Monday, December 28, 2009

Email Marketing: 4 Essentials for Awesome Emails (From iMedia)

4 essentials for awesome emails

December 18, 2009


  • Stop thinking of "a list" -- think in terms of building a highly targeted audience
  • To create the offer, you need to determine where recipients are in the purchase cycle
  • Be cognizant of the time the email will be sent

If done right, email can be one of the most cost-effective tools for a B2B marketer, given the ease of the delivery method and timeliness of both delivery and response. With email campaigns, marketers know that their messages are delivered instantly, recipient response time is generally less than 48 hours (and most often in the first few hours), email works for both inbound and outbound marketing campaigns, and nearly all business professionals have an email address.

But, given the increase of spam, phishing, and email viruses, the world of email marketing is changing dramatically. The CAN-SPAM Act went into effect in 2003, and was updated by the FTC in 2008, setting new rules and requirements for commercial email. Techniques that may have been effective just two years ago are likely to generate only half the open and response rates today. Keeping up with the newest ideas in creative, as well as the latest regulations, can become a job in itself but, by honing in on the following four key areas, you can drive a highly successful email marketing campaign.

How can marketers make the most of their target list? To start, stop thinking of "a list." Instead, think in terms of building a highly targeted audience. Avoid adding names for the sake of trying achieve a certain number of responses or to satisfy a minimum purchase from a list vendor. By sending a non-relevant message to a mass audience, you're likely to miss your goal and tarnish your brand.

Rather than building a mass list, leverage insights available from your website traffic to identify which companies have visited and are already interested in a product or service you have to offer. It's much easier to convert companies with a need than to generate interest from scratch. Having a process in place to regularly identify and add key contacts from your website visitors to your marketing list will yield better response rates. Also be sure to include website registrations, as well as attendees of trade shows and webinars, but segment them by industry, company size, and role within the company.

Place opt-in forms on multiple high-traffic pages in order to collect contacts; you don't need the full, detailed form -- just basic information. This generates leads on an opt-in process, which can provide much higher response rates. Include existing customers in your outreach campaigns. Regular correspondence will help to reinforce your brand, and gives you the opportunity to cross-sell products and services. Generally, these house-built lists generate the highest response rates in email campaigns.

If you need to supplement your list with additional contacts, relevant trade publications offer a good channel to reach the right people in the right industry. As with any partner, find out about their CAN-SPAM compliance, learn how the contacts are validated, and find out about their co-op marketing programs.

Email marketing has the most success if the message provides immediate value and personally connects to the recipient. The message should help them do one of the following:

  1. Learn through educational content, news or tips
  2. Address a pain point of the recipient or support an immediate initiative
  3. Demonstrate a clear savings of either time or money.

To create the offer, you need to determine where recipients are in the purchase cycle. Are they gathering information, evaluating alternatives, budgeting, in negotiations, or already a customer? This information can often be uncovered from your website traffic by evaluating the level of engagement and types of web content being viewed. Map this information to each contact in your database so you can get these people to know and understand your company. Segment your existing database accordingly, in order to provide specific and personalized messages every step of the way.

Look at how your email is designed; it's important that you capture your audience upfront -- is your offer located within the preview pane of the message? Think about your subject line; refrain from capitalization and excessive punctuation, and include the company name. Include links to specific landing pages or pages on social networking sites rather than sending people to a general homepage that is not highly relevant to the offer.

Note that if you are renting a contact list for any part of your email marketing campaign, the CAN-SPAM Act requires that the offer and email come from the marketing partner. The act further requires that the sender have a valid postal address for each person and that there is an easy unsubscribe process.

As we all know, timing is everything. A study by Smith-Harmon in January 2009 found that Monday and Tuesday are the most popular days of the week to send email. Be cognizant of the time the email will be sent. Is it going out too early for the West Coast or too late for the East Coast? Also, make sure you're not sending multiple emails to a prospect too close together; instead, space them apart over weeks.

The most effective marketing campaigns -- whether they are delivered via email or billboard -- are all about providing the right message, to the right audience, at the right time. With these four elements in mind, you'll be on your way to email marketing success.

Chris Golec is the founder and CEO of Demandbase.

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