B2B Email Provides Value in The Boom Era of Display Ads
Featuring Craig Weiss, COO, True Influence
Most press coverage of online adverting trends nowadays tends to focus on the continued evolution of display and pay-per-click (PPC) platforms. Just last week, I read that the “big four” digital ad generating companies now expect to report 25 percent revenue growth in Q3 2017 alone – and that’s after very similar performance in Q2.
As with the coverage of most “hot trends”, however, B2B marketers need to look beyond the headlines to find channels that truly drive their business.
Case in point: the “big four” ad providers I mentioned above are Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Snap. Obviously, everybody uses Google, (it’s expected to post about 2.5x the revenue as the other three companies combined), and your B2B campaigns need to embrace the search giant, both for paid and organic engagements.
But really, how many webinar registrations are you likely to garner with a Snap campaign?
So, I asked myself – where does good old-fashioned email marketing fit in this increasingly “digital” advertising world?
Turns outs, email is doing just fine.
In a recent GetResponse survey, email was the only channel that a majority of B2B and B2C marketers said they intended to increase their spend on this year, with 58 percent of respondents saying their email budgets were growing. Social pay-per-click came in second at 50 percent, with display advertising reporting 31 percent of budgets growing year-over-year.
Professional marketers still see enormous value in email.
Email is extraordinarily customizable, and can be (really, must be) micro-targeted to your best prospects, during critical points in their B2B purchase journey. Email lets you engage customers in valuable conversations that result in highly qualified interactions. And, email results are quantifiable – you can map every email you send to the bottom-line.
Of course, display and PPC advertising still need to be part of your B2B marketing mix. But, as you monitor and adjust your budgets for 2018, remember the key benefits of email as you decide where to spend your valuable resources.
Prospects Respond to Emails
Everybody knows this, I suppose, but it bears repeating – click-through rates on display advertising, in particular, are not good. This helpful chart at Smart Insights reports CTRs on display ads, across all formats and platforms, at just .05 percent. Some channels do have a higher rate, but still, this is not a portrait of a way to engage B2B prospects in a meaningful relationship.
Compare these numbers to about 2 percent CTR and 20 percent open rates for marketing emails, as reported by MailChimp. The numbers are even more telling when you look at click rates in key B2B sectors:
Collectively, B2B email open rates are 47 percent higher for B2B campaigns than for B2B efforts.
Of course, the effective cost-per-click for display ads can be driven down by smart bidding in marketplaces and other tactics. But, there are only so many key B2B decision-makers out there; at some point, you are just paying for more noise.
Branding is Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be
A key argument for display advertising, in particular, is that users who view your ad, even if they don’t click on it, are exposed to your branding message and begin at least some level of an awareness engagement with your company.
While this is true, the value of branding without response is extremely difficult to quantify for ROI-driven marketing teams. There may be times in your product lifecycle when extremely high-funnel awareness campaigns are useful, but more often than not, you need to actually interact with your prospects.
And remember that as you drive down the cost-per-click in your display ad buys, you also are deteriorating the branding impact of your campaign. Display ads that appear at the top of a web page may be working, but that is not always what you are getting for your spend. Initiatives like ad viewability monitoring are helping ensure value here, but display and PPC are still plagued by click-fraud and other issues that bring their value into question.
And you are still hoping that your best customers will come to you by just happening to see your ad on someone else’s content.
You Have to Reach Out to the Right People
The days of batch and bulk email working are over.
That may seem like an obvious statement, but if I am going to criticize cheap, bulk display advertising, I also need to note that indiscriminate bulk email maintains the same risk factors. They call it “spam” because nobody likes spam.
Fortunately, modern Marketing Automation Systems (MASs) allow you to target emails your best prospects at their absolute peak moments of interest. This capacity is greatly amplified when you include intent signal monitoring data services, such as our own InsightBASE, that compile and analyze millions of behavioral signals from across the internet to identify spikes of interest that are already taking place. With this data in hand, and careful micro-targeting, you can achieve you the email open and conversion rates you are looking for, making email highly cost-effective.
And you are actively reaching out to prospects – no more passively hoping they will come across a bulk advertisement placement.
You Must Engage Prospects With Valuable, Personalized Content
When a user opens a well-crafted B2B marketing email, they’ll see content personalized to their current interests and informational needs. Email enables you to clearly communicate the value proposition of your product and service, and customize your message per prospect, with a depth that even the most advanced PPC personalization systems can’t match.
Prospects who have read a personalized email are more deeply engaged with your company, and are more likely to engage in activities that move them down the funnel toward closed business. In fact, Aberdeen reports that email personalization improves CTR by 14 percent and conversion rates by 10 percent.
Email Gives You More Than One Chance to Build A Relationship
Display advertising, particularly for mobile, has gotten pretty annoying.
As I mentioned earlier, ads must be viewed to be effective, and the tactics that delivery platforms have adopted to garner those views are increasingly disruptive. When an ad pops up and spawns a new mobile browser window – (who uses more than one window on their phone?) – the result is not going to be a happy prospect.
Email usability has come almost full-circle from the days of opening your inbox to see dozens of unwanted marketing mails. Spam-filtering technologies and suppression lists have matured to the point that business users actually like email again; it’s rated as the third-most influential source of information for B2B audiences, behind only their peers, and recognized industry thought leaders.
B2B prospects will return to a personalized email, with a carefully crafted subject line, well after it’s landed in their mailbox, giving you multiple opportunities make a good impression.
You never get that with a pop-up ad.
It’s All in the Mix
Just so you know, there are good ad impressions and bad ad impressions, and smart B2B marketers absolutely need to explore and optimize all channels and engage customers. But display advertising is never going to meet the full demand of the B2B Marketing funnel. And, if your audience is not responding to your message, regardless of the media, putting more ads in front of them isn’t going to help.
It’s good to see that B2B marketers are resisting the temptation to put all their money into the latest and greatest martech, and sticking with email, a proven tactic that’s still delivering amazing results.