I often have conversations with clients regarding email marketing, and I also am discovering the challenges for myself in utilizing email for business development. As a current or potential customer touch point, email continues to rank highly in content distribution tactics for B2B marketers.

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But while email marketing is often used for client nurturing, business development and content distribution, positive results are often not immediate. I typically recommend looking at an email marketing campaign in phases, and make it clear that time and patience is necessary for success. And once a diligent and well-thought out campaign that is focused on the important details (address list and segmentation, content, design, and a regular calendar), a business can look to email marketing as a highly effective method of reaching their audiences. Email marketing is still a business person’s most effective collaboration tool, and email as a function has evolved to become a searchable archive and not just a document courier. A recent study by Harvard Business Review states that in the course of a year, workers spend, on average, the equivalent of 111 workdays dealing within email (HBR, June 2013).

The first step to establishing an email marketing program is to define the objectives. It may seem like a simple step, but really thinking through what you are trying to accomplish with an email marketing program will ensure that you receive the desired results. From there, I typically recommend two phases:

Phase 1: Email Marketing Strategy and List Management

This phase focuses on the development of audience segmentation, areas of focus, and contact data cleansing and organization. Creating compelling messages to specific audiences, and trying to be as personalized as possible is extremely important for email marketing success. This phase can often take more time than anticipated, but doing your homework and making sure your data is as accurate is possible are essential steps to take.

Phase 2: Email Marketing Development, Management and Execution

The Paulson Collective recommends that companies that have specific marketing goals and a strong understanding of their audiences and data lists initiate an ongoing email nurturing campaign as an integral part of its marketing activities. This allows for regular contact with existing and prospective clients, as well as the dissemination of website content that has been developed, including case studies, customer testimonials, blogs and video/animation. It also allows for an organization to regularly show the breadth of their firm’s capabilities.

An initial goal can be to send one email per month to a list of segmented email contacts. The emails can then be sent over a six month period of time, and will follow a number of best practices as listed below.

  1. Crafting Calls-to-Action That Generate Responses: Creation of an email campaign that includes a compelling call-to-action that grabs the readers’ attention.
  2. The Ever-Important Subject Line: If you can’t get your reader past your subject line, then nothing else matters. How you segment your list, how you personalize your message, the content you create, and the offer you craft is irrelevant if your subject line doesn’t work. To increase the chances of the emails being opened:
  • Include ‘News’ and your company’s name in the subject line
  • 45 to 55 characters maximum in the subject line
  • Include an email offer in the subject line (e.g. “Download whitepaper”; “Read case study”; “Attend webinar”)
  • Help readers feel like they know your company by keeping the subject line format consistent
  • Send emails from the same person, so prospects recognize the sender’s name
  • Avoid spam filters by omitting punctuation or words in all caps
  • Avoid words like “free,” “credit,” “offer” and “act now,” as they also trigger spam filters
  1. Keeping a Consistent Voice throughout Your Email Marketing Content: The “voice” created for the email campaign should reflect the tone and culture of your organization.
  2. Optimizing Your Email’s Design and Layout for Maximum Result: A professional HTML template that leverages your brand and also your website’s look and feel builds credibility and increases your click-through rates. Most likely, your contacts have a sophisticated email-client server, so receiving HTML emails does not present an issue (Note: You always have the option to include a link at the top of your email that directs readers to a text version). Also, be sure that all emails are viewable on mobile devices.
  3. Creating an Editorial Calendar for Email Marketing Campaigns: Utilize an editorial calendar for your email marketing campaigns to make it easy to organize content and schedule accordingly. I also strongly suggest having an internal “email champion” for your organization to ensure that the campaign stays on track.

After the first six months, an evaluation of the program’s effectiveness can be done and adjustments can be made. I recommend email marketing to any company for a number of reasons, and if you have the patience to see how a long term campaign can unfold, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with its effectiveness over time.