No eCommerce? Email Marketing Still Works!

January 19, 2007

I was in the process of planning a post discussing email marketing for companies who do not sell their products or services on the web. I had read a couple articles and posts in the last month which focused on email marketing as a tool only to drive eCommerce transactions. Sure, emails are great for that, but I think there are many more uses to email marketing – especially in a B to B environment.

Well, Karen Talavera of Synchronicity Marketing stole my thunder. I was researching some content for the post and came across an excellent article written by her for BtoB’s eMail Marketing Insight. She outlined my main points! So, let’s read what SHE has to say:

“Many organizations can’t or don’t sell products and services online. For them, the concept of driving sales conversions via e-mail to an e-commerce-enabled Web site makes about as much sense as leading a horse to a well instead of a river. These companies instead rely on their Web sites to educate interested prospects, cultivate inquiries and accelerate leads—and their best application of e-mail marketing is to do the same. Here’s how:

  • Answer inquiries. A non-e-commerce Web site is ideal for gathering and fielding inquiries. E-mail is used to respond to those inquiries with customized information, answer specific questions or, better yet, the all-important invitation to begin the sales process in the company’s channels of choice. For b-to-b marketers, that may mean setting phone appointments or initial meetings, or referring to a distributor or reseller.
  • Educate. What are the steps prospects must take in order to buy from you? Do they know what those steps are? What are the typical objections to a purchase decision? In the often complex and lengthy b-to-b buying cycles that involve group consensus-building or decision-making, it pays to address and overcome known objections early through proactive e-mail campaigns.
  • Accelerate. Once a prospect (or even a returning customer) is well into the sales funnel, there’s a special role for e-mail marketing and the premise is simple: Multiple communications channels increase response. E-mail regularly scheduled in conjunction with individual account exec or sales team contact will accelerate qualified prospects into customers. E-mail is also a route for conveying exclusive offers, incentives or limited-time deadlines that prompt open opportunities to close rather than linger indefinitely.
  • Build and sustain customer communication. Do you proactively reach out to customers to share news, announcements, and information of interest to them rather than you? E-mail is ideal for distributing information, yet too often that information is irrelevant to the audience; either it isn’t customized enough or is manufactured simply to fill yet another e-newsletter. Don’t push content solely for the sake of maintaining a particular contact frequency once a prospect converts to a customer if it isn’t useful, relevant, and engaging.”

Email marketing is a powerful way to educate, drive traffic, and generate leads even if you don’t sell through your website. The harder you work to refine your email strategy, the bigger the pay-off.

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Online Ad Prices on the Rise?

December 28, 2006

I found a quick stat about online advertising revenues and 2007 prices written on the iMedia Connection website by Roger Park. The article states that rates will be on the rise for 2007. I’ve planned and signed orders for most of my online media for 2007 and I really haven’t seen much of an increase. I buy primarily in the tech arena and most of my pricing has carried over from this year.

One trick I live by is to ask for better pricing based on quantity and other media being purchased. For instance, if I’m buying print ads, I’ll hint to the vendor that I want to do something online (email marketing, banner ads, etc.) and flat out ask for better pricing since I’m purchasing print ads. Most vendors are willing to negotiate and the good ones get me to spend more in the end. But, the bundling seems to help lower costs.


Valuable Small Business Email Marketing Information

December 27, 2006

John Jantsch at Duct Tap Marketing Blog has a post talking about an Email Marketing service called MailChimp that he likes. He also has a link to a free guide being offered by the service that includes tips and tricks to getting your emails read and acted on more often. John has a great, long-standing blog that I make a daily read so I trust his judgement.

I downloaded and have started to read the 50-page guidebook. I can tell already that its a great resource for small businesses who would like some information to improve email marketing delivery.

Interestingly enough, you can download the guide without registering to receive it. Possibly a great lead generation opportunity missed for MailChimp?


Marketing in 2007: Selecting the Right Marketing Mix

December 22, 2006

I’ve written in previous posts about selecting the right marketing mix – online advertising, email marketing, print advertising, search marketing, etc. The selection is purely based on how many times you can touch your target audience in the shortest period of time.

This article in Entrepreneur magazine by Kim Gordon of www.smallbusinessnow.com talks about “All Over the Place” marketing. She gives a great overview of how many times people come in contact with media per day. This media contact frequency gives all of us small business marketers a chance to touch our target audience by selecting the right media.


8 Steps to a Successful Marketing Campaign Launch

December 21, 2006

As I look down the road to the first quarter of 2007, my sights are getting set on developing our first marketing/sales campaign of the year. Creating and launching these campaigns is like dumping out Lego’s on the carpet and selecting which pieces will go into your masterpiece. Here’s where you get to bring together online marketing, print advertising, collateral, lead generation, search engine marketing and even a little database marketing. Its your chance to see what works the best together and what results can be achieved.

In a large corporation, people from multiple groups come together and collaboratively launch an effort such as this. For the small company marketer, much of the responsibility will fall on a much smaller group or maybe even you! To make this seem a little less daunting, I’ve put together some tips that have helped me launch campaigns.

