Category Archives: B2B

Content marketing’s underrated rocket fuel

Rocket being launched to represent the awesome power of email to supercharge your content

3, 2, 1…Send!?

When you launch a content campaign, you probably send an email to promote it to your database at some point. You might think that this email will only drive traffic from your current database, however my experience has taught me that by making email the first channel you launch on and with a little work, you can increase the conversion rate for people outside your database – i.e new visitors. And I don’t mean with the forward button.

It’s the momentum gained from that launch email that is so valuable, for 6 key reasons:

Email helps you optimise your landing page
The instant surge of traffic means you can split test, and optimise your landing page so the new customers that get there, are more likely to convert.

Button that says lift offEmail kickstarts social shares
If you carefully encourage your database to share your content on social networks, you can get almost instant social proof (i.e social share numbers displaying on your page) This has been proven to increase your conversion rate.

Email with social can get you indexed
These social shares will help your page get indexed by Google so if it’s optimised for particular keywords you’ll start to rank, and get your share of search traffic sooner.

Email testing helps you optimise all channels
If you’re split-testing, you can use the results of these tests to inform your headline, tweet content, ad creative and other persuasive copy for your webpage via the results of your email split test, to optimise everything!

Email triggers help you nurture content leads better
You can set up a series of automated campaigns that fire once a contact has converted that:

Include related content, so you can gauge interest in other topics and build a richer profile of that customer’s interests. This can help you score your leads.

Promote related products and services – hey, if you’re interested in a topic enough to download something, then you’re a reasonably warm lead – if not right now, in the future. So don’t miss the obvious opportunity to start nurturing them now.

An email campaign used to generate social shares

Click to view the full email

Email can help you get feedback
In addition, you can automate a campaign that asks readers to share your content or provide feedback. This example shown right asks for a Tweet, Google +1, or comment on our ‘Data Driven Email Marketing’ whitepaper. It’s worth asking, and even if it doesn’t result in a share, it at least gets readers onto your social channels.

I may be biased, working for dotMailer, but the numbers show that our content marketing campaigns wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful without email – via emailing our list and when promoted in 3rd party newsletters. I believe email is the best catalyst for the best content campaigns, capable of getting your campaign the kind of reach that you might pay a celebrity or ‘influencer’ for. Content marketers – don’t overlook it!

Opt-In & Opt-Out – Definitions of Consent according to the draft EU Data Protection Regulations

As a consumer, I am always in favour of legislation which seeks to protect individual freedoms, and reduce ambiguity in what organisations can and cannot do with my personal information. As a marketer too, it is important that the availability and use of a consumer’s personal information be governed by clear guidelines, and ends in a mutually beneficial result – at the bare bones of it; providing a customer with timely, relevant communications based on the data they have provided, at the same time as (hopefully) making a profit for the organisation I am working for.

The real worry is that the current draft of the European Union Data Protection Regulation, does the opposite by introducing more complexity and ambiguity than already exists, and potentially creates further issues which would not have surfaced if the status quo were maintained.

The verbatim definition of consent within the Regulation is as follows:

“…’the data subject’s consent’ means any freely given specific, informed and explicit indication of his or her wishes by which the data subject, either by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to personal data relating to them being processed…”
[http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2012:0011:FIN:EN:PDF Article 4 (8)]

Furthermore, the “Conditions for Consent” are laid out as follows:
1. “The controller shall bear the burden of proof for the data subject’s consent to the processing of their personal data for specified purposes.

2. If the data subject’s consent is to be given in the context of a written declaration which also concerns another matter, the requirement to give consent must be presented distinguishable in its appearance from this other matter.

3. The data subject shall have the right to withdraw his or her consent at any time. The withdrawal of consent shall not affect the lawfulness of processing based on consent before its withdrawal.

4. Consent shall not provide a legal basis for the processing, where there is a significant imbalance between the position of the data subject and the controller.”

[http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2012:0011:FIN:EN:PDF Article 7]

In the above, I have highlighted the key elements here – the Regulation is essentially saying that organisations need to obtain a clear and explicit statement/action by which a data subject provides consent. From an email permission-marketing best practice perspective, this is fine – however the Regulation does not address whether or not this would need to be retrospective for existing databases, and whether or not organisations would be able to contact customers with whom they have had previous interactions (as is currently permissible under the existing Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive – and, the majority of the time, expected by consumers).

