Omni-channel marketing B2B strategies that go beyond email opens

With Tricia Wiles Ruiz, Creative Content Manager, True Influence

Data-driven B2B marketing is all about, well, data. Smart marketers rely on behavioral data for every aspect of the marketing operations, from audience segmentation to content personalization to revenue attribution.

So any news that a major platform provider like Apple plans to restrict access to that data under the name of privacy is bound to get a lot of attention. Apple’s Mail Privacy Policy (MPP), which essentially will give users of Apple’s mail tools the option of hiding when and where they open their mail, ushered in a wave of headlines declaring that “open rates are dead” as a tool for email marketers.

Honestly, open rates have had one foot in the grave in B2B for years, and most data-driven marketers have already moved on to focus on metrics that indicate a deeper level of engagement with their prospects. This evolution has been driven mainly by a better understanding of B2B purchasing habits – but governmental privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and new regulations in California have certainly helped push the change along.

The bottom line is that email should be just one tool in B2B multi-channel marketing campaigns that engage and educate buyers on their path to a purchase decision. And legitimate measures to protect consumer privacy won’t derail solid B2B marketing strategies.

Build multi-channel strategies that drive deeper engagement

I had the chance recently to talk to Ray Estevez, our CIO here at True Influence, about the impact of MPP, the new California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), and platform-driven “privacy” measures on marketers. Ray has long been an advocate of staying ahead of the regulatory curve when it comes to protecting your customer’s privacy, and he continues to stress that marketers should build in the most demanding privacy regulations into their own processes. When other governments and companies follow suit, you’ll be ready.

Our conversation, part of the True Influence Accelerating Revenue series, covered a lot of topics relating to behavioral tracking and privacy, but if I had to sum up Estevez’s advice, it would be this: Focus your reporting and analytics on explicit user behaviors, across all channels, that tell you what your prospects really want to know.

Email opens obviously don’t meet that bar. Click rates don’t lie as the raw baseline for email effectiveness. But even they paint an incomplete picture. Email marketers should focus on the content and offers that drive actual clicks and interactions in mail. These lead to further content consumption, and ultimately reveal how your target accounts and Buying Group personas are moving toward the buy decision.

Here are a few of the other key points Ray and I covered in our chat.

Take a holistic view on your strategies and measurements

To put it bluntly, you’re never going to sign a $50K just because somebody opened an email. Mail doesn’t act alone in a B2B marketing strategy. It can follow-up a high-funnel programmatic display campaign or lift your inside sales calls to an inmarket account. So your strategies need to be built around all digital marketing channels – display, social, searh, email, and inbound – and how they combine to engage and influence.

Estevez stressed not only the importance of omni-channel campaigns but also attribution, so you can see how the conversation is taking shape. You need to know if a prospect searched your site after interacting with you on Twitter, or after reading a mail.

First-party engagement is what you are after

That said, email is always going to be an essential part of B2B, and that includes third-party sources (obviously, it’s a big part of our business here at True Influence). But marketers need to maintain a clear focus on using third-party and second-party data to build the path toward an opted-in relationship with prospects and customers.

First-party interactions and data remain the gold standard, and the ultimate goal are transactions where users willingly share data with you, because they see the value in the exchange. Estevez calls this zero-party data, and he’s written about the topic on various industry sites. Instead of using cookies and tracking beacons, marketers can simply trust prospects to tell them what they want through surveys, preference centers, and other direct feedback channels.

I found this part of the conversation particularly interesting, because I tend to think of myself as a “user” of retail sites more so than as a “customer.” Following B2C’s lead here and developing self-directed online experience for B2B buyers will be a huge part of successful revenue strategies moving forward.

Open rates will still be there, if you want them

Estevez noted that Apple is only one provider of email tools, although it is a major player in the U.S., due the outlying popularity of iPhones in that market. (If you want a full breakdown on the technical details of MPP, I suggest this piece at Constant Contact.) Data from Gmail, Outlook and other mail clients can be used to extrapolate open rates on some very-high funnel or branding campaigns, if you feel you really need that data. Just don’t focus on it as a singular validation of the drop.

Don’t believe everything you hear about platform provider’s passion for ‘privacy’

Behavioral data is the backbone of personalization, which is essential to B2B marketing (I recently spoke with Mark Kilens of Drift about this very topic). Platform providers are marketers – they make money by selling targeted ads. So while Apple says it’s not sharing email open data with other marketers, we’ll take a wait and see attitude on how it uses the data it collects for its own purposes. Our Craig Weiss recently commented, pretty passionately, on the trend of the big platforms walling off their data in an effort to lock up ad dollars.

Ultimately there’s not a lot you can do about it as a marketer, except to look for partners with a broad ecosystem of data sources that can’t be completely undermined by policy changes like MPP. 

Check out the episode!

Be sure to check out our full conversation with Ray Estevez on your favorite platform.

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