How to Guide the Buyer’s Journey with Email Marketing

Posted by Dan Stasiewski on Aug 11, 2013 7:22:00 AM

email marketingAs marketers, we can all agree the journey a consumer takes from lead to customer today is much different than it was 10 years ago. However, email still plays a major role in that process. Almost a third of repeat customers are initiated by email. And, according Epsilon’s Email Trends and Benchmark report, open rates are increasing with the new benchmark number set at a 31.1 percent open rate. That’s an increase of nearly 4 percent from Q4 2012 to Q1 2013.

Why are open rates going up? Mobile is one reason, according to Epsilon. Inbound marketing has also changed exactly what and how we’re emailing leads, prospects and customers. Instead of a giveaway or email that offers a free quote or consultation, educational offers like eBooks and guides keep leads engaged until they are ready to buy. Plus, providing leads with a flow of nurturing emails after a lead takes action on your site also boosts the chances relevant emails are being opened.

But what happens after engagement? The buyer might not know what the next steps to take should be. It’s your job as a marketer to make sure when a lead is ready, you’re providing him or her an opportunity to move through your funnel. Here are five basic tips you can use to guide leads through the journey rather than letting them go it alone:

Segment, Segment, Segment

At the heart of every good email program is segmentation. Your subscribers expect you to send only the most relevant information because they know you can. Email has been done this way for years now on the B2C side, but B2B companies still have a lot of catching up to do. Get started by creating these segmented lists, and then look for as many additional opportunities to segment your list into smaller and smaller groups. An email with 500 people might get a 15 to 20 percent click rate, whereas an email to 5,000 might only get 1.5 to 2 percent. That’s the same number of actions with fewer annoyed subscribers. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Send Frequent Emails

What seems frequent to you (say twice a week or every other business day) might not be so frequent to the subscribers. Smaller, more targeted segmented lists allow you to send more messages in a shorter time period. To use the 500/5,000 comparison above, targeting the smaller list means you can contact the 4,500 other subscribers with content more relevant to their needs. 

Provide One Offer Per Email

Because your lists are getting smaller and your emails more frequent, simple one-offer emails are necessary both for relevance and your sanity. Customizing an email newsletter with multiple offers and actions for each targeted group decreases the effectiveness of the offers overall and wastes time. Plus, giving the user too many options doesn’t help move the user along on their journey. If you focus on the offer at hand, you’re a much better guide.

Tell a Story with Lead Nurturing Emails

Once a user converts on a single offer, you can continue to provide the user information of interest to him or her with lead nurturing emails. But rather than just hammering leads with offer after offer, tell them a story. Your lead nurturing workflow should have a first, second and third act (top, middle and bottom of the funnel) and should be just as creative and engaging as the content that started the workflow in the first place.

Always Include a Bottom of the Funnel Offer

Now there’s one thing we all know about any journey: It’s nice if you have a shortcut. Whether it’s a line in a lead nurturing email, an image in a footer or a call-to-action on a linked website page, you should always give the subscriber a chance to take the final step in the journey from lead to customer. Without it, you could miss a valuable opportunity to convert a lead when he or she is ready.

How do you guide your leads through the buyer journey? Share your tips in the comments.


Dan Stasiewski is Technology Director at Kuno. When he's not talking about marketing data and trends, he's probably in a movie theater... or randomly breaking into song. You can connect with Dan via TwitterLinkedIn or Google Plus.


photo credit: RambergMediaImages
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Topics: email marketing, dan stasiewski, buyers journey, kuno creative

The 5 Email Marketing Blunders that Lead to Unsubscribes

Posted by John Bonini on Dec 11, 2012 11:50:00 AM

The 5 Email Marketing Blunders that Lead to Unsubscribes

On the heels of a new year, there are two things you can almost always count on;

  1. Ryan Seacrest's ear muffs on "Dick Clark's New Years Rockin' Eve."
  2. A plethora of blog articles detailing where marketing is going.

The latter is in full swing as we speak, with pretty much every marketing blog in the western world providing insider information on where you should expect to allocate your marketing budget in the coming year. 