  1. Focus the Campaign: This should be obvious, right? Well, it wasn’t to me when I first developed a campaign. There is a big difference in results when you ask your company’s sales team to call potential customers and say, “This is my company and we can help” versus “We have this product which solves this problem for you in your market”. I find the results are always better when you focus a campaign around a certain vertical or product family. For instance, my first quarter campaign will revolve around a product launch that is tailored towards a single vertical (with big potential, I might add).
  2. Know Your Targeted Audience: Research, research, research. Who is the audience and why do they need what you have to offer? If you can’t answer those two questions, try a different campaign. I do a ton of pre-campaign research with the intention of gathering enough information to present to my company’s sales team. Thus, educating them and empowering them to carry out the campaign. The more they know, the more confident they’ll be in talking about the product on which you’re focusing.
  3. Find the Right Messaging: Through your research, you should have come across enough information to create messaging that will be used across multiple marketing mediums for your campaign. Your messaging should be a strong, concise statement about how your product or service can solve a problem or ease the pain being experienced by your targeted vertical. This main talking point should be your central theme that is used in your collateral, banner ads, white papers, website landing pages, etc.
  4. Find the Right Marketing Mix: Now the fun part. What ingredients will I use in my campaign recipe? This should be a nice mix of online and offline material. Through your research you should have located where your target audience searches for information – trade magazines, online resource centers, eNewsletters, etc. Based on what you find and what your budget is for the campaign, select the avenues in which you’ll get the word out about your product or service.
  5. List or Database: Who is your sales group going to contact? Or, is this purely a marketing campaign with no sales push? Typically, I like to incorporate the sales team – they need to know what your focus is and why you’re planning the campaign. So, let’s put them to work. Do you have enough contacts for them to call in the target audience in your database? If not, look to a partner, such as a magazine, from which to purchase a membership list of some sort. These can make great outbound calling lists for your sales team. (They can also be a bust if you’re not careul, but we’ll cover that in a later post)
  6. Training: Whoever will participate in a calling campaign or be a contact point for an interested customer needs to be trained and briefed on the campaign. There is nothing worse then grabbing a potential customer’s interest and having them meet a brink wall when they call in. Enable your sales and customer service to help close the deal.
  7. Set Your Goals: Why are you doing the campaign? Is it to gain new customers? Is it to boost sales? Branding? Is it to let the marketplace know what you have to offer? Probably all of the above, right? Well, if so, make sure you’ve put some goals in place so you can track success.
  8. Launch and Track: You’ve done the work so now kick-off the campaign and start learning about what worked and what did not. If you’ve run a special promotion, track the effectiveness of the promotion. If you purchased online marketing components, track the customer response via click-throughs, online purchases, or lead generation.

Of course, every company is different and these 8 steps probably don’t work for everyone. But, there are fundamentals and groundwork in what I’ve mentioned that, if followed, will increase the results you see from your marketing and sales campaigns.


Tips For Better Email Marketing Success

December 14, 2006

In a recent BtoB Online Email Marketer newsletter I received, Mark Organ – CEO of Eloqua Corp. – wrote a good, quick article outlining some valuable tips to increase open rates and overall experience of email newsletters. Email marketing is getting tougher. I’m experiencing this as I work to increase my own click-through rates and decrease bounce rates on my landing pages. Blogs, RSS Feeds, and Podcasts are jumping to the forefront as methods people are using to get the information they want. Plus, corporate email filtering is getting tighter. Email marketing is not dead despite what some industry analysts think, but the road to success is not a smooth ride. The main tips from Mark’s article are:

 

  • Success begins with the subject line. Keep your subject line succinct, around five or six words. Stay away from personalization-such as using the prospect’s first name-in the subject line. The golden rule is to make sure that your subject line is something you would feel comfortable sending to an existing prospect.
  • They’re in … now what? Your prospect must be able to quickly determine the benefits of the e-mail. Integration with Web marketing tools such as forms and landing pages can impel a prospect to explore these benefits. Include many clear links to click on high up in the e-mail, “above the scroll.” Make sure that hyperlink words conjure up a benefit in the reader’s mind-such as “Learn more”-and avoid using passive words.
  • Lead them to a landing page. Drive prospects to a campaign-specific landing page, not your company’s home page. Your e-mail and landing page should be designed with the same look to smooth the transition. Within the e-mail, include a link that offers an immediate call to action. On landing pages, be sure to minimize required information on initial registration forms; prefilling registration forms with known contact information can increase response rates. Creative imagery at the top of the landing page can show the prospect what he or she will get for moving forward. Last, an auto-response e-mail should always be sent when a form is submitted.
  • Hone in with dynamic, personalized microsites. Include links to microsites that have personalized URLs and messaging. Dynamic content can be triggered by the prospect’s region, language and industry. Both the personal URL and targeted experience can dramatically increase response and conversion on the site (a 200% to 300% increase from initial rates).

 


Email Marketing – High Impact or Customer Irritant?

December 8, 2006

I suspect that in a few years RSS feeds and other cool eMarketing technologies will replace email marketing, but right now emails are a very viable source of marketing. Small businesses can truly take advantage of this low cost exposure. Much can be done in-house with basic HTML creation and database management, but even outsourcing isn’t that expensive these days.

BUT…and there is always a BUT…email marketing has to be done right or it can be a waste of time and money and a potential irritant to your valuable customer base. I came across a couple of articles recently that I thought spelled out some good email marketing tips and techniques. If you get a minute, they’re a pretty good read.

  • BtoB Online is a great source of information and this email marketing article written by Karen J. Bannan is no exception. She explains how to make the most out of email preview panes and text descriptions.
  • Bill Nussey of Silverpop writes a good article telling about some 2007 tips for email marketing. He talks about surveys as a relationship building tool and delivery times as a key to open rates.

I believe email marketing is a tool that you get out of it what you put into it. A quick, shabby job of producing the email and delivering it won’t give you high click-through-rates, conversions or page views. But, a quality, detailed piece can be highly effective and very informative to your customers.