DM News' Essential Guide to E-Mail Marketing: In BTB E-Mail, Failure Is Easier Than Success

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Rent the wrong list. Write a cookie-cutter subject line and memo. Grab an off-the-shelf offer. Design a virtually useless landing page. Use an inadequate e-mail platform. Blow the follow-up aspect and test nothing.

Commit even one of these offenses and your business-to-business e-mail campaign may end up in a no-win mode. Fortunately, the roadmap to BTB e-mail success is clear. Here is a set of best practices:

Rent e-mail lists that minimize waste. With costs of $400/M and up for rented e-mail lists, you can't afford much waste. Understand the list source and opt-in process. Use selections that get you as close to a bull's-eye as possible. Also, a strong opt-in list gets you high deliverability rates, so rent from trusted brand names.

Create e-mail advertising, not e-mail memos. When you advertise via e-mail, you're engaging in e-mail advertising. That's why your e-mail should possess all the power of exceptional print advertising - along with interactivity. Be bold and run awesome ideas. But build them on a foundation that reflects textbook direct marketing principles.

Go from off-the-shelf to out-of-the-box offers. Start thinking beyond this month's white paper or Webinar. Yes, BTB e-mail offers generally have an educational component. But the strongest offers often are tied to the chosen creative concept. Establish a reasonable budget for the offer and innovate within it.

Treat the landing page as a make-or-break element. Build a well-designed landing page that qualifies leads and simplifies the job for sales reps. But be careful: If you go for an excessive amount of feedback, compliance rates will suffer. Conversely, if you solicit virtually no feedback, your reps may not take the responses seriously.

Use a reputable e-mail platform. The right platform ensures that your e-mail is delivered properly to the highest possible percentage of the total. Your platform provider will provide essential tracking and reporting capabilities, keep your e-mail from being treated as spam and help you stay compliant with CAN-SPAM requirements.

Nail the follow-up process. Generally, a small percentage of e-mail leads will be deemed worthy of immediate follow-up. Without prompt attention, many of them quickly diminish in value. Most leads should receive an educational series that regularly solicits feedback and continually identifies warm leads for the sales team.

Test, test and test. Lists, products, creative, subject lines, offers, landing pages and more should be tested. Small tests often add up to a big difference. One client's recent test of subject lines resulted in a 34 percent lift in response. Remember: The best direct marketers are the best testers.

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