11 Ways to Improve Your Email Open Rates [Focus: B2B]

11 Ways to Improve Your Email Open Rates [Focus: B2B]

 

The past few months have brought some anxiety about GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which comes into force from May 25th. We are yet to see the impact that it will have on email marketing, for instance. Some consequences will be the reduction in email lists and a change in how companies ask for and store email addresses. Our hope is that companies continue to use email marketing as a key channel to reach, inform, educate and engage target audiences.
Compared to Facebook or LinkedIn, email marketing is a particularly profitable channel as you can reach customers who have already indicated interest in your product or service. According to the DMA’s Marketer Email Tracker 2018 report, ROI for email increased from £30.03 for every £1 spent in 2016 to £32.28 in 2017. Therefore, email marketing should be part of your overall marketing plan. In this blog post, we will outline how you can continue to use email marketing effectively, and even increase email open rates with your opt-in lists.

 

Factors Affecting Average Email Open Rates

First, let’s define Email Open Rates. Email open rates are the % measure of how many email recipients opened your email during a particular email campaign. Email marketing platforms such as MailChimp and Mailjet will give you an open rate for each campaign and also an average contact score for each person on your email lists. Your email open rate depends on many factors. Some factors are:

  • Industry
  • Demographics
  • Geography
  • The content of your email
  • The headline of your email

In 2017, the average email open rate across all industries was 24.7%. The highest email open rates are in Government (44.99%), Legal/Accounting (36.43%) Public Relations (30.15%) and Non-Profits (30.02%) [Source: SmartInsights]

We generally aim for 25% or higher but if you have open rates that are lower than this, don’t worry too much. As noted above, there are other factors out of your control that could affect your open rates. For instance, the UK has one of the lowest email open rates at 13%, while Denmark has one of the highest at 31%. The important thing is that your email campaign achieves the results you want. That could be sales, engagement or simply raising awareness of your company’s activities.

When it comes to technical B2B markets, where there is usually more complex content and perhaps less marketing know-how, we see low to average email open rates. For instance, Engineering/Manufacturing have an open rate of 21.28% and IT see 26.69% of their emails opened by recipients.

How to improve your email open rates

We’ve touched on a few factors that affect how many recipients open your emails. The reason we want people to open our emails is that we want them to take an action. That action could be to click on a link or offer (we will discuss click-through-rates (aka CTR) in a separate blog). First and foremost, we need to understand the audience that we are trying to reach.

Run some tests

The best way to understand your audience is to run tests. A recent study by the DMA reveals that 47% of companies test under a quarter of their emails. 15% don’t do any testing at all. You could run tests on several aspects of your email. For instance, split your email list and send out identical emails but with a slightly different email headline or call to action. Don’t change more than one thing per test otherwise you won’t know which attribute made impact on your email open rate. Make your opening engaging and personal, then test away!

Write to a specific person

When you send out your emails, write them as if you are addressing one person. Use your recipient’s first name in your opening (add <<First Name>> tag). In the body of the email, use ‘You’ and ‘Your’ when possible. For instance, if you are referring to the recipient’s team, write “your team” instead of “the team”. Familiarity and an active tone are likely to draw in your reader. If you have understood your target audience, you will use words and phrases that engage them and ultimately moves them to take action.

email open rates YO! Marketing Yekemi Otaru

Provide relevant content

Have an email marketing content strategy before you start sending out emails. Your strategy must consider your target audiences’ needs and the kind of content that they are likely to engage with. If your email recipients know that your emails will contain useful and actionable information, they will look forward to it and engage with it. Sending predominantly sales-y emails or irrelevant content or content that they can get elsewhere will result in low open rates.

Avoid words/phrases that scream “Spam”

Many email filters flag up emails that have words and phrases like “discount”, “offer”, “xx% off”, “sale” and “promotion”. Avoid using these words in your emails. Also, do not use all caps in your subject line or inside the body of your emails. If your email appears suspicious, your recipient’s email filter will put your email in the spam folder. Keep your email informative and relevant. Limit the number of links to ensure that your email is safe to open.

