Silverpop - Be Quiet and Start Listening: 3 Reasons to Start Building Relationships Before You Have an Email Address
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Be Quiet and Start Listening: 3 Reasons to Start Building Relationships Before You Have an Email Address

by: Dave Walters (@_DaveWalters)
12 September 2012

Great email marketing is becoming more like our own personal relationships every year. Very few people want a one-way street of communication, they value a diversity of content, and they want to know we’re listening and that we care. Sound impossible? It’s not, but it might require the average digital marketer to think in more behavior-related terms.

For more than a decade, we as digital marketers have been focused on building and delivering increasingly awesome email campaigns. We’ve tested and optimized creative, defined strong list growth strategies and made our reporting even more real-time. But there’s always been an invisible line we couldn’t move past – an Achilles’ heel that prevented us from identifying (or marketing to) unnamed prospects who visit our sites.

We’re not going to get too technical in today’s post, but the days of requiring an email address to create a record in the database have been over for a while. And data-driven marketers who understand that behaviors are strong indicators are moving toward what we call non-email-keyed (NEK) databases. In layman’s terms, that means a record can exist in our database before we have a user’s email address – in fact, it might be something as minimal as a Silverpop-created unique identifier.

The ability to effectively "listen" for behaviors on your website is powered by a platform’s integrated Web tracking capabilities. Again, we’re not going all the way down the technical rabbit hole, but Silverpop’s solution leverages a script you install on any of your websites (just like you would Google Analytics) that identifies new visitors to your website. Let’s take a look at three key reasons marketers love this functionality:

1) Visitor Source: If you’re an active social brand – or use banners to drive traffic from tools like Google AdWords – you have an eternal question around how these channels are performing and how they contribute to your marketing success. By leveraging Web tracking that features unique source code tracking by domain, you can automatically capture the site that drove the original visit directly in your Silverpop user record. When combined with all the other full-stack data you have on a named prospect, you can understand which sites produce the most profitable customers – and tailor your external spending to drive the most desirable site visitors.

2) Smarter Content Strategy: By identifying an anonymous Web visitor, marketers can begin to immediately understand how users consume their site content – and what drives sign-up. For example, a very common scenario is that lots of anonymous traffic arrives at your home page and browses the first level of your product information, but the second-level product content (like white papers or demos) is the primary driver of email opt-ins. Once anonymous visitors fill out a form (hopefully using their social credentials), their previous browsing history is appended to their new, named identity, and you can then begin a much more personalized dialogue via email.

3) One-to-One Campaigns: Once we’re addressing someone as a named prospect, the ability to enhance our message quality skyrockets. A wide range of our clients have multiple automated programs running that are listening for certain website and email behaviors as decision criteria to move to the next step (or even a separate track) within these programs.

For example, a classical B2B marketer with a six to 12-month sales cycle might be actively monitoring behavior that would indicate an increasing propensity to buy – variables like number of site visits, how many clicks on a specific email campaign, or even whether they’ve consumed specific content pieces that are strong buying indicators (think vendor comparisons or deeply technical white papers). By understanding the pace of interactions, and proactively using email communications to support and accelerate the process, many of our customers see the website becoming an increasingly important and quantifiable part of their pre-sales function.

So why spend the time and effort implementing these more advanced functions as opposed to continuing a batch-and-blast view of email marketing? There are lots of reasons, but the list should start with two simple ones: improved relevance and timeliness increases response rates dramatically, and automated programs can be running 24/7 without human intervention.

That’s not to say your standard monthly campaigns like a newsletter need to be blown up and reconfigured. In fact, I typically see marketers doing more proactive A/B testing of subject lines and leveraging our Send Time Optimization feature to improve standard monthly communications. Marketers looking to round-out their communications tactics and deepen their behavioral knowledge of their users are usually the first to take on Web tracking and non-email-keyed databases.

The bottom line is you’ll end up with better-performing and more engaged users if you allow them to begin the relationship on their own terms – as opposed to forcing an upfront ask for an email address so you start communicating. Let the user’s behaviors dictate the pace and content of your communications, and you’ll find that automated programs quickly become a critical part of your email marketing strategy.

Related Resources:
1) Blog: "Behavioral Marketing: What It Is and Why It's So Exciting"
2) Video: "Silverpop Web Tracking"
3) Tip Sheet: "From Lead Acquisition to Account Close: 3 Steps for Increased Insights into Your Lead Management Efforts"

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