A recent survey showed that the number one goal of B2B email marketing campaigns is “delivering content relevant to a segment.” Nearly half (47 percent) of marketers agreed that this was the best way to improve email success in 2013, according to eMarketer.
These finding make it obvious that companies are increasingly and carefully targeting their email campaigns and creating content accordingly. Rather than sending out massive email blasts, B2B marketers are starting to take their time to craft newsletters for particular audiences.
Content personalization has already proven to be extremely effective in the B2C world. Just take a look at Amazon’s “Recommended for You” section on its home page. Or, better yet, Netflix’s customized selection of movies and TV shows for users to watch.
The difference for B2Bs is that, rather than offering products, content personalization has to offer information — the right information. Right now, email marketing is the most effective vehicle to do that.
What Personalized Emails Mean Today
Most B2B companies believe in some form of list segmentation when it comes to effective email marketing. They’ll often categorize customers by product type or purchase cycle. There may also be lists for loyal customers, industry peers and influencers.
But research shows us that these efforts can be improved. Email marketing provider MailChimp found that, by categorizing recipients by something more granular, like a job title or zip code, open rates grew by almost 20 percent.
So what does this mean? B2Bs need to find out how to ask subscribers for a little more information, because that can go a long way.
A list of only CIOs can be very helpful for a tech company that needs to market an IaaS product. And if you’re hosting a tradeshow in Boston, it would be great to have a list based on only Boston zip codes.
Today, personalized content in email campaigns isn’t based on what a person is to a company, but what a person wants from a company.
MailChimp found another interesting piece of data to confirm this: segmenting by interest groups through an email sign-up form improved open rates by less than 2 percent. Apparently, people can’t easily be categorized by “interest” before they get the newsletter.
Instead, B2Bs are better off tracking who clicks what links when they receive an email. By sending out newsletters month after month, companies will start to notice trends among users and they can segment accordingly.
Why Email Shows Us the Future of Content
Because of its direct delivery and ease-of-segmentation, email marketing is an interesting example of what content marketing will probably look like across the Web in the next few years. B2B email marketers who are customizing their newsletters according to segmented audiences are doing what everyone in the organization will be doing in the future.
There are already companies in the market that are practicing something called “post-programming curation” to customize Web-browsing for users. These services take into account behavioral tracking and audience targeting to offer exactly the right content to the right individuals.
Currently, content marketing counts on Google to deliver the right visitors to the sites hosting a company’s content. Automated marketing software helps track how visitors interact with websites, too. Like Amazon, B2Bs will soon be using past content consumption habits to customize a Web experience. Did someone read three articles about content marketing? Well, next time they visit the page, there will be a big content marketing eBook, front-and-center.
Email campaigns that are created for specific segments can give us a glimpse into just how personalized content can get. In the coming years, we’ll see what that looks like across websites, social media and every other online customer touch point.
*This post originally appeared on March Communications' blog, PR Nonsense, by Blaise Lucey.