The Revolution Masterclass on B2b email marketing
With business-to-business emailings, marketers need to be aware of the subtle differences from consumer campaigns, says Charlotte Goddard.
Email marketing is just as effective in targeting a business market as a consumer one, but there are some crucial differences.
To start with, b2b marketers require a much greater degree of sophistication from their email lists and as a minimum they’ll want to know the names, job titles and company names of their targets, as well as their email address. However, while a lot of companies offer direct-mail lists for b2b, email lists are developing more slowly. “List owners are reluctant to market their data due to fear of loss of control,” says Richard Gibson, head of list development at Mardev, a division of Reed Business Information. “People want to try b2b email, but the options are limited due to lack of data.” Several firms offer b2b mailing lists: FT Masterfile has 1.3 million email addresses; Wegener Business Data offers more than 186,000 opt-in addresses, Thomson Directories has 315,000 and offers its list though resellers; Corpdata stores 150,000; and Mardev has 600,000 from sources including its own publications and exhibitions, besides publishers such as Economist.com. LBM Intelligent Data, part of direct marketing company LBM, holds 374,274 UK business emails. Renting email lists Most agencies will tell you that the best responses are gained from email databases that have been gathered in-house and this applies as much to b2b as consumer marketing. However, there will be times when a b2b email marketer will want to buy – or more commonly rent for a one-off – a list of addresses, whether it’s to target a new audience, kick-start an email campaign or boost an existing database. Annette Hughes, marketing manager UK & Ireland at networking giant Cisco Systems, says the company tends to use its own in-house lists of existing clients. But, sometimes it will want to target new contacts within existing accounts or new audiences such as SMEs or the public sector, in which case it might ask its sales team to come up with leads or consider rented lists. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to purchase b2b email lists,” she points out. “We generally use our sales team to generate new contacts, but that’s not to say we’d never buy a list.” Renting a list for a one-off campaign means marketers can send a message to a number of recipients but can only retain the addresses of those who reply and opt-in to receive future mailings. But, as Hughes points out, there is not much point hanging on to the email addresses of people who are not interested enough in your company to respond in the first place. Business-facing marketers need to ask some of the same questions as consumer marketers when renting or buying a list: where did the names come from, what is the opt-in process, and what did the list opt into? It is also a good idea to ask who else has used the list and how much success they had, perhaps even contacting them directly to get feedback. Many businesses have generic addresses, such as [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email] or [email]email@example.com[/email], whereas marketers will want to email named contacts directly rather than see their carefully targeted emails vanish into a communal pit. It is worth checking that the rented list doesn’t contain a lot of these generic addresses. In general, the more information a list contains about the people within it the better, as it shows the information has been carefully collected. In addition to email addresses, the list should contain names, job titles and company names. Other helpful data includes phone numbers and addresses, segmentation by industry or company size, and follow-up calls and mailings. Integrated campaigns are becoming increasingly popular. Targeting and tracking Unlike most consumer mailings, b2b marketers will probably want to address their audience by name and job title. “It is important to take the time to target and segment,” says Hughes. “You’ll get more value out of five campaigns sending 5,000 relevant messages than one quick campaign targeting 25,000.” Cisco recently ran a campaign called Break Free, targeting nine vertical markets, including healthcare, retail and construction, with emails promoting its wireless networking services. Each email featured chains tied around a pair of feet, but the imagery varied according to the industry – green trousers for the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector, muddy boots for construction. Copy was also tailored to the targeted industry around the theme of ‘breaking free’. Cisco tracks its emails as part of a ‘closed loop’, following recipients from when they receive the email through to clicking to a site and up to when they buy something, rather than just measuring clickthrough. Emails sent to technical decision-makers as part of an earlier campaign received a 13 per cent response rate while those sent to business decision-makers, who hadn’t been targeted by Cisco before, had a three per cent response. However, 33 per cent of those who did respond are still in the Cisco sales cycle. Another thing to check is whether the list broker will send out the emails. Most reputable list brokers will in order to control the number of times their list is emailed and to provide a real-time ‘unsubscribe’ functionality. Mardev’s Gibson says: “We handle transmission ourselves, not because we are worried about people misusing the data but because we want to be able to manage unsubscribes in real time. With each campaign, recipients have the opportunity to unsubscribe from further emails from that company or from any third-party emails.” If this is the case, you should check whether the email looks as though it is coming from the list owner or from your firm. The former is not necessarily a bad thing because the recipients will know why they’re receiving the email and not dismiss it as spam. Thomson Directories recently partnered with Mailtrack to launch Marketing Solutions for Business, a service which handles the delivery of emails as well as email lists. By keeping the