Whilst social media is in the limelight, do not forget about one of the most important and cost-effective marketing tools available – email. Especially for construction companies, email marketing is still one of the best ways to spread your message to a broad audience and drive loyalty amongst existing clients and should be a part of your integrated digital marketing strategy. B2B email campaigns don’t always focus on achieving immediate results but are concentrated on lead generation, lead nurturing and building up credibility within your industry. The decision making process is much longer and there are often more than one person involved in purchasing products or services. Like every other part of your marketing mix, email requires a well thought out strategy in order to be effective. You can have the best database in the world but if your email content is irrelevant, very few will engage with your message.
“Email marketing requires thorough planning and resources. Email should be treated as a channel to drive traffic through to your website and communicate relevant messages to your audience which matter to them.”
Nick Pauley – Managing Director
Building trust with your subscribers is one of the most important elements of e-mail marketing. They need to feel that you respect their time and strive to provide them with relevant, interesting and valuable content. If you abuse this trust, many will unsubscribe, (maybe go to your competitor instead) preventing you from e-mailing them until you rebuild their trust. Coordinating your subject line, making sure the sender address is recognisable (and trusted), using the right e-mail header, producing valuable content, having a compelling offer, strong calls to action, and social integration is the key to maximizing your open and click-through rates. You usually only have a few seconds to grab your recipient’s attention, make those count. Is your creative concept appropriate, making the text easily scan able? Are your calls to action clearly visible? Is the content compelling enough to make recipients click your links?
Objectives and goals
Before sending out any marketing material, you have to have clear goals and objectives. Why are you sending out this email? What are you hoping to achieve and how will you measure the results? In order to produce the right message, you have to know what it is for. Will this email be going out to your existing database or a new list? Is the objective to generate new leads, to nurture existing ones or to deepen client relationships? You would not send them all the same email would you? They all have completely different intent. What kind of email are you sending?
- Newsletter – Existing customers? What are you trying to get across? What is in this newsletter that you can’t get elsewhere?
- An offer or discount email – Prospects? Convert them into customers?
- Event invitation – Prospects? Customers? Both will need a slightly different approach.
- New product or service announcement – To who? Customers who have bought a similar product? Upselling and cross selling?
- Educational/Technical – are you offering or promoting a whitepaper, research results, product guide? Will they care? Will it add value?
As you can see it is not just about blasting out the same message to everyone. It is about segmenting your audience and customers and then taking the time to analyse and understand their needs and requirements.
Building your email lists
A focused, relevant and targeted email list is the basis for your email marketing campaigns. To build this list make sure prospects can sign up to receiving communications from you at various touchpoints (website, social networking sites, ads, events). Place your newsletter or technical guide on the homepage of your website. By giving prospects free and valuable information, they will be more likely to exchange their email address with you. Do not hide sign up pages deep within your site. Make it easy to find because a newsletter subscriber is usually worth more than a website visitor. The possibilities to develop a relationship are significantly higher because they have given you permission to engage and communicate with them.
Segment your audience
The big chance in email marketing is customer-specific communication and understanding your target audience is crucial for B2B marketers. With hundreds of emails being sent every day, make sure you know what your audience is looking for otherwise your email is going straight to the trash folder along with all the other irrelevant mail. Audience segmentation groups your customers or prospects into segments with similar needs and behavioursm interests, value the bring to the business and the priority audience for email.
Once you have defined key segments, you can tailor them with specific product/service offerings, marketing strategies, and sales approaches to meet the requirements of that segment. For example, Bucket A consists of Architects and thus only receives information on case studies and product info or it could be a group of contacts who have a average order values of £2million or over. Bucket B consists of Contractors and they should receive info focused on how the company is moving forward with supply chain management and finally Bucket C contains a list of specifiers and should all receive technical, specification and design innovation related stories/content.
Have you segmented your database into groups of interests? By Value? By new or existing customer? They should all receive targeted, specific and relevant content.
“Despite the undoubted effectiveness of mass-mailing, some people don’t like it, won’t want to receive it and will wish to opt-out. Whatever method you use you must have an effective way to manage this process in order to avoid any danger of being considered a ‘spammer’.”
Pritesh Patel – Digital Marketing Manager
Some companies believe that segmentation reduces the number of available prospects but wouldn’t you rather focus on converting fewer high value customers than a larger number of low value prospects? A good segmentation strategy can quickly grow your leads and your revenue because you are communicating with prospects that are interested in you and the products and services you provide. Once you have identified the key segments that you plan to address, your next step is to identify how the content should differ for each segment. It is just your job to keep delivering the right content that each target group requires.
Cleanse your existing database
Your in-house database, including client lists, newsletter subscribers and prospects that have opted-in, or have expressed a genuine interest your company and what you do is a valuable asset. Since it has not been purchased (organically grown), every email address on that list has been given to you by prospects. They know who you are and are therefore more likely to be open to communication from you. Strong email relationships are likely to come from this in-house list. On a third-party list, they are not expecting to not hear from you. They never opted-in and you are about to interrupt them. You are just assuming that they want something they’ve never asked for. Good emails are anticipated by subscribers and are relevant to their needs. Bad emails arrive out of nowhere and interrupt people when they’re doing something else. Sure, sometimes sending to third-party lists can work. But you have to be very sure that your message and/or offering is relevant and compelling enough.
