Having the right tools is essential for any business professional. For example, most businesses have an email database in one form or another. However, there is a significant difference between having those tools and knowing how to use them effectively. So about that email database, have you ever considered the value it has, or could have, for your business?
A database is a tool that is much more than a list of contacts who may or may not have done business with you at some point in time. The critical question is, are you using your email database effectively? Equally important, is do you know how to grow your database so that it plays an active role in your B2B email marketing strategy?
What is an email database and why is it valuable to your business?
An email database is an active collection of past, present and future customer contact information, online engagement levels, purchase behaviors and preferences. It serves as a valuable resource of past performance and current trends in order to develop ongoing business and marketing strategies.
And just so we’re clear, a spreadsheet of names and email addresses is NOT an email database. That is simply a list. A database, by definition, does not merely hold information. Rather, it stores information in an organized manner so it can be accessed, updated, sorted and analyzed.
In the past, a database was very separate from a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program. One focused on the data, the other on the relational aspect of marketing. Today, they are very much intertwined.
An email database is meant to be ever growing, ever evolving, and ever learning. This is one reason why companies invest in robust CRM systems that connect with their websites. As website visitors convert, not only is their contact information collected into your email database, but it can also be married with their past activity on your website. This gives you insight into what information, products, or services they may be interested in and possibly a sense of their urgency.
When managed correctly as part of your CRM, your email database can provide an immense amount of knowledge and insight into how to market your business and connect in a meaningful way with current and potential customers.
How can you grow your email database?
Your email database obviously plays an integral role in your B2B email marketing strategies. And, since we defined it as being “active,” that means it needs to be developed so it can grow over time.
This actually isn’t as hard as you might think. However, one important caution: do not purchase email contact lists. There are companies that offer email lists to rent, lease, and borrow. Don’t do it!
I get it. You want to grow your business and, especially when starting out with digital marketing, your own list may be pretty small. That’s okay! Purchased lists are a complete waste of time and money because your business, product, or service has zero connection to whomever you are sending that email to. Without that connection, at best you’ll see low engagement, and at worst have your business flagged as spam.
Instead, consider these more effective ways to grow your email database.
- Trade shows/events. Participating in events that gather a large crowd at once can be a great way to promote your brand, products and services. They also provide two ways to grow your contact list: in-booth data collection and post-event information. Most of this data gathering can be done electronically.
Your in-booth contacts are likely to be more engaged since they have physically chosen to give you their contact information. However, depending on the size and nature of the event, these contacts could also be feeling inbox overload after the event. So proceed with care and consider starting with a message that allows them to choose what they want to receive from you moving forward.
- Webinars. The reason so many businesses produce webinars is that webinars allow you to share your expertise to an unlimited audience in a personal, yet non-intrusive way. The best part is, attendees give you their contact information in advance – willingly! Why? They know they are getting valuable information on a topic of interest. Even if they don’t actually attend, you have the opportunity to send them a recording afterwards.
Yes, successful webinars do take some pre-planning to launch successfully, but the traction and follow-up opportunities can be well worth the effort.
- Promotions and special offers. Whether placed on your website, social pages, or included in other emails, business-related opportunities created just for your growing audience can create a sense of inclusion that people will want to participate in, plus share on your behalf.
- Social media groups and online forums. Look for opportunities to engage with people where you can share your expertise. Be sure to include your contact information as a way for people to connect with you off the platform. This method may take longer than an immediate sign up or entry form, but someone who does connect with you as a result will have a much higher intent and interest level.
- HARO (Help a Reporter Out). This is a service where reporters ask industry and topic experts for input on articles they have in process. In addition to sharing your knowledge on a given subject, reporters will also include links with your contact information as the source. This is, again, a slower method of gaining contacts, but providing ways for your potential audience to connect with you opens the door for stronger qualified contacts to engage with you personally. Plus it’s a great way to promote yourself and your brand.
- Sign up forms. Don’t overlook the obvious method of simply asking for someone’s contact information on your website, social media pages and even current emails as a way to add to your email database. The purpose of this request is for contacts to simply sign up to receive regular email communication from you, and there are many places you can include this basic form.
Be sure to include a follow-up message that allows your new contacts to specify what types of content or messages they are interested in (event notifications, regular newsletters, etc) and the frequency they would like to receive them (weekly vs. monthly).
- Gating valuable content. While you may not want to do this will all your premium content (guides, whitepapers, slides, etc), some pieces will have a high enough value that your website visitors will be willing to exchange their contact information (name and email address) for your content.
