When B2B marketers first embraced email marketing, the idea was to populate a database and continuously send one-size-fits-all messages to supposed prospects. The idea being that by keeping these folks exposed to your company's name and logo, you'd stay "top of mind." That process is now referred to as "spray and pray" marketing. In a longer-term, B2B complex sales process, just knowing your company's name or recognizing your logo is not enough.
The one-size-fits-all email blast is a tactic, not a strategic marketing process. And, a lousy tactic at that when relevance and value are the admission fee for catching and keeping prospect attention.
Consider this from a personal perspective for a moment. You're aware of a lot of brands. Many of them probably send you stuff. How many of them do you pay attention to? When it comes time to buy a product, how do you decide which one?
Awareness doesn't require action.
I'm aware of Anheuser Busch. I love their Clydesdale ads. But I don't drink beer. I'm also aware of many other beers. If I had to pick one, it would probably boil down to a "close my eyes and point" exercise because I have no expertise in selecting beer. Or, I'd ask a friend I know who loves beer.
Moving back to the B2B side, consider selecting an email service provider (ESP). There are lots of options. In fact, there are so many options people don't know where to start. That's because they have limited expertise in selecting an ESP.
So let's say that one buyer has been receiving emails from two vendors. Vendor A sends offers of special deals and incentives. They rave about how well their customers are doing by using their superior system.
Vendor B consistently sends educational content that helps the buyer learn about best practices for increasing the effectiveness of email campaigns. They share stories about their customers' ingenuity in deploying email campaigns that produce results, despite the down economy.
When it comes time for the buyer to select a new ESP, the buyer goes online to look at both options. Hey, they were both Top of Mind.
The services are comparable, although Vendor B is bit more expensive. But the buyer feels an affinity toward Vendor B. The buyer has more confidence that Vendor B will be able to provide him with the additional expertise and support he needs to get the best results from the email system. Vendor B just seems to care more. The buyer contacts Vendor B to take next steps in his purchasing process.
This doesn't mean Vendor A isn't all of those things. But staying Top of Mind wasn't enough to win them a customer when compared with all that Vendor B did to go beyond just staying Top of Mind. It won't be enough for your company either, given the likelihood that your competitors are also emailing your prospects.
The goal for B2B marketing has to move beyond the idea of staying Top of Mind to building relationships that accelerate pipeline momentum. Achieving that goal requires the establishment of a marketing content discipline based on relevance and value applied specifically to address target audience needs.
In essence, email marketing must become lead nurturing. Email marketing is tactical. Lead nurturing is strategic. It's a different mindset. The process of lead nurturing helps companies focus on prospects, instead of on themselves. And that's what matters to your buyers.