The Only Influencers Blog

The top thought leaders in email marketing share their insights and thoughts.

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For many of us in the email marketing profession, customer interaction equals B2C. Tens of billions of marketing emails are sent every day – to consumers. “Buy This!” “Check Out This Incredible Offer!” “Download the Last XYZ You’ll Ever Need!” … the thrust of most email campaigns is planned, designed, targeted, segmented, analyzed, measured, filtered, and executed with one purpose: drive consumers to a website and convince them to take action. So goes the eCommerce engine. And it works.

There is another segment of email marketing, just as compelling, equally relevant, and in some ways arguably more impactful to the digital marketplace. That segment is B2B. In most organizations, B2C and B2B rarely intersect. Yet, there are a number of essential keys to successful email campaigns common to both consumer and business outreach. Assuming you are on top of your deliverability best practices (e.g. your emails are reaching the right inbox when and as expected), here are 6 ideas to get the highest productivity out of your campaigns.

1. Go Viral. Like B2C and social viral strategies, B2B content gets shared. A recent report from the Earnest Agency indicated that 72% of B2B buyers are most likely to share useful content via email. This presents an incredible opportunity to tailor content for the explicit purpose of have it read by multiple influencers and decision makers inside a target company. The key is to focus on “content marketing” – emails which are loaded with useful details, inspirational in messaging, and understanding of the customer’s needs. Keep your topics current and pithy: marketing information, studies, industry news and tips for the use of existing products are almost always more interesting than the latest products, new customers or press releases. Feed interest in technical details and then attach your own marketing information to it. Becoming an essential and trusted source for industry or market information will give your own news significantly greater weight. A great set of examples of innovative content marketing can be found here.

2. Subject Lines Matter – Especially for B2B. Over the last 18 months, email marketing has become a central discussion topic in B2B marketing. A survey of 100 of the top B2B marketing organizations by B2B strategist firm artegic found that almost three quarters see a rise or even rapid increase of the significance of email marketing for their industries. With this increase, the importance of capturing the reader’s attention early is crucial. Adestra has reported that the key to getting a B2B reader to open a marketer’s email is the subject line – great subject lines can drive consistent opens rates of 90% or higher. Interestingly, subject lines containing “money,” “revenue,” and “profit” performed best. What delivered the lowest performance? Words like “Help,” “ Free,” “Reminder,” and “Percent Off.” Here’s the takeaway: test, test, and test again. Just as in B2C email, testing subject lines – especially utilizing an automated process that learns as it tests – is the differentiator between high open rates and marginal results.

3. Opt-Ins Everywhere. Actionable email marketing campaigns require lists of sufficient size and accuracy to create reach – this is 101. Yet many B2B email marketers still overlook opportunities to invite potential customers to engage. Look for any angle where you touch your customers: websites, downloads, conferences, inquiries, clickthroughs from affiliate sites, any source where you communicate. Of course it’s crucial to ask for implicit consent at every touch point – make it a binding agreement beyond reproach. Once you have their consent, you have a much more valuable asset. Here’s why: a newsletter subscriber is simply worth more than a website visitor. Web visits are transitory and unpredictable. While you ultimately want the drive your traffic there, your customers don’t necessarily engage with you there. Newsletters offer multiple, regular opportunities to develop customer relationships. So make it as easy as possible for prospects and customers to find your newsletter opt-in. Locate links or fields in easy-to-spot in navigation areas, not hidden at the bottom of pages or buried in sub-categories like “Contact Us” or “Services.”

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Tagged in: B2B

Email marketing best practices are consistent for most any type of email communication, but those of us that do business-to-business (B2B) email marketing know that we have to take a somewhat different approach to our email content.  A B2B business relationship is much different than a consumer relationship, and we have to plan our messaging with that in mind. 

When it comes to B2B email strategies, here’s 9 things that B2B marketers need to consider when preparing content for their campaigns.

1. Longer sales cycle. B2B sales cycles can typically be several weeks to several months, and in some cases even a year or more. B2B email marketers need to recognize the longer sales cycle and prepare proper marketing content for each part of the cycle.

2. Relationship driven. Building relationships is key in B2B sales and the longer sales cycle, when handled properly, gives the B2B marketer plenty of opportunity to build strong ties to eventual buyers. Sometimes these relationships will rise above all other factors during the decision making process.  

3. Niche target market. One of the nice things about B2B marketing is that marketers typically have a smaller, more defined target audience. The bad news is that there are a limited number of prospects. Make every communication count by preparing targeted, relevant content.

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Tagged in: B2B

After two jam packed issues of the Only Influencers Newsletter, Email Acquisition Special Edition Part 1, and Email Acquisition Special Editioin Part 2, I've decided to give the Influencers a break this week to discuss a little bit about Only Influencers itself: its history, its purpose, its resources, and the Only Influencers Community as a whole. You also might learn a bit about the history and growth of the email marketing industry! I hope you will take the time to read this to the end. It is a long one.

