B2B Email Best Practices
The ad tech industry is abuzz with emerging technologies and new techniques, but email marketing remains one of the most important tools in the B2B marketer’s toolbox. The cornerstone of today’s business communications, email goes out at the rate of over 122 billion messages every hour, and 68 percent of marketers say that email marketing is vital to their business.
That said, email marketing in 2014 is not the same as it was in the ‘90s. Here are current best practices for B2B marketers looking to leverage email for customer engagement, acquisition, retention, CRM and more.
Make subject lines count. The subject line is the very first interaction your customers have with your message, so craft it carefully to encourage them to actually open the email. It should be short, benefits-driven and compelling. Self-service email provider MailChimp recommends 50 characters or less, and—though your grade school composition teacher may cringe—don’t waste valuable space on unnecessary punctuation. We’ve also found that capitalizing the important words lifts engagement, and that recipients are 22 percent more likely to open emails addressed to them by name.
Content is (obviously) key. This may sound like a no-brainer, but your email’s content should also adhere to certain best practices. Keep it clear and concise. Also be sure that it actually delivers on the promise of the subject line. And keep the salesy stuff out of it. It’s a marketing message, but don’t beat users over the head. Don’t focus only on yourself; asking questions within the body of the email message has been shown to boost customer interest and click-through rates.
Go with eye-catching creative. This also sounds obvious, but many B2B marketers eschew color and design elements in favor of a more “professional looking” black and white, text-heavy message when, actually, a little color goes a long way toward capturing interest and driving action. We don’t recommend neon green letters and flashing banners, but we’ve found that orange and red are colors that pop, especially for Call To Action buttons. Also, those buttons are more likely to get clicked if they are placed either at the beginning of the message, the end, or both.
Test, test, test. Who cares how beautiful or compelling the email is if it never actually makes it to the inbox? Be sure to regularly test delivery rates to avoid getting stuck in spam filters, which can be even stricter for some corporate domains. Also, regularly conduct A/B testing to optimize campaign performance and surface any issues.
Go mobile. Your B2B prospects are doing business on their smartphones and tablets, so if your design isn’t optimized for mobile and responsive to action via mobile devices, you’re way behind the curve. This is no longer optional.
Email is still one of the most effective ways to engage on a one-to-one basis with B2B customers and prospects, but it is important to understand how your B2B audiences use and respond to email in general in order to actually begin that dialogue and maintain it over the lifecycle of that customer. Keep your communications concise, benefit-oriented, eye-catching and device-agnostic and you’re sure to reap the rewards of this tried and true channel.
3 Essentials of Cross-Device Direct Marketing
We’ve seen astounding changes in consumer media behavior lately. Digital research company comScore reports that 51% of a person’s total digital media time is now spent on smart phones and tablets. The always connected consumer creates new challenges and VAST new marketing opportunities for direct marketers.
Just as PCs required different marketing strategies and techniques from DRTV and direct mail, so too does the growth in mobile require us to rethink our strategies and tactics. Fortunately, “going cross-device” needn’t feel daunting if you remember three simple principles for doing it right:
1. Start with a 360 view of the consumer.
With digital we can effectively observe consumer behavior in unique ways. But most targeting solutions base their decision-making solely on a person’s PC activity. Given that PCs now represent a minority of total time spent on the Internet, it’s easy to see how PC-only data results in an incomplete customer profile.
Granted, it is more difficult to track mobile activity owing to issues with cookies in mobile applications and 3rd party cookies in Apple’s iOS operating systems. But technology has advanced, and the best solutions providers can now combine a user’s PC, smartphone and tablet activity into a single, rich customer profile. By analyzing such profiles you can pinpoint ideal target audiences as well as each person’s stage in the buying process.
There’s something else to consider. Most people think about running integrated PC, smartphone and tablet campaigns when they think of “cross-device.” Such campaigns have been proven highly effective. But you can also use your 360 cross-device data for targeting and then execute your advertising in just one channel, like PC or mobile. This can be a good way to get your feet wet before you commit to broader creative development and media buying.