Send it from a person rather than from a company

Your emails are likely to get a higher open rate if they come from a person rather than from a company. Some email filters mark emails as “promotional” if they come from a company. For small businesses and startups, it is easy to send your email from your company founder or the marketing director, for instance. You will increase engagement and open rates if your recipients feel that your email is personal. Sign off with your first name – it’s a nice touch!

Ensure your subscribers have opted-in

The new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) rules are topical as the deadline looms. Under GDPR, you must update your privacy policy to include more information about what you will do with your recipients’ personal data. Email addresses on your list must come from people who know that they are on your list and have given you their details either by filling out a form, becoming your customer or a supplier. There are several aspects to GDPR, which we will not go into in this blog. What we will say is that sending emails to people who did not opt-in will not only lower your email open rates, it will also put you in breach of GDPR.

Best days and times

Some research shows that the best day to send emails is Tuesdays if you want a higher open rate (>19.9%). But Fridays seem to get the highest click-through rate (>4.9%). Avoid sending business-related emails on the weekend or late in the evening. We have found that the best time of day is between 6 am and 10 am to get the most engagement from our email list. But don’t take our word for it! Try sending your emails at different times and days, see what works for your target audience.

Segment your email list

You might have a list of 500 subscribers. Do you send all of them the same emails? If so, you should segment your list and send them only what they are interested in. If you are an IT company, you could have an email segment for IT managers (i.e. decision-makers) and a separate one for IT users (i.e. not decision-makers). IT managers might want to read about cost-efficiency and tips for user adoption to technology. IT users would be more interested in shortcuts to make them more productive in their day-to-day work. When you keep the email relevant, you will see your email open rates increase.

Reward your top contacts

Most email marketing tools will score the people on your email list. Contacts who regularly open your emails will get a 4 or 5 star while those that open your emails occasionally or never open them will receive a 1 or 2 star. Try to offer rewards to your best contacts. For instance, offer an exclusive gift to them or invite them to a preferred contact event. Building a strong relationship with your best contacts will make them even more likely to open your email. Occasionally sending emails only to this group will significantly improve your email open rates.

Content structure: Simple/Complex

One challenge for email marketing is to stand out within an increasingly cluttered mailbox. Companies are finding that their subject lines and content are simply not attracting the attention of their audience. Consider having very brief initial descriptions, coupled with a very clear call-to-action. This is perfect for subscribers who quickly skim their emails. Try short content e.g. an email with just one link to a piece of content.  Then try adding videos and more content to test how your email recipients engage with multiple pieces of content. Remember: fewer links are better.

Optimise for mobile

55% of emails were opened on mobile devices from May 2016 to April 2017 – up from just 29% in 2012 [Source: B2B Marketing]. Therefore, it is crucial that you optimise your emails for mobile. Some quick things you can do are to shrink your images and enlarge the font on the page. Remember that mobile devices automatically flip the orientation of the screen so your email should look good in portrait and landscape formats. One way to optimise for this is to use a single column layout. If you are not optimising for mobile, your email open rates are probably much lower than what they could be.

Have we missed a tip? Share your best email marketing strategies with us!

How Business Development and Marketing Work Together

How Business Development and Marketing Work Together

I’ve been called many things in my 13-year career including Technical Sales Engineer, Business Development Executive and Marketing Manager. I suppose there are worse things to be called. Each role felt the same at times, the same purpose dressed up in a buzzword job title. Now that I run my own marketing consultancy, I get to work with talented business development professionals and it is clear to me that business development and marketing are different but must work together to achieve business goals. How can these roles work together and achieve business growth for their organisation or client?

When some people think about marketing, they imagine brochures, logos, matching colour schemes and perhaps promotional goods and beautiful websites. This is all important for supporting a business. However, marketing goes much further than that. I’ll come to how in a moment.