This is completely disregarding whether or not those consumers actually want to be contacted, and if the “burden of proof” detailed above is an enforceable requirement (in a worse-case scenario) – then the Regulation is effectively saying organisations must delete said data if they cannot prove consent has been given explicitly! Then there’s the possibility of dispute over the meaning of “informed & explicit”… well, you can see where this is heading to – more ambiguity and less clarity.

Furthermore, there is an argument out there that this Regulation does not take into consideration the low risk use of Business-To-Business (B2B) data for marketing purposes – where, more often than not, a organisation would hold and process information on another organisation or group of members of staff, with perhaps multiple key decision makers – not an individual.

In summary, the intention is good but the detail is lacking – I strongly urge the legislators in Brussels to revise and alter the Regulation so that it can sit with the existing Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive They also need to focus on what the effect of the changes in the draft Regulation will be for both consumers and organisations.
To find out more about the consequences of this legislation passing unaltered, and the potential impact on your own business, take a look at http://dma.org.uk/eu-data-protection This site also provides information on how to take immediate action, by lobbying your regional MEPs.

Join us at the International Email Marketing Summit on May 16, 2012

Register now for this virtual summit and learn all about the latest trends and best practices in email marketing without leaving your desk!

And it won’t cost you a penny/eurocent/dollarcent/… 

The DMA is proud to be a sponsor of this, the very first edition of the International Email Marketing Summit.

Not only will you be inspired by the latest tactics that work but you’ll also take away a list of action items you can implement immediately.

Featured speakers

  • Dela Quist, Alchemy Worx
  • Dave Chaffey, Smart Insights
  • Tamara Gielen, Plan to Engage
  • Denise Cox, Newsweaver
  • Riaz Kanani, Alchemy Worx
  • Kath Pay, Plan to Engage
  • Arianna Galante, ContactLab
  • Tom Bailey, eCircle
  • James Bunting, Communicator
#IEMS speakers

What’s on the agenda?

  • Beyond just selling: engaging with your subscribers
  • 7 reasons why your subscribers don’t respond
  • Tips & tricks for designing emails for a mobile audience
  • Inactive Subscribers: Prospects or Problem?
  • Creating a successful content strategy for email marketing: 8 Easy Steps
  • and lots more…

Making Marketing Automation Magic

Over the years I have implemented automated programs and experienced the extraordinary results they can deliver – from cost saving and improved engagement to higher customer satisfaction levels. However marketing automation magic cannot be conjured up through software alone, and I would argue that the magic is not in its ostensibly “fast and easy-to-implement” software. I think the magic comes from within the tests and learnings within your existing email programs.

When driven by a solidly built customer-focused relationship marketing strategy, marketing automation can be a profitable lead generation and management device combining insight, processes and technology that helps to scale your lead management program. Sure, it can be super speedy to get up and running (ask any software vendor); it can include seemingly cool social behavioural insights and of course it can show results quickly. However getting there is anything BUT speedy, cool and quick (ask any revenue-focused marketer). One of my favourite no-nonsense blog posts last year is from Marketing Profs.: “Planning, detailed execution, and a thorough analysis are key to success. It’s not magic. You can’t just snap your fingers and “poof”― all your marketing campaigns and drip sequences have been put into place.” I couldn’t agree more.

So how do you create Marketing Automation Magic?

Try looking inside your long-running email marketing program. For some time now digital marketing mavens have been foretelling the demise of email marketing in favour of social sharing routes and yet, email is the very foundation and channel by which marketing automation is powered. Need convincing? Take a look at these statistics: Twitter sees about 140 million tweets per day. Email? 188 billion messages. And according to data from Forrester’s Q1 2011 North American B2B Technology Marketing Tactics and Benchmarks Online Survey, email marketing still ranks fifth in a range of 21 tactics that marketing professionals deploy to attract, engage, and persuade customers along the buying lifecycle. Therefore, understanding the behaviours generated by your past email newsletters and by analysing test and learn program results, marketing automation implementations can deliver real results quicker.

