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The Latest Trends in B2B Email Marketing

At the same time that email marketing is becoming more complex, all of the issues surrounding it are becoming more interconnected. That is strikingly apparent when looking at the latest B2B email marketing trends identified by members of Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting’s Expert Services team, which assist Eloqua customers with all aspects of their email programs.

Let’s follow this Interconnected chain of current trends in B2B email marketing:

Compliance Automation

Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) was the first wave in the changing attitudes around privacy and permission. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was the second and much larger wave. And the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) is the latest wave, which is likely to prompt a national US privacy act akin to GDPR in order to avoid having a patchwork of state privacy laws.

What’s clear is that privacy and permission standards are rising quickly and so are the penalties for non-compliance. That means that assuring that all of your subscriber acquisition sources are following the law and functioning properly is more important than ever.

“CASL, GDPR, and CCPA have created a new level of importance for normalized and accurate data,” says Fabricio J. Lopez, Cloud Manager, Oracle Expert Services. “Any compliance automation program will only be as good as the data supporting it, so brands have to create internal Data Governance Committees and assume the new responsibility of preventing multi-million dollar lawsuits for their organizations.

“Beyond normalization programs,” he adds, “data standards have to be monitored closely ensuring that all forms, list uploads, third-party apps, and CRM integrations are using the same set of values for key fields like Country, Region, State, and Province.”    

Automating compliance data processes will be an ongoing strategic initiative driving opt-in email automation, says Autumn Coleman, Senior Principal Consultant, Oracle Expert Services. “This process determines how to handle contacts that are net new to the database,” she says, “while simultaneously excluding non-compliant contacts from future email campaigns.”

Privacy and permission regulations also require...

More Active Management of Inactives

Having inactive subscribers on your email list that haven’t engaged with your emails in a long time depresses your performance metrics, poses a risk to your deliverability, and can violate the law. However, only 52% of brands remove chronically inactive subscribers, according to Litmus’s 2018 State of Email Analytics.

The low level of adoption of this necessary behavior represents not only a huge compliance risk, but a huge deliverability risk as well.

“It’s well past time for every brand to embrace a ‘less is more’ mantra,” says Chris Carlock, Principal Consultant, Oracle Expert Services. “Who cares if you have millions of contacts in your database. How many of these contacts have opened an email in the past 13 months? In the past 6 months?”

Brands should try to reengage subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked one of their emails in the past several months using triggered reengagement campaigns. The higher your email frequency, the sooner you’ll want to intervene. Reengagement campaign tactics vary, but the goal is always simply to get the subscriber to open or click an email again. If these attempts fail—along with a last-ditch try at re-permissioning them—then it’s time to move them to a suppression list and stop mailing them.

“Focus on your quality leads and engaged contacts—the 20% or so of leads that will result in 80% of your revenue,” he says. “This is even more important as data transparency and trust become more important with the advent of GDPR and CCPA.”

Brands can also preemptively reduce the percentage of inactive subscribers on their list by boosting the quality of their subscribers from day one by implementing...

Stronger Opt-ins

Subscribers who provide active consent are simply more valuable and less risky subscribers. By explicitly filling out an email signup form, checking an unchecked box to receive emails, or confirming permission via a double opt-in confirmation request email, subscribers indicate a clear interest in receiving your emails. Passive opt-ins during webinar registrations and white paper downloads have become dangerously weak.

This shift from lots of opt-ins with low intent to fewer opt-ins with higher intent is a struggle for many organizations who think that a bigger list is a better list and want to regain control over what their subscribers receive, says Coleman.

“Creating subscriber-based email marketing tactics requires organizational change, but the trend is clear,” she says. “The smart strategy is to allow consumers to choose when and why they hear from companies.”

Going hand-in-hand with stronger opt-ins and giving subscribers more control over how many and when they receive emails is the...

Growing Adoption of Preference Centers

Marketing isn’t advertising, where the company chooses what messages their audience will receive. Marketing is much more of a dialogue.

“It’s no longer just about what the company wants to communicate,” says Kim Roman, Senior Principal Consultant, Oracle Expert Services, “but more about how do we communicate the right message to the right person. What does the customer or prospect want to hear about? This is putting custom preference centers at the top of many of my clients’ to-do lists.”

A preference center might allow your subscribers to indicate…

  • The topics or industries they’d like to hear about
  • The kinds of content they’re interested in receiving (e.g., blog posts, webinars, reports, podcasts, etc.)
  • How rapidly they want to be notified about new content (e.g., as soon as it’s published or a rollup that arrives every week or every month)
  • The events they want to know about (e.g., local vs. national vs. international)

However, in order to create truly relevant communications, brands need to combine expressed preferences with the implied preferences that come from behavior. This leads to our next trend...

