In fairness, today’s B2B marketers face email challenges unknown back in 1971, such as multiple (and obviously far more tech savvy) audiences, changing buyer roles and buying stages, target audiences overwhelmed with campaigns, spam traps and filter mechanisms blocking messages.
In 1971 computer engineer Ray Tomlinson used the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) and a file transfer program called CPYNET to send what may have been the first email. Since then, email has evolved considerably — or has it? Tomlinson’s email was highly targeted, his message succinct and his audience receptive. Over 40 years later, how many B2B marketers can make the same claim for their emails?
In fairness, today’s B2B marketers face email challenges unknown back in 1971, such as multiple (and obviously far more tech savvy) audiences, changing buyer roles and buying stages, target audiences overwhelmed with campaigns, spam traps and filter mechanisms blocking messages. This begs the question: What are best-in-class companies doing to rise above these obstacles? Here are some of the approaches we see leading companies utilizing to improve response rates:
- Leveraging a multi-channel approach. Understanding that email is just one of many delivery mechanisms and knowing when it’s appropriate is critical to increasing its effectiveness. Best-in-class companies are leveraging technology such as marketing automation platforms (MAPs), Web analytics, business intelligence and other data sources to determine communication preferences. Some have augmented this approach by offering preference centers to enable buyers to indicate specific areas of interest as well as their preferred delivery methods. For instance, a buyer might choose email to receive newsletters, direct mail for special offers and social media for product updates.
- Using email to drive social engagement. To increase the use of social channels, many companies include “follow” and “like” icons in standard email templates. Leading companies are going even farther, integrating email into social campaigns to increase their ability to gain mindshare and share content.
- Designing for mobile. The ability to optimize for mobile has existed for several years; however, leading companies have gone a step farther to design email templates and formats from scratch, specifically for mobile devices. In addition, response mechanisms such as the ability to swipe vs. click are being utilized, as well as offers and content optimized for mobile devices to provide a seamless experience to increase conversions.
- Utilizing trigger-based email. As more companies adopt marketing automation platforms and/or Web content management systems capable of sending emails, leading companies are leveraging this ability to send trigger-based email offers based on buyer activity (e.g. trial offer or webcast invitation) or inactivity (e.g. content focused on where buyers left off in their journey).
- Evolving email nurture approaches. Leading companies are taking a more granular approach to address specific buying stages. These range from long-term nurture programs for those not yet ready to purchase, designed to encourage them to at least indicate areas of interest, to nurture campaigns that address specific reasons why leads were disqualified after being accepted by sales. These approaches take into account buyer activity, industry and buyer attributes and leverage email, telephone and even direct mail and social. Perhaps one of the biggest changes we will see in the near term is that nurturing will soon trump acquisition as the primary use case for email marketing.
Ultimately, to communicate more effectively with buyers, leading companies are focused on increasing their knowledge of buyer preferences to better determine the merits of using email vs. alternative means.