As a core part of the Data HQ team since 2004, David is an expert at unravelling complex data and making sense of intricate client requirements.
Having a clean, organised email database full of relevant, engaged contacts is key to b2b email marketing success. The specialist nature of b2b means that your contacts need to be truly relevant and your communications need to resonate with your audience.
Managing and maintaining your database does require strategy and resources, but it is essential to ensuring that your marketing efforts are reaching the right people at the right times.
Here are our top tips for the ongoing management of your b2b email database.
Segment your contacts according to personas and more
Marketing personas, or buyer personas, are incredibly useful for all types of businesses, but they’re absolutely essential when you’re selling to businesses. Without personas, you’re relying on your intuition and acting on what you think is right, which might not always be the case. Detailed personas will give you a scientific edge and will help to inform every aspect of your marketing.
If you haven’t already identified your personas, that should be your first port of call.
Once you have your personas, whether there are two of them or twelve, it’s time to use them to segment your contacts. You should also have already segmented your contacts according to other criteria:
- Seniority or job title (or both)
- Location (especially if you operate in diverse regions or multiple countries)
- Behaviour (e.g. highly engaged, moderately engaged, unengaged)
The more granular your data is, the more precise your email campaigns will be.
Run ‘welcome’ campaigns for new subscribers
Sending out a welcome email – or, better still, a series of them – will help you to engage new subscribers from the start, and it will make you seem proactive and recipient-focused. It’s also a perfect opportunity to suggest that they whitelist your email domains, so that your emails don’t end up in junk folders.
You can also use your welcome campaigns for subscription management. By sending out an email that asks each new subscriber to select the topic(s) or materials that they’re most interested in receiving, you’ll ensure that your campaigns really hit the mark rather than having a scattergun effect, which should in turn lead to higher levels of subscriber satisfaction, engagement and retention.
Maintain data hygiene
When you’re busy, data cleansing can fall by the wayside. It’s understandable, because urgent tasks and time-sensitive projects will always take precedence.
Nonetheless, you do need to ensure that you keep on top of it somehow, because a neglected database leads to poor data, which leads to several issues:
- A high rate of hard bounces due to misspelled or non-existent email addresses – lowering your email sender reputation score
- Personalisation errors caused by the use of initials or lowercase spellings of names – resulting, ironically, in the exact opposite of the desired effect
- Disgruntled contacts who are still receiving your emails despite having submitted their unsubscribe-requests long ago – which could result in your emails being marked as spam
- Skewed performance metrics as a result of unengaged or uninterested contacts lingering on your database and receiving your emails – if you have someone to report to regarding email campaign performance, you’ll do yourself a huge favour by removing any contacts who’ve made it clear that they’re not interested
Especially in a b2b database, contact churn is inevitable. Contacts change jobs, companies change their email domains, professionals simply lose interest in what you’re selling (whether this is down to a change in responsibilities or the acquisition of competitors’ products) and so on. This is unavoidable, but it also reinforces the need for regular data cleansing.
If you have in-house development resource, they can implement scripts that automate some of these cleansing processes for you – fixing the straightforward personalisation issues such as uncapitalised names, initials in the first-name field and inconsistencies in company names. If you don’t have the luxury of such development resource, you may just need to set monthly or quarterly reminders for yourself or a member of your team to go in and manually fix these.
Then there are certain cleansing tasks that need to be carried out by third-party specialists – such as utilising the Business Suppression File (BSF) to identify and remove defunct contacts, like employees at organisations that have gone out of business.
Try to re-engage your unengaged contacts
Before you go ahead and cleanse your database of contacts who aren’t engaging with your emails, you should attempt some re-engagement campaigns first. For example, you could send out a series of emails that directly (and engagingly) ask the contact whether they would like to still hear from you, or you could perhaps ask them to update their email preferences so that they will only receive the content they’re interested in.
By giving these unengaged contacts several options over a period of weeks, you’ll see which of them really are uninterested.
Remove those who don’t re-engage
Once you do have a list of contacts who haven’t acted on your “We’ve missed you” emails or your suggestions to update preferences, the best thing to do to ensure data-quality is remove them from your database altogether.
In doing so, you’ll purify your future metrics and you’ll have a more realistic view of your potential-customer base. 10,000 contacts might sound impressive, but if 8,500 of them have completely ignored all of your campaigns to date, it’s nothing more than a vanity metric.
Fill in the gaps
As your business’s offerings expand or change, gaps will form in your data. The acquisition of new contacts should therefore be a recurring process.
If you identify a new persona or a new industry to target, you need to evaluate whether your current database contains enough professionals that fit this new criteria. If not, you may need to invest in some new contacts.
Data HQ: The strategic approach to database management
Further reading: Data HQ's complete guide to email marketing
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