2. Connect with Users on Their Terms
Marketing success is all about right person|right time|right message. In digital that means that you need to ensure that the message you deliver comes to them when they are most likely to care about it, and that the desired action is conducive to the strengths of the device they are using.
Different devices have different interactive strengths. Phones are great for on the go. PCs for content creation. Tablets for viewing content. Make sure that you leverage the strengths of each device in the messages you deliver. For instance, give people ways to find a store in a mobile ad. Rely on PC for online sales, because people are more likely to make purchases on this platform due to easier data entry. Showcase product shots and videos in tablet executions.
3. Use Every Campaign as a Learning Opportunity
Direct marketers are all about metrics and results. Reporting is essential to doing cross-device right. But you should also be learning about the specific cross-device behaviors of your particular customers with each campaign. The more we understand our audiences, the better we can design our programs to perform.
Doing cross-device right requires techniques that are a departure for many direct marketers. But the results are worth the change. My company recently conducted testing that compared single device campaigns with cross-device campaigns that used a 360 customer view. The results showed enormous increases in both engagement and conversion rates.
With figures like those, it makes sense for you to “take your brand cross-device” ASAP.
Your Email Reputation Depends on These Top 10 Must-Knows
Email marketing is still a top priority for marketers who seek leverage in their ability to target customers with relevant offers. But it’s very concerning when you realize 20% of emails don’t make it to the consumer’s inbox, according to data from ReturnPath.
Getting delivered requires some due diligence and care, but it also means giving consumers what they want. Web mail providers pay attention when consumers flag an email as spam, and when they leave the email unopened. Here are the 10 ways to improve your email marketing:
1. Email Append, Direct: Today, it’s a risky move to append email addresses to your database and then email those customers without an opt-in. Many email service providers will not allow their customers to use this method, because it can hurt the sender reputation.
2. Email Append, Indirect: Appending your list to a third party list and emailing customers through the third party is still okay—on the surface. However, it’s highly recommended that you use a positive opt-in method, requiring the customer to click on a link and give their permission.
3. Email Change of Address (ECOA): This service, which is not recommended, provides a new email address if old one is no longer working. While the majority of consumers have more than one email address, it’s important to remember that email permission is based on a particular email address, not a customer record. When the email address goes bad, so does your permission.
4. Cleansing: Take a hard look at your list. Remove those hard bounces and any soft bounces that have occured a few times. When you send emails to bad addresses again and again, it hurts your reputation, wastes your money and impacts your ROI.
5. Filter Out Inactives: Consider only communicating with customers who have engaged (via opens or clicks, for example) with you in the past 90 days This keeps your list fresh, improves your metrics and mitigates any deliverability impact of using old addresses.
6. Email Verification of Address (EVOA): Use EVOA to verify that email addresses are correct. Give your subscriber an opportunity to fix them, in real-time if possible.
7. Organic Acquisition: Look across your customer’s touch points with your brand and find opportunities to offer an opt-in. Look at web sites, social networks or even in-store locations. Build your list with customers who indicate that they want to receive your messages, to ensure relevancy.
8. Preference Center: Create a preference center to give subscribers the ability to change their frequency, channel or content types. Put them in control of the message.
9. Monitor Delivery: Watch your email’s performance, by campaign and in aggregate. Watch for trends that indicate emails are not being delivered—and act quickly.
10. Mobile: As more consumers move toward mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, leverage mobile-aware emails to ensure relevancy based on the device they are viewed on, as well as the content they deliver.
Remember that your subscribers are interested in your message, but it’s easy to lose their love. Relevant messages that matter will keep them opening and clicking, and will help you maintain a good email sender reputation—in a world where reputation is everything.
Omnichannel has been buzzing for over a year and still hasn’t lost its ring. Yet, despite the fact that we are surrounded with omnichannel references every day, the concept still seems slightly out of reach. What really is omnichannel? How do we achieve it? What’s holding us back? What about our audiences?
