February 17, 2010
Event Presentation

New Research Part II: Buyers Rank the Most Valuable Content and Offer Types

SUMMARY: We continue our look at new research into technology buyers’ email opinions and habits. This week, we highlight the types of content and offers that buyers find most valuable.

The article features three new data charts, and advice for:
o Expanding your email content library
o Using promotional content to explain your products or services
o Making email body copy more useful
Email nurturing is the practice of delivering prospects relevant content at the right time. But which type of content is truly relevant to buyers -- and which offers are most likely to get them to click?

New data shared at MarketingSherpa's recent Email Marketing Summit provides insights into buyers' thinking. In partnership with MarketingSherpa, Bob Johnson, VP and Principal Analyst, IDG Connect, surveyed buyers and B2B marketers about specific factors that motivate recipients to opt-in, open and engage with vendor email.

Last week, we discussed factors that influence buyers' decisions to receive and open email (see Useful Links, below). In this follow-up, we examine the impact of specific offer types on buyers’ likelihood to click.

Here are three insights:

Insight #1. Broaden your content library for compelling offers

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Most B2B marketers understand the importance of providing non-promotional, educational content during a long sales cycle. But this chart shows that marketers may be overvaluing certain types of content, while undervaluing resources that buyers say they want.

The chart above ranks types of content by the percentage of marketers and buyers who said that such an offer would make a recipient more likely to follow a link for more information. Pay attention to the disparity between marketer and buyer responses:

- Marketers placed more weight on the impact of educational content (92% said it increased the likelihood of a click) and free research reports (86%) than buyers did. Only 65% and 64% of buyers said the two offers, respectively, increased their likelihood of a click.

While educational content, such as whitepapers, or relevant industry research reports have their place, sending too many of these offers can further diminish their impact in buyers' eyes. You need to create the right mix of offers, timed to stages of the buying cycle and contact role, to encourage continued interaction with your email messages.

- For example, buyers are very receptive to receiving industry news and articles from vendor sources (84% said such offers increase their likelihood of a click). Yet only 73% of marketers felt the same way. Don’t overlook the value of sharing relevant industry news links with prospects in your nurturing cycle.

Not every email you send has to contain a major offer requiring prospects to fill out a registration form. Sharing relevant news links gives you an opportunity to stay in touch with prospects in between those high-value offers or other marketing touches.

Try a low-key, more personalized note to share a link: "Dear NAME, we thought this article on XXX might help you..."

- Finally, consider developing competitive comparison tools or guides to help prospects manage the buying process. Although more marketers than buyers said these tools increased their likelihood of a click, buyers still ranked comparisons and buying guides third on this list.

And the opportunity for marketers is growing. Competitive comparisons and buying guides historically have been offered by the trade media. But with advertising dollars drying up and traditional media struggling, fewer publications are developing those resources, says Johnson. Marketers can step in and fill the gap.

"It’s difficult for a vendor to present a competitive comparison in an unbiased way, but at the very least you can provide a framework for doing competitive comparison."

Insight #2. Promotional content has its place

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The survey dug deeper into the impact of offer types by asking how much more likely recipients were to click on certain types of offers. Surprisingly, buyers gave the highest rank to promotional content.

The fact is, says Johnson, buyers want to see your promotional content. They need to understand what you do as a vendor, and need details about what your products and services offer.

However, you can’t try to pass off promotional content as educational content. "That angers and frustrates them," says Johnson. "You have to practice a separation of content church and state."

Insight #3. Highlight key points to enhance email utility

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In addition to content links, email body copy is another area in which marketers can provide more value for subscribers.

When asked which features would make vendor emails more useful, buyers ranked "highlight key words and points" third out of 12 options -- more valuable than social media links, and more valuable than graphic imagery.

Using bold fonts or other text treatments to highlight particular words or sentences within the email message can help recipients scan the document and quickly determine whether it’s relevant to them, says Johnson. It is even better to make these highlighted phrases hotlinks that take visitors to additional information.

B2C marketers frequently use this technique to grab the viewer’s eye and highlight their most powerful words and phrases. B2B marketers should consider it, as well.

Useful links related to this article

New Research: What Motivates Buyers to Receive and Engage with Vendor Email?

Summit Wrap-up Report: 7 Takeaways to Improve your Email Marketing in 2010

IDG Connect

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