Email Marketing and B2B Branding

How does branding affect the way we think?

Email Marketing, B2B Branding
Email Marketing, B2B Branding

When you think of office supplies, what is the first company that comes to mind? For many, it’s Viking. Likewise, if you think about computers, you probably think about Apple or Microsoft.  However there was a time I may have written Microsoft first then Apple, because “Branding” changes the way we think, and what we do.

These companies are not the only ones that perform these functions – in some cases, they may not even be the best. So why is it that we think of these names first? It’s definitely not the result of luck.

These companies have established a position in our minds because of their marketing efforts. They have spent a huge amount of time, money and effort to establish themselves as the number one company in their field, regardless of whether it is true or not.

Often, when advertisers speak of branding, the examples that they trot out tend to be firmly rooted in the b2c space. Breakfast cereals and washing detergents are often mentioned. These are excellent examples, but the principle applies in the b2b space as well. In fact, in any vertical where there are many competitors offering similar products or services, branding is a key concern.

The Benefits of Building a Brand

email marketing, b2b branding
email marketing, b2b branding

A brand consists of the values and attitudes that people associate with your company name. Goodwill and reputation are very much a part of branding. Branding is a manufactured and managed image, and it’s an asset every bit as important as your premises and equipment – in fact even more so.

Your brand must be built and protected in order to maintain your market position. Many companies try to “coast by” on reputation alone, hoping that their good results will produce word of mouth. Unfortunately, occasional mistakes and dissatisfaction spread much more easily than good results. This means that you need to take control and invest time and effort to build your brand.

Branding Builds Results for your Business

Building a brand leads to better results when you advertise. Companies which are looking for services or products provided by your firm will recognize your name. They will choose to do business with you because of the positive associations that you have fostered.

email marketing, b2b branding
email marketing, b2b branding

Branding is a big subject; there are many books on the subject. In this article, the focus is on email, and the role that it can play in building your brand.

Branding is often looked on as an expensive and uncertain exercise. Big companies spend multiple millions on bizarre advertising campaigns that seem to be designed only to shock or grab attention.

Smaller companies do not have the budget to spend on such extravagances.

Yet branding does not need to be expensive at all. It is not only achieved through advertising. Every message that you send out to your customers, prospects and marketplace creates an impression. It will either strengthen or weaken your brand position.

The Internet helps you to get these messages into the hands of your customers and prospects.

How The Internet Helps You To Build a Brand

There are many good and persuasive reasons for using the internet to conduct business. Email is one of the strongest.

email marketing, b2b branding
email marketing, b2b branding

Email has a huge advantage in that it is virtually free to send. Even if sending “snail mail” were free, the money that you spent on envelopes and paper would soon add up. So would the labour costs of stuffing all of those envelopes.

Email gives you a way to break free of these economic constraints. Even if you send mail to millions of people, the costs are negligible.

Email is accessible. People can receive an email on a huge variety of devices, including computers, laptops, tablets and phones. You can reach your customers and prospects with little effort.

This is a great way to “get the message out.”

How Email Can Be Used to Build a Relationship

Email marketing, B2B Branding
Email marketing, B2B Branding

Email is a powerful sales tool, and it’s also a powerful relationship building tool. While sending out sales messages can result in immediate sales, time spent on building a relationship through email will pay a huge return.

By building a strong relationship, you are building your brand and establishing strong goodwill.

Building a relationship is best done by providing real help to your prospective customers. Sending them information that they can actually use, that are not merely veiled attempts to sell your own services, and will generate lots of goodwill. This will result in excellent word of mouth and prospects who want to become customers.

 

Information which you can send includes:

* White papers
* Case studies
* Tips and advice
* News and updates

All of these actions help to build your brand and demonstrate competence and care.

Email also gives you an opportunity to get quick feedback and measure customer response.

Email Marketing, B2b Branding
Email Marketing, B2b Branding

You can use email to test multiple sales messages to see which ones are most appealing to your audience, and discover why one sales letter outperforms another.

You can conduct surveys to find out what your audience cares about.

You can discover which factors compel your customers to do business with you instead of your competitors (it’s almost always surprising).

As you can see, email marketing can have a huge impact on your branding and marketing efforts.

But when you are sending emails to a large audience, you need to make sure that they are being delivered…

The Big Problem With Email

Email Marketing, B2B Branding
Email Marketing, B2B Branding

Sending one or two personal emails is easy, but when you start to send larger volumes of email, there are technical issues that start to get in the way.

A lot of these are due to measures that have been evolved to stop spammers. To understand these barriers, I’m going to give you a quick overview of spam and how Internet service providers are working to fight it.