This article is prompted by Jeanne Jennings extremely generous article in Clickz: 2 Industry Organizations Every Email Marketer Should Join. As a result of that article, we gained a lot of new subscribers to the OI newsletter, so it seems appropriate to give new readers a bit of background into what they are getting each week.

History

11 years ago, back in 2003, I founded a company called eDataSource, the world's first email intelligence company. As a result of the data eDS was collecting, I was able to clearly demonstrate, for the first time, the power of email to drive large spikes in traffic, across the board, and from an independent, 3rd party perspective. To say my jaw dropped open is an understatement.

At the time, no one was talking about email. There were no columns, no conferences, no trade organizations dedicated to email marketing. I set out to change that.

The first thing I did was approach Mediapost, for whom I had been writing for years on Rich Media Advertising topics, about doing a dedicated weekly column on email. I came up with the name the Email Insider, because the data I was receiving was unknown at the time. Mediapost went on to use the name "insider" for other marketing verticles as well, based on the success of my Email Insider column.

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The constant acquisition and scoring of email addresses should stay at the top of any marketer’s list of smart things to do. Not near the top. At the top. As long as you are in business you should be capturing email addresses to drive your business’s growth and health.

While mailing subscribers is indisputably important, there are several reasons why the importance of capturing email addresses has nothing to do with sending your new subscribers another email. And how you obtain those addresses has become critical.

What you can use your email addresses for is highly dependent on how you collect them. Permission and Process drive email address usability. In order to make sure that every email you capture retains its elemental value, here are six basic principles that can guide your email address collection philosophy.

  1. ABC. Always Be Capturing. You should know when someone shows up on your site whether or not they are a subscriber. If they’ve logged in, no need. If they haven’t logged in, check for a cookie. Don’t see either of these? Put up that modal now!
  2. “Email is a form of currency”. The exchange of email address data between you and a site visitor or customer is a compact, an agreement. In exchange of the customer’s valuable unique identifier (the email address) you promise to provide something of value, like access to site resources, a white paper, daily or weekly newsletters, friends and family rates, and so on. There must be a symmetrical exchange of value. If you fail to honor this pact, expect the users to unsubscribe.
  3. Direct sign ups are most valuable. Social sign ups, while reducing friction for the user, are in fact as sticky and valuable as a Facebook ‘Like’. Remember how marketers put all their time into campaigns to get users to ‘like’ their Brand Pages? You can’t do much with a ‘like’ anymore. Now if you want to reach users in Facebook you need – guess what – email address. Worse even, if you used a social sign up service, it’s more than likely you have almost no rights to that customer data. That customer belongs to the social service – not you. Nice move, huh? See the Facebook terms of service for more reasons why you shouldn’t use Facebook Connect to acquire email signups.
  4. Confirmation. When you get someone to sign up, send her an email. Immediately. Not in 10 minutes. Numerous studies have shown that interacting with someone who is new to file is absolutely necessary. You can also use services like Experian’s Leadspend to check the validity of a signup before you even send a confirm.
  5. Don’t be a list pimp. Don’t get signups in order to rent them out. Treat your direct signups as the valuable asset that they are. Don’t cheapen your relationships.
  6. Score acquisition sources and know your ROSS. You may get 1000 signups today from that co-registration campaign that you ran on StationWagonStation.com. Unless you continually run a ROSS – return on subscriber source – analysis, you will have no idea who your long tail subscribers are where they came from.

Email Acquisition is an art, but doing it well requires some science. Test your modals.   Test the location of your ‘Register’ links. Review your preference center to see if it ever gets updated.

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If you take them aside in confidence and buy them a drink or two, most people working in email marketing will eventually admit there’s a hungry beast they have to deal with that is never full and always has an appetite for more. No matter how much or how often they feed it, it’s a bottomless pit.

What is this monster? It’s none other than your email list! Actually, if you’re treating it right, it’s more like an elite athlete than a monster. Chances are, no matter how many subscribers you already have, you hunger for more. The simple truth: the care and feeding of your email list is a job that’s never done (and shouldn’t be).

The constant need to acquire new email list members is fueled by a few unchanging facts: Brands continually seek greater market share, which means increasing visibility and interest among non-list members in order to bring them into the fold and once we do – turning them into customers. Not only do we want to grow the number of prospects we can communicate with through email, but many companies are also challenged by having subpar percentages of customer email addresses on their files, so seek better coverage of customer opt-ins to email. Couple those realities with the inevitable churn most email lists see annually due to unsubscribes, aging data and deliverability issues (30% turn-over is not uncommon) and it’s no wonder we can’t satisfy the beast!

Email marketing’s early days seem like ancient history now, which presents both new subscriber acquisition challenges and opportunities. Unlike the age of commercial email’s inception, the novelty of receiving savings, coupons, content and other exclusive goodies promised to subscribers wore off years ago. List members expect that at a minimum, and expectations are rising – subscribers now want us to surprise and delight them, anticipate their needs, and enable or remind them to make their interactions with us efficient and convenient.

On the bright side, we have more tools and tactics at our disposal than ever before to invite new subscribers on to our lists. Here are the top-performing new-subscriber acquisition practices that should be in place for your program:

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