Business Development and Marketing in Sync

Let’s first examine the role of business development (BD). BD is about working on the front line of client relationships. The main aim of the role is to cultivate relationships for the long-term, creating sustainable business growth.

That’s how I see it. Coming back to the essence of marketing, I’d argue that that’s my aim too – to help businesses grow. But I do it differently from my business development colleagues. I push out well-crafted messages through relevant channels. They ensure that the fruits of that effort are nurtured and nourished for the long-term. I cannot live without their follow-through and they cannot live without my seed planting.

Business Development and Marketing Enrich Your Buyers’ Journey

My favourite way to break down the stages of the Marketing-BD collaboration is using the funnel approach. We have Awareness (top of the funnel), Consideration (middle of the funnel) and Decision (bottom of the funnel). Here’s an infographic to summarise the customer’s journey through the funnel:

business development and marketing YO! Marketing buyer's stages infographic

This approach is used by companies like HubSpot and is commonly referred to as inbound marketing.

Let’s look at how BD and Marketing work together throughout the funnel.

Funnel Stage Marketing Business Development
Awareness Define ideal customer profiles

 

Develop the value proposition for each customer group

Create a list of potential customers based on the profile

 

 

Make an initial introduction to customers that fit the profile

Consideration Publish content on industry best practices

 

Perform competitor analysis to understand potential customers’ options

 

Create lead magnets as part of an email marketing strategy

Deepen relationships with new contacts via networking

 

Ensure relevant compliance requirements are in place

 

Create a customer engagement strategy and a process for maintaining existing relationships

Decision Schedule demos

 

Set up webinars and free trials

 

Create and share case studies

 

Develop a program of regular interaction with the customer via relevant content and customer events

Set customer’s expectations

 

Ask questions about product and services and next steps

 

Handover to the sales team to close the deal

 

Identify future opportunities for upselling

 

Benefits of Business Development and Marketing Working Together

Considering that 67% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer even reaches out to a salesperson, it is more important than ever that sales, marketing and business development work closely behind the scenes to facilitate this journey. The advantages of working through the process together are that you:

  • Know who your customer is (hint: it is NOT “everybody”)
  • Go from a general description of your customer (macro-view) to a list of specific companies (micro-view) that you want to engage with
  • Add value to potential customers before they even ask for information (or realise they need you
  • Ensure you have what it takes to do business with your potential customer before you go in for the deal
  • Have a clear strategy for interacting with and informing your target customers of what you do
  • Meet your potential customers face-to-face, not just online thanks to strategically selected events and networking opportunities
  • Build trust by ensuring that all teams are aligned with your messaging and what the customer can expect from your business
  • Have the best people from each role guiding your potential customer from start to finish

It is a pleasure when I see this collaboration across teams, it allows the business work smarter (and not harder) to achieve business growth. I call it nothing short of amazing!

Download our Marketing Planning Template

This blog was originally published on the Sarah Downs Ltd blog on 28 February 2018

Marketing Proposals: 10 Reasons Why We’re Using Bidsketch

Marketing Proposals: 10 Reasons Why We’re Using Bidsketch

Like most new businesses, we struggled to get the right tools in place. We used Excel to track revenue, clients and projects. When it came to proposals, a Microsoft Word template was all we had. But we have now found better, more efficient ways. Bidsketch is a proposal writing platform that cuts the time and effort it takes to write proposals. We tried it for recent marketing proposals and we have to say we are hooked.

It’s amazing how much time you could spend doing admin in a small business. Yes, admin is important. It supports the overall business and keeps you right. But it takes up valuable time that we could spend on business development, strategy and delivering high-quality client work.

At YO! Marketing, we realised that we needed better tools once we started to grow. That’s why we took a trial version of Bidsketch a few weeks ago. We used it to write one of our most important marketing proposals yet – a high-value project that we wanted to add to our growing portfolio of content marketing gigs.

