Despite what inbound marketing experts may tell you, email and other “outbound marketing” tactics continue to play a big role in the success of most B2B demand generation programs.
In fact, email has now become the preferred communications channel for business.
Don’t believe it? Consider the number of emails sent. The Radicati Group, a technology market research firm, estimated the number of emails sent per day in 2009 to be around 247 billion. Some email experts estimate that number will nearly double for 2010. Aside from all the unsolicited commercial email they receive, BtoB Magazine reports that in 2010 business people will have each received 5,000 opted-in emails into their inboxes, and that is expected to increase to north of 9,000 per person by 2013.
The problem is that huge volume of email is making it increasingly difficult to get your emails delivered, read and responded to by your prospective customers.
The foundation of your email marketing success today is getting your emails delivered using email marketing best practices.
However, your success is even more dependent on getting you emails read and responded to. Repeated, one-size-fits all, “batch and blast” emails may have worked in the past, but today relevancy and timing are critical factors in your success with using email to drive demand, generate leads and close sales.
Email can be used for lead generation, but it is also an ideal communication channel for responding to, nurturing and qualifying inquiries, including those that come from social media, blogs, search engine marketing and other “inbound marketing” tactics.
That’s also where email marketing automation can give you an edge.
Email marketing automation solutions allow you to deliver the right messages and offers to the right people at the right time.
In other words, it makes it possible to implement one-to-many marketing programs that look, feel and get results like only one-to-one marketing could do in the past. And it does it automatically, saving you time, hassle and money. Here’s how:
- With marketing automation, different messages can be sent to different people, allowing for more personalized offers to be distributed at different times or frequencies, depending on the prospects’ firmographics (company information), demographics (contact information), where they are in the buying process and their buying behavior (downloading, attending, etc.)
- Marketing automation campaigns and related follow-up can be triggered automatically when new names are added to the database or when prospects take an action or fail to take action.
- Prospects can move automatically from one marketing automation campaign to another when appropriate (e.g. moving from a “suspect to inquiry” campaign to an “inquiry to Marketing Qualified Lead” campaign).
- Leads can be scored and qualified as information is gathered based on their visits to landing pages, forms they have completed and behavioral tracking (e.g. Web pages visited, offers downloaded, events attended)
- Qualified leads can be passed automatically from your marketing automation system to your CRM system, alerting salespeople to follow up on sales-ready, marketing-qualified leads.
- The marketing automation system, integrated with your CRM system, can provide “campaign to cash” closed-loop analytics on activity, results and ROI.
- Those same analytics can be used to evaluate marketing-automation-driven campaigns and facilitate continuous improvement.
Unless you are communicating with a very small group of prospects, it’s virtually impossible to tackle any of the above manually!
When it comes to putting marketing automation to work, you’ll want to start simply.
When faced with all the possibilities presented by marketing automation, it is best to take things a step at a time. You could call it a “crawl, walk, then run” approach:
- Start by selecting a top-tier Email Service Provider (ESP) that has a team dedicated to deliverability and allows you to add marketing automation features and functionality when you are ready for it.
- Migrate from one-shot campaigns to multi-touch campaigns.
- Develop campaign-specific landing pages that have a look and feel similar to the emails themselves. Be sure to keep the number of questions in the response form to a minimum.
- Instead of asking prospects to marry you on the first date, make different offers or calls-to-action designed to appeal to prospects at different stages of their buying process and start to engage them in a sales-winning relationship.
- Develop campaigns with specific objectives such as engaging “suspects” who haven’t yet inquired, qualifying inquiries, or nurturing not-yet-qualified or longer-term prospects.
- Next, split off specific segments (e.g. healthcare vs. manufacturing or large companies vs. small companies), then adapt campaigns for each.
- Once you’ve got all that up and running smoothly, you can consider developing campaigns triggered by a prospect's behavior (e.g. visited the pricing Web page).
- Finally, turn on progressive profiling, allowing you to ask for answers to questions that are relevant to the action they took, rather than asking them to answer questions that have little to do with what sent them to the landing page in the first place.