Meanwhile, another alternative e-mail vehicle has also emerged, but only a handful of b-to-b marketers are taking advantage of it. “B-to-b companies need to think about creating pages within the social networks, such as Facebook, so clients can become fans of their products and set up preferences on how they want to be messaged,” Daniels said. For example, if a prospect was “friends” with your brand on Facebook or part of your Facebook group, you could send them from that application messages both that are expected and that represent a mode through which people increasingly like to be approached, Daniels said.
Companies are also missing out if they aren't making such things as blogs and podcasts visible and available—and cross-pollinating those vehicles with e-newsletters as well as other marketing links and opportunities, said VerticalResponse's Popick.
But even before you can do this, said Rob Becker, VP-relationship marketing at interactive agency imc², you need to let those on your lists specify exactly when and how they wish to be contacted.
“When we're thinking about how to get people to participate more with e-mail marketing, Becker said, we look at Forrester [Research's] "Four I's of Engagement': intimacy, involvement, interaction and influence. You've got to be both proactive and reactive when it comes to e-mail marketing.”
One of the first places to start, he added, is list management because b-to-b marketers don't spend enough time assessing and segmenting lists. It's not enough to segment by demographics or vertical market. Customers and prospects should be sliced and diced by engagement as well. While splitting lists into categories—such as prospects, current customers and past customers—is good, an even better strategy is speaking to different subsections based on when they last opened, clicked or responded to a message.
The lists should also be centrally maintained. Today, too many companies have multiple databases scattered throughout departments. Salespeople in particular may feel especially territorial about their lists, not wanting to release control over their prospect and customer bases. But keeping lists separate allows marketing to the same person more than once and doesn't allow true lifecycle management.
“You should have a timeline based not just on where people are in the sales cycle but where they are in their relationship with your company,” said Huw Griffiths, marketing director of e-mail service provider Campaigner Email Marketing.
“Right from the point of engagement you should map out a schedule of communication. So day one, you send the thank-you message. Signup day plus one, you'd get another message. Signup plus 10, there would be another,” he said.
Along the way, triggered e-mails take precedence. And if you can merge Web or other marketing activities to triggered messaging, you'll create even more relevance, Griffiths said.
“This is also where CRM systems come in and why it's a best practice to have CRM tied to your e-mail marketing,” he said. “If someone requests more information or views a webinar, you want to notify the sales team and at the same time, send out an e-mail supporting that action.”
Finally, lists should be cleaned often, and completely unresponsive e-mail addresses removed to a dormant subcategory. When your pool becomes smaller, open rates and conversion rates naturally go up, while spam complaints and bounces go down.
Said imc²'s Becker: “About 40 to 60% of all lists are garbage.” M