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How big data can enhance B2B email marketing

How big data can enhance B2B email marketing Sandy Gibson
For the past two years, big data has been the biggest buzzword in digital, but rarely is it applied to email marketing. When only 25 percent of businesses are putting their own data into timely action, it's clear that most marketers still aren't aware of their missed opportunities. Even savvy CPG marketers are missing out here, and B2B marketers are well behind the eight ball. Forrester has found that B2B marketers repeatedly give themselves low marks for their usage of analytics data.

The greatest oversight? Leveraging customer data to optimize and personalize content in email newsletters and beyond. And yet, this first-party data can help inform everything from more engaging newsletter content to product and service improvements. Here's how it can work for you.

CRM data

The most important data marketers have in their toolbox is their own customer data -- and that's exactly what you can pull from your CRM. Many marketers, particularly within smaller B2B organizations, still send a single email to everyone on their lists -- despite the fact that their open and read rates are probably dismal as a result. CRM data can help with, among other things, basic segmentation. Who's already a customer, and who's still in the nurture cycle? Who's interested in the enterprise product, and who only has budget for a single seat? The answers to these questions can help marketers recognize that they may have -- within their single list -- dramatically different audiences with dramatically different content needs. In fact, research from Monetate shows that email targeted to specific segments delivers a 30 percent higher open rate and 50 percent higher click-through rate. Using your CRM data to easily discover and segment audiences will ultimately lead to creating content that's relevant, interesting, and engaging for those groups, and that will absolutely result in better email marketing metrics.

Email analytics data

I've seen even seasoned marketers present reports showcasing open and read rates as the most critical KPI. While they can impress the C-suite, these stats are far from the most valuable data we can pull from email analytics. What's more important -- and easily revealed -- is which content was most engaging. Which articles were read the most, and which were ignored? Who accepted your call to action? By analyzing this critical data, marketers can understand the content that's valued by their audience. If your readers click on the product update section every time, then clearly you need more content of that nature. If they never click on your company news, that's a prime target for a content makeover. Your organization may demand that you include it, but it's obviously not engaging in its current state, so rethink this content based on what your readers are actually consuming.

To take it a step further: If you have the ability, mesh your CRM data with your email analytics to discover which audience segments are consuming which content. With an understanding of who's reading what, you can create far more relevant email for your recipients, which will yield vastly improved results every time hit send.

Website analytics data

Like email analytics data, your web analytics data can show you what's being read by revealing where your recipients are going when they click through your site. Presumably, each reader is clicking through an article to a specific landing page relating to the content they're consuming. But where do they go from there? Are they staying on the page long enough to finish an article, and are they taking action from there? If your readers are in the nurture cycle, you'll want them to take some kind of clear action, whether it's registering for a webinar, downloading a white paper, or sharing content with their colleagues. Check your analytics to see what your readers' paths are on your site, and determine which types of content are driving the desired actions. Then, optimize as needed to move these visitors along the path to conversion.

Take it a step further: By tying all your data together through your CRM, you should begin to see a very clear picture of which content types are driving action for your audience segments. Patterns will begin to emerge: Small business prospects in the nurture cycle may find that your upcoming webinar on growth strategies is a can't-miss event, but (predictably) skip right over content about enterprise products. Enterprise clients may share your CEO insights with their colleagues, but can't be bothered with your white papers on attracting investors. This level of segmentation is key for delivering relevant and engaging experiences to customers throughout their relationship with your organization.

These insights can ultimately become a roadmap not only for your marketing efforts, but also for your product teams as well. If email content about new features or product improvements is routing unexpected volumes of traffic to product-related content, that's worth sharing with product development teams. Marketers who really dive into the data are often surprised by what they find. Sometimes, the data tells a far different story than we thought it would -- and while that can be humbling, it will make us better and more customer-centric marketers in the end.

Sandy Gibson is co-founder and CEO at Elevate.

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Sandy Gibson is the CEO and Co-Founder of Elevate. He has been published in MediaPost’s Email Insider, Social Media Today and Business2Community, and spoken at the Social Shakeup Conference. He is a graduate of Princeton University and swears...

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