You’ve probably been sending monthly email newsletters regularly and have a wealth of information and learnings dating back years. Don’t treat your marketing automation implementation and your email marketing activities as mutually exclusive. Use the vast knowledge and insight sitting in your existing email marketing tool. For example, knowledge of the right format that drives the best results is just one of the insights that should be drawn into your marketing automation plan. If you have been advancing your email marketing program over the last couple of years, you already have insights to drive best-in-class automation:

  • Mobile usage across your customer base
  • Social interactions and behaviours
  • Website behavioural metrics
  • Timing and content insights by customer segment
  • Revenue generators by content segment

An excellent case study is Citrix’s Anti-newsletter Strategy that employed learnings from their email marketing program and applied them to their automation program. What they learned from their quarterly email newsletter helped drive success in their automation efforts.

Three stages to developing an email marketing strategy

Developing a good email marketing strategy can be a daunting task. To help you get some perspective, here are 3 key stages to keep you on track.

Develop a customer centric communications strategy.

I know this can be a bit of an overused statement, but to make the email channel work in the modern environment of priority inboxes’ etc it is vital. Focusing on the needs and motivations of the customer as they would relate to your brand is a great place to start. If you are going to be talking to the customer and expect them to engage, purchase or become loyal as a response, you’ve got to say the right things. This can’t be done at a campaign tactical level, when the heats on to get more sales to hit target; it needs to be part of an overriding communications strategy. This strategy will set out more than just how many promotional emails need to be sent to achieve revenue objectives. To develop this email communication strategy, these are some of the key elements.

  • Understand how your customers perceive the brand and its products or services.
  • Research the motivations and needs that engagement with your brand satisfies.
  • Research the strengths that define your brand equity.
  • Define your customer lifecycle and set business rules to identify where each customer sits.

Focus the strategy on increasing LifetTime Value

Once you have got a clear idea of your customer and the stages the customer goes through in their engagement with you (from discovery to defection), you can start to plan. One key objective of any email communications strategy should be to increase revenue by increasing customer lifetime value. Now, don’t think this is purely a retention statement, it equally counts for acquisition too.

Acquisition

If you’re going to be focusing on lifetime value, it will have an impact on which sources you target for acquisition. Customers coming from sources that provide a low lifetime value customer should be avoided, or the price you pay for acquiring the prospect should reflect their future value. In the case of an email address, they are not all worth the same, so the first task would be to identify sources of prospect email addresses that will provide good future customer value. A good place to start is to look at any results you have from past activity, and look at the overall sales achieved over time, from those customers.  The problem with email is that it is a cheap marketing medium that can be abused with little (apparent) cost implication. Good email prospect data, costs far more than poor quality prospect data, but can be far cheaper in the long term, as it produces good long term results.

Retention

Without the understanding of the customer (and you’ll only get this from the research suggested above) you won’t be able to sell to the customer what they want, how they want it. You’ll only be able to sell your product or service how you perceive it. Customer knowledge also allows you to tailor communications for each stage of the customer lifecycle. This will make your communications more relevant, more effective and more likely to meet business objectives. The strategy should be one that makes every marketing communication be seen as a positive experience by the customer, not a negative “interference” experience.   Ensure you do this by following these key rules:

  • Define the commercial objectives for each stage of the customer lifecycle.
  • Develop a customer communication plan that reflects the customer research and meets business objectives.
  • Ensure research and testing is part of the strategy, to promote future development.

 

Make it part of a multi touch, multi channel strategy

In a connected world, where people are hooked onto the grid in multiple ways, touch points come via multiple channels. Just to take one example of a device, the smartphone can deliver a marketing message via email, web, social and SMS simultaneously. Studies have been suggesting recently that someone is likely to be watching the telly or walking round a store while access their phone, so the potential for cross media confusion abounds. Add this to multimedia spamming potential, and it makes integrated marketing communications essential for each channel’s success. Email has an important role to play in future direct marketing, with its unique strengths, it can only be effective as part of an overall cross channel strategy. Complimenting other channel activity, email often drives an uplift on other channels as well.

Taking a strategic approach to the email channel can bring lots more opportunity to the party, ultimately allowing customer knowledge to drive content, timing and targeting; nudging that little bit closer to true one to one marketing.

Put Yourself in a Recipient’s Shoes and Improve the User Lifecycle

There’s a famous proverb which suggests that to truly understand how people function, you should walk a mile in their shoes.

I think this is something that applies to email marketing in a big way. To really be successful, marketers should put themselves in the shoes of their recipients. This will help understand what the experience is like on their end, allowing future messages to be improved and results increased.

