E-mails from United Airlines promoting flights from Chicago arrive in John Rizzi’s e-mail inbox on a regular basis. There is just one problem. Rizzi is based in Burlington, Mass. “They’re sending me irrelevant e-mails week in and week out,” said Rizzi, president-CEO of e-Dialog, which provides e-mail marketing services and whose clients include Dell, OfficeMax, the NFL and Petco. “United is a great brand doing bad e-mail.” While properly targeting prospects is the Cri de Coeur of e-mail campaigns, too many sales and marketing departments still take a howitzer approach to e-mail: blasting anybody and everybody. “Look in your own e-mail box,” Rizzi said, referring to lousy e-mail targeting. “You probably have a ton of e-mail that is not relevant. It’s a waste of marketers’ time and it clogs inboxes.” He added: “Marketers better shape up because there are other marketers who are sending relevant information with good [e-mail] systems.” We recently spoke with Rizzi on how sales and marketing reps can sharpen their e-mail efforts and cut down on all that waste.
ZoomInfo: What are some of the ways that sales execs can reduce the risk of unopened e-mails?
Rizzi: If you want a high open rate, send your e-mail to people who want to open it. It’s very easy for marketers to say, ‘Mail everything to everybody.’ The danger is that you irritate your consumer and train your consumer not to be interested in your company, product or service.
ZoomInfo: How can sales and marketing execs improve testing to get the most out of their e-mail campaigns?
Rizzi: I’m going to steal a line from Nike, just do it. It’s sad how little testing is done [on e-mail campaigns]. One of the curses of the medium is that it’s so inexpensive that testing is ignored in favor of simply blasting the same content to the entire list. But that is short-sighted. In not testing and not learning what works, companies risk destroying the lifetime-value of their customers. You have to test to understand activity, what are the buyer’s intentions, and then send future e-mails based on what you have learned.
ZoomInfo: Does segmenting emails within a particular b-to-b market – in terms of subject line and e-mail template, for example – help to improve response rates?
Rizzi: Every day there are going to some people in your market who are engaged and don’t mind getting something and there are other parts of your market at the opposite end. You have to understand lists and subscribers and develop separate buckets and then create a marketing plan [for each of those buckets]. One size fits all is easiest, but if you do that then some prospects are more likely to delete the e-mail. Better to develop specific content based on segmentation and the levels of engagement.
ZoomInfo: What do you see as some of the major sticking points between b-to-b sales and marketing teams when it comes to developing and executing e-mail campaigns?
Rizzi: The first element you need is the right product for the right person. Your product has to fundamentally match the people you’re e-mailing. Once you have that foundation, the challenge in the b-to-b world is for marketing to provide the content so sales can deliver [the content] to clients according to what stage of the life cycle they’re in. In any sales pipeline, you have hot to warm to cool leads. Hot should be owned by sales and cool by marketing…You’re marketing and delivering the content depending on where the prospects are in the process.