But First . . . Why Email?
For many consumers (including the oft-referenced Millennial customer base) email is their preferred form of communication. Statistics prove it, indicating over half of adults check their email first thing in the morning. Data specific to Millennials shows that mobile plays a big role in email behavior, with an overwhelming number checking email from smartphones, and seventy percent reporting to logging in from bed. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a Millennial and I predominately check email from my mobile device. The data specific to Millennials is important, however, because Millennial business buyers are now often the ones making purchasing decisions, and those numbers become game changers when it comes to the importance of email.
It’s not just Millennials, though. Everyone is addicted to email. Adobe reports one third of Americans have more than one email account, and nine out of 10 check work email at home. Overall, the average person spends 30 or more hours a week using email. That same Adobe survey found 58 percent of respondents indicated they preferred brands contact them via email to other forms of communication.
Hopefully I’ve convinced you of the importance of email as it relates to your integrated marketing strategies. Here are seven steps to creating the perfect email campaign.
Step One: Enlist the help of an email service provider (ESP)
ESPs can take the guesswork out of your B2B email marketing strategy, providing customizable design templates, automation features that assist with timing and targeting, and analytics tools so you can track the performance of your campaigns. ESPs exist at a variety of service levels and price points. MailChimp, a popular choice for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs), is free at the basic level and provides several user-friendly features (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Source: Mailchimp
On the higher end of the spectrum, you’ll find platforms like Pardot by Salesforce. Besides email campaign optimization options, Pardot features a suite of personalization, automation, and testing applications (see Figure 2). In the coming months, Pardot will be connected to the soon-to-be released Wave for B2B Marketing app, so you can assess the performance of your digital marketing strategy in real-time from anywhere. The service costs up to $3,000 per month, depending on the package.
Figure 2. Source: Pardot by Salesforce
MailChimp and Pardot aren’t your only options if you’re searching for an ESP—far from it, actually. There are a host of platforms that fall in the middle of the spectrum. Choose a provider that aligns with your expectations and your budget or work with a marketing consultant with a specialization in email marketing and enlist their help selecting the provider best suited for your needs.
Step Two: Build Your List
Focusing on building and growing your own list is vitally important to successful email marketing. There are a variety of ways to grow your email list including producing content that’s valuable enough to prospective customers that they opt in to your list, encouraging existing customers to share or forward your messages, developing marketing campaigns designed around inducing opt-ins to your list, and more. Your email database is one of your most valuable business assets, so treat it with the importance, and the care, it deserves. Most importantly, know that building your email list is an ongoing process—and, if you’re doing it right, you’ll never be done.
Step Three: Clean and Segment Your List
I can’t overstate enough the importance of an up-to-date, well-organized email list. Regularly cleaning your email list, and weeding out outdated or incomplete records is critical. Segmenting is equally important as part of your email marketing strategies. Segmentation allows you to target and nurture specific groups of subscribers with relevant campaigns for maximum impact. For example, you can segment your list by geographic area, delivering highly targeted campaigns in just one spot. Or you can segment your list based on where a certain group of contacts are in their path to purchase. Or if you have a number of contacts who have made a purchase in the past but haven’t purchased lately, you could reinvigorate their interest in your product or service by sending them a special offer.
Step Four: Write a Winning Sales Email
According to Econsultancy, email marketing boasts impressive ROI: One surveyed group of companies attributed a whopping 23 percent of overall sales to email initiatives. Numbers that impressive aren’t an accident. The content in your email campaigns is tremendously important, and writing a winning sales email is no easy task. You could be doing all the right things with regard to your list, and a well-designed, attractive email, but if the content isn’t compelling, chances are good you won’t get the results you seek.
Below are six tips to writing a winning sales email:
- Deliver value. If every email you send consists of nothing more a sales pitch and ad nauseum features and benefits of some product or service you want to push, stop it. This is especially true for the B2B marketer, and many are guilty of that. You’ll find that if you take the time to develop email campaigns that deliver real value for your readers, you’ll find that both your open rate and your click-thru-rates will reflect that value.
- Make your call to action singular and clear. Don’t leave your readers guessing what their next step should be. On the other hand, don’t give them too much to do, either. One call to action per email is sufficient—any more, and your message can get too muddy. Do you want them to make a purchase? Subscribe to a service? Enter a promotion? Download an asset? Visit a particular landing page for more information? Tell them plainly, and give them plenty of opportunities to act with highlighted text, colorful buttons, links, etc.
- Get to the point—and fast. The New York Times reports the average attention span of an adult is eight seconds—shorter than that of a goldfish, if we’re going to get technical. Write an intriguing hook to keep your readers interested, and get to the point quickly before you lose them.
- Break it up. Odds are, more than half of your recipients—54 percent, to be exact—are going to open your email campaign on a mobile device. Keep this in mind as you write your email content. Breaking up text into digestible chunks of one or two sentences is smart. It’s easier to read on the go and can lead to more conversions.
- Use visuals, but do it wisely. Successful sales emails should contain both clever, direct content and some sort of visual stimulant, whether it’s a product image, a video demonstration, or another attention-grabbing graphic element that is on-message. Don’t overdo it, though—sometimes excessive graphics can cause emails to land in junk folders. Also, consider sending HTML text messages from time to time and test how they perform against your other emails and modify your campaigns accordingly.
Step Five: Track and Adjust Your Email Campaign
Use your email analytics as well as your web analytics tools to monitor open, click-thru, and conversion rates for your campaigns. If things aren’t working as you expected, take a closer look at your list segments and ensure you’re targeting the right audience. Successful conversion rate optimization (CRO) can be a trial and error process, but since conversions are what generate ROI for your marketing initiatives, the effort you put in here will pay off.
Be careful how often you send emails as you’re refining your process, too. You want to provide value without being off-putting. If you’re sending multiple emails in an automated sequence, make sure that sequence follows the logical progression of your customer’s path to purchase. Typical sequences begin with an announcement and follow up with educational copy, personal stories, and details on the offer or product. Your final email in the sequence should expresses urgency—noting, for example, if the offer has an expiration date—to encourage timely conversion.
Step Six: Take Advantage of Additional Meaningful Opportunities to Email Your Audience
Once you’ve completed a successful email campaign and tracked its results, look for other opportunities to engage with your email subscribers. Remember, not every campaign needs to be a sales announcement. There are plenty of other reasons to email your subscribers, building both connections and brand awareness in the process.
Consider sending an email to an appropriately targeted portion of your email list for any of the following purposes:
- To make a company announcement.
- To profile a key member of your team.
- To introduce a new product or service.
- To announce if your brand has won an award.
- To promote informational content you’ve developed, such as white papers, eBooks, or case studies.
- To inform subscribers of upcoming events, such as trade show appearances or webinars.
- To solicit feedback about your product or service.
- To encourage subscribers to follow your brand on social media platforms.
Step Seven: Repeat Steps Three Through Five Indefinitely
Following through with a B2B email marketing strategy is an ongoing process that takes commitment and effort. Once you find an ESP that suits your organization and find that sweet spot where building your email list becomes second nature, focus on crafting winning email campaigns that convert. After you’ve tracked their performance and adjusted your strategy accordingly, remember to look for other ways to reach out to your subscribers so your brand doesn’t lose any mindshare.
How often do you use email marketing, and what results have you seen from your efforts? Have any tips you’d like to pass along that boost conversions or reach? Please share.