YO! Marketing proposals bidsketch

Here are 10 things we love about using Bidsketch for YO! Marketing proposals:
  1. It is easy to start a free trial – just one click and you are all set
  2. You get a customised domain – ours is https://yomarketing.bidsketch.com. You can customise it further if you wish!
  3. There are built-in templates that cover various types of proposals such as content marketing, social media management, project management, IT consulting, mobile app development etc
  4. The templates are customisable so you can add and remove sections depending on your project needs
  5. Your marketing proposal contains sections where you can sell the value of the project and your team Bidsketch YO! Marketing proposals quote by Yekemi Otaru
  6. There is existing text in each section that provides inspiration for you to create your own text. For instance, the value of the project is a key section where you need to think about why your potential client should consider such a project in the first place
  7. Our favourite feature is probably how Bidsketch allows you to break down the client fees in our marketing proposals. We itemise each work task and define them as one-time fees, monthly fees or yearly fees. You can also add optional add-ons separately. This is hugely valuable for us as we always want to be completely transparent so that there are no hidden fees. Our proposals provide the whole picture of what our clients could get depending on their budget
  8.  You can add your own logo to the proposal as well as an image on the cover page. Therefore, our marketing proposals have our brand and feel like us!
  9. Once you’re done, you can simply send the proposal to your client within Bidsketch. Within Bidsketch, you can see when the client has viewed the proposal and how long they viewed it – cool, eh?
  10. And finally, there are a number of actions the client can take via the Bidsketch link. The client can accept the proposal or request changes/revisions

For our proposal, we often make changes based on client requests. It was easy to do this within Bidsketch and resend the proposal to the client

We not only cut proposal writing time but we could be really clear about the project scope. We love how easy it is to present our clients with high-quality proposals that communicate our expertise and the impact that the project will have on their business.

A couple of things that we would like to see in Bidsketch:
  1. Incorporating our brand colours and preferred fonts
  2. Adding more information about the client e.g. industry, location and key contacts

Overall, we love Bidsketch! We have incorporated it into our process and we know that can upgrade as our team grows. Thank you, Bidsketch for giving us our YO time back – whew!

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B2B Digital Transformation: Best Practices in Sales & Marketing Teams

B2B Digital Transformation: Best Practices in Sales & Marketing Teams

For a recent Forrester report on the B2B digital transformation, the team interviewed senior execs from global corporation giants GE, IBM and Cisco Systems. The report highlights key themes arising from the move to align sales teams with the new reality of the digital world.

Why B2B Digital Transformation?

B2B digital transformation is driven from the buyer’s side as companies seek to attract digital buyers. Previous articles suggest that the root cause of sales and marketing misalignment is a lack of understanding of the buyer. Some practitioners explain that closer alignment between sales and marketing could even shorten sales cycles.

Therefore, global leaders like GE, Cisco and IBM have taken steps to reevaluate sales and marketing strategies and to enable new ways of empowering direct sales teams. Part of the reevaluation is a digital transformation. According to the Forrester report, key areas of best practices are experimentation, collaboration and innovation. Similar practices apply to any change management programme including social media and technology adoption.

BOOK: The Smart Sceptic’s Guide to Social Media in Organisation

In this blog post, I will summarise the three case studies: GE, Cisco and IBM to draw out key insights.

Cisco: B2B Digital Transformation through Collaborative Innovation

Cisco aims to tie innovation to business outcomes and to de-fragment pockets of innovation throughout the business. The goals are:

  • Meet customers where they are
  • Reach new markets more efficiently
  • Give sales teams more time for actual selling activities

Focusing on innovation and collaboration, Cisco executed its B2B digital transformation as follows:

  • They built and piloted new tools, managing the innovation from incubation to scale. The new tools were based on increased efficiency and higher quality interactions with potential and existing buyers.
  • They established collaboration and shared goals between sales and marketing. For instance, they paired marketing’s sentiment data with sales data. These create insights that tie to opportunities for the organisation.

