year the list was tired.”
Alluding to another phrase of old, absence made the B2B email readers’ hearts grow fonder. In Hanley’s case, he had TrustedChoice run silent for a while. “The first thing we did was take a 30-day break. No emails. I wanted them to forget about us a little,” he says.
After a year, his list is back up to a 20 percent open rate. The lesson here: do not employ heavy handed salesmanship. “We almost never sell directly via email.” Hanley says. “We let the blog post or landing page subscribers clickthrough to sell—if that’s even the point. These days, the majority of our emails are focused only on delivering value.”
Echoing this approach, Andrew Davies, co-founder and CMO, idio, a content intelligence provider, believes that sales messages quickly alienate B2B customers. “By contrast, content marketing—delivering useful, interesting and informative content that adds value and empowers recipients, rather than browbeats them—is a great way to maintain a relevant conversation with recipients,” Davies says.
Stay on the subject (line), but let your timing be off
For all the time B2B email marketers spend on developing copy and graphics, what percentage is given to the subject line of the email? It seems that many B2B email marketers treat it as a complete afterthought, when in fact it is the best shot at engaging the customer.
“The subject line: the only guaranteed words your recipients will read,” says Andrew Silcox, managing director, The Lead Agency, an Australian boutique marketing agency. “Make sure you spend time crafting a compelling subject line. Keep it short—under 50 characters—and make one important point.
The subject line, or headline, is just part of a threefold strategy, according to Walter Wise, marketing strategist/lead generation specialist, BPI Strategy Group, a business success solution advisory firm. “The headline must interrupt the readers’ flow and grab their attention, which will ‘force’ them to open the email via an attention grabbing subject line,” he says. “Next, once they open the email, you must continue to engage the reader with a bold, attention grabbing subhead.” Ultimately, this leads to the offer of the email.
In addition, with the omnipresence of mobile phones, virtually every B2B customer has 24/7 access to her email, if so desired. And with FOMO—fear of missing out—running rampant, she is much more likely to open and take action on your email at counterintuitive times.
More people now access their email on their smartphones, Silcox says. “Unconventional send times can boost your ROI. For example, sending a business newsletter for our financial services client on a Sunday morning increased open rates by 29 percent and clickthroughs by 11 percent.” So don’t be a slave to so-called best practices of email marketing and only send on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Your customers may be bored to tears on the weekend and really crave the distraction of a crisp direct B2B email.
Divide and conquer
As with the earlier example, many B2B email marketers think of their mailing lists as a monolithic entity to be treated with monotonous sameness. However, no two email customers are the same, according to Carlos Abisambra, founder and CEO, Vortice Services, an end-to-end sales funnel optimization firm.
“But not every contact is completely different from every other,” Abisambra says. “Pick some attributes to group customers by, form a hypothesis as to what information and call-to-action would be most effective and test.”
Abisambra advocates extensive A/B testing. Most only think of A/B testing as pertaining to subject lines or banners, but Abisambra extends this line of action to include landing pages on the site where the emails link.
Dynamic, one-to-one emails
Rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach to B2B email marketing, hyper personalization of direct marketing is now a possibility with the latest technology. Agnieszka Idzik, senior product manager, SALESmanago, has seen firsthand the power of one-to-one email marketing based on dynamic content.
“Such systems generate individual messages for particular recipients on the basis of their current behavioral and transactional profiles,” she says. “Such emails contain information about products or services perfectly matched with the current needs of recipients. Sent at the optimum time, these specifically targeted offers prove to be much more effective than mass mailings.”
Working with customers such as Deloitte, Timberland and major banks, SALESmanago has delivered average one-to-one email open rates as high as 44.32 percent and clickthrough rates up to 18.01 percent.
And with dynamic emails, B2B marketers can have their customer help define the content that engages them. “With the advent of dynamically generated text and image content, why not ask customers to get granular in their criteria for truly personalized emails?” asks Doug Berg, CEO, TrackIf, which has begun to market B2B sales alert technology.
“Any changes to a B2B product or service the customer is interested in: price changes, back in stock, new offerings.”
Granularity can be related to size, color, or features on a product and date and time availability on a service, according to Berg.
For more information on this topic, read our earlier report: How to make sure no one unsubscribes from your email marketing campaigns
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