Once upon a time, email was an entirely free and non-commercial communication line.

Somewhere along the line, people discovered that it could be used to sell things. Almost overnight, all kinds of commercial emails were sent.

Now there is nothing wrong with commercial emails as long as they are not offensive and they are not unsolicited.

But the truth is that there are some consumers who will respond to an unsolicited, offensive sales letter. It may be a small number indeed, but when people can send millions of messages for free, it becomes highly profitable – even if only a few people respond.

This is exactly what some unscrupulous people started to do in the early 1990s – and they haven’t stopped yet!

Email Marketing, B2B Branding
Email Marketing, B2B Branding

However, this has resulted in a lot of complaints and bitterness from the Internet using public in general. So Internet providers have had to take measures to block bulk emails.

These measures are usually in the form of filtering software that checks incoming emails and block those that look like spam. If you are not careful, it’s possible to trigger these filters even if your email messages are entirely innocent.

What this means is that unless you are using the right technology, you may find that your emails are not getting delivered to your audience.

Getting Your Emails Read

Email Marketing, B2B Branding
Email Marketing, B2B Branding

The solution is to use software called an autoresponder. Autoresponders are a type of program used to deliver bulk email (but not spam).

Originally, these programs were only able to send an email in response to a request (hence the name). Over time, they have become more sophisticated.

Today’s autoresponders are powerful email list managers, capable of responding, broadcasting, sending a preset sequence of messages, and tracking open rates and clicks.

Using an autoresponder provides you with a lot of powerful list management features and metrics which can help you to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing.

This is important when you are working to build your brand – by using these metrics as a feedback mechanism, you can direct the process proactively to maximise engagement.

Autoresponders Can Help Drive Sales

Email Marketing, B2B Branding
Email Marketing, B2B Branding

As an example of the power of autoresponders, let’s look at an example. Imagine you had lost a couple of large accounts and wanted to drum up some business quickly to cover the shortfall.

You need to contact prospective customers and work on sales to get these new contracts fast.

Email Marketing, B2B Branding
Email Marketing, B2B Branding

While you may have a very competent sales department, contacting a lot of prospects to find the ones who are ready to do business with you right now can be time consuming, and in the meantime you are losing money.

Now let’s imagine that you have been using an autoresponder for some time. You have a list of email contacts from people who had expressed an interest in doing business with you in the past.

At this point, all you would need to do is send out an email to your list describing your offer and within a few hours you could have customers phoning you to get started!

How to Get Started With an Autoresponder

Email Marketing, B2B Branding
Email Marketing, B2B Branding

In the past, the simplest way to start using an autoresponder was to host your own on a web server. However, with all the measures that Internet service providers have taken to block bulk spam emails, this is no longer a viable option.

Right now, the best choice is to use a managed autoresponder service. These services are managed by specialists who have taken the steps required to ensure that your emails are delivered and reach the intended audience.

There are many big name service providers. Many of them offer exotic functionality or complex programmable interfaces. For the majority of companies, these are overkill.

There are a few vital features that are really important:
* The ability to manage multiple lists
* HTML and plain emails
* Email customization (similar to mail-merge)
* The ability to send broadcasts to the entire list
* The ability to set a sequence of messages on a schedule
* Opt-in confirmation
* Automatic unsubscribe

All of the large companies offer these features as standard. The more unusual features might be vital for users with very special requirements, but most customers never use them.

Email Marketing, B2B Branding
Email Marketing, B2B Branding

Most of these companies, such as Aweber, Mailchimp and Getresponse, charge you a different fee based on how many emails you send. Their packages start fairly cheap but quickly become expensive as your email lists grow or you send email more often.

For the service provider, sending more emails incurs only a very small additional cost. So the profit margins for these companies are very high.

This is how these companies really make their money – once you have been using them for some time, it is difficult to change to another provider, and you are essentially “locked in.”

Fortunately, there are other options. Some of them, such as using Amazon Web Services, are very technical, and only suitable for firms with a dedicated IT team. But, to be honest, you need to have a compelling business case to go down this line.

A much better option is to use a managed autoresponder service with a fairer pricing model.

An example of such a service is TrafficWave. This company provides a service which is comparable to the older companies – it tracks all of the important metrics and allows you to manage multiple lists, send broadcasts and sequential messages. You can send fancy HTML emails or plain text ones just as easily.

The big difference is the price. Instead of using an unfair rising scale, traffic wave charges a monthly flat rate that does not increase if you send more emails or if your list grows.

 

Email Marketing and B2B Branding by James Darvell

Email Marketing
Email and B2B Branding written by: James Darvell
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