data (gathered through scripted phone conversations) in-house, the company can guarantee that no-one on the list is emailed more than once a fortnight. This has implications for the timing of a marketer’s campaign. Jane Byrne, product manager at Thomson Local, says: “When we have gathered details by phone, we send an email to confirm them, and at that point the recipient can opt out, so the addresses are really double opt-in.” Costs will vary depending on the industry sector targeted. Stephen Priestnall, managing director of digital agency syzygy, warns against cheap lists “that seem to give you every appropriate decision maker under the sun, who probably attended a vaguely relevant conference 18 months ago, as 80 per cent of them will have changed jobs and mindset”. Variable costs Thomson’s ratecard is 28p per email address, although it offers discounts for bulk orders. Mardev’s list for The Economist.com costs ?260 per 1,000 addresses with a minimum order of ?780. Marketers can also buy both mail and email addresses together at a cost of ?370 per 1,000, with a minimum order of ?500. “We are definitely starting to see more integrated campaigns,” Gibson points out. The list can be segmented by industry, job title, job function, company revenue, company size and income. Obviously, response rates will vary considerably depending on the industry you’re targeting. “Two years ago we were getting response rates of 20-25 per cent, but, as with any new medium, as more marketers move in, the response rates moderate,” says Gibson. “Now, I’d expect, depending on the marketers’ ability to connect with their audience, rates of around 0.5 to eight per cent.” For a cold-calling campaign, Cisco’s Hughes says she’d expect a response rate of around five per cent. Most b2b list-holders gather and check the data by phone. “You can only achieve limited amounts of data capture online,” says Mardev’s Gibson. “Not a lot about business size and so on.” Some marketers therefore find it more effective to buy lists o
f phone numbers and use them as a basis for collecting email addresses. “There are plenty of business email lists available, but they are more expensive than mail lists for some reason and often don’t contain the profiling data you’d wish,” comments Gary Stevens, director of email specialist Inbox Media. “We have found that many bought-in email lists are of a lower quality, so with almost all of our b2b campaigns we start by buying in company data that meets the core qualification criteria – there are more lists available and they’re cheaper – and we use our call centre to gather the email addresses and gain permission to send out emails.” This is more time-consuming, but marketers can at least be sure that personal details are correct and opt-in permission has been given, and the decision-maker should be expecting emails from your firm. “You can justify the additional cost by spreading the telemarketing cost across the number of times you will want to use that data, plus the increase in response you’ll achieve,” says Stevens. “For example, if you pay ?300 for the bought-in email list that your competitors have access to, it may cost you five times that amount to build a list via telemarketing, but you can probably expect two to three times the level of response,” he adds. “Also you can use the data, say, 12 times a year, knowing that nobody else is using your list. B2b customers are typically worth more, so it’s definitely worth the extra investment.” A way for smaller firms to target prospects by email without investing in their own lists is by sponsoring an existing b2b email newsletter in their sector. Emedia runs 50 bulletins targeting sectors like construction, IT, telecoms and education. Digital agency Hyper ran a sponsorship campaign for a confectionery firm. The firm, which supplies drinks to offices, sponsored emedia’s weekly Employee Benefits and Human Resources Bulletin (sent to 29,500 human resources directors and senior managers of large companies) and its monthly Facilities Managers Bulletin (sent to 3,500 facilities managers in large companies). The aim of the sponsorship was to gain information via a linked survey about each company’s coffee habits. The survey provided detailed lead generation data for the sales team. Some 1,060 recipients of the weekly newsletter (3.59 per cent response) and 53 of the monthly recipients (1.5 per cent) filled in the survey. Other firms may consider producing or outsourcing the production of their own email newsletters; for example, Domovo, a telecoms company, runs a monthly newsletter through digital agency Xpedite. Companies that are creating their own newsletters need to examine how they can maintain the interest of their audience. Digital agency Moonfish suggests using a template which allows for new images and colour schemes so it doesn’t become stale, changing the subject line in each issue, and targeting the newsletter to different segments of the list. Controls for recipients In mailings, it is a good idea to give recipients the ability to manage their profile online rather than just providing an unsubscribe button. They can update their details if they’re promoted or change firms, as well as pausing subscriptions if they go on holiday. From the end of October, marketers using email will have to abide by a European directive that requires explicit consent from customers before mailing them. You may have noticed a small flurry of emails recently from firms you’ve dealt with in the past, asking you to opt-in to receiving marketing mails. This is probably a case of a company that obtained your email via an opt-out process (you had to untick a box in order not to receive marketing emails) trying to make sure its database has specifically opted-in. The only unsolicited commercial emails that can be sent without the recipient’s prior permission are those sent to a business’s own customers in relation to products and services that are similar to those provided in the past – providing the customer is given the chance to opt-out of receiving further emails. There is a slightly grey area for b2b marketers in that the issue of whether the regulations apply to individual users