6 Tips for Better Email

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Have your unsubscribe rates been rising…and your open rates dropping?email icon

Possibly there’s no cause for concern. But usually when this happens it means your prospects are growing disinterested – most decidedly not a good thing.

There are lots of ways to structure email programs. If you have a short sales cycle, fast turnover, and lower-priced products, you may be able to do one-off, product-focused messages that work. But most B2B marketers find that only a small percentage of the leads we generate are actually ready for sales. That means most leads need to stay with marketing longer for nurturing as we continue to engage with them, often through email.

Most of us have two key jobs for our email campaigns:

  • To build a relationship with our prospects so we’re better positioned to see when and how to bring sales into the engagement
  • To educate the prospect, who may begin the sales process knowing little about the problem they are facing – and even less about potential solutions – so they become confident enough to choose a solution

These two types of campaigns can overlap a great deal. Here are six strategies to help you get the most from either:

1. Don’t Send the Same Email to Everyone

Sending the same email to everyone is called “batch and blast.” Don’t do it. Your leads come from a variety of backgrounds and have a variety of problems to solve; they want something from you that shows how your company can help, and makes them feel like you actually understand them.

Nobody responds to generic, robotic emails. Here are three ways to make sure yours are not:

  • Get personal – add the prospect’s name to the subject line. Studies conflict on whether this tactic raises or lowers the open rate, but for some companies it works very well. Test both first-name-only and first-and-last against a control to get the full range of possibilities. And, of course, make sure your sign-up forms ask for this information, so your automated programs can make use of it to place the name in the subject line or in the body text.
  • Get picky – use list segmentation. Segment by meaningful factors, and if you aren’t sure what those might be, look to your best customers to determine common attributes. This lets you tailor your message to different types of target groups. Sometimes all it takes is one image, or a few different words in the intro paragraph, to tailor an email to a specific department, industry, job title, problem, or business state. (See point 5 for more on segmentation.)
  • Get responsive – use trigger campaigns to respond automatically whenever a lead takes a certain action, such as downloading an eBook or filling out a survey. Mentioning that action in the email is an effective personalization – and having the response message delivered quickly makes you look attentive.

2. Make the Prospect Smarter

Early in the game, your prospects are working to fully understand the scope of their problem, research solutions, and compare their options. They aren’t going to buy anything without really understanding the landscape; they have to have confidence they’re choosing the right solution and be able to justify it to their superiors. You can help them educate themselves by nurturing them with information that’s appropriate to the stage of their engagements and the size of their decision-making team.

For clues as to what your leads are interested in, take a look at what they’ve already downloaded, what pages they visit on your website, and what they discuss on social media. You may be able to segment them into various tracks by product interest or some other factor that harkens back to the personalization discussed earlier.

Possible steps in an email educational campaign:

  • Send links to blog articles that prospects may be interested in
  • Offer a survey; the results will show what your prospect’s peers think
  • Teach them how to do something with a how-to email, perhaps linked to a video
  • Send excerpts from white papers, eBooks, and case studies with links to the full versions.
  • Invite them to a webinar
  • Show how a high-profile company solved a similar problem
  • Create an eye-catching infographic with statistics they will find interesting

3. Make an Offer They Don’t Want to Refusestar

Along with the content you send – eBooks, videos, white papers, infographics – make special or limited offers:

  • Free trial periods
  • Product demos
  • Discount coupons

4. Don’t Email Leads Every Day

This seems obvious, but it’s surprising how often companies still make this mistake. You might even know firsthand how annoying it is to receive emails from the same company every day. Set up a schedule that keeps your company on the forefront of your leads’ minds – without spamming them.

Decide what’s reasonable for your company and test your presumptions. You want engagement without irritation; even weekly emails may be too frequent. The bottom line: if you over-email your prospects, you’ll see results, quickly, in skyrocketing unsubscribes.

5. Segment Your Database

To drive engagement, you’ll want to cater to your prospects’ needs and wants as effectively as possible. The only way to achieve that is to segment your contact database into different categories.

MarketingSherpa highlights an ecommerce case study in which a company created targeted emails for a re-engagement strategy. The tactics were 1) target one-time, big-ticket purchasers; 2) make it very personal; 3) make an attractive offer; and 4) make it urgent, with only a short window to buy. The results? A 208% higher conversion rate than batch-and-blast.

Failing to segment usually results in sending many leads irrelevant information, which damages your relationship with them. It makes the lead feel as though you really don’t understand their needs and could well push them to unsubscribe.

6. Re-Engage Your Leads

If your leads aren’t opening your emails or responding to sales calls, try re-engaging with them. The worst-case scenario of this tactic is that the lead unsubscribes, however, getting unengaged, disinterested subscribers out of your email lists is a very good thing for your deliverability. In the best case, they reconnect with your company and prove that they’re still a good fit for your product. Either way, you win.

Two tactics to re-engage your leads:

  • Ask for feedback on email frequency, subject matter, and content quality. If there’s something the lead isn’t satisfied with, hopefully they will share it and help you improve your campaign for future leads.
  • Offer something valuable. Entice your leads to reconnect with you by giving them access to exclusive content or a discount. Perhaps all the lead is looking for is a chance to try out your product at a lower risk (e.g., a discounted rate) or find out more about your experience and reputation before they do business with you.

Want to learn more about email and nurturing best practices? Visit the Act-On Center of Excellence to find a collection of white papers, webinars, videos, and case studies.

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  • bri44any

    I agree, it is obvious not to email leads every day. I’m amazed that companies will spend the resources to create different emails daily. That’s a lot of time and effort.

  • Sam Sims

    Agreed! This post aligns with my thought to set aside the “mass efficiency priority” and let the true communication and development lead your email campaigns. Share a little, listen a lot. Clients will let you know what they like.

  • Jay McBain

    Great ideas on ways to re-engage prospects – I like the “make them smarter” tactics.

  • Thomas Craft

    Making the prospect smarter is a tricky one, I like what you had to say on that. We try to inform as much as possible without overdoing it, but that is the challenge we face with our product.