B2B Email Marketing Tips That Work

Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing techniques around, but it does have some unique caveats. It can be really effective in increasing awareness, sales, and engagement, but it can actually repel people if it is done the wrong way. It takes a certain amount of finesse to find the right people and send them the right content at the right time. Here are some tips about how to create a B2B email marketing campaign that really works.

Focus on creating valuable content

The most effective thing you can do for your email list is focus on creating valuable content. The content in your emails needs to provide your subscribers with information or resources that are not only relevant, but useful. For example, an article in your email newsletter could provide information about how to use a particular product or list other similar resources or recommendations that may be useful to your customers. While it is alright to have some promotional messages in your email campaign, being too promotional will definitely turn off subscribers.

It is vital to continue to test out content and techniques on a regular basis. So you can send certain email messages to certain marketing segments and leave the rest the same as the control for the experiment. If you want to figure out what is going to be the most effective content, leave the control group the same and then create variations and test with the remaining group. Use the metrics in your email marketing program to see if there are changes in the number of subscribers or the amount of opens and clickthroughs. The next step is to use this information to set measurable goals to increase engagement in your upcoming email campaign messages. It is also very easy to simply ask your subscribers for feedback about what they would like to see in the future.

Pay attention to peak usage times

The success of an email marketing campaign can be dependent upon when it is sent. The truth is that people tend to be more receptive during certain days of the week and times of the day. It may not be the same for everybody, but it is something that you can learn through testing. As a general rule of thumb, it seems that Friday has the lowest rate of opens while Tuesday has a significantly higher open rate. Obviously, emailing people on a major holiday will probably not work so well because people are not checking their emails on those days.

Find the right frequency

Sometimes email campaigns are not as successful as they should or could be because of the frequency. Some campaigns send emails too often and alienate their subscribers, while some do not send enough emails and cause their subscribers to forget about them. There is no correct answer in terms of frequency, because it depends on your audience and how often they want to hear from you. A good place to start is sending once a month, and then work from there to see if people are interested in hearing more from you.

Place an emphasis on landing pages

Landing pages are just as important as the actual email messages themselves. The main goal in terms of sending emails is to get your prospects to take action in some way, shape, or form. Perhaps you want them to sign up for a free trial, attend a webinar, or become a follower of your social media account. In any case, you need to make sure that the landing page is functional, attractive, and enticing. Above all else, it should fulfill its function of capturing their information, and have visual appeal as well as persuasive writing.

Email marketing requires a certain amount of testing and development to create a successful campaign. It will be a product of some trial and error, but as long as you keep track of results, what tends to be more effective will become apparent. Take some time to really get to know your audience and use the metrics to guide you along the way.

3 Events that are Shaping Content Marketing in 2011

Content marketing is about creating and distributing informative content that will help to convert prospects into customers and customers into repeat buyers. The goal is to gain opt-in permission from relevant target audiences to continually deliver content via email or other social media channels. Ongoing exposure fosters a relationship that provides multiple opportunities for conversion versus the “one-shot” all-or-nothing approach of traditional outbound marketing practices (such as, online ads, tradeshows or cold calling). Ultimately, the success of your content marketing plan hinges upon your ability to deliver content with independent value that builds trust, credibility and authority for your business.

If you don’t have a robust content marketing plan in place, now is the time to get one. Recent changes to the Google algorithm along with announcements that YouTube is entering the content creation game and Gmail’s addition of Smart Labels, which automatically sort out any kind of mass mailings highlight the fact that a sound content marketing plan has shifted from a “nice-to-have” to marketing essential in 2011.

  1. Google Dings Low-Quality Content Sites Although Google regularly changes its search algorithm with little recognition, the February 2011 change has definitely caught some companies off guard, devastating some websites’ rankings – and thus their traffic. Google made changes to reduce the high rankings of sites with duplicate content and low quality content (i.e., content farms with a low ratio of content to ads) on the search engine result pages. Companies with websites that had learned how to manipulate Google rankings (and were good at it) took a big hit. Google said the update was designed to provide better rankings for high-quality sites, those with “original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, and thoughtful analysis.”
  2. YouTube Becomes a Creator of Content If the changes to the Google algorithm isn’t enough to convince you that content will rule supreme in 2011 and beyond, then perhaps you will be impressed by the fact that YouTube has allocated $100 million to pay for the development of its own original content. This is no small bet. While the move was surely motivated by a desire to generate more profits from ad dollars, the interesting takeaway for B2B marketers is that online consumption of content is increasing and the playing field is leveling as consumers move away from traditional media outlets to whatever sources provide the best content.
  3. Gmail Allows Users to Give Email Marketers the Slip Google’s move to allow Gmail users to automatically filter out all bulk mailings (classified as any kind of mass mailing, including newsletters and promotions) emphasizes the fact that consumers are growing tired of the deluge of email. After years of spam and over zealous email marketing programs, consumers are looking for ways to reclaim control of their inboxes. Employing tricks to avoid the spam filters will no longer be sufficient. Moving forward, email marketers are going to have to earn their keep in the inbox or risk automatic exile into the dreaded bulk folder.

