What you can learn from consumer marketers

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 Interactive agencies are the first to admit it: When it comes to marketing innovation, business-to-consumer marketers are more willing to take risks in both design and content. In fact, there's plenty that b-to-b e-mail marketers can learn from their b-to-c brethren, said Russ Garter, director of CheetahMail's client services and Lana McGilvray, VP of marketing for Skylist. Here are some simple tricks you can borrow.

—Integrate your efforts. Take a look at your e-mail messaging. Is it tied in with what you're doing offline? Is it tied in with your display advertising? For the majority of b-to-b companies, that answer is no, McGilvray said. "E-mail marketing should be incorporated into the multichannel framework," she said. That also means it should be well integrated with your sales force management software and customer database.

—Target messages to shorten the sales cycle. Last holiday season, retailers used Web site analytics to send more targeted e-mails. Customers, who leave visible click trails, received triggered e-mails about the last few things they viewed. B-to-b marketers can and should be doing the same thing, Garter said. "It's just starting to happen more on the b-to-b side. The best example we've seen is in financial services, where companies send e-mails to remind customers where they are in the buying cycle."

—Entertain your customers. Take a look at your last marketing message. Was it exciting, or simply a static, information-heavy message? Sure, customers need the facts in order to make a buying decision, but that doesn't mean you can't present it in an interesting fashion, McGilvray said. "B-to-c marketers tend to be a little ahead of market because [they’re] trying to make direct sales and create more compelling creative messages that seduce their audience," she said. "Take eDiets. They will send consumers personalized diets that include a shopping list that is based on their own preferences and caloric needs. They are providing something exciting and personalized, but they're also trying to create a dialogue instead of a one-way conversation."

—Remember your customers. B-to-c marketers don't deal in prospects and customers, they deal in relationships. They remember the last purchases a customer made, remind them of future birthdays, and even nudge them when their favorite products go on sale. B-to-b marketers can do the same, Garter said. "Remind customers of how much they purchased last time and how much they purchased in relation to their size," he said. "It reinforces that you know who they are and how you can meet their needs."

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