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Email is the Foundation, but Not the Holy Grail for B2B Marketers

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by: Will Schnabel (@wschnabel)
16 September 2009

I was thrilled to see in the recent UK Internet Advertising Bureau's survey that email continues to be the leading choice in terms of usage and success within B2B marketing tactics. For those who understand the power of email, this is no surprise. Emailing is extremely cost effective, and done with an appropriate level of strategy, can provide highly relevant messaging. In fact, 45% of the research respondents felt email was the most suitable tactic for achieving their marketing objectives. The dynamically generated, triggered and targeted messaging available today can greatly help to engage prospective customers in meaningful dialogs, both pre and post-sale (fulfilling the old mantra of the right message to the right person at the right time). However, what I think the results from the IAB's research also highlights is in the world of digital marketing, email marketing expertise alone is not enough.

Marketer's tactics and channels are but a mirror to the various ways buyers are researching, educating, and selecting our brands and our products. Search continues to be the most popular starting point for any considered purchase. In the U.K., online continues to replace the traditional channels of print and DM. Accordingly, almost 40% of respondents from the IAB survey said they are planning to invest an even greater percentage of their budgets into digital for the coming year. However, as the other digital channels grow in popularity, we as marketers must continue to listen, respond, and coordinate these various digital dialogs. As my colleague Adam Needles writes, engaging in the 'buyer dialog,' especially across the digital channels, pays big dividends in terms of delivering qualified leads and sales opportunities.

As in other regions of the world, UK Marketers are fairly enamored with the growth in social media. The IAB survey found 60% of respondents are either using or planning to leverage social in their digital strategies. To make the most of social media, however, marketers need to consider the content strategy as much or more than the channel. As Mike Volpe, VP of Marketing for the fast growing inbound marketing provider Hubspot was quoted in a recent Britton Manasco post in, "marketers today need to think a lot less like advertisers and more like publishers."

As expected, the research also indicates that B2B marketers are leveraging digital channels primarily for lead generation and lead management, especially in this sales-starved economy. However, making the most of a "digital dialog" takes a strong internal process, as highlighted in a recent Demand Gen US study in which 79% of respondents who use marketing automation solutions for lead management say they it would have been more helpful is they had worked to "better prepare their organizations by building proper processes and content offers to feed the automated system."

Help is on the way, however, as leading marketing consultants like Carlos Hidalgo, provide lead management audits to find the process leaks and provide best practice guidance.

The next step in the evolution of online B2B marketing will be the powerful opportunity for developing not just short-term leads, but in cost-effectively building sustainable brands through these online channels. James Farmer from B2B Magazine states that there "is still a great deal of learning with regards to brand building online," and accordingly, his organization continues to promote various educational events around the U.K., helping B2B marketers understand and apply new online techniques.


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