Hyper-Personalization

First-name personalization is so basic and so common that it does very little to foster closeness and build credibility.

“‘Dear First Name”’ isn’t true email personalization in 2019,” says Autumn Coleman.

Today, personalizing the customer experience means combining customer preferences with behavior inside the email channel and across other channels, she says. By bringing additional third-party data into Oracle Eloqua, customers are personalizing various elements within an email—such as subject lines, email links, banners, calls-to-action, logos, and email footers—creating a “bento box”–style email.

“For example,” says Cristal Foster, Principal Consultant, Oracle Expert Services, “a software company could merge data from their CRM to notify their customers that their license will expire in 90, 60, and 30 days, and so on. They could also include their partner/reseller channel to add another layer of personalization, enabling them to not only say your license expiring, but here’s where you can renew it.”

However, personalization isn’t limited to the content of an email. When the email is delivered can also be personalized using...

Send Time Optimization

Email usage habits vary wildly. Some people are monitoring their inboxes constantly, but most people have clear patterns around when they engage with their inboxes. Sent time optimization allows brands to act on these patterns and deliver their emails during the times when subscribers are most likely to be reading their messages.

The benefits of send time optimization can be impressive. For example, one Oracle Marketing Cloud travel industry customer saw unique open rates increase 37% and unique click rates go up 28%, compared to customers receiving the campaign at a default time. And a retailer using send time optimization has seen increases in opens and clicks upwards of 33%.

“This has been in the B2C space for a while,” says Foster, “and now B2B marketers are looking optimize their send times as well.”

But finding the perfect email timing goes beyond broadcast and segmented emails. The timing of your automated emails can be improved via...

Smart Trigger Timing

While some automated emails like receipts, welcome emails, and asset download emails should be fired off immediately after the triggering action, other automated emails benefit from delayed triggering. However, that ideal trigger delay can vary from person to person, which is where individualized trigger timing comes in.

“Nurture series are becoming more behavior-driven in their timing, not just their content,” says Kim Roman. “For instance, you might be sending a lead nurture series of emails spaced X days apart. Now, the trend is having the level and frequency of prospect engagement drive the pace of the emails—faster or slower.”

A smart automated series can also jump a prospect ahead from one buyer stage to another based on their actions, says Coleman.

“Buyers are more informed than ever before,” she says. “Creating buyer stage email programs that move contacts through to the next communication based off their behavior and interest is a great way to warm a prospect into a sales-ready conversation faster.”  

Whether it’s personalization, send time optimization, or smart trigger timing...

AI Helps Do It All Better

While there are manual, rules-based ways of creating much more relevant emails, AI allows brands to scale their efforts, individualize their efforts, and adjust their efforts over time that’s simply impossible otherwise.

“AI and machine learning are transforming the marketing automation space,” says Otilia Antipa, Principal Consultant, Oracle Expert Services. “It’s pushing the boundaries around hyper-personalization and automation, and it is what clients need to be prepared to embrace as the Digital Era enters its next phase.”

AI-powered personalization is a natural partner for preference centers and progressive profiling, she says.

“Yes, people want to control their experience,” says Antipa, “but they also don’t want to keep telling us how to do it.”

However, for AI to function properly, it has to have access to lots of data. This has led to more B2B brands doing...

Data Warehouse Integrations

All 21st century businesses are built on data, but often that data is in different systems in different places in different formats. That makes it difficult to impossible to execute on a customer-centric omnichannel strategy, which is what customers expect.

“Brands will truly need to look at consolidating data across platforms to leverage effective cross-channel marketing strategies,” says Antipa. “We see data warehouse integrations being key projects in leading brands in order to support data mining practices and machine learning. Data can transform and inspire brands, but we need the architecture in place to do so.”

This is just one more instance of B2B brands...

Embracing B2C Strategies & Tools

B2B brands sometimes think that their challenges and opportunities are unique and totally different than B2C brands’. But the overlap between the B2C and B2B email marketing worlds is growing.

Driven by GDPR and increasing consumer expectations, permission standards are rising for both B2C and B2B brands. Consumers and business customers both expect relevant email content, which brands can create using automation and hyper-personalization. And because of the adoption of Gmail and Office 365 at businesses, deliverability is increasingly driven by the same factors for both B2C and B2B brands, including subscriber engagement levels.

As these trends demonstrate, many email marketing issues are interconnected and span both B2C and B2B industries. “Don’t limit yourself to a traditional B2B toolkit,” says Chris Carlock. “Where they make sense, adapt B2C strategies to your business. Take the best from both worlds.”

                                    

Need help with your B2B email program? Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including an Expert Services team that specializes in B2B email marketing.

 

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