Beyond defining omnichannel and the challenges that accompany it, all marketers need to first and foremost place their omnichannel goals in the context of their audiences. Today, what audiences want most is content, and a seamless content experience across all of their devices. From online shows, to ecommerce transactions, and even social media personalities’ accounts, content has the ability to bridge the gap between brand and audience in this new omnichannel world.
One of the major challenges is that there are still some questions around the meaning of omnichannel. Essentially, omni means “all.” Channel in this context is a “means of communication.”
What Is Omnichannel?
Here is how we characterize it at Paradysz and PM Digital:
- A holistic, comprehensive organizing principle to achieve customer-centric foundations.
- The development of campaigns from the point of view of the customer.
- Content driven by unique customer behaviors and histories.
What Is Omnichannel Not?
Omnichannel is not:
- Multiple channels operating in isolation.
- The development of campaigns from the perspective of the brand.
- Content and campaigns specific to only shopping.
A true omnichannel approach puts customers at the center of a brand’s marketing efforts. Not only will this approach allow marketers to analyze their efforts in context of the whole picture, but it empowers them to build out the right recipe for particular customer segments. It no longer suffices to create separate experiences and silos of content across various subject areas, channels and devices. Consumers demand comprehensive experiences without breakage points, allowing them to seamlessly interact with brands on their terms.
Build a Dashboard
A step in the right direction is the ability to build dashboards that can help you understand programs across channels. Dashboards that are successful have the following characteristics:
- Scale up to executive level, and drill down to campaign, channel and customer segmentation.
- Real-time interactive filters that accommodate questions and issues as they occur.
- Comprehensive displays of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) across goals and budgets.
Developing an omnichannel strategy is complex, but well worth the effort.
Digital Printing: Dynamic, Innovative, Flexible
Digital Printing: Dynamic, Innovative, Flexible and the Wave of the Future
Every day someone is talking about digital, and for each person it can mean something different. In general, digital means communication and distribution of knowledge through a variety of channels including on the computer, a mobile device, television, video, and audio. In other words, anything that’s electronic. The word also connotes communications that are efficient, immediate and impactful.
In the marketing world, digital means connecting with targeted audiences without borders. In the printing world, it’s a means of printing where the images can be the same or variable from piece to piece.
Although digital printing presses have been around since the early 1990s, they are constantly evolving. In the past 10 years as the quality, speed and price points have improved, the marketplace has been more and more accepting of this format. And it’s no secret that all printing today starts in someone’s computer.
How does digital printing work? Basically, on the press, a digital image goes into a computer and is then transferred onto a variety of surfaces and/or paper stocks, allowing files to be quickly and economically printed, usually in short run quantities of 5,000 or less—although this is changing. This approach compares to color offset printing, commonly used for high-volume commercial work, which involves preparing and printing the artwork through a time consuming pre-press plate process that allows for very little flexibility.
So what does this mean to a marketer in today’s fast-paced environment? It means that digital printing not only has arrived, it’s definitely the wave of the future. To ride the wave, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Digital technology is a vital means of communication. The use of digital technology is an absolute must in this age of targeting the customer and providing that customer with the information he or she will respond to.
Digital printing has become more competitive. Compared with traditional printing, digital printing becomes more competitive as the number of versions increase, and costs go down. Until recently, the quantities were typically limited, but as new technology has come on the market, variable imaged programs are run as trigger campaigns and produced as the customer defines the criteria.
Be aware of the paper stock used for the campaign. Whenever technology changes rapidly, it’s always a scramble to keep up with the ramifications. In the case of inkjet technology, the paper companies are in some cases still trying to figure out how to provide the right stock to the printer. Marketers should make sure they are in the loop on this topic.
Think through the whole campaign from beginning to end. Digital printing provides the opportunity to use various marketing channels and make electronic changes on the fly. As a result, it’s even more important to carefully think through a whole campaign. The best advice is to work closely with your printing provider to take advantage of that provider’s technology, scalability and flexibility.