Email marketing isn’t just for ecommerce businesses – it’s great for business-to-business industries, too. Many of our B2B clients don’t see the value in using automated email tools to contact clients, especially when so much of their sales process involves one-to-one selling and relationship building.
When you’re investing so much time and effort into every sale, wouldn’t it be great if there were a way to shorten the sales cycle, and bring customers in when they’re educated and enthusiastic about what you do? This is one of the ways email automation can make your business to business marketing easier, faster, and better.
What is Automation?
Email marketing automation is a process by which you compose pre-written email messages that will be send to prospects when they fulfill certain conditions on your website: subscribing to your blog, joining your newsletter list, or requesting access to a free download offer are all examples of automation.
Automation is offered by most email marketing clients, including Mailchimp and iContact. Some fully-integrated CMSes like HubSpot and InfusionSoft include email automation in their software.
Automation offers email delivery options, as well as segmenting. In a tool like Mailchimp, your email list can be segmented by qualities like location, time zone, and click & open activity.
The Uses of Automation
Having access to automation and fully leveraging it for your B2B business are very different things. As with many areas of digital marketing, the sooner you start, the faster you will succeed. Every email automation test you run allows you to gather data and make new decisions to improve your results. If you don’t get started, you can’t start learning.
I mentioned this in last week’s blog post focused on ecommerce websites, but I want to emphasize it here. Often, a B2B product comes with a learning curve. There are processes and education involved in the purchasing decision. Your B2B workflows can be your customer’s first step toward making a purchase.
A customer who has given you their email address to subscribe to your blog is declaring, I am interested in this! And you should not give up that opportunity. This interest gives you the chance to speak in more specific terms than on your website, educating the customer in concrete knowledge and processes related to how your product works, and who it works best for.
For instance, a welcome series about the application, maintenance, and value of a large-format printer allows that business-to-business client to bring customers on-board while staying top of mind with frequent contact.
This can be a series of daily, weekly, or even monthly emails – it all depends on the speed your industry (or even your customers!) moves. A good way to avoid overloading customers is to build a workflow that sends its next email a day after the customer opens the previous message. This way, you aren’t cluttering their inbox with unread messages; you’re responding to their direct interest in what you do.
When a site requests you to fill out a form in order to access an ebook download, infographic, or something similar, you’ve been offered a piece of gated content. In this context, the “gate” is the exchange of contact permission for interesting information.
Gating content allows you to deliver an email to the customer’s inbox, for easy recall at a later time. It also allows you to record their interest. If you are contacted by this customer at a later date, you can discover what gated content they accessed and infer what they may be most interested in about your product.
Adding a newsletter subscription checkbox to your gated content is a great way to add to your regular contact list, as well – just resist the urge to make the box pre-checked in your form, especially if you’re contacting customers in Canada, or your company is based in Canada. (This is why it's a good idea to have a Canadian on your staff... and writing your blog) Plus, it’s just good practice.
If there’s a lot to know about what you do, there is potential for an educational workflow to engage your customers and improve your sales cycle. In this case, you offer the customer what is essentially an email course: a series of emails delivered over a period of time, that each build on each other to educate the reader about what you do, how you do it, and why.
A content workflow like Copyblogger’s Content Series delivers valuable education, making customers better informed about what they do and how they do it, as well as staying present and building a positive image to their customers.
If your email tool allows for segmenting on-the-fly the way Mailchimp does, there are some interesting ways it can be used. Communicate regionally-specific information to customers only in that place, such as your presence at an upcoming conference, or what recent regional conditions or legislation means for using your products.
You can also select your most engaged subscribers, such as the ones who have opened your most recent messages to them, and reach out with a more concrete sales message, while offering your less engaged subscribers a piece of awareness or evaluation stage information. Segmenting lets your email messaging be more tailored to the person who is going to open it.
While a primary function of email marketing and automation for ecommerce is selling, a large portion of the B2B marketing space requires educating, and then convincing. In complex, highly regulated industries, an informed and empowered customer is a high-quality customer. Uneducated customers can cause headaches and red tape. With proactive marketing, you can draw in clients who are more likely to perform due diligence, and understand why your products and policies are the way they are.