GE: B2B Digital Transformation through Centralised Innovation

GE is a complex, matrix organisation with several products being sold across different divisions. Therefore, the emphasis for the industrial giant are:

  • Centralise new technologies
  • Form new collaboration partnerships across the divisions
  • Reduce sales cycles by 50%

Some of the positive benefits of executing the initiative were that:

  • Centralising enables scaling of technology. For instance, it allows the reuse and recycling of successful tools and processes. It also provides a 360 degree view of interactions at all levels across the organisation, hence increasing collaboration on opportunities.
  • Collaboration enables sales to respond to customers 50% faster. For instance, GE built an app to reduce time that sales teams spend addressing forecast questions. Salespeople can input information on the fly through voice text solutions. Overall, GE’s sales teams are spending more time on customer-facing selling activities.

IBM: B2B Digital Transformation through Data-Driven Sales Innovation

IBM saw significant incremental sales revenue from putting data scientists in sales teams rather than at corporate level. The success from leveraging data science can be attributed to:

  • Making data scientists part of the sales team. The organisation developed deeper understanding of buyers due to a more scientific approach. For instance, salespeople could differentiate between a motivated buyer and a latent buyer. Also, the teams could more accurately assign sales cycles and measure the impact of new tools and tactics.
READ: Seven Ways to Revive Your Corporate Culture

Conclusion

  • Identify pockets of innovation in the sales team then empower salespeople who already have digital affinity to test new approaches. This drives a culture of innovation starting with early adopters.
  • Seek out tools that increase efficiency in the sales team, enable more personalised engagement and provide rich buyer/seller/relationship analytics.
  • Have at least one data scientist that aligns with sales.

To read the full report, contact Mary Shea, PhD or visit Forrester.com

Feature Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

How to Create Content for Each Stage of Your Buyer’s Journey

How to Create Content for Each Stage of Your Buyer’s Journey

Guide Your Buyer’s Journey Through Inbound Content Marketing

Content marketing has become an ongoing business process and a crucial part of B2B marketing strategy according to 73% of B2B marketers.

READ: The Importance of Content Marketing For Your Business

While content creation and distribution are top factors for success, 72% of marketers agree that a strategy for development and adjustment contributes enormously to success.

In creating a strategy, you must consider your target buyer’s journey. One reason that they might not engage with your content is because you provide it at the wrong time. That is, your target buyer is not yet ready to engage with or act on the content you provide. It is crucial that you understand a typical buyer’s journey as this will guide your strategy.

inbound content marketing YO!

The buyer’s journey was the main topic of the HubSpot Inbound Certification training that I recently did. Rich with actionable tips, the course focused on how creating the right content drives sales by being relevant to the buyer’s journey.

Now, what are the stages of a typical buyer’s journey? They are:

  • Awareness
  • Conversion
  • Decision


Stages of a Buyer’s Journey

Let’s take these in turn.
Awareness is the stage where your potential buyer identifies that they have a problem. They might sense that something isn’t right, but they are not sure what it is. At this stage, your goal as a vendor is to help the potential buyer become aware of the problem such that they can define it.

Thereafter, they might start to look for possible solutions. They will want to know how they can solve the problem. Therefore, your goal at this stage is to identify potential solutions to the identified problem.

Now that the buyer knows the problem, and has considered a range of solutions, your goal is to give them the information they need to decide which solution to go for.

IMPORTANT TIP:

Do not try to sell your products or services at the Awareness and Conversion stages. In fact, try not to mention your company at all. Your role at these stages is the role of an educator.

Let’s look at examples of the kind of content you could create at each stage.

At the Awareness stage

Share content that outline best practice for instance, The Ultimate Guide to Writing Persuasive Landing Page Copy. This gives the target customer an overview of what an ideal landing page copy looks like. They then realise how they might not have been following best practices and hence, not getting optimal result. In this example, the target customer probably knows that their landing pages aren’t great but doesn’t know what they are doing wrong. Your Ultimate Guide helps to identify the problem.

At the Conversion stage

Your target buyer is looking for ideas to solve their problem. Let’s say the buyer has identified that they are struggling to generate content within their engineering business. They might come across 12 Engaging Content Ideas for Engineering Companies, which is packed with ideas for content formats that they could implement in their business. You offer solutions to an already identified problem.

