February 29, 2012
How To

B2B Marketing: A discussion about integrating mobile, email and social

SUMMARY: Mobile, social and email are three marketing channels that work best as an integrated whole, but both mobile and social can be a challenge for B2B marketers.

This discussion with two industry experts, who served as panelists at the recent MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012 held in Las Vegas, features four ideas for integrating these channels with a focus on the mobile B2B marketing channel.
by David Kirkpatrick, Reporter

B2B marketers are falling behind their B2C counterparts in focusing on serving the needs of mobile users, even though more B2B customers use smartphones.

Only 33% of B2B marketers are designing emails for smartphones, according to the MarketingSherpa 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, while 41% of B2C marketers design smartphone-specific emails.

Yet, B2B marketers report that an average of 13% of their audience reads email on a mobile device, as opposed to 10% for consumer marketers. Business users have tended to be at the forefront of smartphone adoption, first with the Blackberry, and now increasingly with the iPhone or Android devices. And CMOs ranked social media along with mobile smartphone and tablet adoption as the two new developments that will most affect email programs in the near future.

To help marketers reach a mobile audience, the recent MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2012 in Las Vegas covered this very topic in the "Mobile Marketing Panel: Integrating mobile campaigns for the complex sale."

We were able to grab two of those panelists: Josh Herman, Vice President of Partner and Product Strategy, Acxiom Corporation, and Nick Fuller, Senior Director Customer Engagement Strategy, e-Dialog International. Each provided some additional insight for the full MarketingSherpa audience about integrating mobile, email and also social media.

Mobile Strategy

Before we get into the tactical advice, Herman explained his more strategic view of approaching mobile marketing.

He said the place to begin is answering the question, "What problem are you solving for the end user?"

Herman added, "A CMO that we work with had a great filter for this. She said, ‘When I look at what I can do in mobile marketing, I think, when the user receives this information, did they find it to be a service to them? As opposed to, I have something I need to sell, so I’m going to clobber them with a message.’"

The CMO wants her customers and prospects who experience the brand through the mobile channel to receive messaging that is so relevant it is actually a service.

Herman and Fuller provided four tactics to help you serve your current and potential customers.

Tactic #1. Analyze your audience’s current usage

Fuller said, "The best place to start is with statistics on current email experience. Look at how many of your recipients are opening and clicking on their emails via a mobile device. In our experience, this can range anywhere from 5% to 25% of a base.

"What you find for your business will define the importance of the channel and the resources that you need to dedicate toward it in the short term. There is an inexorable trend toward mobile in general but, day-to-day, marketers work across many channels and of course face competition for resources, so be realistic about where mobile sits within that."

Herman said, "One of the important tactical considerations in email marketing is appropriately germane for mobile marketing, and perhaps even more so, and tactically speaking, it is ‘time of day.’"

He continued, "This is something that you have a lot of historical data on in your campaign management systems for email and mobile. So when you think of the push and pull that mobile facilitates, to be able to look and see based on the pull of information that your B2B customers use their mobile channel for -- when is it that they are accessing this information? What time of day? What daypart?"

He said B2B marketers should use this information to determine when to push communications to those same mobile users.

"If you are a reasonably sophisticated email marketer, especially in the B2B channel, you have these metrics and they can be used to inform the decisions you make in mobile as it relates to daypart in messaging," Herman stated.

Tactic #2. Plan and design mobile campaigns for specific outcomes

If you keep track of the device on which your mobile audience generally opens their email over a period of time, then you can plan accordingly.

Fuller explained, "This becomes important when targeting a specific outcome. For example, we have worked with both British Airways and Dell in marketing their apps to known users of specific devices such as iPhone and Android."

The team targeted and designed a message for these specific groups and featured a call-to-action that enabled the user to directly download the app. "Even if the call-to-action isn’t as specific, the user experience after the recipient has clicked through from the mail is critical to ensure that the landing page and site both render effectively; just designing the mail to render will never be enough."

For the Dell program, two versions of the email were created:
  • A mobile-friendly version optimized for smartphones and sent to subscribers who had opened or clicked a Dell email on an Apple or Android mobile device within the past year. This actually involved about 75% of the list subscribers.

    This mobile-friendly email was just 328 pixels wide, and used a large and easy-to-tap call-to-action button

  • The email that went to the remaining 25% of the list was called the "BAU" or business-as-usual version and was designed to be opened in a traditional email application.

Dell’s mobile-optimized version was a key driver of downloads, with an open rate almost twice that of the Business As Usual (BAU) version, and total click rate of more than five times the BAU version.

Tactic #3. Set permission policies on who in the company can engage in social media outreach

Herman said social B2B marketing is both fun and challenging.

One challenging aspect of social B2B marketing according to Herman is who has permission -- permission to tweet? Who has permission to post to a blog?

He said, "You could have, of course, thousands of employees, all of them having an informed opinion, and I think what is really hard is coming up with a policy around social media. Especially for B2B marketers."

In consumer marketing, an individual consumer is likely making the purchase decision, but in B2B, your social output could be influencing multimillion dollar contracts. Herman added that corporations historically have worked very hard to control the channel of communication, and allowed the sales representative to be the voice of the company to the B2B customer.

With social media, your prospective client is now hearing many voices about your company, your brand and your products. The sales executive no longer has the monopoly on the communication channel to the customer.

Herman said the answer is to look at your social media policy, and then make sure you are engaged in education and training for the people in your company with permission to use social media channels from the corporate perspective.

It’s not enough to write a policy and email it out once. It must be woven into the corporate education experience.

Tactic #4. Make sure mobile is working in concert with the rest of marketing operations

Herman said the alternative to having a smoothly integrated marketing strategy across all the channels is for mobile to "stick out there like an appendage."

He described that as a "mobile Tower of Babel" with no relationship or connectivity to the rest of the marketing operation.

Herman said, "The trick there is not just the plumbing, but also the data and intelligence. You really do have to have a consistent data framework, not just execute your mobile communications and measure them, but to be able to associate them and their performance with what you’re also doing in direct mail and events and email.

"Make sure that you are on a path to bring mobile closer to the center of the marketing operation and not leave it out there as an appendage."

Fuller stated, "The primary virtue of mobile as a channel is that it is ‘always with you and always on.’ In terms of messaging therefore, it best suits communications that are time sensitive and that deliver a benefit to both the recipient and the brand on the basis that the message can be viewed anytime and anywhere."

Fuller continued, "Our view however is that the most important thing is to remain focused on where and how mobile delivers a benefit to both the recipient and the brand -- if it doesn’t, then the fact that a message can be delivered via the mobile channel may not necessarily be significant."

Useful links related to this article

Acxiom Corporation

e-Dialog International

Email Summit: Mobile marketing panel on the complex sale

Mobile Marketing: Get your audience’s attention – wait till they’re bored

Email Summit: Integrating mobile, social and email marketing channels

Mobile Marketing 101: Should you make the leap to a custom mobile site?

Mobile Marketing 101, Part 2: Ease of use and quality of content are key

Get Started in Mobile Marketing: 4 Insights to Guide Your Strategy

MarketingSherpa 2012 Email Marketing Benchmark Report

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