Recently, I had an interesting conversation with a VP of Marketing about converting emails into two-way conversations.
We were reviewing my proposal for email nurture streams designed to move prospects from the top to the middle of the lead funnel. We found it easy to visualize the emails themselves. What required more thought on our part were the “engagement triggers” – incentives designed to turn one-way emails into trust-building conversations between the recipients and the staff.
“How do we turn generic broadcast emails into personal interactions?”
The last few weeks have featured interesting blog discussions and a corporate acquisition related to this issue.
More Marketers Are Focusing on Relevance and Personalization for Email Programs
Loren McDonald (@lorenmcdonald), Vice President of Industry Relations at Silverpop, just published encouraging news in his blog post, Email Marketers’ Concerns Becoming More Sophisticated.
Loren has noticed an interesting consistency among the customers he’s visited lately. While they still care about list growth, they’re also eager to turn email marketing into relevant conversations. For example, his customers want to:
- Tailor emails to the recipients’ interests. They want to leverage marketing automation to move past broadcast models. “This means combining multi-track programs with behavioral data to deliver one-to-one messages in real time.”
- Personalize the early experiences of new email subscribers. Traditional, generic welcome emails are being replaced with “multi-step onboarding programs based on demographics and behavior at the individual level.”
- Use advanced segmentation with third-party data. More companies want to combine their data with that of third parties and “leverage predictive modeling to create segments based on factors such as likelihood to buy.”
The three initiatives above show why marketers are interested in integrating email and social media:
- Email nurture streams triggered by referrals from social media sites are potentially more relevant to their recipient.
- Social media profiles are valuable sources of demographic and behavioral data.
For both B2B and B2C lead generation efforts, the result is email that is more fun or helpful, and more likely to drive sales.
Marketing Automation Vendors Are Improving the Integration of Social Media and Email
It’s safe to say that marketing automation vendors are now investigating how social media and email can mesh. As a case in point, marketing automation provider Marketo just acquired Crowd Factory, a social campaign management platform.
While explaining the acquisition, Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez (@phil1217) accurately summarized the fragmentation that most marketers have struggled with:
“Social marketing campaigns and marketing automation have been like the proverbial two ships passing in the night, with most social marketing tools sitting in silos disconnected from mainstream marketing processes.”
Let’s quickly look at some of the features Crowd Factory offers a traditional email marketer:
- Social engagement tactics which can be integrated into campaigns.
These include 1) promotion applications like sweepstakes, 2) referral applications like special offers and 3) engagement applications such as voting and polls.
Regardless of whether or not you’re a Marketo fan, this acquisition should benefit you in the long run. It will spur all marketing automation vendors to continue integrating the silos of social media, traditional CRM, website analytics, email marketing and lead management.
Social Tactics Add Value to Both B2B and B2C Emails
As I read about Crowd Factory’s features, I remembered my need to find B2B “engagement triggers,” mentioned at the beginning of this post. Even though polls and sweepstakes are often considered B2C tactics, they could also be applied in some B2B situations. For example, visualize a poll that, with tongue-in-cheek humor, encourages a prospect to pick his biggest business challenge. That prospect’s answer might trigger a follow-up nurture stream targeted specifically to his concerns. It could also support a comfortable, positive conversation between the prospect and a member of the sales team.
How about you? Do these developments stir your own thoughts? What are you doing to bring more creativity and relevance to your email marketing programs?