B2B High-Value Email Marketing: Part One
What is the worse email you’ve received? I don’t mean the sometimes annoying “pictures of baby animals doing adorable things” kind or the “forward from a forward from a friend” kind. I’m talking about an email sent from a legitimate business asking you to perform an action. Was the email too boring, too tone-deaf, or simply irrelevant to your needs? I once received a boring, ‘too technical to understand’ email telling me to purchase by 5pm that day, because it was a (wait for it) once in a lifetime offer. Thing is, I received the same email a week beforehand too. Busted!
There is a preconceived notion about B2B emails – that they are complicated to prepare and boring to receive. Not true! A well planned, carefully constructed email that addresses the recipient, as a person and not a company, is possible! But, there is no “one size fits all” strategy for delivering a successful campaign. Businesses, all of them, have their own unique identities, products and services. Yet many companies often utilize the same approach for their email marketing. It takes a different style of email campaign for instance, to promote fashion clothing (low value / high volume) products than it does Enterprise Resource Planning Systems (high value / low volume), and it is the strategy guidance for the latter of the two I will be sharing with you today.
Why do I need a different strategy for a high value product?
Here are two types of recipient. At home, watching TV and browsing emails. Spots an email containing links to a shirt they have been wanting to purchase. It comes with a discounted coupon code. In the space of half an hour, they have made the purchase – sales cycle over.
Recipient 2: In the office, a defensive, extremely busy and somewhat cynical individual who is very short on time. They receive your (well planned, brilliant) email campaign and have to gather their colleagues to discuss, before they call you to plan the next steps. This will be the first stage in what can be up to a 12 month sales cycle.
Email campaigns that are created, designed and delivered to promote lower value products often lead one person, the recipient, towards making an online purchase or carrying out activity in a short space of time. For a tangible product costing less than an average TV, often requiring a shorter decision making process, this call to action is often achievable.
High value products however, do not involve just one person making the purchasing decision. Often intangible, they can cost thousands of dollars, involve multiple departments and require a decision making process that can last weeks, if not months. So, when creating an email campaign for these types of products and services, the strategy must bear these differences in mind. Rather than encouraging your recipient to click and make a purchase, you are trying to create a dialogue and open the door for your sales team. You’re reminding the recipient of your brand, and that your business is there to help when they are ready to search for services. Let’s say your sales cycle is split into stages – at each stage, your email campaign should act as a gentle push towards the next.
#1 The cleaner your data, the brighter your email campaigns.
As with all email marketing, personalization makes for better click-through activity. Capturing the first name, location, and the gender of your recipient allows you to segment your database and send relevant content. These fields are equally beneficial for the high value / low volume services. But you can take personalization further with better data. Essentially, you’ll want to collect the type of data you can utilize within the various stages of your email dialogue.
Data shouldn’t only come from the email recipient; your sales team should also be able to provide data. It is important to bring all on board with the importance of keeping data accurate, as quite often a small mistake such as the incorrect first name field can cause irreparable damage. Nobody wants to receive an email saying ‘Hi Fred’ when their name is ‘Mariah’, and when it is a high value solution on the line such inaccuracies can be costly.
It is also important that the database is updated regularly after any important event within the sales cycle. If you are logging important information, create fields within your database, and record in such a way that can be easily exported and read as dialogue. Let’s say your telemarketing coordinator creates an appointment in the diary for a field salesperson. What data would you normally collect at this stage? If you are sending an email campaign to the recipient to remind them of this event a month or so later and have collected the correct information, you can personalize it as such:
We haven’t spoken to you since all the way back in [February] (the [21st] to be exact) when[Sarah] came out to see you, and so we wanted to pop a little email through to check if there was anything [she] may have missed out in the meeting.
It’s also to let you know [James], who booked your appointment will be giving you a short follow-up call on [12th April 2013] to make sure we’ve helped you to the best of our ability. Is that date okay? Be sure to let us know if not, we’ll be happy to reschedule.
In this template example, our personalization includes appointment dates, the name of the recipient account manager, the person that arranged the appointment.
But we don’t have to stop there, think of the information your sales team can extract from non-interested prospects – perhaps you can contact them again at renewal with a targeted email including Renewal Date and the current Competitor they are using. A re-engagement email campaign that is precise and highlights the right information can show potential clients that you understand the issues in their current services and how your service solves those problems. Try to create the fields and collect all the data you can use to tweak your message to make it tailored for your recipient.