At the Decision stage

The possible solutions are known but your target buyer is comparing options to decide. Testimonials, case studies and price comparison content are ideal at this stage of the buyer’s journey. A case study about how employee advocacy worked well in a technical setting might be the key to deciding to go with the vendor that implemented the programme or delivered the tools. Absolutely write about your business’ products and services.

You can also offer free trials and consultative meetings. Do you see how the awareness and conversion stages might not be the right time to offer these? I’d love to know your thoughts and experiences. Comment below 🙂

Photo by Freddy Castro on Unsplash

Leadership in Technology: surviving the “magic weekend”

Leadership in Technology: surviving the “magic weekend”

This blog is written by Gillian Thomson, Director of GT Limited. With a background in engineering and almost 20 years’ experience across a variety of industries, Gillian helps businesses to get the best out of their people. She specialises in leadership development, team effectiveness, conflict resolution and HR strategy & support. You can get in touch with Gillian by email at gillian@gt.limited and follow @GTLimitedUK on Twitter

Leadership and the magic weekend

Whilst not unique to technology industries, the “magic weekend” is a phenomenon that’s common in this field. Excellent technical specialists are promoted to positions of leadership because they are great at being technical specialists. Not necessarily because they have great leadership skills. On Friday, you are part of the team. Then by Monday, you are leading it. You often get very little support for the transition, and are just expected to know how to deal with all the challenges that come with being a leader. This can be even more difficult when you are friends with the people you are now responsible for leading. So how can you ease the transition and become the leader you know you can be?

Get to know your team

You may think you already know your team, especially if you were peers before now. But do you really know them? Take time to understand their aspirations, their strengths, what they need support with, what they are looking for from you as their leader. Consider using a tool such as Emergenetics® to understand thinking and behaviour preferences and help the team work more effectively together.

Letting go

One of the hardest challenges for new managers is letting go of the detail. They need to delegate that to others, trusting others to do the work that you consider yourself the expert in. Be clear on the desired outcome, but allow the team to get there in their own way. It may be different to yours, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong! I often use a tool called ‘setting the waterline’. Consider if you were the captain of a ship. If the ship’s engineer discovered a hole the size of a penny at the top of the hull above the waterline, and he was perfectly capable of fixing it. There’s really no need for you be involved. If, on the other hand he discovered a hole that was letting in gallons of sea water under the water line, then you probably need to know. Talk to your team about where your waterlines are. What are the things they can just get on and do, what are the things that you really need to be involved in?

Ask questions

What do you think? How does success look like? Which barriers do you see right now? What would you do next if time/resources/money were not a constraint? The questions you can ask as a leader are limitless. Effective questions unlock the potential of our people. Allow them to figure out the answer’s themselves and give them confidence that they can deal with new situations that they face. Be careful of “Why” questions such as “Why did you do it like that?” as they can come across as judgemental.  Don’t feel like you always have to have the answer.

Learn to Listen

Effective listening is one of this most important skills a leader can have. Usually we’re not actively listening, but waiting for our chance to speak and thinking about what we’re going to say next. Or mulling over that important email that came in just before you sat down for a catch up with your team member. Take the time to properly listen when you are having conversations with your team

Give feedback well

Giving effective feedback is an art. And all too often leaders save it up for the end of year appraisal when it is overwhelming and the individual will likely only focus on the 1 negative thing you told them, and not the 20 great things. Give feedback (both positive and constructive) in the moment, as soon as possible after the event. Be specific about the situation or the behaviour, make it future focused and make it factual – avoid assumptions

Embrace conflict

Managing conflict and difficult conversations are the top two things that leaders say they find difficult to do, according to research from the CIPD. But we need conflict and disagreement to drive innovation and creativity within the team. As leaders, it’s important that we know how to manage conflict constructively. Invest some time in learning these skills and you’ll reap the dividends, not just with your team and potentially across all areas of your life!

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