Innovate, don't inundate to appeal to b-to-b prospects

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Randy Ilas
Randy Ilas

Like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks, today's email marketing strategy is a hit-or-miss methodology of one size fits all. In one fell swoop of the "send" button, it seems the most common practice is to inundate your audience with as much information as possible, as frequently as possible.

You probably know this method doesn't work. According to MarketingSherpa's 2010 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, 67% of unsubscribers cite irrelevant content as the biggest reason they opt out, with frequency closely following at 64%. The message is clear: Subscribers want information they can use, and they want it at a tolerable pace. That means relevancy and timing should work hand-in-hand when crafting a comprehensive email marketing campaign. 

To accomplish this, a campaign should focus on four key areas that help segment your market: 1) the right business; 2) the right person; 3) the right time; and 4) the right message.

A common practice in b-to-b marketing has been to target businesses by size indicators (revenue and employees) and by industry. New best practices begin with targeting companies by budget and technology footprints (for example, hardware or software used, call center, mobile workforce). What do you really know about the business you're targeting? Find out all you can before you rush to "get it out there."

The next question to ask is: "Who is the actual person you're targeting?" Outdated wisdom says to target prospects by business title, but that doesn't say enough about what a person does or explain his role in the company. Best practices target individuals by functional and decision-making responsibility.

Similarly honing in on specifics is also key to good timing, as the old thinking gives way to newer strategies that are more customer- and prospect-driven and include timing intelligence. This may encompass the use of predictive analytics, such as purchase-history information, new initiatives being planned and customer adoption rates.

And what is the right message? Current best practices call for a customized message, depending on how well you know the recipient. The typical IT manager wants to know about features, the average CFO wants to know about cost savings, and the operations manager wants to know about efficiency. 

Bottom line: Know the who, what, when and why of your targets before hitting "send." Then be judicious in how often you send messages. 

It may take more time to create an innovative email marketing campaign, but using yesterday's thinking to approach today's market will likely see you throwing your head against the wall along with your pasta.

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