Product recommendation tech in B2B email marketing

Ian Roderick, communications manager at Newsletter2Go, explains the possibilities of automated product recommendation technology in email marketing

As a B2B marketing pro, CRM, lead conversion, and customer success management are a big part of your marketing operations. And email is a great tool for all three of these areas: it’s easy, it’s cheap, and it’s effective.

End of story, right?

Not quite. What if I told you that there are big changes coming to email marketing? Changes that could revolutionize CRM, lead conversion, and customer success management for B2B businesses.

If you’ve ever shopped at the big online retailers (I’m talking about you, Amazon), you’ve already seen it. If you’ve already received a followup newsletter from an ecommerce platform with customized content, offers, or deals, then you know what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about automated product recommendation technology. Coming soon to your email marketing software.

Automated recommendation engines for email

Automated product recommendation technology is normally thought of in a B2C context, particularly an ecommerce environment. And that’s totally true. There are tons of perfect applications for B2C recommendation.

Big retailers like Amazon have been using their own proprietary technology for a while. But as the technology has developed, a number of new recommendation technologies have come onto the market for the rest of us.

In the world of email, this is really exciting because it promises to take email marketing to the next level. In theory, you’ll be able to send customized product offers, deals, discounts, to every single one of your contacts.

This is how it will work: A product recommendation tool will be embedded on your website, or within your software. It will track user behavior – which products they’re viewing, how they’re using your software – and hold on to that data.

The newsletters that you send contain a product recommendation block. When your contact opens a newsletter, that block will be automatically filled with a custom recommendation based on the behavior data of that individual user.

But if you’re sitting at your desk right now and thinking “Product recommendation in B2B email marketing? No thanks,” then you’re in danger of miss out on one of the biggest new email tech developments of the past few years.

Automated product recommendation actually has much to offer B2B email marketers. It’s not as straightforward as B2C (check out these great new sunglasses!), but if you look carefully, there are key areas where B2B email marketers can leverage this new email tech:

B2B CRM taken to the next level

Depending on your product or services line, you can send perfectly tailored content recommendations as part of your pre-existing CRM strategy. If you’ve sold X widget to a certain company, you can include a list of 3 other widgets, A, B, and C, that recent purchasers of X have also found interesting and/or bought.

This works exactly the same way as it would on an ecommerce site Amazon. We’ve all received those “Customers who bought this book also bought...” newsletters. For B2B, it’s the same technology, just a slightly different application. Instead of books, you can include another service offer or updated piece of office equipment.

This can be particularly effective when you’re releasing a new version of a product that the customer already is currently using.

Converting B2B leads

Product recommendation technology can be modified to pick up on leads’ behavior on your website, or if they downloaded any content that you’ve created. Set up manual or automatic links between content and other products and/or services.

Specific and targeted product recommendations are more likely to turn leads into customers.

Challenges to product recommendation

Product recommendation technology has a lot to offer, but take care of the following limitations as well:

  • Smaller B2B firms will have more problems generating automated product recommendations, because you’ll have fewer data and transaction histories. Consider relying more on browsing history.
  • Depending on the quality of the technology that you use, the same products might be generated over and over again. Make sure that you space your newsletters widely enough based on your overall product selection.
  • Because the recommendations are generated at the moment the email is opened, your platform needs to have enough server bandwidth to handle the requests instantaneously. Slow loading emails, or improperly loaded emails, will probably be deleted straight away
  • Don’t embed product images directly in your emails – this will look like spam
  • Make sure the text descriptors in all of your emails match the products that you’re describing – otherwise your contacts’ spam filters might snag your messages.

In sum

Automated product recommendation technology doesn’t only belong to the B2C market. Email marketing in the B2B space using this new kind of technology can offer myriad benefits: lead conversions, more effective CRM, and more effective content marketing.