In reviewing the recent 2017 State of B2B Digital Marketing Report by Demand Wave, I was struck by several moving trends year-over-year. But the one that caught my attention the most was about email:
“Despite email retaining its throne as a top channel for revenue gains (63%), more marketers are waking up to the financial benefits of SEO. This shift is reflected in organic search pulling even with email for the first time as the biggest revenue driver, signaling a 28% increase from last year”.
Granted, the crux of this highlight was about the rise of SEO — but email has consistently topped the list of revenue and lead generation tactics for several years. But why?
Top Reasons B2B Marketers Focus on Email
As I started digging deeper, it occurred to me, as a marketer who’s relied on email heavily in the past, a few of the key reasons why email consistently hogs marketers' time and attention:
- It’s easy: Email is almost second nature to us. Virtually every email solution like Emma, MailChimp, Constant Contact and the like have evolved their templates to be plug and play. Personalization, signature lines with logos, image inserts, mobile-ready — even rich media are simple to put together and deploy.
- It’s cheap: No ad buys, insertion orders, complicated programs, or even deep expertise are needed to send email. The ROI is ridiculous...if you have an attribution model from email to lead to closed deal.
- It’s active: Want to show activity, that you’re doing something to make leads and revenue happen? Send email. The data is immediate. Feedback and engagement can be measured minutes after you hit send.
But when I look at my own inbox day to day, I just wonder, “Is email still really effective at driving leads and revenue”? Or is it just transactional: a quick and easy way to check a box, but not really effective in the long term?
Lots of Activity, No Results
I think for us as B2B marketers, email marketing for lead generation has become a crutch. It’s easy, cheap, and active. But ultimately, if we want to build sustained leads and revenue, we need to move away from the transactional to the relational.
My point in this goes back to the Demand Wave study:
- The #1 objective of digital marketing efforts for B2B marketers? Delivering quality leads.
- The #1 challenge for B2B digital marketers? Delivering quality leads.
I can drive a lot of numbers via email, but it’s the quality piece that I question. Net-new quality leads takes more time and thoughtfulness than just sending emails. We tried leveraging email for ourselves and for clients and it hasn’t worked (not for a lack of trying). So we've adjusted.
An Effective Alternative to Outbound Email
Instead of relying on outbound email, we’ve adopted the long game. Some examples of that include nurturing and serving via content marketing, developing trade show strategies that allow us to meet real people in the field, leveraging the hyper-targeting of the LinkedIn ecosystem to get real solutions to real problems in front just the right targets — just to name a few.
We’re getting out of the inbox, where everyone is vying for attention.
Granted, there are many ways to use email for lead and revenue generation. And yes, we use email as an alert to new articles and resources we publish. But our intention is not to generate leads. It’s to serve, educate, solve, and empower. We don't want activity just to show activity. We don't just want to check a box. Forge relationships over time and you’ll see the funnel start to fill.
If you’re reading this article, you’re seeing our strategy in action. And if you’re interested in more B2B marketing insights to help your product and marketing efforts, I think you’ll find our resources helpful and valuable.