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What are some techniques marketers can use to make their e-mail marketing more conversational?

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As the buyer takes control of the purchase process, marketing's job becomes one of synchronizing its activities with the buyer's process to: (a) Stay top of mind; (b) build propensity for the brand; and (c) accelerate the buying cycle, if possible. Traditional “batch and blast” e-mail marketing strategies no longer cut it. Today, marketers need to think “outside the inbox” and have conversations with prospects—watching specific behaviors and reacting with the appropriate responses. Here are six tips how to accomplish that:

1. Mix up your campaign styles and methods. Send some from marketing and some that appear to come from a specific sales rep. You'd be surprised how receptive people can be when they know the message is coming from a real person.

2. Segment based on behaviors. Combine the “standard” segmentation approaches (lead source, industry, etc.) with behavioral data (who opened an e-mail, downloaded an offer, spent more than 30 minutes on your site and visited more than three pages). According to JupiterResearch, this can increase conversions by 350%.

3. An e-mail message is called a “message” for a reason. Use A/B testing in your e-mails to see which messages resonate with your audience.

4. Use “check-in” e-mails to build your relationships. Prospects and customers will appreciate a “check-in” e-mail from you or a sales rep every once in a while. These are great opportunities for you to ask how you're doing as a company and ensure that your e-mail communications are useful and informative. Ask what they find most useful about your specific programs and what they'd like to see in the future.

5. Move beyond open and click-through rates. Measure success based on where prospects go on your Web site and how often they visit.

6. Automate what you can, and leave more time for creativity and strategy. Use your marketing automation solution as the extra marketing resource you never had. Let it keep track of which e-mail to send.

Jon Miller is VP-marketing at Marketo (www.marketo.com), a provider of marketing automation software.

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