Finally, no data is better than wrong data…if you don’t have the correct details, just keep the field blank for generic content, as less activity is better than none ever again.
#2 Divide and Conquer, then get personal.
Your email campaign will no doubt be competing with countless other product offerings and invitations. How do you avoid your email being archived or deleted unread? One simple step to ensure relevancy is by segmenting your data, and personalizing your copy.
Try and find patterns within your data, based on last appointment date, received quote but no activity shown, renewal date is approaching and so on. If you are sending an email campaign to encourage the recipient to get in touch, or if you are reminding them of their last conversation before your sales representative contacts them by phone – it is key to personalize your copy with the right information. Remind recipients of who they last spoke to [salesperson’s name], when it was [month, year], what it was regarding [subject discussed], the service they were interested in [product], why they particularly liked it [recipient opinion].
Remember, it isn’t a contest of who can get the most personalizations into their email campaigns. Use personalized data when it makes sense and keep your copy relevant to the message your potential customers needs to receive.
#3 It’s all about the recipients’ needs.
Over my career, I’ve held different positions where I’ve been a small influencer of the decision making process or the ultimate person making the decision (and all the stages in between). I find it interesting (and a little disappointing), that the email campaigns I receive leave me having to work out how the service will benefit my role, and furthermore, if I am interested, how I can demonstrate the key benefits to my seniors. The majority of the email campaigns I have received all promised great things, the services were “cost-effective” and “time-saving.” That’s great, but how does that separate them from their competition? Here is something many businesses miss: How will your product or service change the way the customer’s business competes with its competition?
A couple more things to consider: How will your email make your recipient appear when they tell their senior about your business? How will your product or service ease their pain? Bearing the answer to these questions in mind, you can detail unique benefits in your email content that will not only grab the recipient’s attention, but will ultimately lead to an increase in callback requests.
#4 A little at a time goes a long way.
If I wanted to communicate a message that was simple, didn’t require much thought and applied to everyone – I’d do so in one mass mailing; Done and Dusted. But, if I wanted to communicate a message of value that invited communication and incited a relationship between my brand and the recipient….
High-value, low-volume services are rarely simple, often require a lot of thought by multiple people, and sometimes (especially in the case of CRM or ERP systems) involve multiple versions of the message tailored for its reader. Recipients can sometimes be fickle, they show lots of activity on your grand introductory email campaign, but a week or so later can’t remember your business. Cue the subtle reminders. The “Hello! we are still here!” type of communications. Your purpose is to remind your recipients that the dialogue is still open, you are indeed still here to help – when they are ready to ask. Whether you do this as a series of staged lead generation campaigns, or a combination of newsletter and promotional emails – the choice is yours, just keep at it – stage by stage, and responsibly.
#5 Show them why you’re the experts.
Carrying on with the staged approach, how do you keep yourself in the minds of recipients when the message is the same? If you keep sending similar email campaigns asking the recipient to think about purchasing your product, it won’t take long before they hit the dreaded unsubscribe link. If you send them an email regularly just reminding them of when you last spoke, they may get bored and start ignoring you. Personally, I don’t mind a company sending me an email every week as long as they are providing me with guidance. Whether it is in the form of a monthly webinar, or downloadable PDF guides, if a company helps me in my role, I will remember them for it. What’s more, I’ll remember to sign up for their updates if I move roles. Here’s the crucial thing to consider – the guidance I receive is relevant to my role, not the company it is being sent by. Often businesses providing guidance will use it as an excuse to promote their services. I’ve been on webinars and then turned off when I realized the content was little to do with what was promised in the title, and more to do with the benefit statement of the business presenting it.
When creating your email messaging, think about the recipient’s daily tasks and what solutions your product or service provides. Find a common ground and perhaps provide guidance on one of these tasks. While it is key to avoid a ‘salesy approach’ and provide just guidance, your brand and a subtle call to action with contact details is important to include towards the end – in case the recipient wants to get in touch.
Do you have any email marketing questions? Need a little advice with your email marketing plans? Contact us via comments in the blog (see below) or email us with the title of the blog in the subject line.
Don’t forget to check out B2B High-Value Email Marketing: Part Two!