What should b-to-b email marketers expect this year?

In the new year, marketers are looking to improve upon the past year's email efforts. To help marketers fine-tune email strategies, Jeff Nicholson highlights three trends for 2013.
  1. Opt-out will become a much more critical metric. In the past, marketers have often thought of email as "free", leading to extensive overmarketing. However, next year, businesses will have fewer opportunities to get email marketing wrong. When customers opt out, it cuts off the primary communication lifeline for driving revenue and retention. Customers will expect to have the opportunity to specify how, how many and how frequently they receive email messages. To deal with the expectations, businesses must give customers the opportunity to proactively "opt down" rather than "opt out." In order to decrease opt-out rates, businesses should focus on the following: 1) Customers want to receive emails in the frequency they prefer; 2) customers want to provide businesses permission in order to send a message; and 3) customers want email messages to be relevant to their needs.
  2. There will be an increase in the conversations that are occurring within businesses about who "owns" the customer. As it stands now, most organizations are very disjointed in their communications to customers, which is impacting both revenue and the customer experience. Businesses will need to fully understand that communications must be cohesive across all channels and will be increasingly looking to implement formal "customer governance" strategies which regulate the flow of messages to their customers. To do this effectively, a combination of both management conviction and technology will be required.
  3. Mobile devices will increasingly shape how we craft our message. Analyst Mary Meeker recently reported that global mobile traffic now accounts for 13% of Internet traffic. In line with this, a growing number of b-to-b target audiences are now accessing their email inboxes from their mobile devices rather than their PC clients alone. This trend will place a newfound emphasis upon crafting content, including highly concise, clear and engaging subject lines, which will become even more important to open rates. Businesses that don't get this right will find that emails will be immediately deleted and long-term customer relationships will suffer.
In today's "age of the customer," marketers must look to govern the feel, frequency and relevancy of their email communications to keep their customers engaged. This means recognition of both a shortened attention span, as well as the ease of opt-out, which await our messages if we don't take the proper steps to get it right. Jeff Nicholson is VP-product marketing of customer analytics and interaction at Pitney Bowes Software .
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