There’s no doubt that email is critical for B2B marketing—in fact, it’s often rated the top channel in industry surveys.
But when it comes to the Engagement Economy, the B2B email playbook is woefully behind. Email is primarily a 1-way channel for outbound marketing, rather than a 2-way channel for engagement marketing. Most companies don’t encourage engagement in an email, and many companies downright prevent engagement (e.g., sending the email from a “no reply”)!
For comparison, consider the way you ask for 2-way interactions on other channels:
- When you blog, you ask for comments.
- When you post on social media, you ask for replies.
- When you run a webinar, you encourage real-time questions.
- When visitors come to your website, you ask them to talk via live chat.
In all these channels, you open the door to engagement by asking buyers to engage. So why do very few B2B email programs encourage customers to respond, give feedback, and start a conversation? The answer: “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it.”
So how do you start to transition from a 1-way email sending program to a 2-way email engagement program?
Luckily that change doesn’t require a complete overhaul. You already have an excellent database, tons of intelligence on your leads and customers, and you already know how to tailor and target messages for your audience. Now you just need to go from being a great sender of email to also being a great receiver of email.
In this blog, I’ll give you three email marketing tactics to help you make your email marketing successful into the Engagement Economy.
1.) Ask for Replies
When you write a personal email to engage a colleague or friend, you ask them to respond. Sales people do this as well in their 1-to-1 outreach. So why should a marketing email be any different? Can you formulate your CTA in a question and directly elicit a reply? If a customer or prospect wants to engage with you, isn’t clicking the reply button in their email client the easiest possible buyer experience?
This tactic presents some challenges in routing those responses to the right person and tracking responses for campaign analytics and reporting. But, if enabling engagement makes your buyer experience better, these are problems worth solving. There are a variety of tools, like Siftrock, that can help you manage and measure email replies at scale across diverse programs.
It doesn’t mean that 100% of your emails should have “reply” as the CTA, but this can be a great tactic to drive engagement at certain times in the buyer’s journey. As a bonus when people do reply, you’ll also be boosting your deliverability—receiving mail servers love engagement, just like buyers.
2.) Humanize Your Formatting
If I’m asking a question, I want you to engage. I don’t need a lot of heavy formatting, graphics, or large CTA buttons. In this area, marketing can borrow a page from the outbound sales playbook and make emails more straightforward and conversational. Emails that feel like a human speaking to another human, instead of marketer-to-target, will drive more engagement.
Here’s a great example from Uberflip:
It feels like the business wants to engage with me. There’s not much formatting and no crazy CTA buttons. It just reads like a message from one human to another.
3.) Humanize The “From” Address
We already know that sending from a “no-reply” alias is bad for deliverability and sends a bad message to customers. Fortunately, that practice is mostly dead in B2B.
Sending from a general marketing@ or newsletters@ alias is better, but even if it’s monitored, it’s not likely the most inviting setup for a response. When the from address is human, people are much more inclined to respond naturally. Take for instance this email for the Marketo Summit VIP event. It’s sent from Kevin Lau, a real person. It includes his email signature, and as the reader, I feel like I have the option to reply with questions or to engage.
Sending from a single person’s real alias is not always feasible at scale. But, there are other options to humanize your from address:
- Send on behalf of reps/account owners.
- Send from a “spokesperson” alias that is managed by a team.
- Send from an alternate alias for a CXO that is operated by a team.
- Send from program owner (e.g., webinar emails come from the webinar manager).
Choosing the right format depends on both what will be ideal for the buyer experience and what your organization can reasonably manage.
Transitioning email into a channel for engagement marketing will create a better customer experience and drive better results for marketers. B2B marketers who don’t make this change will likely find customers tuning out of opting out at higher rates. As Marketo CEO, Steve Lucas points out, marketers “need to ‘engage with’ and not ‘market to’ their buyers” in the Engagement Economy. Email is no exception.
The transition requires slight mindset shift to go from thinking about email as a 1-way channel to a 2-way channel. But luckily this doesn’t take a massive overhaul of your tech or systems, just a handful of simple tactics can start to move the needle.
How are you adjusting your email programs for the engagement economy? What strategies and tactics are working best for your business?