In today’s “do more with less” industrial marketing environment, email marketing continues to be a productive marketing tool despite all the reports about its declining effectiveness. According to SirrusDecisions research, the B2B buyer receives 20.3 email campaigns per week, up from 15.4 per week in 2006. And that reality of the flooded inbox is very evident from steadily dropping response rates of only 1% to 3% range for traditional email marketing.
The old email marketing strategy of batch and blast or spray and pray is no longer effective. However, there’s no denying the low cost of email marketing. Therefore B2B and industrial marketers continue to favor email marketing over other direct marketing channels.
Today, it has matured to the point where marketers can deliver highly focused email campaigns to the right audience at the right time and in the preferred format.
Savvy B2B email marketers are being very creative in order to rise above the noise, get their lists to open their emails and take a desired action. They are combining video, audio and sophisticated tracking tools to deliver email campaigns with highly customized messages that engage prospects in their preferred format and measure interactions beyond just open and click-thru rates and well into website behavior.
Develop your email marketing strategy first
Before you begin developing customized content and using sophisticated analytics, the first order of business is to develop a sound and sustainable email marketing strategy. And that begins with thinking like an investigative reporter by asking the 4Ws and the 1H questions. They are:
- WHO: Who are the intended recipients of your emails? Go beyond the high-level demographics of SIC/NAICS codes and company size. Clearly define personas by addressing the WIIF (What’s in it for me) question for each stakeholder. Are you targeting final decision makers, users and/or influencers? Each has its own pain points and needs the right content to address them.
- WHAT: What do you expect your list to do? Have a clear and explicit call(s) to action. While it is good to have multiple links in your email, don’t confuse your target audience by making multiple offers in the same email.
- WHY: Why are you sending out this email campaign? Define your business objectives and what you expect to accomplish. Are you interested in lead generation, lead nurturing and/or building authority and brand awareness? Prioritize your objectives if multiple needs have to be satisfied.
- WHEN: When on the sales cycle do you expect to engage with your prospects? Draw up a detailed schedule for delivering each phase of the campaign, map out events and actions that will trigger appropriate follow-up emails based on email recipient and site visitor behavior.
- HOW: How will you measure the success of your email campaigns? Not every action or behavior needs to be tracked and measured. Select only those that will help you optimize your nurturing campaigns and accurately gauge where the prospect is in their decision making process. Determine in advance who will be responsible for measuring and who will decide on what fine-tuning actions need to be taken.
Let’s look at two case studies to see how industrial marketers are using email to reach and engage with industrial buyers.
Case study #1: B2B lead generation through better segmenting and more focused email content
Business challenge: FreightCenter wanted to change its customer mix of 70/30 (B2C/B2B) to a more B2B-centric mix.
Email strategy: FreightCenter.com teamed up with email service provider Delivra to devise an email marketing strategy. Email tactics included:
- Segmented the company’s list of about 95,000
- Identified the ideal B2B customer – an engine or large automotive shipper
- Developed email campaigns with content specific to the industry
- Emails highlighted the fact that the customer cannot always get the best rate from the last carrier used because the locations always change when shipping engines
- Emails also emphasized how the prospect could always find the cheapest option with the best service at FreightCenter.com.
- The company has seen a 26% increase in engine and automotive shipping customers since the campaign began in 2009
- FreightCenter.com exceeded its original goal of a 50/50 split in only 18 months. Today, the customer split is 55/45 in favor of B2B clients
Read the full case study on BtoB Online at http://bit.ly/cEYx9l
Case study #2: Driving qualified traffic and growing in-house list using emails with videos links
Business challenge: Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp. needed to drive more repeat visitors of its target audience of retailers, distributors, contractors and other building professionals. The second challenge was to grow the in-house email list of 75,000 names that were mainly dormant.
Email strategy: Milwaukee Tool worked with email service provider (ESP) ExactTarget in developing an aggressive email campaign containing links to product videos. Email tactics included:
- Placed sign up forms deep into the website
- Used search engine marketing (SEM) to drive traffic directly to the landing pages with sign up forms
- Revamped the content of the monthly e-newsletter by reviewing how the company’s videos were being viewed on YouTube and reading the comments left there
- Analyzed Web analytics to getter a better idea of what site visitors were viewing and reading after getting there. This led to redesigned emails with video links higher up in the layout
- A 118% increase in viewership between 2008 (when videos were added to the site) and 2009
- Web site visits are up 30% since the redesign last year
- The in-house list of subscribers has grown to 200,000 active names
Read the full case study on BtoB Online at http://bit.ly/dcNbns
It is obvious from these two case studies that email marketing continues to be very effective as an online marketing tactic. However, it does require some tweaking and a dose of creativity in order to rise above the noise in attracting the attention of industrial buyers and engaging with them deeper into the sales cycle.
How are you using email marketing to reach and engage with your target audience? Share your ideas here.