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Editor's note: See Stephanie in person at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Driving Sales: What's New + What Works. Catch her session on "B2B Email That Moves the Needle." Sign up for the event and use promo code ESPK08 to save $200 on the registration fee.

Here we are, oh email marketers, caught in the middle. On the one hand we are celebrated for being the go-to resource for generating short-term revenue results (anyone have that "hey, our numbers are down, send another email" conversation this week?). On the other hand, it's "funny" how the applause dies down when the budget talk comes around and we continue to be handicapped by limited investment and strained resources.

What's an email marketer to do?

With that reality as our foundation, I'm leading a panel of great marketers at the upcoming MarketingProfs B2B Marketing conference in June. Return Path blog subscribers can.

Here are five ideas from a panel that I'm leading at the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing conference in June that you can apply to your own program. I'll be expounding on them during our panel at the conference. (Sign up for the conference and save $200 with the promo code ESPK08.)

1. Turn the recession to your advantage

Email is easy and inexpensive to get into, so more and more businesses are sending messages. You can see the result is in your inbox—more and more clutter.

That means our messages have to be better than everything else to break through. To get better messages you need to create great subscriber experiences. And that requires discipline around sending frequency, segmentation, data integration and advanced measurements and reports. Which requires more investment in the channel.

So when you feel the pressure to do more with less, focus on proving how sending more targeted messages will result in higher return over time and add value to your email asset. For example, trigger a message around a customer lifestage event—renewal, contract anniversary, upgrade, number of uses, new to the relationship, etc. Show how those messages earn higher engagement, in order to automate them for every subscriber.

2. Improve your benefit statement

Email is the highest-ROI channel, so be sure to capture email addresses at every touchpoint. Since you want to capture email at the point of entry, your homepage may not be the best location if most visitors come through alternative pathways.

Make sure there is a strong, compelling benefit statement on every search and advertising landing page, at the bottom of every blog post, in every sales and customer service call, in every webinar and every whitepaper download page.

The key here is "compelling." Product announcements and press releases are not compelling. These ideas are: Productivity tips, insider reviews, chances to network with peers, invites to cool events, and exclusive access.

3. Simple segmentation is essential

If you do no other segmentation, distinguish your messages between prospects and customers. These are singularly different groups with different relationships to your brand/products and different knowledge levels of your product and solution benefits. Treat them differently, or you will continue to optimize your email marketing for neither.

4. Sender reputation matters in B2B, too

Though many B2B marketers think that the feedback they get from the Web-based ISPs (AOL, Yahoo and MSN/Hotmail) isn't relevant since their file is not saturated with these domains, the reverse is actually true.

Those ISPs provide important feedback about your sender reputation based on complaints (registered at the ISPs when a subscriber clicks the "This is Spam" or "This is Junk" button)—and you can use that data to understand your program's deliverability at corporate systems.

Most business system administrators use Cloudmark or Postini—both of which are strongly based on complaint data—to decide what messages to allow past the gateway and to your subscriber's inbox. And, of course, some businesspeople specifically use consumer email systems to get email they don't want in their corporate inbox. It could well be person123@ AOL or Yahoo is also important.person@ your biggest account.

If you don't know your sender reputation, start here for a free evaluation: www.senderscore.org.

5. Test the tone

As the inbox clutters and budgets get tighter, test tone. Will your subscribers respond better to a happy, sunshiny "spend now to get ahead" message of hope, or a more somber, "how to get more with less" partnership approach?

Perhaps one will work better for different types of product messages.

Need more great B2B marketing ideas? Sign up for the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing conference now. Remember to use promo code ESPK08 and save $200.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

image of Stephanie Miller

Stephanie Miller is vice-president of market development for Return Path, Inc. (www.returnpath.net). Reach her via Twitter (@StephanieSAM) or stephanie.miller@returnpath.net.