Is Email Marketing Down and Out?


UK-25Simon Lawrence, pictured, shares his view of email marketing as a part of the modern marketing mix.

“With B2B buyers getting 60% of the way through the decision making process before engaging with a business, it is vital to cut through and make contact before you’ve been discounted!”

Traditionally this was always done via direct mail, with marketers crafting print sales material to be distributed right to the buyer’s desk. However, just when Direct Mail was starting to become more targeted, personalised, and effective the recession hit, and everyone jumped on the email bandwagon. It was cheaper, easier and seemed to have much more potential. With email, businesses could easily set up campaigns which could be distributed to a wide audience for a relatively low cost. People were finding elements of telemarketing rather intrusive, and email seemed to tick all of the boxes for B2B marketers.

Fast forward to now, and can you remember the last time you checked your inbox and there wasn’t any ‘spam’ sales email? And how long each day do you spend deleting emails that don’t interest you? Businesses quickly began bombarding anyone and everyone with countless blanket emails, quickly filling up inboxes all over the country. Permission marketing became ‘carte blanche’ marketing.  As time has passed, the smarter B2B buyer has struck again and wised up to email spammers. Their resistance to ‘being sold to’ has risen, and their responses to email marketing has changed completely. They aren’t responding to untargeted, irrelevant emails – they want to feel special! But don’t give up yet – although another bandwagon may be approaching, there is still a lot of potential to be had from email marketing (if it is done properly!) The Direct Marketing Association agrees, claiming that email marketing is still capable of achieving significant ROI. It’s important to consider that even though ROI in general for email marketing may have dropped, it is still cheaper and easier than other forms of marketing. And, when considering cost per sale rather than cost per response it is clear how valuable email is as a marketing tool. What’s more, the benefits are crucial, with businesses able to track recipients behaviour, then use that information to construct future activity.

The first obstacle businesses have to face is getting the customer or prospect to open the email in the first place! If they don’t recognise the sender or if they don’t resonate with the subject line, they are unlikely to open the email. And once you’ve been demoted to a junk folder, caught by a spam filter, deleted or they’ve unsubscribed, you’ve lost the battle and no lead had been generated. The proof is in the personalisation – did you know thatpersonalised subject lines are 22.2% more likely to be opened? Responsys reported in 2014 that using customer data to better craft your campaigns can increase open rates by more than 70% and click-through rates by more than 55%. Beyond the subject line, you also need to keep people engaged with your emails through insightful content. Content is the key factor within email marketing, as a prospect engaging with your content can signal the beginning of a relationship.

Content within an email marketing campaign needs to be personalised and targeted. When we think about the process of B2B it is key to consider who is involved in the purchasing decision of the product or service you are marketing. It is incredibly rare that one person would be taking the sole responsibility of making a purchase decision, the DMU (Decision Making Unit) is likely to be made up of people across the organisation. In a smaller business you might be looking at the Managing Director along with a functional head, for example an IT manager. Whereas in a larger business you might be concerned with a functional budget holder (with perhaps various influencers from their functional team), a Financial Director, a Managing Director, a Sales Director and many more. With large businesses it’s also wise to consider who may be able to stop or block purchasing decisions as well as include them!

As you can imagine, all of these people involved in a purchasing decision are likely to all make decisions in different ways. They will have different ideas, concerns and considerations when it comes to spending budget (and probably a list of preferred suppliers too!) In other words, you need to treat each of them as an individual and work towards creating tailored, relevant and targeted messages that are able to cut through and catch each of their attention if you’re to be successful.

But segmentation can go much further – even in B2B, development of a behavioural or values based segmentation can create a much better level of engagement. This will not only provide personalised, relevant content, but also fine tuned imagery and copy treatment. For instance, we know that ‘passionate’ small business leaders are more emotional by nature, and like cool brands and messages about great service – as opposed to the less emotional ‘analytical’  characters who need and want  technical information. Sending technical information to the former and brand information to the latter isn’t likely to get great results.

Email is not a tool to be considered in isolation.  When used properly, email marketing can be incredibly successful, playing a key part in the broader marketing mix – the power to gain access to people’s exact response to your marketing material should not be overlooked either. It’s all about determining how, and at what level, your prospects and customers are ready to be engaged with and how people prefer to do business. In other words, insight.

Simon Lawrence is founder and CEO of Uncommon Knowledge. 


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