Here are two elements of the user lifecycle where email marketers should put themselves in the shoes of their recipients:

1. The sign-up form

Once you realise the possibilities of a good email marketing strategy, it’s easy to get a bit lost on a power trip of segmentation and personalisation, ruthlessly demanding more and more data from registrants to try and get more value from them.

It’s true that being able to target and segment campaigns effectively and efficiently is a noble goal. Getting the right data is imperative, but thinking about precisely what you need them to input is just as important. Are all the questions you ask necessary and relevant when you send out your campaigns?  Remember to test your sign up page: how does the number of questions, the format of the questions (check boxes, drop downs) and wording of the questions effect sign up rates?

2. Sharing is caring

In all the presentations I’ve ever given over the years, I’ve always asked attendees if they use the ‘forward to a friend’ link as a recipient. A handful people – usually 5% – put their hands up. However, when asked ‘who has ever used it to actually forward a message to more than five people’, no one has ever left their hand up. This is clearly a much more personal one to one communication tool. Therefore, as an email marketer, it’s important for us to consider why people use such links and when.

Maybe the ‘forward to a friend’ link just isn’t as popular as it used to be. Look at how the world has changed; since the rise in popularity of social media and its integration into all our work, is email the first medium we think of when sharing content?

One thing I love about social sharing via email is that it is a fantastic tool to explain the benefits of targeting and relevancy. By ‘putting ourselves in the user’s shoes’, as marketers, we should know that when a recipient finds content relevant, compelling and stimulating, they’re more like to share it. Often this can take time, effort and budget. But the size of the prize is what makes people’s eyes light up. In my personal world, with just three quick clicks, to Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin, I can share a message with thousands of my friends and followers.

Build your links and lists

The engagement stats and additional reach these messages have can be phenomenal. It appears that my friends can’t help but click on the content I have shared with them. But why? Its simple: they are in my social network because they share common interests.

Therefore make sure your email creative includes a link back to your sign up page. It’s a great way to build your list with new subscribers that are interested in your products and services.

 

Key Findings from Nielsen’s Email Newsletter Report

Nielsen Norman’s Email Newsletter Usability Report is out. You can read the Executive Summary here. Some of the key findings are as follows:

  • Email newsletters invoke more emotional responses from users than websites.
  • 69% of users said they look forward to receiving at least one newsletter
  • Most said newsletters had become part of their routine
  • Many users refrain from unsubscribing from newsletters with the four main reasons being:
  1. Emotional attachment to the newsletter: Users said that it didn’t feel good to sever the relationship, even when they no longer read the mailings.
  2. Low expectations for the website’s usability: People assumed that it would be difficult and time-consuming to unsubscribe, so they postponed the job for another day and simply deleted the newsletter’s current issue.
  3. Fear that unsubscribing would fail and would subject the user to even more mail: Many people have heard that asking to get off spam lists only confirms the validity of their email address to the spammers; this notion has become an urban legend that contaminates users’ mental model of legitimate newsletter publishers as well.
  4. Easier options: It’s often easier to simply use a spam-blocking feature to stop future issues than it is to unsubscribe.
  • Mobiles are being used to kill time. Many users say they read for longer on a  mobile than on their desktop.
  • Therefore newsletters and landing pages should be optimized for mobile reading wherever possible
  • Users admit to clicking ‘spam’ instead of unsubscribing when they tire of a newsletter
  • Users spent an average of 51 seconds on reading the newsletters in their inbox
  • Newsletters must be designed to be scanned. Only 19% of emails are read thoroughly
  • 40% of users cited the following four reasons for valuing a newsletter:
  1. Informs of work-related news or company actions (mentioned by two-thirds of users)
  2. Reports prices/sales
  3. Informs about personal interests/hobbies
  4. Informs about events/deadlines/important dates
  • Email Newsletters are a better way to stay in touch with customers than Facebook or Twitter
  • When asked to ‘receive updates’, 90% elected to receive a newsletter over 10% throgh Facebook.
  • 50% of users said that newsletters affected their B2B purchases (occasionally)
  • Newsletters must be seen as a long term investment
  • Finally, when asked why they liked newsletters more than one third replied:
  1. Email newsletters are informative and keep users up-to-date (mentioned by two-thirds of the users).
  2. Email newsletters are convenient and are delivered straight to the user’s information central; they then require no further action beyond a simple click.
  3. Email newsletters have timely information and real-time delivery.