2011 Content Marketing Essentials

Search Engine Optimization
If you care about search engine rankings, Google has sent the message loud and clear, you better start paying attention to the quality of your online content. Sites that specialize in quality niche content (original and in-depth information on a focused topic) now rank better than sites with broad content on hundreds of different topics. This provides a great opportunity for B2B marketers. To capitalize on this shift, first consider what keywords define your business, then carefully evaluate every page on your site and get rid of the junk. Low-quality pages will hurt you – no matter what’s on the rest of your site. Next, focus on developing targeted content that is useful (let your keywords be your guide as to what is useful) and well written from top to bottom. If you can’t write great content yourself, hire someone who can.

Web Presence
The corporate website is often a company’s most tangible and visible face to the world. When properly executed, a website can become a powerful marketing tool that not only serves the needs of existing customers, but also provides an opportunity to capture new customers. To support your content marketing strategy (which relies on opt-in permission) your website must effectively engage visitors. Ask yourself the following questions: Are users encouraged to opt-in to marketing programs? Is a clear call-to-action present on every page? Is there sufficient incentive to opt-in? Remember, incentive is driven by the value of the content presented and trust in your ability to continue to deliver value. If possible allow users to select topics of interest and frequency of communications as part of your lead capture process. Finally, bypass bulk mail filters by reminding users to add your distribution email addresses to address books.

Marketing Automation
Once granted permission to engage prospects via email or other social media channels, be sure not to disappoint. Continue to provide relevant and meaningful content on a regular basis. Marketing automation tools help you categorize leads based on interests and actions so that you can continually provide targeted and relevant content. A “one-size fits all” approach can hurt your content marketing efforts and increase opt-out rates. Marketing automation tools offer you a wealth of information on demographics and response rates that should be used to guide your content development and distribution strategy. Pay specific attention to which types of content and topics perform well for each list segment so that you can adjust your strategy accordingly.

Social Media
A solid PR strategy that includes traditional and expanded social media engagement practices can help extend your reach. Remember that the purpose of content marketing is to engage prospects. PR announcements and media coverage can be used to create awareness and start the dialogue, but two-directional social media communications should be used to further develop the relationship. As Lorraine emphasized previously in her “Thought Leadership 101” blog post – to maintain the relationship, you must continually demonstrate understanding of the key issues, challenges, needs and requirements that truly concern your prospects versus spout off about your latest products functions and features. Use your SEO keywords as a guide on which social network conversations to join.

The Bottomline
Times have changed and so must you. Now more than ever, it’s time to re-evaluate your content marketing strategy and make a plan that will ensure favorable results based on solid content and intelligent strategy.

Using Marketing Automation to Increase Your Profits

Among the biggest buzzwords in the business world today is marketing automation. But what is it – really?

Marketing automation is really just a software application that helps automate repetitive marketing tasks, based on specific input criteria. It is frequently seen in demand generation campaigns, with tools such as Eloqua, Affinium, and E.6. The idea is two-fold. First, most companies engage in demand generation campaigns such as email marketing campaigns somewhat irregularly. They’ll send an email today, then they’ll try to send another one next month or next quarter – whenever they get to it again. Second, when the follow-up communication is developed, no notion is given to if or how the prospect responded to the first one. Instead, everybody simply gets the same message.

With marketing automation tools, any action on the part of the prospect is recorded by the software. If he downloads a white paper, visits the Website, selects the full article, or inquires about the offer, the software logs it and provides a pre-determined “score” for the behavior. Based on the behavior and/or the score, a different email can be sent at the next scheduled interval, to coincide with the prospect’s behavior. The system can also be programmed to send an immediate correspondence, based on a particular action taken by the prospect, rather than necessarily waiting until the next scheduled communication. Most importantly, however, the scoring system will identify those who are more likely to purchase in the near future, and export those leads to the customer relationship management (CRM) system for telemarketing or sales follow-up.

If used properly, marketing automation can help companies develop a closer relationship with their current and prospective customers, and consistently deploy more fruitful outbound marketing campaigns. It’s important to remember, though, that marketing automation software requires programming at the front end, to be of any value. And, as with any sort of programming, the garbage in, garbage out rule applies. Companies employing a marketing automation system must determine the actions, demographic traits, and other identifiers that distinguish their key target market from the rest of their lead database, then assign those attributes the highest point value.

If the scoring mechanism is developed correctly, the most qualified leads will rise to the surface relatively quickly, and be sent to sales for a rapid close. But if it is not developed correctly, the marketing automation software will just be a wasted investment that delivers unqualified leads to waste the time and energy of the company’s valuable sales force.

So the lesson is this… When considering a marketing automation tool, make sure it’s robust and flexible enough to meet the particular needs of your industry, and that it can be programmed to score leads based on the specific attributes that are important to you. Then, make sure you take the time to truly understand how your ideal customer looks and acts, and develop a scoring system that will help you highlight them – and only them. Finally, have an open mind. You’re unlikely to get it perfect the first time. So talk with your sales people to determine the quality of the leads, versus the “ideal”. Then, modify your scoring criteria to deliver that ideal.