You could say 2009 was the year of the e-mail, as companies scaled back their direct mail circulations, downsized their magazine and newspaper advertising, and ramped up their e-mail programs. But smart B-to-B marketers recognize that increased volume doesn't necessarily translate to increased sales or retention. To drive performance, you must refine your tactics to make each e-mail contact profitable.
In the session, "Business-to-Business Email Marketing Best Practices," at last month's All About Email Virtual Conference & Expo produced by sister publications All About ROI and eM+C, a panel shared several best practices for fully leveraging a B-to-B e-mail marketing program. Denise Cox, e-mail newsletter specialist at e-mail newsletter software firm NewsWeaver, and Scott Barnett, senior manager, marketing programs for Citrix Online, a provider of remote-connectivity tools for businesses, offered the following ideas:
1. Optimize your opt-in form. It's critical to keep your sign-up forms in top-performing shape, because they will make or break your lead generation efforts. Treat them like you would a landing page, and test them. Other good practices to implement include explaining any required fields to improve form completion and balancing a streamlined form that minimizes the completion time with the ability of registrants to customize the information they'll be receiving in your e-mails.
2. Leverage your e-mail newsletters by putting them on your site. Not only does this improve your presence in search engines, but it also ensures searchers don't always end up on your homepage.
3. Segment your file. When content is tailored based on segmentation strategies, response to e-mails increases by 70 percent. Some ideas for segmentation include: demographics/geographics; title, function, department; RFM; profile data; and status (new, active or lapsed).
4. Strengthen your call to action elements. Not every e-mail effort leads to a sale, but you always should be trying to interact with leads and customers. To that end, be sure to: use active language; promote limited and special offers; allow recipients to take action on your e-mail via e-mail, phone, printing the e-mail (in B-to-B, people still print out e-mails and take the information to their managers to discuss) and sharing the e-mail with viral/social tools; and always encourage recipients to forward, buy, download or otherwise do something in response to your message.
5. Solidify the relationship. One easy way to do this is by referencing the source of the e-mail sign-up, such as a trade show, whitepaper download on your Web site, co-registration partner, etc. When the lead or customer remembers signing up for e-mail contact, he tends to respond more favorably to the welcome e-mail—which reduces your opt-outs and keeps him in contact with you longer.
6. Look for behaviors that allow you to target messaging. For example, you can identify churn flags and interest levels that indicate opportunities to send specific messaging to leads and customers to either salvage the relationship or move it to the next level in the sales funnel.
To learn more strategies for managing an effective B-to-B e-mail marketing program, view the entire webinar presentation via the on-demand All About Email Virtual Conference & Expo.