A well-placed call to action can promote your content, leading to a landing page where a contact will enter their information on a form before gaining access to your material.
- Blog/newsletter subscriptions. Offer your followers an opportunity to receive your blog posts and regular newsletters conveniently in their inboxes, so they don’t have to remember to visit your site when new content is published.
When your email database is part of a larger CRM system, you can learn more about each contact based on their level of engagement. What topics are they regularly consuming? What articles are they sharing with their audiences? Knowing how and when they engage with your content can provide valuable insights into what their needs are and their urgency in solving those needs.
- Contact us page. While this page may not bring as many visitors to your site as a quality crafted blog post, don’t overlook this quick way of growing your email database. While some people will prefer to pick up a phone and call you, others will want to send you a quick note with their questions. Make it easy for them to provide their contact information.
- Opt-in buttons. There are a variety of ways to incorporate forms on your website. Include a simple opt-in button for visitors to let you know they would like to be included in your communication lists for blog updates, monthly newsletters, upcoming events, and more.
- Quizzes/assessments. The process of selling has changed, with customers now completing close to 65% of their research before they even connect with a real person. Offering a quiz or assessment of their needs or challenges allows them to self-identify as a potential customer, as well as giving you the opportunity to share your expertise in a very casual manner.
After they have taken the quiz, ask for their contact information so you can send them their results, along with ways for them to learn more and/or engage with you personally.
- Re-engagement campaigns. List decay is common in any email database. These are contacts whose engagement has waned or who have not done business with you in some time. Don’t discard those contacts. Send a warm email asking them to update their information and content preferences, and to reconnect.
While you will get some who elect to be removed completely from your database, it will help you keep your database filled with useful and current information.
How can you use your email database effectively?
No matter how large (or small) your email database is currently, the real value of growing and developing your list of contacts is in how you use it. As silly as it may sound, an email database really is a “use it or lose it” tool.
So how can you take full advantage?
- Make sure your list is up to date. If your email database has gone stale with outdated email addresses and inactive contacts, any results from your email marketing efforts will be pretty low. Make it a priority to keep information updated and run re-engagement campaigns periodically to keep those quiet contacts engaged.
- Respect your contacts. Treat your contacts like the prized possession that they are. This means being respectful of the frequency in which you send emails. It’s fine to resend a message about an offer if they didn’t open or respond to your first message. Sending them 3 emails in one day about an upcoming promotion is not cool.
This also means respecting their wishes if they ask to be unsubscribed. Not only is this the polite and professional action to take, it’s also legally required.
- Segment your lists. I mentioned earlier, your email database can provide you with tremendous insight into behaviors, preferences, and interests. Take advantage of that information and segment your contacts based on characteristics that will allow you to send specific, personalized messages.
Learn more about segmentation as part of your marketing automation processes.
- Implement lead scoring. Lead scoring is assigning a value to your contacts based on engagement level and the successful progression of other customers. The purpose is to help you identify when and how a customer is progressing through the buyer’s journey from simply a contact, to a qualified lead, to an actual customer.
Knowing the relative value of your leads can help sales be more productive. It will be clear which contacts to continue with an automated nurturing process and which ones may be ready to actively pursue in a more direct manner.
- Review your contact information. Your email database is an active resource of information, use it! Review when and how contacts are engaging with your content. Understand the best days and times to send your various emails. Look for opportunities to develop content around topics that resonate most.
- Let it tell be your guide. A good (and growing) portion of your email database is existing customers. Asking for feedback from your current customers not only gives you a chance to understand how you are doing from a customer service standpoint, but can also uncover gaps in your business you may not have been aware of.
By following up with reviews – both positive and negative – you can engage with your customers on a personal level to resolve any problems with dissatisfied customers, and encourage fans of your business to refer new customers.
- Engage, engage, engage. Don’t get confused. This does not mean using every opportunity to sell your products and services. Engage with your contacts by offering value with each email send.
With your growing knowledge of the content your contacts engage with, and when they are most ready to talk with sales, you can develop a stronger relationship that will add real value for them and your business.
Your email database is an essential tool and integral part of your overall B2B email marketing strategy. By implementing some intentional tactics you can help the organic and natural pace of growing your contact list, and use it to your full advantage.
If you need help developing your B2B marketing strategies, send us an email to set up a quick, no-pressure call with Lauren. (See what I did there??) Seriously, we are happy to help and offer some guidance and answer your questions.