Email marketing often gets a bad rap because most people are fed up with the deluge of promotional emails they receive every day.
That is the same reaction I got from a client who is an industrial distributor when I spoke to him about email marketing. He considered marketing emails to be nothing more than “junk” and wanted nothing to do with them.
Unfortunately, the reality is that many industrial companies are still stuck in the one off batch and blast mode of email marketing. That strategy may be effective for retailers and B2C marketing who are primarily selling “impulse purchases” but not likely to work very well in industrial marketing where we are talking about “considered purchases.” Most of these purchases are complex products with long sales cycles; multiple decision makers and influencers are involved; they are usually expensive and involve a much higher risk if a wrong decision is made.
Of course there are exceptions such as selling replacements parts and industrial consumables where a promotional email may hit someone’s Inbox just at the right time to trigger an immediate sale.
I’ve read articles claiming email marketing is dead because of social media and mobile marketing. I have not found that to be the case in email marketing for manufacturers and industrial companies. It is extremely effective in building relationships and having meaningful conversations with leads that ultimately lead to sales.
A study from the Direct Marketing Association found that email marketing provides a $39.40 return on every dollar invested into it. Granted that study was not specific to the industrial sector but it shows how effective email marketing can be if done right.
BOM for industrial email marketing
- Subscriber list
- Valuable offer
- Automation and tracking mechanism
(BOM = Bill of Materials in case you are not familiar with that term.)
Notice that creative is missing from my list. It is not that it is unimportant; creative plays a smaller role than the other three components in industrial email marketing. Engineers and industrial buyers respond better to content they consider valuable and relevant to their work life instead of being wowed by fancy graphics. In short, don’t let the creative distract from the content.
Subscriber list: You may be tempted to rush out and buy/rent an email list to get started with email marketing. My advice – DON’T. Bought and rented lists perform poorly as compared to house lists. Growing your in-house subscriber list should be an important objective of your content and email marketing strategy.
Valuable offer: Sounds simple in theory but it is not. That’s because most companies want to start with what they want to sell and not what their customers need or solved. First build trust with your audience with helpful content before you can sell to them. Follow the golden rule of 80/20 – 80% helping and 20% selling.
Automation and tracking: Use triggered and date-based emails to avoid the trap of “batching and blasting.” Outlook or inexpensive email service providers (ESPs) may not provide you this level of automation and sophistication. For tracking, take a look at these findings by Ascend2.
Do engineers and industrial buyers subscribe to email lists?
The short answer is – depends. I’ll explain that with some interesting findings from a joint study done by TREW Marketing and CFE Media. According to their research, “If content is perceived as valuable, engineers will absolutely fill out a lead form to get it.” The chart below shows what this audience considers to be valuable to them.
Resistance vs. number of fields
I’ve found there is a direct correlation between the number of fields in a sign up form and the resistance to fill out the form. Trying to fully qualify a site visitor on the very first sign up form will lead to greater abandonment. Use progressive profiling and/or use other online resources such as LinkedIn to fill in some of the missing data instead of forcing people to fill out a lengthy form. The joint study’s findings match my experience as seen in the chart below.
The same study also reported that when a lead form with 11 fields was replaced with a 4-field form, the result was a 160% increase in lead form submissions with no change in lead quality.
That is definitely something worth keeping in mind the next time you design a landing page with a sign up form for lead generation. (See How Landing Pages Can Make or Break Lead Generation Campaigns).
I firmly believe that email marketing should be an integral part of any good industrial content marketing strategy. Do you agree?