Thursday, May 21, 2009

Unsubscribes and Content Relevance in B2B Marketing

Another great chart from MarketingSherpa shows very clearly what we as marketers have long known. Relevance is key. 58% of those who stop reading, disengage, or unsubscribe quote a lack of relevance as a key factor.

Too many people are still looking at unsubscribe rates as a relevant metric to determine whether marketing messages are connecting with an audience. The fact is that only some of your audience will unsubscribe. The rest will tune out, emotionally unsubscribe, or even report your message as spam if it loses relevance.

So what is relevance and what can we do as marketers to better align our communications with what is relevant to the audience. There are four main areas we need to focus on in order to connect with our buying audience:

Relevance to their Business: This is one of the more often focused on aspects of relevance, and in many discussions around segmentation, this is all that is considered. Industry information can tell us whether they are likely to be experiencing pains we can solve, company size will give an indication of the resources they may have to tackle that pain and the size of a challenge it might be for them. Geography can give us an indication of whether the cultural or regulatory environment makes the business pain more (or less) acute. To do this, we first need to get our marketing data cleansed continually so that we can easily define our target segments based on industry or geography.

Relevance to their Role: Now it gets interesting. Knowing what role a buyer plays in the buying process allows you to target your message much more accurately. Are they a technical evaluator? If so, product details, devoid of marketing speak may be best. Are they an economic buyer? Perhaps ROI oriented case studies might be best.

Relevance to their Stage in their Buying Process: We’ve all received marketing communications that were driving towards a deal when we were just educating ourselves on the industry, and vice versa, we’ve received introductory, high level content when we were almost finished a detailed evaluation. The mis-match is painful as the content is not relevant even though we do have a certain amount of interest. Matching stage in a buyer’s buying process is crucial to relevance, and to do this, we need to map the buying process and what aspects of Digital Body Language indicate a buyer is at each stage.

Relevance of Style: Each audience responds to different styles and content. Where should the call to action be? What copy or subject line works best? There is no better answer to this than actual prospect response, and the use of A/B testing is your best option to understand which style is most relevant and effective with your audience.

Keeping unsubscribe rates low is great, but keeping audience engagement high, and emotional unsubscribes low is even better. The only way to accomplish this is through a relentless focus on making your message relevant to your audience across each of the key dimensions.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
Come talk with me or one of my colleagues at a live event, or join in on a webinar


mkamrk said...

Steve, these is a terrific post and a great commentary on the graph, which only tells so much.

Emotional Unsubscribes is huge. I do that everyday with a lot of email/vendors/contacts. I wish there was an easy way (easier than unsubscribe) for them to see it, because once I am tuned off, every time they email me they continue to add negative karma to themselves and their companies. Marketing automation has its down sides, and some of them can be a huge problem.

What to send to whom and when is a well understood but un-resolved problem, I feel. Its still all a hit and miss and I believe not having good data is one of the reasons for this. You suggested points 1 and 2 can make a HUGE difference and yet, I am amazed everyday to look at the data problems I hear from customers and prospects. The worse part is how little attention is being given to data in terms of priority and budgets.

I'd love to do an interview with you for our Good Data series - will reach out to you early next week.

Vaibhav Domkundwar