Answer: We all know that, when compared to business-to-consumer e-mail marketing, b-to-b e-mail efforts require vastly different strategies and goals. What many marketers don’t consider, however, is how recipients’ use of the in-box has changed over the years.
With the seemingly never-ending flow of spam over the years and the advent of new forms of communication competing with e-mail (such as RSS), the way in which people use their in-boxes has matured. Many people are now using the in-box as a “to-do” list, or a place to archive important information for later reference. They may hold on to an e-mail containing a white paper that might be useful for an upcoming project. Marketers must understand what entices a recipient to keep an e-mail in their in-box. Doing so will not only increase conversions but will also provide you with multiple brand impressions and a good shot at increasing your share of the inbox in the long term.
One way to get started is to rethink relevance. It is always important with e-mail to ensure your messages contain content relevant to the recipient. However, the real opportunity lies in approaching relevance based on the understanding of the way people use e-mail today. Start by determining which stage of the buying cycle the recipient is in and tailor messages and content based on that information.
For example, if someone is early in the buying process, you would likely want to educate them on the industry (i.e., white papers, best practices or information on how you differ from competitors) and the benefits of your products before sending them offers to buy. If your e-mail is relevant enough to that person at that particular time, chances are that it will be saved as a reference material. As those recipients move further along the path to buying, you will increase your share of the in-box by beginning to provide them with different offers or information.
After that, consider taking the typical e-mail metrics one step further to determine and build on your share of the in-box. Consistently measure how many times recipients are opening your e-mails, what content appears to be appealing to them and which e-mails seem to stay in their in-box the longest so you can tweak and improve your campaigns.
Identifying where a customer is in the buying cycle and overlaying that with the understanding of how people are using their in-boxes today will allow you to create timely e-mails that your customers will keep in their in-boxes for longer periods of time—meaning more brand impressions for you.
Ryan Tuttle is VP-client services for Spunlogic (www.spunlogic.com), an interactive marketing agency.