As marketers well know, email is still the number one channel customers prefer. In fact, a recent study revealed 64% cite it as the primary way they want companies to communicate with them. So it’s no surprise that we find ourselves behind the scenes of B2B email marketing programs of every shape and size and across every range of objective and sophistication level in our day-to-day work with clients. And we know all too well that working through the essential email marketing (and marketing automation) do’s and don’ts can be tricky and time-consuming – and is often heavily dependent on what outcomes you’re trying to achieve and what resources you’re working with. We also see teams with their eyes on ROI but their priority on haste, who may be skipping the basics in their rush to get customer emails out the door. So, we’ve boiled it down to the critical nine questions that we see make or break success, for any organization.
Are you developing objective-based email campaign types?
A successful program or campaign always begins with a clear objective. Are you trying to create more awareness of your brand? Or are you trying to garner greater adoption of solution features? Are you looking to nurture existing contacts by driving a webinar sign-up or an eBook download? Being very clear about your campaign objective, and laddering that objective up to a broader marketing and/or business goal, ensures everything is aligned and you’re off to a solid start. As one email marketer noted, “The worst mistake I’ve made with email marketing was approaching it as a numbers game (‘How often should we email? How many emails in the series?’) from the outset instead of thinking through our goals, our audience’s awareness level/point of need and the purpose of every email in helping bring them to a point of meeting that need.”
Do you have the right approach to measurement and success KPIs?
Just like defining your objectives at the outset, it’s equally important to also identify your key performance indicators (KPIs) and make sure they’re tied directly to those objectives. For example, if your goal is building awareness, make sure you’re measuring opens, clicks, web traffic, time on page and growing engagement from your key audience, but also try to look at more long-term KPIs like net promoter score (NPS) or brand survey results. If you’re focused on lead gen, your primary KPI should be quality leads but also consider secondary KPIs like clicks and web traffic analytics.
Is oversight of the basics holding you back?
Every email marketer is well-versed in the foundational best practices that dictate a success baseline – namely, those around areas like subject line and preheader text, use of visuals, formatting, CTAs, optimizing for mobile, send time and cadence/consistency of delivery. Make sure you’re putting the time and thought necessary to fully assess and address each of these key areas. It’s tempting to cut corners when time constrained, but the best results will come when you’ve got the basics solidly covered.
Are you taking shortcuts with your audience?
Raise your hand if you’re guilty of “batch and blast” email sends to a full contact list that doesn’t involve any audience segmentation. Are you only using drip campaigns, forcing a timed series of emails on your audience (versus automating sends based on their engagement)? Both of these may occur when you’re feeling pressured to deliver quantity over quality, but it’s important to take the time to educate your organization on what success really looks like when it comes to email, and structure your approach to your audience(s) accordingly. If you segment your lists, you get better open rates, revenue, leads, transactions and more customers – in fact, marketers see an average of 760% increase in revenue from customized, segmented email campaigns.
Other questions to ask yourself include: Are you unable to aggregate and connect your customer touchpoints back to your email platform, to change how you’re targeting them based on their interests and level of interactivity? Are you buying email lists instead of building organic leads? Resist the urge to take the easy way out on these aspects of your program because any of these shortsighted activities could be turning off customers and heavily compromising the time and resources you’re investing.
Finally, one great option to put your audience first is to implement a preference center. This puts your contacts in control, and gives them the choice to opt-in, to determine the frequency you send them emails, define their interests and more. You can also achieve similar results through methods like survey questions included in emails. Armed with this data, customize your lists and content accordingly.
Is your email program part of an integrated marketing approach?
This is one of the most critical questions to give careful consideration. Although it’s likely easier to create email campaigns without jumping through the hoops of consulting with other teams, make every effort to break down those silos and collaborate across marketing channel owners to develop comprehensive, omnichannel campaigns. This will require more time, a thoughtful plan and multiple project stakeholders, but your prospects and customers will notice – and your best chance at a positive user experience hinges upon a go-to-market that’s integrated.
And on that note…how are you including the sales team? Customer service/support? Other customer-facing roles?
Beyond just marketing silos, any department or role that interacts with a customer should be considered when planning a customer-facing experience. A whopping 78% of customers say they expect consistent interactions across departments. The value teams like sales and customer service can add is two-fold: Because they’re on the front lines with customers, they can be a great source of insight and subject matter expertise for targeting, messaging and content. And when it comes to your campaign deployment strategy, you want them involved to reinforce and extend your marketing efforts in their customer interactions, as well as provide an irreplaceable feedback loop.
Is your web landing page or destination content putting the customer first?
You can write the best email imaginable, and if you send your reader to a destination with a bad user experience, it’s game over. That could be because it’s impersonal, the content flow and page navigation is hard to use, the form is prohibitive, the content isn’t relevant, you’re too focused on you and your goals and not your customers’…the list goes on and on. As a secondary hit, if your web content is serving up a bad experience to visitors, you’re also hurting your search ranking. On the plus side, intentional and strategic user experience that combat some of the problems outlined above has the potential to raise conversion rates by as much as 400%.
Are you effectively incorporating personalization (and leaning on automation)?
Investing in the marketing technology required to deliver personalization at scale is not easy. We see clients struggling with it every day. But taking the time to understand your needs and evaluate your options is becoming a must-have. Case in point: 62% of customers now expect companies to anticipate their needs. Of those marketers that do, 74% say targeted personalization has increased their overall customer engagement rates, 92% say it’s majorly or moderately improved brand building, 86% credit personalization with a major or moderate boost in lead generation and 84% of marketing leaders say personalization majorly or moderately improves customer acquisition.
The reality is that automation allows you to engage with customers at exactly the right time when they’ll be most receptive, and with information and support that’s specifically tailored to their unique needs and interests. It also means less manual work for your team and less guessing.
Overall, do you have the right tech stack for your needs?
Beyond just personalization and the new opportunities within tools like marketing automation platforms, is your marketing tech stack up to snuff and aligned to your goals, organizational structure, customer data setup and KPIs? These are hard questions with even more complicated solutions, but they’re critical for your email program, your marketing program and your sales and business performance as a whole. The reality is 67% of customers say the way a company uses technology indicates how it operates in general, and 75% of customers expect companies to use new technologies to create better experiences. Today, marketing technology is the single largest area of investment in a CMO’s budget. And although 52% of marketers who have invested are still working toward success, once fully implemented, marketing technology can offer you unparalleled capabilities to better gather, connect and leverage your customer data, connect and enhance your customer journey and overall level-up your marketing ROI.Ultimately, it’s not about how much you do in sheer effort, but that you apply a thoughtfulness and consistency across each aspect of your program. It’s better to start small and grow than try to overcomplicate your email marketing and ultimately be ineffective.
Struggling with all or parts of your own email marketing or marketing automation efforts and looking for someone to bounce ideas off of? We’re happy to chat! We offer both consultative and execution services that are customizable to your unique needs, so shoot us a note. And if you have your own best email tip or critical question to add to the discussion, get social with us – share it our way via Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
Author: Stephanie Manola, Account Director, Outlook Marketing Services
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