BtoB

Engage prospects while guiding them through buying process

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Question: What's the best way to nurture leads through an e-mail marketing campaign? Answer: The key to successful lead nurturing is to move away from the traditional mindset that one can generate demand from prospects and to realize that customers control the buying process and will tune out, screen out or toss out any marketing that isn't relevant to their needs. Today, the marketer's job is to synchronize marketing activities to the buyer's process. This means moving from a “demand generation” mindset to one of “demand management” or “demand facilitation.” The key to this is relevance, which we all know means sending the right message at the right time. Here are three key tactics b-to-b marketers can use to increase relevance: ??Use segmentation to target messages to the right customers. It's important that you segment not just based on demographics, such as job title and industry, but also on prospect behaviors, such as visiting specific pages on your Web site. ??Use e-mail dialogs, also called “drip marketing” campaigns, to deliver the right message at the right time. Even simple automated programs can yield a fourfold improvement in the percent of marketing inquiries that eventually turn into sales opportunities. The key is to define and automate the process so you ensure that the right message is delivered to prospects based on where they are in their buying process. ??Trigger the e-mails based on specific customer behaviors—for example, registering for a webinar or engaging in various activities on your site. By integrating this level of data into your e-mail targeting, you can obtain dramatically higher response rates. JupiterResearch reported in late 2006 that targeting e-mails based on Web click-stream data increased open rates by more than 50% and increased conversion rates by more than 350%. Similar research from Gartner Inc. found that event-triggered campaigns performed five times better than traditional batch campaigns. Jon Miller is VP-marketing for Marketo (www.marketo.com), a provider of marketing automation software. Originally published July 24, 2008 Question: How can I shorten the selling cycle and ensure a customer selects my product? Answer: Information is power. And today's Internet-savvy buyer has more of it than ever before. If you are not equipped to engage and inform buyers when they are in research mode, you are at a competitive disadvantage. Use the triangle offense of one-to-one marketing to tilt the scales in your favor. ??Use organic search to attract buyers to your Web site. Identify the keywords used to research similar and competing products; then ensure that these keywords appear throughout your Web site and are used in your company's blogging strategy. ??Design your Web site to engage visitors. Adopt a “serve, don't sell” approach; buyers want to serve themselves by accessing information that helps them make smarter decisions. Provide internal search functionality to make it easy for customers to find what they need. Also, invite visitors to become e-mail subscribers. Don't just ask for e-mail addresses; give them a reason to subscribe. Show them an example of what they will receive, and have the subscriber list their needs and interests. ??Use e-mail to educate and inform the buyer. Integrate e-mail and CRM systems. This can accelerate the buying process by delivering information that aids the decision-making process to the buyer. Also, use a customer profile or preference center to capture specific attributes related to current product usage as well as product needs and interests. Explain why you are asking for this information and how it will be used to personalize e-mail content. Doing so will send a clear message to the customer that you care. At the end of the day, people buy from people they trust. The sooner you earn that trust, the better. And with buying cycles becoming longer, marketing and sales success will be measured by how quickly buyers are engaged and how well they are served. Joel Book is director of e-marketing education for ExactTarget (www.exacttarget.com), a provider of software, services and integrated solutions for e-mail communications. Originally published June 26, 2008
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