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B2B email marketing and incentives

January 6, 2014

As any marketer knows, implementing a successful B2B marketing strategy can be a lot harder to achieve than one aimed at consumers. The decision-making process to purchase is usually much longer in the B2B world, often months rather than weeks. Whereas B2B email campaigns are focused on immediate results, B2B campaigns usually concentrate on lead generation and delivery over a period of time. The B2C world is littered with incentives to encourage customers to buy, but for B2B marketers, incentives can be a double-edged sword. In this article we consider the effectiveness of offering incentives in the B2B marketplace. We look at what makes a good B2B incentive and how to judge whether your incentive has been successful.

Why offer an incentive?

It's a question that many e-marketers have to face when planning their strategies. With marketing budgets tight and justification necessary for every aspect of a campaign, it can be tempting to avoid expensive incentivisation. After all, is it really worth it? In our experience the answer is - it can be, but only if carefully thought through. As with any aspect of email marketing, just because sending an email is quick and easy doesn't mean that campaigns can be executed without due care and attention.

B2B incentives that work

The first step in planning an incentive based campaign is to establish what your customers and prospects need. The wrong kind of incentive could be immensely damaging to your brand doing more harm than good. It is worth spending some time researching what customers actually want, rather than what you find easiest to give them. There are many ways to conduct this research, talk to customers whom you are close to, sit down with your sales people and find out what they are asked most often, send out a short survey, look at what they have responded well to in the past. Research, conducted well, should ensure that you offer an incentive that is perceived as valuable by your audience. Worthless incentives run the risk of turning your customers off.

Relevant incentives

Choosing an incentive that is relevant to your audience is also important in order that the responses to the campaign form qualified leads. If you attract people who are only interested in the incentive and not in your product or service then you serve only to increase your sales team's workload for little end reward. It is for this reason that many B2B marketers avoid cash or prize incentives. Offering a free bottle of champagne or weekend trip to Paris might seem like a pretty cheap way to attract hundreds of subscribers to your mailing list, but how many will actually stick around to read the content of your newsletter or your product guides? The most effective incentives in B2B marketing therefore, tends to be informational in format. A well written White Paper or free guide can be an excellent way to encourage customers to sign up to a mailing list or to encourage prospects to part with precious personal data. However it must be very well written, researched and genuinely informative if is to have the desired effect. It is about your customers, not you. Producing such a work need not necessarily be an expensive undertaking. You may well find that you have all of the information that you require at your fingertips. Harness the knowledge you have within your company, especially amongst sales staff who talk to customers on a daily basis. They usually have a pretty good handle on the type of problems that customers need solving.

Who to offer incentives to?

Targeting is also an important part of developing an incentive campaign. Many incentive based campaigns are acquisitional in nature; however it might be even more fruitful to consider developing an incentive campaign for retention. Incentives focused on strengthening current relationships can be easier to manage and more cost effective. An incentive campaign for customers might be more monetary based than one to prospects. For example a discount or free upgrade could be a valuable incentive that also encourages cross and up selling opportunities. Retention focused incentive campaigns are not just useful for encouraging customer loyalty however. Many businesses these days rely on a network of resellers, distributors or partners. Running a campaign with an incentive for these people can be an excellent way to build on relationships and to encourage them to work harder for you.

Launching the campaign

Having developed your incentive concept and chosen your target audience, it is important to test out the validity of the incentive before you launch the campaign proper. Doing a soft launch on a small test group will give you the opportunity to ensure that the incentive is being offered in a way that maximises response levels. Bear in mind that your recipients may have been inundated in the past with worthless offers. You need to explain to them what the benefits are of your incentive. Once the campaign is launched, it is also worth planning a series of follow-ups, it is easy for your offer to be lost if it is only sent once. Tracking responses, and non-responses, will allow you to re-send a variation of the email offer to those who do not respond on the first hit.

How to judge if your incentive has been successful

The milestones by which you chose to judge how successful your campaign has been will of course very much depend on what the campaign objective was. In most instances however, the success of a campaign should not be judged on click-throughs (how many people clicked onto the landing page) or conversion (how many people downloaded the White Paper). Ultimately, whether your campaign is aimed at customers, prospects or channel partners, the aim of the game will be to increase sales. B2B marketing is a long term strategy and it may be many weeks or months before success can be tested. If you would like any further information, please email [email protected] or call 0161 817 2929

Posted by Jenni Malley

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