How can I differentiate my e-mail newsletter from my competitors?

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Most e-mail newsletters today look pretty much the same, so how can you distinguish yours from your competitors'? By using behavioral targeting to learn more about what customers want and giving it to them. B-to-b e-mailers work with shorter customer lists and often longer sales cycles than their b-to-c counterparts, but that doesn't mean they should be tempted to oversaturate their most valuable customers with a deluge of nontargeted email. Behaviorally targeted messages provide better response and can even be credited with shortening sales cycles.

The easiest way to obtain behavioral targeting data is through the reporting capabilities of your e-mail marketing campaign tool: what customers open and what exactly they click on. Targeting messages based on open or click-through activity allows you to communicate with your most engaged audience on topics they've already indicated are important. A more sophisticated way to get behavioral targeting data is to integrate your e-mail program with a Web analytics application. Besides providing revenue data on an e-mail campaign, Web analytics give you postclick data and site abandonment numbers you can tie back to e-mail targeting.

The easiest behavioral targeting technique to implement involves all the data you have at your disposal. Categorize the different article types in your newsletter. Then for recipients who've clicked on a particular type, use the dynamic content feature in your e-mail campaign management tool to deliver another article of the same type at the top of the next newsletter. This way, they'll see the topic of greatest interest to them in the inbox preview pane.

Once you've attempted this easy behavioral targeting technique in your b-to-b newsletter, experiment with open and postclick data. And remember, dynamic content isn't reserved only for text. It can also be images and links.

Tricia Robinson-Pridemore is VP-market and product strategy for StrongMail Systems, a provider of e-mail marketing solutions.

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