Acquisition Email Marketing Tips from the Trenches at MarketingProfs
"MarketingProfs started in 2001 and built up entirely organically a list of mailable email addresses that stands at over 300,000 today. In 2013, we deployed over 10 million such acquisition emails. So, having seen literally hundreds of advertisers trying thousands of offers has given us a great portal into what works in B2B email marketing."
Each week here at MarketingProfs we ‘press send’ on up to 25 different 3rd party emails from our advertising partners. We’ve been doing so for over a decade. MarketingProfs started in 2001 and built up entirely organically a list of mailable email addresses that stands at over 300,000 today. In 2013, we deployed over 10 million such acquisition emails. So, having seen literally hundreds of advertisers trying thousands of offers has given us a great portal into what works in B2B email marketing. For context, our audience/list is comprised of digital marketers who have signed up to MarketingProfs to receive daily tips and ideas for better online marketing. ·
Subject lines. We’ve found the sweet spot to be 46 characters or LESS. (That last sentence was 57 characters for reference). Our sales op guy wrote a good piece on subject lines last year in this MarketingProfs article. That doesn’t mean a longer subject line cannot work well; but it’s a pattern we’ve noted. Also, we’ve seen subject lines that use their first word/s to describe what’s inside can work well. For example: “[Download eBook] Create Contagious Content That Begs to Be Shared” was a good subject line that one of our clients actually used. Note the use of brackets, we are seeing that tactic more and more, it seems to help the email stand out and improve opens. In general, we recommend creating a sense of urgency and a dash of intrigue. Most of all, TEST! Too often subject lines are an afterthought, with so much time/effort spent on the creative, colors, copy etc. In our trenches, it is still sadly pretty rare that a client proactively performs a subject line test. ·
Offer. Email offers with one simple (and clear) call to action are winning, especially when benefits to the reader are well presented. Here are the broad categories of offers we see:-
Free Content. By far the most common offer in our realm is the good old “free whitepaper,” comprising some 70% of the advertising offers we push out. More often called “eBook” or “Guide” these days, free downloads are the workhorse of B2B lead generation. I’m often asked if shorter pieces get a better take-up rate than longer form (under the logic that nobody has time/willingness to read anymore), and there isn’t a simple answer. A few of the best performing pieces of content to our audience have been long (15+ pages). I tend to fall more on the side that B2B prospects are more likely to give up that important contact info if they see that the free asset they are trading their data for is substantial. Overall for this category of offer, we are thrilled to see click rates holding up (over 1.5%) year in and out. Anecdotally, we hear clients generating anywhere from 25% to 50% landing page conversion rates (e.g. % of clickers who complete the reg. form and download the content).
Webinars/Virtual Events. Another typical B2B marketing tactic, webinars and their cousins virtual events represent approximately 10% of the offers we put through. Click rates are only about half as strong as free content, but for many clients a webinar attendee rates a higher lead score. A few clients have found success combining a webinar offer with a link to free content or even a trial, though as discussed below, every extra option you present to a busy skimming reader can reduce response.
On-Site Events. We haven’t sent too many of these, but the few we have performed surprisingly well, with click rate on par with what webinars generate. However, we’re quite sure conversion rates are below webinars and other online events. No surprise, as there arguably no higher threshold of prospect commitment than giving time, attention and money to attend an on-site event.
Trial. Less than 20 different clients have tested this option in the last couple of years, yet one large software company routinely features a free trial offer to our list, often in conjunction with a survey. As “hard” as this offer is, the click rates on the limited number of clients we’ve seen are also on par with webinars, which (IMO) runs counter to expectations. It goes against prevailing wisdom, but some offers lend themselves to free trials right from a ‘cold’ first touch prospecting email.
Creative. As noted above, simple and clear call to action is best. Using simple words and short paragraphs and/or bullet points helps a business reader get to the point quickly. This is not to say “long form is dead” - but we see again and again that short & sweet works best. Further, we recommend white backgrounds, and plenty of white space, along with a font size that can be easily read on mobile devices. Having at least two call to action links is a good idea, placing the first one high up in the email (the proverbial “above the fold” – a phrase that could stand a refresh in this age of small screen proliferation). Of course, design & layout is another variable that can be tested, though we rarely see B2B marketers investing the time/effort to do so.
One more suggestion for B2B acquisition marketers: Smarten up your Registration Forms. Last year we took the plunge and implemented technology from Demandbase that helps us achieve a landing page/registration page holy grail: Asking fewer questions yet capturing more data. Many B2B marketers have likewise figured this out and use such tools but far too few are utilizing the option from what I can see. I cannot recommend enough that B2B marketers adopt such tools; ReachForce has a similar offering. It is a relatively low cost option that pays big dividends.