by: Joseph Mann 

It's no secret that marketing to a busines-to-business audience is very different than marketing to a business-to-consumer one. A recent Silverpop study1 on the clickthrough effectiveness of various email marketing creative seems to bear that out:

in their study of 612 emails sent by 430 companies, consumers had a clickthrough rate of 7.1% on image-rich messages vs. 4.7% for all-text. On the b2b side, all-text emails pulled 5.4% vs. 3.5% for image and text emails.

What does this mean? Are b2b buyers nothing more than aesthetically-challenged suits, unable to appreciate the combined power of word and image? Or perhaps they are business sophisticates who are above persuasion by eye-candy (just the facts, ma'am)?

And consider this: the study also found that for b2c buyers, emails with a newsletter-style layout bested a postcard-style format in clickthroughs. Business-to-business buyers preferred the opposite. I suspect that while consumers are somewhat conditioned to receiving visually-rich communications (e.g. TV), in many cases businesspeople have come to see rich email as too promotional and are just looking for the information they need to get their jobs done. The b2b aversion to a scrolling e-newsletter format in favor of an "at-a-glance" postcard layout further suggests this audience is too busy to be bothered having to scroll down a page (and what does this portend for b2b-targeted web sites?)

I gained some similar insights when running a pilot campaign testing several ad placement formats in an opt-in pharmaceutical industry e-newsletter. The strongest ad click-throughs and offer response came from text-based “advertorial” placements in-line to the feature stories versus graphic ads in traditional banner or skyscraper formats. At first I expected a visual, [tastefully] animated banner ad situated at the top of the viewing screen would perform better than the text ad set in the middle of the newsletter content.

In reality the average number of click-throughs per all-text insertion was 1.6 times greater than a banner ad run. More importantly, the text ads drove greater than 6 times the number of qualified leads from the landing page but required just a little more than half the number of insertions to do so.2

This is only one example, but definitely something to think about when developing a "leadvertising" campaign for a business-to-business audience.

1"Email Creative That Works." Silverpop. August 2006.
2Internal client study of an e-mail newsletter campaign over a 4-month period with 14 animated banner ad insertions and 8 in-line text advertorials, approximately one per week.

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