Email marketing is an extremely effective marketing medium in B2B business scenarios. Unlike consumer marketing, where customers are innumerable, customers are easily identified and limited in any B2B. Since the number of people to be addressed is limited, and contact details obtained relatively easily, email marketing can be leveraged with potent benefits to the organisation.
In B2B email marketing, the fundamental principles of marketing continue to be relevant. It definitely pays to spend some time thinking, formulating and documenting an email marketing strategy before initiating any customer communication.
Who is the customer?
The first step is to map the customer purchase process. Mapping reveals the user, influencers, opinion leaders, decision-makers and likely decision breakers too. They are likely to come from different departments of the organisation: users department, procurement, finance, senior management (depending on deal size). Each of them has a role to play in making the purchase, and each of them needs to be marketed to.
Email marketing campaigns sometimes need to be customised for each of the participants of the purchase process. Not every person in the decision-making process would be a potential recipient for the same email marketing campaign. For example, while the CEO of an organisation could be one making the final sign-off on a high-value sale, it’s unlikely that the CEO would like to receive periodic product catalogues from you (indispensable for procurement). However, the CEO needs to be aware of your business. Depending on the nature of your business and the size of the customer organisation, you could definitely get the attention of the CEO with a specially addressed email annually or semi-annually.
Messaging Senior Management:
- Launch of a new product/service
- Invites to special events that you could be hosting – seasonal greetings
- Any industry news that you possess and could be of business interest to the CEO and Top management
- Messaging users, procurement, and technical evaluators
You must look at addressing procurement, users and technical personnel at frequent time intervals. These people initiate the purchase, are present through all the critical decision points of the purchase process, and quite often have veto power to negative a supplier. They are very important people, and email marketing needs to ensure that your business is top of mind and viewed favourably in their minds.
Regular communications addressing details of new products or services added to your business, technical features, special promotions, discounts could be your subjects – staying top of mind, and at the same time educating.
Subjects for addressing procurement professionals could be:
- Your product or services catalogue (at the same frequency that you update it)
- Deals and promotions that you may be offering
- Advance information about price hikes that you anticipate
- Technical information about your products or services (if you are a dealer or distributor, this may not be of much interest since this information may be funnelled directly by the manufacturer)
- Invitations to any special events (seminars or product launches) that you are organising
- Information about any training programs on your products
- New products or services launches
- Intimation of price changes (advance and/or post increase)
- Season greetings
- Birthday and anniversary greetings
Designing the communication
Much has been written about the structure and design of email communications – so much that it looks a science by itself and a highly complex subject. I, however, would like to take a straightforward approach. Let’s consider a few pertinent points.
You must have a communication message that is of interest and relevance to your customer. Do not generate content at random without first considering whether your customer would be interested in the content. If interest is in doubt – do not send the email. Always keep the interest of the customer in mind.
Keep the message short and simple. If there is a lot that you need to communicate, redirect them to a webpage with additional content.
Call for Action
Let your message always have a call for action. Possible action triggers could be:
- Meeting with a sales rep – or asking for a telephone call from your business
- Request for additional information
- Place an order with you
- The request of a demonstration (in person or on the web)
- Subscribe to a newsletter
- Confirm participation in an event or seminar
- Or one of many actions depending on the nature of your email communication
Evaluate your campaign
At the end of each email campaign measure the effectiveness of the campaign. Important parameters could be:
- Value of sales made
- Number of leads generated
- No. seminar participation confirmed or sales appointments generated etc
Email opened stats
Calculate cost per lead or sale generated – and any other ROI calculations you would like to make.
You must calculate direct and indirect sales or brand building on account of the campaign. (Not every email campaign can be translated into direct sales. Some of the communications could be just a brand-building exercise, while others could be with the specific purpose of building sales). There could be many who didn’t respond to you by email – but called you up instead, or just landed up at your business to purchase. An email promo-code could build a better measurement of the direct benefits of your campaign.
Clean-up your contact database:
- Remove all email ids that bounced on account of wrong email id
- Remove all email ids that have unsubscribe requests
- Remove all email ids that have been blocked by spam filters
Database maintenance is an ongoing exercise and ensures a clean email database. Maintenance is often skipped if it is not an assigned responsibility. Set up update schedules and mechanisms. Assign responsibility for list creation, updating and management.
Avoid being labelled as SPAM
There are some simple steps you can take to prevent being labelled as spam and stay within the anti-spam law. In all your email marketing communications:
- Provide your business address and telephone numbers
- Offer an unsubscribe option that actually works
- When an unsubscribe request is received – remove the contact from your mailing database and also acknowledge that you have received the unsubscribe request and acted upon it
Email marketing is not very complex if you develop sharp objectives and clear expectations of what the medium can do for you, and more importantly, what it can’t. In the hands of experienced marketers, email marketing can be a very potent weapon in building brands, generating leads and supporting conventional media marketing campaigns. There is no magic bullet or campaign-style that works for everyone. Each business will need to work and set up their own objectives, email marketing strategies and execute their campaigns. What works for one company may not work for another.