of corporate accounts is still up in the air, but best practice dictates following the rules anyway. The waters are further muddied by the fact that many people use their corporate accounts for individual activities, such as buying from Amazon, as well as for work-related ones, like ordering office supplies. Thanks to Jonathan Smyth, head of advertising, Buongiorno; Andrew Blackwood, operations director, dealgroupmedia; Julian Presant-Collins, marketing director, e-relationship marketing; Steve Cook, commercial director, Wegener Business Data; Liane Salthouse, marketing director, Moonfish; Robin Marchant, marketing manager, UK, and Darren McDermott, general manager of UK, Scandinavia and Netherlands at Xpedite; Jane Byrne, product manager and Mary Whatley, business information manager at Thomson Directories; Eduardo Ustaran, senior assistant, Berwin Leighton Paisner; Jeff Barnes, vice-president, Bluestreak International; Stephen Priestnall, managing director, syzygy, and our panel. MASTERCLASS PANEL Annette Hughes is head of marketing for UK and Ireland at internet networking giant Cisco Systems, having joined the firm in 1999. Her IT and telecoms career spans some 14 years, with experience of marketing brands such as Ericsson, Nokia and Intel. Richard Gibson is head of list management at Mardev, a division of Reed Business Information, which owns and runs 600,000 addresses from sources like RBI’s journals and sites, Reed Exhibitions and Economist.com. He has six years’ DM supply experience. Gary Stevens co-founded direct marketing and telemarketing agency HSM in 1992. In 2000 he set up its specialist email division, Inbox Media, and is currently its managing director. Inbox Media’s clients include Vodafone, BMW, BUPA and Miele. NETWORK ASSOCIATES scoops new leads via telemarketing Network Associates is the network protection company behind anti-virus software McAfee Security, Sniffer Technologies and Magic Solutions. In order to improve the targeting of its emailings, it enlisted marketing agency LBM. “Network Associates had been buying in hundreds and thousands of addresses per year and burning through them,” says Verran Townsend, research and development director at LBM. “We started by identifying the kind of businesses they needed to target, which was found to be firms with more than 20 PCs and they needed to talk to the IT managers.” LBM analysed and profiled Network Associates’ existing customer database, which it cleaned by telemarketing and matching it against its own database of around 400,000 UK business email addresses, gained from Companies House and Thomson Directories, and other sources. LBM constantly updates its list by phone calls and says a quarter of a million changes are needed every month. It contacted the list for information such as what antivirus software they were running and if they were an existing Network Associates customer. “Network Associates cannot see all their customers as they often sell through resellers, so we could give them a better view of their client base,” says Kevin Norton, account director at LBM. While on the phone, LBM was also able to gain opt-in consent for future emails, granted by 50 per cent of the decision makers. The leads were then split into four ‘pots’, depending on the size of their company, the renewal date of their anti-virus software and so on. Pots were targeted with different Network Associates products and sent the relevant html or text email. The campaign lasted about eight months and LBM was able to pass on 18,000 leads to Network Associates, which the firm followed up with sales calls. “This created a platform for further communication and was more valuable than the mass-volume email approach,” says Townsend. TOP TIPS on b2b email marketing
1. B2b products are traditionally not that sexy. Flash and video emails can be more engaging and encourage user sign-up, but make sure your target audience can view the format you’re using. Consider using technology that can tell which format is appropriate for which recipient. 2. Business decision-makers expect to be addressed correctly and for the sender to have some idea of their business needs. 3. As in telemarketing the relative importance of the target, offer and execution are 6:3:1 – it is vital to know exactly who you need to talk to. 4. When investing in a bought or rented list, demand samples and test them for accuracy before paying for the whole thing. 5. A follow-up call to an email can up response 40 per cent, according to Stephen Priestnall, managing director at digital agency syzygy. 6. Company firewalls and anti-spam filters may block emails by language, so beware of using terms like ‘free’ and ‘special offer’. 7. When consumers change their address, emails usually bounce back, making it clear they’ve gone. When a worker moves, their address may remain active but emails may be binned. B2b marketers should re-clean their email lists every three to four months, by phone research. 8. If you want to mail a list twice, for example with a follow-up reminder email, you need to ensure that your agreement and pricing covers multiple mailings. 9. Subscribe to your competitors’ emails and make sure yours are different. 10. Copy should be short and snappy. B2b communications should be written like a letter, not an advert. And never use jargon. CHECKLIST Questions that should be asked before running a b2b email campaign – Am I only using opt-in data? What was the opt-in process? – If I’m using a bought-in list, is the broker on the DMA’s List Warranty Register? Email queries to [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email] – Are the addresses on the list those of named decision-makers or is there a preponderance of generic email addresses, such as sales@? – How often do the people on the list receive email? Is this list exclusive to me? – What are the non-delivery rates? What tracking and reporting is available? – What do the message headers and footers look like? Do they say why the mail has been sent and can the recipients unsubscribe? What does the sender line look like? – What is the aim of my campaign? – Who is the target? Customers? Prospects? – How will I measure effectiveness?