Borrowing from b-to-c e-mail marketers

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B-to-b audiences have very little in common with b-to-c audiences—at least on the surface, said Ben Rothfield, global director of marketing strategy for Acxiom, a provider of interactive marketing services. But when you dig a little deeper, you'll see that the two look a lot alike.

“Every b-to-b prospect is, at some point in their lives, being marketing to as a consumer,” he said. “It's very likely that they are getting e-mails from Amazon or Netflix that meet their needs and do a tremendous job of giving them what they want. People like getting e-mail from trusted brands. You have to make your brand one of them.”

Here are three strategies that b-to-b marketers should feel comfortable borrowing from their b-to-c brethren, Rothfield said.

  1. Consider customers' lifetime value, not just how much you can sell them today. Marketers are often so focused on the campaign at hand that they target their entire list with a specific offer. But that can be a big mistake, Rothfield said, just as sticking to a schedule can also backfire. “You might have someone who is primed to make a purchase, and so sending them two or three e-mails [one] right after another might make perfect sense, while sending even one to a customer who is not as far along in the sales cycle might make them opt out,” he said. Use analytics to segment your list by demographics and product interest, as well as where they are in the sales cycle, he said.
  2. Give them ammunition, not just a good deal. Think about making a big purchase at home. If you are living with someone, you don't want to simply tell that person which flat screen TV you want; you need to explain why one is better than the other and why it's worth purchasing to begin with. B-to-b marketers need to give their prospects the same type of information so they can garner the permission from their significant others: their purchasing agents or C-level executives. “Just as a b-to-c marketer concentrates on why you actually need their item, you as a b-to-b marketer have to do the same thing,” Rothfield said. Give them as much data as you can in the form of white papers, demonstrations, links to a new video testimonial or comparison sheets.
  3. Know the difference between a subscription center and a preference center. The two terms are not interchangeable, Rothfield said, something that b-to-c marketers know and use to their advantage. A preference center is a tool that enables individuals to tell you exactly what they are interested in and who they are—what job functions they hold, what industry they are in and what products they already own. A subscription center is a tool to let people opt to receive specific types of marketing programs, such as newsletters, one-off communications and messages from third parties. “The prospect could stand up and say, ‘Yes, I'd like to receive your e-mail newsletter about trucking,' using a subscription center,” Rothfield said. Both are useful in their own right, which is why most b-to-c marketers offer their subscribers access to both. “If you're only going to offer one, we're big fans of the preference center since you're going to get a lot more actionable data from a preference center,” he said.
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