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My Marketing Reality: Email

By Forrest Leighton, VP of Marketing, MarcomCentral

Forrest Leighton After 3+ years running sales teams for MarcomCentral, I took over as Vice President of Marketing in April of 2015. My entire career prior to working at MarcomCentral had been in B2B Marketing so I was excited to get back to my roots- it felt like coming home. The position had been vacant for over a year and there were several areas that needed immediate attention, starting with the email program. I kept hearing the same thing from the industry, our vendors and even some of the staff: “Stop emailing so much.” “It’s a bad practice!” “Inbound should be your focus.” While there are some valid points in these statements, I have a confession to make…

My name is Forrest Leighton and I like email marketing! Don’t crucify me just yet; let me share with you what I have learned and how our approach has changed.

I truly believe that inbound is critical to our success and we have put a significant focus on that area, but what I quickly learned was that outbound email was responsible for generating close to 80% of our opportunities. I certainly wasn’t going to turn that faucet off, but I needed to dig in to see what we were doing right, what we were doing wrong and figure out how to build a strategy for a medium that is constantly changing. In my opinion, this is the best part about being a marketer in today’s world. We can measure EVERYTHING! This is the key to life as far as I’m concerned. The days of “good exposure” or “look how many impressions that drove” are over! Maybe it was my stint in sales or just the fact that the sophistication of technology has come so far, but I am now of the mindset that if we can’t measure and show return, we aren’t going to do it.

The starting point for building a strategy was to pull a lot of data on not only the past e-mail campaigns but on every program we were running. I’ll save my attribution woes for another day but with some digging we learned some really important things. And before we get into it, one more point: It’s really important to define what a success means within your organization. Is it a click on a link or and open (please say no!)? In my case, I only wanted to focus on what drove actual opportunities for the sales guys. So back to the digging… here’s what we found out:

1) Pretty pictures with catchy and cutesy content don’t work. We even updated the look and feel then did a lot of A/B testing and guess what? It still doesn’t work!

2) A significant portion of the emails we had been sending did not create opportunities

3) A small percentage of emails that were more personal and text based generated the lion’s share of opportunities.

4) Too much “want a demo?” language in our email content drove down results.

I don’t think there is anything that surprising here. We are in the age where content is king and customers expect more value from the messages reaching their inbox.

I am blessed with a ton of e-mails every day from knuckleheads trying to sell me something so I have developed a very emotional connection to this practice. “Can you spare 10 minutes?” or “Huge discounts available if you buy before the end of the month.” In the B2B space this just doesn’t work. At least not for me and definitely not for the brand we are building. The message must be credible. I’ll spend the time and the money if it solves my problem and I believe many folks share this view.

So what have we implemented since analyzing our data and completing further testing? Well, we’ve developed a vertical-based engagement model that focuses on valued content designed to help the customer and not silly “asks”. And so far, so good. We’ll continue to track success (opportunities) and adjust the strategy based on results. I firmly believe in measurement, especially with all the tools available to marketers today, so we’ll continue our inbound efforts and we’ll definitely be emailing.