Databases need regular attention to make sure your messages are going to the right people. Prospects’ needs and preferences change constantly. The information your subscriber offered you a year ago or even just a few months ago represents their interests at that specific point in time and could be very different today. Have you asked your database what they want? When was the last time you looked through yours? A good CRM system can help you manage your email lists and make it easier to keep up to date with what emails you have sent to whom, what people have clicked on, who unsubscribed and who are your most loyal readers.
Deliver compelling and relevant content
Email newsletters are one of the most effective forms of email marketing. You are providing subscribers with important and relevant information in exchange for their contact details. Make it clear how often you will be communicating with them or give them the option to decide whether they want to hear from you on a ‘daily’, ‘weekly’ or ‘monthly’ basis. Sign up forms should be clearly visible on your homepage and include links to previous issues so that prospects can get a taste of what content you produce and decide whether it’s appropriate for them or not.
“The objective of your email marketing campaign is to entice the recipient to take some sort of action. Always ask yourself; would you click on that email and want to find out more?”
Ayaan Mohamud – Digital Marketing Manager
What matters most is relevance. No one wants to receive an email with information that does not interest them or doesn’t offer them any business value. Even a great design will not save you from unsubscriptions if the email content is poor. Our inboxes are bombarded with emails everyday and therefore you have to deliver something that your recipients would want to read, and even better, share with their peers. Entice your subscribers with a good subject line. Communicate value and leave them wanting more to drive the click. Don’t include all the information they need in the subject line itself. They may not open or click and you will never know if they found your content valuable.
Take a step back and analyse your content from your subscriber’s position. Is the information interesting and relevant? Does it address or solve a business problem? Does it teach your audience anything? Is it worth your time to click on the links and would you want to learn more? Ask yourself, what you know about your customers or go ahead and ask them directly about their expectations. What information would they like to receive from you? Current marketing information, studies, industry news or tips for the use of existing products are often more exciting than the latest products, new customers or press releases. If you become an essential source for industry or market information, when you report some positive company news it will be accepted more favourably than if all your emails were simply self-promotional.
Research by BtoB Magazine reported that more than half of the respondents to its ‘Email Marketing Benchmarks: Best Practice’ survey said “Delivering highly relevant content” was on their “to do” lists for 2011.”
Strong calls to action
A call to action must be compelling. Test different call to actions to find what works best for you. Are big buttons effective and what text should they include, ‘buy now’, ‘download here’ or ‘find out more information’? Where should calls to action be positioned on your email and do some button colours work better than others? These questions can only be answering through testing and eventually you will find what works.
Offering incentives can also increase email click through rates. How will prospects benefit if they click on your call to action? What are you offering them that is of value? Rewards are always effective but you need to be sure what kind of rewards your prospects will find approriate. Providing free downloadable ebooks on relevant topics, free software, a discount on subscriptions to industry publications or technical whitepapers are good examples of incentives. Finding out what people want is always the key and being consistent in providing value at all times will help nurture your database of valuable prospects and leads.
10 tips for improving the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns:
- Understand your audience: the ‘one fits all’ approach does not always work. Segment your audience into groups with similar needs and requirements. This makes your message more targeted and therefore more relevant.
- From & Subject lines: what email address do you send your emails from? Will the receiver instantly know who is sending it or will they think it’s spam? Short, punchy and relevant subject lines are vital and can break through the email clutter giving the user a reason to open and read the email.
- Short and sweet: time is short so make your message count. Long emails without clear calls to action will get skimmed and deleted. Place your value proposition above the fold and make it obvious to the people that will browse over your email looking for a reason to read (or delete) it.
- Don’t oversell: be careful not to overwhelm prospects with too many sales messages. Go along the educational route and the sales will come in when prospects are ready to buy. Once people click on your link this could take them to a dedicated landing page where they can find out more information about the product or service being offered.
- Frequency: it is difficult to provide an exact number for how many emails to send. That is up to you and what types of emails you are sending (newsletter, invitation, discount offer). Just make sure subscribers are aware of how often you will email then and give them a chance to choose how often they want to hear from you.
- Shareable: if you want your message to be easily spread then you have to make it shareable. Include ‘forward to a friend’ capabilities and social media links to Twitter, Linkedin, Digg etc.
- Re-market: follow-up campaigns can be developed based on how your database segments responded (or didn’t) to the initial campaign. By measuring metrics such as open rates, click through rates, unsubscriptions, amount of forwards you can determine what your audience wants and finds relevant.
- Measure & Test: this applies to all parts of marketing. Test call to action buttons, test the design of your email, the layout and length of the text and whether you get higher response rates on certain days of the week or times of the day. What about those who use mobiles to view emails? What does your email look like on mobile? The more you test, the more refined and effective your email campaigns will become.
- Landing Pages: Don’t forget about your landing page. This is the page that the recipient lands on once clicked through from the email. Ensure the page is clear, consistent and promises to deliver the value offered within the email itself.
- Accessibility by Mobile: Think about who you are targeting. If you are emailing contacts who are contstantly out and about then mobile will be the way these people access your information. Have you tested what your email looks in an iPhone or Blackberry? Have you then clicked through from your email and viewed what your landing page or website looks like on a mobile?
We hope you found this issue of My Digital Insider interesting and useful. Remember, you can also sign up to receive to monthly round ups from our blog too which contains further information and analysis on all things digital marketing in the construction industry.