Blog post By Paula Chiocchi on 2015-06-03
The day is never long enough for today’s marketers. That’s one reason email automation is gaining traction. But according to a recent survey of B2B marketers by Spear Marketing Group, just one-quarter of respondents said that more than half of their email campaigns were automated. The report also showed that B2B marketers were lagging when it came to responding to incoming leads: about 40% of them didn’t employ an auto-responder, which means prospects weren’t getting the immediate attention demanded these days.
The key benefit of email automation is relevance provided through timely emails sent on specific, targeted topics. These emails can be combined to form overall email marketing initiatives, nurturing campaigns and even new lead identification programs. Understanding how these emails are best categorized, created and delivered can enable B2B marketers to set up their outreach programs for optimal success – and save time in the process.
Here are five automated email types that B2B marketers need to master:
1. Auto-response: As the name indicates, these are emails sent automatically once a prospect has completed a form on your landing page or website. Auto-response emails not only help deliver content the prospect has requested, but can reinforce your brand and ensure you have been provided with a valid email address. But instead of sending the asset (e.g. white paper pdf) outright, consider having them click-through to download it, which will allow you to track the person’s engagement with the content. The email should avoid too much branding as the person is requesting information on a topic, not on your brand. Keep the focus on helping (not selling) with these messages.
2. Sales nurturing: These emails can help your sales team scale their efforts, and alert them as to when to reach out further. As these emails automate the sales communication process (e.g. during a longer sales cycles), they work best as rich text as opposed to pretty HTML, which implies mass production. They should be short, come from a sales person’s email address and include that person’s email signature. Content and subject lines can be informal as well (e.g. “haven’t spoken in a while…”) Prospects may even respond directly when receiving these emails, much to the delight of the sales person.
3. Content sharing: These emails help drive brand awareness and stay in front of prospects before they are sales ready. They too can be used for lead nurturing and often will link to a piece of content, such as an article or white paper. Here again, an innocuous subject line (“thought you’d find this article of interest…”) and rich text can break down natural resistance to marketing messages. For better performance and response rates, they should still come from a person, as opposed to a generic company address. This email is also about being helpful and providing knowledge, advice or guidance.
4. Invitations: These emails are used to invite prospects to special events (e.g. webinars), and are typically the top driver of generating attendance. HTML is warranted here, and a visually pleasing layout can help drive registrations. As you’ll be fortunate to get half of those who register for an event to actually attend, be sure to record your event and send it to the no-shows afterward. (Many these days even prefer receiving recordings they can watch on their own time.) As it will likely take several messages to get prospects to take action, program your event invitation to be sent 2 weeks before the event (to nab those early planners), the day before, and the day of (to land the procrastinators).
5. Stage identifiers: These are emails that help move prospects through the sales cycle, especially when their stage within this is unclear (e.g. leads from tradeshows). Here the goal is to deliver a variety of content and have the prospect self-select their buying stage by clicking a particular link. For example, call-to-action (CTA) number one, say, is for an asset (e.g. case study) referenced in the subject line (“how company XYZ achieved 300% ROI with product ABC…”), while CTA number two is for the next stage in the buyer’s journey. This tactic can help marketers move prospects more quickly through your buyer’s journey.
Adding automation to your email program requires specific methods of creating and delivering messages to your prospects and customers. If B2B marketers can recognize and master these five email types that lend themselves well to automation, they can combine them with other messages and activities to create maximum success in their upcoming campaigns.
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At OMI, we believe good things happen when you share your knowledge. That's why we're proud to educate marketers at every level - in every size and type of organization - about the basics of email marketing and the contact data that powers it.