I'm here to tell you that this blog is really no different. However, rather than forecast my opinion, I'm going to base where I think email marketing is headed based on the changes I'm seeing right now. 

With the consumer shift to digital and mobile devices, it's no secret that marketing is transitioning to a more personalized, segmented approach. The days of blasting offers or information to your entire contact list are gone. Included below are the five most common email marketing techniques of "yester-year" that will be rendered ineffective in 2013.

5 Email Marketing Blunders that Lead to Unsubscribes 

1. Too Many Emails

The line between too little and too many is often very hard to decipher. As a marketer myself, I often feel if I'm not consistently engaging my contact list, I'll fall from their consciousness.

However, you have to give your contact a little bit more credit. They've already engaged with your website and obviously thought you valuable enough to subscribe too. The challenge now? Don't make them regret their decision. (As I've often done with brands I used to subscribe to.)

This is why segmenting your contacts is so critical (more on that in a bit). It ensures you're not bombarding the same people with emails three times a week. Give them time to digest the content or information you've sent them. If you find yourself trigger happy, utilize HubSpot workflows which will let you send automated, yet personalized emails at your desired schedule. 

This way...no one forgets about each other. After all, it's much better to remind someone of your brand than to lose them altogether. 

2. No Segmentation

Walk into every store, and you'll see several types of prospects:

  • Those browsing
  • Those comparing products/talking with salesmen
  • Those standing in line with a basket of products

Now obviously, you wouldn't trample the "browser" who just entered your store with a "let's talk price" type pitch. Why? Because you'd be generalizing all of your customers into one 'stage of the buying cycle', effectively losing most of them.

So why would you practice this with your email marketing? It simply doesn't make sense to blast out emails to your entire contact list anymore (unless it's a huge sale or company news). Segment your leads into categories. 

Those leads who downloaded your offer on social media engagement? Perhaps they would be interested on your new whitepaper detailing brand awareness using Twitter. Those that viewed your case study and pricing page might respond to an 'free consultation' offer.

Simply give them what they want. Don't generalize. 

3. Overly Salesy

Simply put: don't go all "used-car salesmen" on your email recipients. Consumers have become so accustomed to digesting content quickly with the advent of smart phones and tablets, that they're also fine-tuned to delete "spammy" sounding emails. 

Avoid words like:

  • Free
  • Act now
  • Hurry!
  • Instant savings
  • Anything with exclamation points!!!!!!!

Your contacts have already taken an interest in your product/service. Once again, don't screw it up and make them regret this. Instead of pitching and upselling your entire service, convey the value of your product or service and how they can benefit. 

Bottom line: forget about yourself...make it about them. 

4. No Value Conveyed

Building off that last thought, your emails should focus on the benefits of what you're offering, rather than the features of it.

While they may sound one and the same, spending too much time blowing your horn and the features you're offering will turn people off. You know what they really want to know? How it's going to help them. 

So tell them.

Why do they need this offer? How will they benefit? What will they learn? 

To keep the focus on the consumer, it helps to keep them focusing inward — putting the wheels in motion for change and improvement. If all they're thinking about is how arrogant and great you say you are, where's the potential for reflection?

5. Not Tracking & Measuring Performance 

You know all that time you spent searching for the right image to include in your email? Turns out, it didn't make much difference. No one clicked in the email anyway. 

So what was the problem? Your perfect image, or your content? 

Ensure you're not spending too much time on things that hold no significance to the bottom line (opens and clicks) otherwise you'll be wasting time and resources. 

Every email sent should be tracked and measured to determine what went right, and what could have been done better. If you don't, you're leaving the door open to the possibility that the one thing that's annoying readers and leading to unsubscribes will go unchanged. 

What's Next?

While it's impossible to tell what's coming, it's certainly easy to see what's happening right now. And consumers have responded. They want what's relevant to them. Anything else will wind up in the trash.

Learn how to turn these tips into real results with "The Fast Track to Powerful Emails."

About the Author: John Bonini is the marketing manager of IMPACT Branding & Design, an inbound marketing agency focused on creating powerful marketing campaigns that deliver results.  

