How can an understanding of prospects’ Web activity help marketers better understand their audience and improve e-mail marketing?

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Understanding the buyer is critical for today’s marketers. Understanding what they are interested in, where they are in their buying cycle and what information they would like to receive allows us as marketers to better target our messaging in order to be seen as a valuable source of information in the buying process. Doing this requires understanding the buyers’ Web activity—their “digital body language” —in context of how you are communicating with them. Here are a few tips on key things to look for and how you can respond:
  1. Determine where the prospect is in the buying process. By looking at downloads, areas of interest, and search terms, you can understand whether they are in an education phase, selecting potential short-list vendors or validating a vendor choice. Once you understand this, you can tailor your e-mail marketing messages to match each buyer’s interest stage.
  2. Establish the prospect’s level of interest. Research shows that many e-mail recipients will think of an e-mail as spam—even if they legitimately subscribed—if they are no longer interested in the company or its products or services. By watching recipients’ Web activity, you can determine their interest level and identify those who have “emotionally unsubscribed,” even if they have not explicitly clicked an unsubscribe link. Catering your messaging content and frequency to this awareness will keep you more engaged with your audience.
  3. Ascertain the prospect’s area of interest. By understanding what product line, industry or type of information a prospective buyer finds interesting, you can match the content of your e-mail marketing to their interest area. Dynamic content capabilities are available in most leading e-mail and marketing automation platforms. By leveraging the insights available in a prospect’s Web activity, you can make dynamic content even more powerful.
Steve Woods is co-founder and chief technology officer of Eloqua Corp., a provider of marketing automation technology. He is the author of a forthcoming book, “Digital Body Language” (New Year Publishing, 2009), and also writes on the topic at his blog
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