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B-to-b marketers can learn from consumer email practices

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What can b-to-b marketers learn from the b-to-c world? A lot, according to Ryan Phelan VP-strategic services at BlueHornet Networks, an email service provider that caters to retailers and other b-to-b and b-to-c clients. Phelan's company earlier this month released a new report that focuses on consumers' views of email marketing. The report, “Consumer Views of Email Marketing: A Revealing Look at How Consumers Use Email,” is based on video interviews of more than 1,000 consumers in the U.S. conducted in February. Though it is a consumer-based survey, many of the findings have implications for b-to-b marketers, he said. “I always start a discussion about b-to-b marketing with a discussion about how email applies to the consumer,” he said. “That's how we all learn to be online—as consumers—and we take that behavior with us into the business world.” Here are four key takeaways from the report and how b-to-b marketers can use them in their campaign planning.
  1. Consumers have a lot of email addresses. Only 27.7% of consumers reported having one email address. About 60.0% of respondents said they had two or three addresses, while almost 12.0% had more than four. This means there's a good chance a marketer's emails aren't going into the consumer's primary email in-box. Getting that primary placement may take some time spent building trust in both the brand and the content. Phelan suggested doing short-term attrition campaigns, looking for people who open emails out of order or go longer stretches without opening a message. “You want to be asking, "What can we do for you? What can we send you that would help you better?' Very few companies do a short-term attrition program, and almost no one is doing it to get that primary email address.”
  2. Consumers don't like it when mobile emails render poorly. According to the report, almost seven out of 10 (69.7%) consumers will delete an email that “doesn't look good” on a mobile device; another 18.0% will unsubscribe from that email list. Only 17.7% will take the time to view it on a PC. The lesson: Take the time to ensure your email campaign looks good on all types of devices and mobile operating systems. “Even transactional emails shouldn't be all text because you want to create credibility in that customer's mind,” Phelan said.
  3. Consumers love discounts. A whopping 95.4% of people said the most important reason they signed up for email messaging was to receive discounts. Another 56.5% and 56.1% said they did so to “get product or service updates,” and because they “love the brand.” While b-to-b marketers may not want to use email messaging to provide discounts, they should realize what they're up against when it comes to email perceptions. However, there's a huge opportunity to deliver product information and engender brand loyalty with email messages, Phelan said. “In b-to-b you can be focusing on the relationship sell. In b-to-b people love a brand because it makes them look like a rock star or helps them succeed at work,” he said. B-to-b marketers, Phelan said, aren't taking advantage of the amount of love that's out there or giving customers enough product information to help them get the most out of their business purchases.
  4. Consumers are sharing email content on social networks. About 37.0% of respondents said they share email content on Facebook or Twitter. Companies that aren't providing social sharing tools within their email messaging are missing out on a huge opportunity—and one that's only going to continue to grow as people continue merging personal and business on social media, Phelan said.
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