Standalone E-Mail Marketing Can't Stand Alone

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Standalone e-mail marketing software has become a commodity. Prices are dropping. It's harder to distinguish vendors on features alone. Marketers increasingly measured on business results such as revenue, profit and pipeline have difficulty ascertaining the value e-mail packages provide. Traditional measurements of success - e-mail opens, click-through rates and Web site visitors - cannot be correlated easily with sales pipeline.


E-mail is but one tactic used by marketing organizations, compounding the problem. Marketers must compare the results of their e-mail campaigns with that of search keywords, PR, direct mail, advertising and other media. The absence of any standard yardstick across these solutions makes this an apples-to-oranges exercise at best.


Sophisticated marketers must rely on more comprehensive, integrated data as they strive to deliver quantifiable results. This data must be aggregated across distinct product categories, giving rise to the integrated demand generation platform. The platform combines prospect segmentation, analytics and profiling engine with traditional marketing channels: e-mail, Web site forms and analytics, search words, direct mail, chat and others.


Typical e-mail data such as opens and click-throughs are easy to capture. But absent other information, their value is low. Marketers need and want higher-value data - details about prospect behavior that include more than e-mail response. Examples include the response triggered by each campaign across multiple channels, the clickstream for each prospect visit to a Web site, the rate of change in activity and, if available, the search queries that produced the visit.


Using this data, marketers can assemble a rich prospect profile that shows interest and intent over time. With linked information about when prospects bought, what they bought and when they upgraded, this profile can be extremely effective in generating additional revenue.


Pulling high-volume prospect behavior data from stove-piped e-mail, Web analytics, data marts and CRM is difficult and costly. Only when these functions are integrated across a common software platform can the marketer begin to obtain useful data. The value proposition shifts from execution to analysis, measurement and automation.


E-mail providers, search engine managers, direct mail systems and other point products simply become components - interchangeable blades - that plug into the demand-generation architecture. This approach lets marketers measure the effect of complex, cross-channel programs on individual prospects and then optimize that mix of programs to stimulate a sale. It lets marketers move from "batch and blast" e-mail to sophisticated applications like lead scoring, nurturing programs and "closed-loop" marketing analytics.


This integrated approach has advantages for efficient revenue generation. It optimizes lead conversion rates at the top end of the funnel by delivering personalized, targeted content to the right buyer at the right time. It produces better qualified leads with deep analytics and segmentation. It optimizes the handoff of leads from marketing to sales through deep CRM integration and automated notifications.


By giving salespeople complete prospect histories, they are empowered to more accurately address the needs and interests of the buyer on every call, accelerating the sales cycle. Finally, a demand generation platform produces a higher yield of recycled leads as companies continue to intelligently track and market to prospects that are still too early in the buying cycle or not yet fully qualified by sales teams.


What to look for in demand generation platforms. Every company, regardless of size, should consider the following when evaluating a demand generation platform to drive its sales efforts:


* E-mail. E-mail still represents one of the best values in marketing. Plan carefully, segment your audience with appropriate messaging and combine with other marketing channels.


* Dynamic landing pages. E-mail alone often lacks depth and appeal to move people to act. Personalized landing pages can deliver attractive, targeted content to be visited and revisited as needed at the prospect's convenience.


* Prospect profiling and segmentation. Capture all prospect activity to see where they are in their buying cycle and what information they may be looking for now.


* Analytics and reporting. Marketing analytics and reporting combine Web site activity with other activities, indicating prospect interest and intent. Good analytics also develop results-oriented insights into program effectiveness and a vocabulary for communicating marketing goals and accomplishments.


* Marketing automation. Making best practices in marketing an automated process is the role of marketing automation. A good automation system can make the difference between a series of interesting but isolated events and a relentless process that continually educates, nurtures and qualifies leads.


* Hosted (on-demand) delivery model. Hosting lets marketers evaluate and buy powerful functionality at a monthly rate rather than through expensive, capital-budgeted licenses. Lower technology cost gives marketers more choices and greater leverage when making software purchases.


Marketers and executives at small and large companies now have productive alternatives to ineffective standalone approaches. By integrating key marketing channels to create a complete view of each prospect, marketers reduce costs and improve the flow of qualified leads for sales teams. Just as important, they create a chance to impress prospective customers with clearer messaging and better use of prospects' time.


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