Show your email recipients some love. (Image via Sodahead.com)
As someone who has written a ton (I don’t think I’m exaggerating–I bet if you printed them all off they’d weigh about a ton) of B2B emails, I know how hard it can be to come up with consistently compelling messages. After you’ve segmented your lists, narrowed your offer, and setup all necessary tracking and distribution processes, it can be exhausting to think about getting the words just right, especially if you have an aggressive messaging calendar.
We hear a lot these days about the overuse of email as a marketing vehicle. Sagefrog Marketing Group found that B2B survey respondents placed email just behind a website in terms of vehicle use and I’d be surprised to find many B2B marketers who don’t consider email integral to their marketing mix.
Despite my understanding of the difficulties in email marketing, I still find myself incredibly frustrated when I see poorly written emails with lackluster offers in my inbox. This week brought the perfect example.
The setup on the email was pretty good. The subject line of “Interesting Article: Marketing Trends” made it look like it could be an email from a colleague and got me to open the message. Unfortunately, it was downhill from there. The interesting article it called out was from a third-party vendor, not of the sender’s own creation. This was a bad idea for two reasons:
- Sure you can track if I click on the link in your email, but you have zero visibility to what I do after that. If you had used this third-party vendor’s stats in a blog post or a whitepaper of your own, you’d have a much better idea of how I consumed the information. You’re sending me away from you, your brand, your website, etc. If I was intrigued, I’d be more likely to reach out to this third-party vendor than to recall how I got there.
- The “interesting article” was interesting–so interesting in fact that it felt oddly familiar. I scanned the header and realized that it seemed familiar because I’d had already read it–when it was originally published in November 2011.
As I realized that I had not only been sent away from the sender entirely and routed to an asset that was over a year old (which I equate to at least 5 years in Internet Time), I glanced at the footer of the email and saw a copyright for 2012. Could this be a minor mistake on the technology side of the house? Sure; it’s early February and email templates might not have been duly updated yet. But could this also mean that I was receiving a recycled email that was sent originally in 2012 and was getting tried again? I couldn’t help but wonder. And if your email recipient is ever wondering if she’s loved enough to get some fresh content on an original (or at least mostly original–it’s ok to spruce up something that’s worked before!) email, you’ve got problems (like me unsubscribing from your list).
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I won’t leave you in the dumps pondering my email tale of woe. If you spend a great deal of time conveying messages via email, show your audience a little love today and every day by:
- Using fresh content and offers (if you’re going to recycle, make sure you upcycle and improve on what was previously used)
- Making sure your fabulous call-to-action meets the expectations you’ve set
- Leveraging others’ great ideas and stats into cited, proprietary assets (always send an email clicker back to you, not into the great unknown)
How do you show your email recipients love?
It might be a clever play on words for a blog post, but it is entirely true. There is no “set it and forget it” in marketing automation. In fact, marketing automation needs to be tightly administered to drive success. And success is in the numbers – open rate, click through rate, response percentages and more all versus goal. Workflows can be quite sophisticated but need to be monitored – are all of my workflows still relevant? Where should we plug in new content? What is under performing? What is over performing? Who will make the changes in the system to reflect new strategies? Who will create new content?
Often, much like CRM, marketing automation administration is lumped into someone’s day job – just another task on a list. However true lead nurturing and lead generation is a hour to hour, day to day activity that needs its own focus and attention. Some companies outsource the personnel and expertise, or even the entire process (like OppSourcing) to gain economies of scale. Other companies let their lead generation and nurturing plan fall down as new priorities shift into place. Many execute well.
With any marketing automation and lead nurturing / generation strategy, you need the right system, people and process to drive success. Many outsource it – should you? That should be a wide and deep conversation as sales and marketing align.
Many organizations are trying to figure out how to get the highest quality and the most information possible from their web forms. Some companies try to optimize by varying how many questions they ask. Still others change pick-list values on a regular basis to mitigate abandon rates. One piece of the puzzle often overlooked is empowering the prospect to quickly pick and choose what they are most interested in, then use your marketing tools to score accordingly. Instead of offering one login to a resources page, why not offer several top performing pieces and let the prospect choose only the ones they want? Letting the prospect see a synopsis or teaser when rolling over the choice can help drive interest as well.
Deliberate actions should score higher than forced reactions. What I mean by forced reactions is making someone choose a pick-list value or enter free text to proceed to the asset page. How many times have you just “picked whatever” in order to get through the form gate? No process is ever completely perfect, but you can count on the fact if a prospect proactively chooses the asset they want, not only will they fill out the form more accurately (I want that piece, I better give a real email address), but you can also bank that they are more interested than others who don’t exactly know what to expect from your resource library.
One of the challenges that we constantly encounter in the executing the nurturing campaigns of the lead management programs that we manage for our customers is having enough compelling content. ”Compelling” is the operative word — as you want to provide content in your nurturing campaigns that is contextually relevant to the prospect given where they are likely to be in their buying cycle. One technique to address the compelling objective is to use 3rd Party research reports from known and trusted sources. In the high technology marketplace, Gartner, Forrester, and Sirus are a few of the big-name trusted 3rd party research firms that have prolific content. The challenge is that using this content is expensive and as such, most companies don’t have endless budget to spend for these great pieces of content. How then can you make this great content go farther?
Ardath Albee recently provided some great suggestions in her blog post “Make 3rd Party Content an Opportunity not a Necessity” on how to make this kind of content more powerful and go further. Her suggestion was to find the ”big ideas” contained in each of these 3rd party reports and then tie back into the special things your company does with a complementary article, blog post, or white paper. As Ardath says, it doesn’t have to be a lengthy article, just invest 800-1,000 words that will showcase how your company’s solution address the big ideas mentions by the 3rd party research report. This not only positions your company’s key capabilities, it positions your company as a thought leader who has invested in bringing solutions to market to address these “big idea” issues.