B2B Email Marketing Comes Of Age

July 16, 2009

by Loren McDonald

Many of us who write about email marketing best practices, trends and the state of the industry tend to focus on B2C companies such as retail, travel and other ecommerce-oriented companies.

Maybe, in part, it’s because we are all consumers. Everyone can relate to a case study or welcome email program from a sporting goods retailer, for example.

Consumer marketers have traditionally led in marketing innovation with their larger budgets and resources, use of agencies and direct sales models.

However, B2B marketers are catching up to their B2C colleagues and, in many cases, surpassing them with the breadth and depth of their email marketing programs. They’re finding ways to deliver greater utility and value without risking channel burnout, as we’ve seen on the consumer side.

These examples show how some B2B companies use email to build better client and prospect relationships and generate greater ROI from their marketing efforts:

1. Upgrading the regular monthly newsletter. Almost all B2B companies send some form of monthly newsletter to clients and prospects. Long the bastion of self-serving product announcements, press releases and company news, these newsletters have evolved to incorporate articles on research, best practices, trend analysis and other content that buyers seek.

In some cases, B2B companies publish content that is as timely and valuable as trade-publication articles. Whether you call it “inbound marketing,” “thought leadership” or “content-based marketing,” B2B marketers are using email to deliver highly valued content that moves prospects down the sales funnel or helps customers use their products better.

These newsletters also incorporate social components and personality to build brand affinity.

2. Creating dedicated message streams for online resources, including Webinars, white papers and other lead-development tools. Webinars and white papers have become staples for B2B lead generation and brand building. For Webinars in particular, email is the key driver for registrations and attendance, nurturing these information seekers into sales-qualified leads.

Message streams dedicated to Webinar or white-paper announcements lend themselves to notifications, reminders and follow-ups, sent as individual messages and incorporated into newsletters.

For more information on using email to promote Webinars, check out a recent Webinar I presented.

3. Using email as the foundation of a lead-nurturing program. According to MarketingSherpa research, 70% of marketing-generated B2B leads are long-term. Historically, these leads have fallen into a black hole between the sales and marketing departments. Nobody wanted to deal with these “cold” leads.

New marketing automation solutions that incorporate lead scoring, routing and nurturing capabilities now place these long-term leads firmly in marketing’s domain.

The best lead-nurturing programs use multiple channels: direct mail, telesales and email. But, email is the foundation of lead nurturing, with its automated cadence based on specific tracks, and triggers based on behavior such as Webinar registrations, Web page visits and white-paper downloads.

Smart B2B marketers tap into this power of marketing automation and lead nurturing to increase their lead-generation ROI and deliver more qualified leads to sales.

4. Using email for client retention and penetration. Emails alerting clients to new features, events, maintenance and support schedules can educate clients on how to use and get more out of features, not just sell to them. This can boost client retention and penetration.

Advanced marketers leverage product usage data into their email streams, sending product benefits and training emails to clients with little or no recent product usage.

5. Integrating email with CRM and SFA systems. To make these programs work, you must capture client/prospect data — whether demographic, psychographic or behavior — in a central CRM/marketing database with real-time SFA integration.

This approach provides great control over email cadence and ensures lead nurturing and other emails are based on the most up-to-date prospect data and behavior.

If you haven’t tapped into this power of B2B email marketing, it’s time to leverage these tools, which will help you take your program to the next level.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

Loren McDonald is vice president of industry relations for Silverpop, a leading provider of engagement marketing solutions for both BtoC and BtoB marketers.

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