Since they have a relationship with your company, your existing customers should be the easiest group to entice onto your email list. Yet, many B2B marketers have email addresses for a very small portion of their offline customer base. Why do customers — even satisfied customers -hesitate to give you permission to email them?
The answer is, we marketers have let them down. A recent survey by Marketing Sherpa shows the very low tolerance business and technology professionals have for irrelevant or uninteresting email. Close to half of business users now define spam as “any email from a company they do business with, but that is sent too frequently.” In addition, we see in exit surveys that the most frequently offered explanation for unsubscribing is, “I don’t get too much email from you, I just get too much email.” So it’s more than just the brand and sales relationship. Your email program has to be relevant — not just in the abstract, but in the specific.
Here are five steps to make your email program more relevant to your customer base, while at the same time growing your file, improving customer relationships, increasing sales and saving marketing dollars.
First, identify the best customer segments for email. Not all customers will benefit, nor do you have a compelling, ongoing electronic message for every type of customer. Segment your list and focus your efforts on the portion of customers who will gain the most value. Consider job title/function, level of day-to-day interaction with your products and services and purchasing power in your segmentation. Also, segment by the value of the customer to you and your sales team. Focus your email efforts where you can do the most good – segments that have high up sell potential or who have irregular contact with your account managers.
Then, find out what your customers really need from you. Hint: It’s probably not product information. What unique information, content, or data analysis is best presented electronically? This might be tips on workplace productivity if you sell software, or case studies on integrated business channels if you sell management services.
Now, make it really easy to sign up. Use a combination of vehicles to reach them – direct mail, trade shows, invoices/statement stuffers, your website, sales calls, customer support and partnerships. The number one reason why customers are not on your email list: No one ever asked them! Of course, make sure you get permission. Whatever use you plan for their email address, disclose it.
After you have gained permission to communicate with customers, make the first three to five emails really count. As in any relationship, first impressions count. Manage the flow of these early emails to solidify the relationship. Always ask for feedback and use that feedback to stay relevant and offer new email-based services.
Finally, measure this closely as you test out the best set of offers, calls to action and content strategies. Testing is an ongoing best practice – part of staying relevant is keeping your program fresh.