March 10, 2016

Why Email is Still a Top Channel for B2B Marketing

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This article is a guest contribution from Maria Wachal, Content Manager at Freshmail. Maria is passionate about digital marketing and content creation. She puts her technical and trade experience to work towards the goal of enhancing email marketing.


Email marketing is a direct, trusted channel for online communication. With the right approach to email, B2B companies can educate and support business audiences and create more customers in the process.

B2B decision-makers make purchases based on what they need, which means impulse buys are less common. As a service or product provider, you are challenged to equip your audience with informative and engaging content across a long buying cycle. This post will explore how email supports the lead-to-close process and provide tips for building an effective campaign.

Email Supports Sales Activities

Despite its widespread use, telemarketing isn’t always the best way to generate new business. Time is a valuable resource for businesses, which means many prospects won’t hear you out, especially if they aren’t expecting your call. It can be difficult to make contact with the right decision-makers in an organization through cold-calling alone.

In situations like these, email is a perfect way to make contact without causing disruption. Prospects can open and read your communication at their own leisure and discretion. With the right sequence of messages and calls-to-action, you can warm up cold leads and lay the foundation for a successful sales call. Research has shown that nurtured leads produce 20 percent more sales opportunities than non-nurtured leads.

Email Improves Customer Relationships

Establishing a customer-centric email strategy will help you evaluate and respond to your customers’ needs. Using behavioral data and segmentation, you can deliver targeted communications and offer value that far-surpasses that of a generic newsletter.

ALSO READ: Infographic: What It Takes to Be Customer-Centric

Realizing the full potential of your customer relationships is very important. You want your prospects to not only choose your product, but to recommend your product. The ones who do will be more profitable to you. In other words, your end game isn’t the transaction; it’s advocacy.

Customer advocacy sets the bar high for email. It means batch and blast promotional mail won’t cut it. Instead, businesses should focus on aligning each message, each email, with the buyer’s current “decision-making moment.”

This graphic gives examples of effective content types for three major stages of the buying process:

b2b_decision_making

Image Credit: FreshMail

B2B Email Tactics to Try

Companies with smaller budgets and limited resources often struggle to run effective email campaigns or shy away completely. But compared with other marketing channels, email is relatively inexpensive. According to a 2015 report by DMA, email has an average ROI of $38 for every dollar spent.

The three tactics below will help you leverage email marketing to its fullest potential.

1. Welcome new leads from search

Customers are good at blocking out distractions. They install plugins to block pop-ups and display ads. They use research to find what they need and avoid what they don’t. That’s why marketers invest so much into search engine marketing (SEM).

If you know anything about SEM, you know it revolves around content — usually starting out with free “carrot content” and gradually asking more commitment from the reader.

Valuable opt-in content can capture new leads and bring your visitors closer to making a decision, but it works best when paired with email. To strengthen the effect of opt-in content, send a follow-up email thanking the customer and providing another opportunity for engagement. For example: an invitation to a webinar or exclusive access to an industry report.

An example of "carrot content" from HubSpot.

An example of “carrot content” from HubSpot.

 

2. Plan an educational drip

Informative content is almost always more effective than a sales pitch. Emailmonday recently reported that campaigns with CTA text “more info” win 90 percent of multivariate tests against “try now” or “buy now.”

Help your customers make an informed decision with educational content wrapped in a clever autoresponder cycle. Some refer to this as a drip campaign. Drip campaigns help you provide timely information based on your customer’s position in the buyer’s journey:

  • New to the product: Introduce them to your company, product, or service at a comfortable pace; focus on education.
  • Potential customers: Explain how your product can address their key needs, objectives and challenges.
  • Leads with an intent to purchase: Differentiate your product or service from your competitors’ by highlighting advantages and showing industry expertise.
  • Deal close: Provide case studies, pricing, and well-timed promotions to reinforce that your product or service is the best choice.
This email from BrightTALK educates the reader on a best practice for B2B marketing, but also communicates the value of BrightTALK’s platform.

This email from BrightTALK educates the reader on a best practice for B2B marketing, but also communicates the value of BrightTALK’s platform.

 

3. Send automated, personalized emails

B2B customers expect to be treated as individuals in their moment of need. Forrester Research says that “In 2016, leaders will understand and anticipate individual needs to deliver personalized experiences, sharply increasing their lead in the market.”

Marketing automation will enable you to achieve that goal and nurture customers at scale. Email personalization doesn’t have to be a daunting task. You can use the data stored in your platform and divide prospects into segments based on declarative (job title, industry, company size) or behavioral data (downloads, browsing activity, etc.). Then, using automation triggers and autoresponders, you can dispatch different permutations of a message to the appropriate readers.

Behavioral data gathered from previous campaigns has a key role in this. You should also use web analytics (e.g. Google Analytics, tracking codes) to track the behavior of visitors coming to your website.

Bringing it All Together

According to a recent study by ALF Insight, 82 percent of B2B marketers cite email marketing as their top priority and their number one channel investment for 2016.

That’s because it works.  

Personalized and automated email marketing can help your business engage prospects in a relevant way at every stage of the buying process. To maximize ROI, make sure you analyze the behavior of every subscriber and adjust campaigns to keep your relationship moving forward. After the sale, set your sights on customer success and advocacy.

To learn more about email and marketing automation, check out the following posts:

 

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