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Topics: email marketing, unsubscribes, inbound marketing

Email Marketing Sensationalism: It's Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

Posted by Pete Caputa on Aug 28, 2008 10:48:00 AM

This is a guest article by Kelle Sparta of Sparta Success Systems.  

Last week I received an email containing a link to Frank Kern's video on The Rubberneck Effect in marketing online.  I watched the video and decided to try out the premise.  So I immediately sent out a letter to my mailing list with the same subject line ("bad news...") that he had suggested.  What I found was very interesting. 

I found that my open rate did increase rather dramatically, in fact almost twice as many people opened the email as normally do (27.9% vs. my normal 13%-15%).  And the percentage click through rate (the number of people who clicked on any given link) was about average for any mailing - which means about twice as many people as normal clicked through overall since twice as many opened it.  But my opt-outs (people who asked to be removed from the mailing list) were more than double (0.7% as opposed to my normal 0.3%). 

I also included access to a free 10-part audio training on my real estate training website (this was my real estate list that I sent this out to).  I got a 32.6% click through rate and 55.8% of those who clicked through actually signed up for the auto responder program with the training.  That's better than any other free item I've ever offered. 

In looking back at my open rates, I realized that only one email I've sent out has come close to these statistics.  Interestingly, it was the one I sent on Valentines Day this year with the subject line "You Are Loved".  I can't compare click-through rates for you since I did this email as a pure deposit in the emotional bank account of my readers and didn't ask for any sales or even offer any links on the page.  Interestingly, the opt-out rate was still only 0.3% which is average for a mailing for me.  Although none of the people who opted out reported me as spam whereas 4 people reported me on the "bad news..." mailing.

So it would seem that telling someone they are loved is just as attractive as indicating there is bad news.  But there's more to the story.  The text of the Valentines email was:

"I just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know how much I love and appreciate you. 

Happy Valentine's Day.

Love always,
-Kelle Sparta"

Well, I got a large amount of emails back from this message.  About half were positive and expressed appreciation in return or gave thanks for the message.  The other half of the respondents were angry and/or skeptical asking how I could possibly claim to love someone I hadn't met.  It was a controversial subject and clearly divided respondents into two very disparate camps. 

In contrast, I received only three emails from the "bad news..." email.  One had also gotten the link to Frank Kern's video the same day and was impressed with the speed of implementation that I showed and amused to see it arrive in her mailbox.  Another emailed me to thank me for the article from the previous week and to tell me she had forwarded it to a friend who was in need of help in dealing with her fears.  And a third came from Peter Caputa, a friend and fellow internet marketer, who said that he had felt a little betrayed when he saw the inside vs. the subject line.  He felt I might end up with the "boy who cried wolf" syndrome if I wasn't careful about how often I used these messages.  (And I agree with him.)  But there were no angry messages from my actual customers. 

So, I think I can conclude from this two things about open rates:

  1. Sensationalism certainly does increase open rates. The Rubberneck Effect as described by Frank Kern does work - after all, a 27.9% open rate with a 54.5% click through to watch the video certainly doesn't suck.
  2. Positive, emotionally charged comments that are out of the box also work though. "You Are Loved" returned a 25.2% open rate - not quite as good as "bad news..." but certainly not shabby in the overall mix of things. Whether the click-throughs will be equivalent with the positive message to those in the negative one, I can't say yet. I'll test that next.

And, sadly, I think I can also conclude that we are more open to hearing that something has gone wrong than we are that someone loves and appreciates us. 

So, for now, I think I'll go back to my pattern of talking about the positives.  Perhaps I'll start looking at the emotional content of my subject lines a little more to keep my readers intrigued more often.  But, thankfully, I think I can leave the sensationalism behind in favor of a more positive approach.  (Which is really what I wanted to do anyway.)

Kelle Sparta is The Business Shaman and Consciousness Consultant to corporations and small businesses. Kelle is the founder of Sparta Success Systems, a consulting and coaching company that provides tools, products, and training to empower business owners, managers and employees to create lives and businesses they can love. For more information, visit her website at http://www.kellesparta.com

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Topics: email marketing

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