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A Preflight Email Marketing Checklist for Defense Contractors

Defense contractors who use email marketing correctly can cost-effectively increase awareness with multiple target audiences and lead them toward the action you want.


Defense Contractor Email Marketing photo credit: DVIDSHUB via photopin cc


Last week I spoke with the CEO of an aerospace defense contractor about his company's diversification into commercial markets. The discussion was prompted in part by the publication of McKinsey's Defense Outlook 2015: A global survey of defense-industry executives. One part of the study points to a promising future for commercial aerospace. The study also outlined how, in an era of declining defense budgets and changing procurement strategies, defense contractors are diversifying internationally and into commercial sectors.

This comment in the report captured the change afoot in the defense industry:

Defense-­industry leaders believe their companies must change the way they do business; the question is how to do it.

The report also covered the defense industry's diversification into commercial markets:

When we asked respondents how they expected defense companies to adjust their portfolios between defense and commercial in the next one to three years, about half predicted a bias toward commercial. Only a handful predicted a bias toward defense, with the others expecting portfolios to balance.

The aerospace CEO told me about his company's soon-to-be-launched website. We then talked about how launching a new website is more of a starting point than an end in itself. Once a site is launched, then the work begins toward increasing traffic, conversion and sales.

Arguably the best tactic for building traffic to and interest in a website is blogging. But close behind that is using email marketing to deepen the relationship with your customers, prospects and stakeholders.

When using email marketing, defense contractors should be mindful of a few things:

  • Email marketing is one of the most underrated and effective marketing tactics. Unlike social media which may or may not be seen by your intended recipients, email will be there when the recipient is ready to consume it.
  • NEVER buy a list of email addresses. Email works best when it is sent to people who have opted in to receive your message. There are no shortcuts - for email to work you need to build a valid list of people who have raised their hands and given you permission to communicate with them. Buying a list does not accomplish this. Even worse, spamming is against the law and can tarnish the reputation of your IP address, thus hindering your ability to send any email.
  • Email lists erode at least 25% per year. Reasons include unsubscribes, job changes, etc. The name of the game with email marketing is to stay ahead of this fact and take every opportunity to capture email addresses from people who will want to hear from you. But you won't get email addresses if you don't ask for them. If you're reading this on your desktop computer, you'll see at least three places inviting you to subscribe to my email newsletter (hint, hint).
  • Segment your list. Unless you have just one buyer persona, you'll want to segment your list by the recipients' main area of interest. The more that you can communicate with the recipient with greater focus, the better. Additionally, let the recipient indicate how often they'd like to hear from you and what type of email they'd like to receive (new blog content, newsletter, product news, company news, etc).
  • Send good stuff. Don't take this the wrong way, but your email recipients don't really care about your company. They care about what your company can do for them. More specifically, they want content that will help them do their jobs better, solve their problems, help their career or entertain them. When developing email marketing content ask yourself this question: "Would the recipient pay me for this information?" If the answer is no, rethink what you're sending.
  • Plan for mobile first. By 2014, mobile internet usage will overtake desktop internet usage. If you plan your email marketing for the mobile user, the desktop user will be fine. (By the way, if you don't have a mobile version of your website, now is the time to get one.)
  • People forget that they opt in to your email list. So, make sure to email with enough frequency so that people will not forget who you are. Results vary, but at least once a month is a good rule of thumb. Also, when someone opts in to your email list, send them an automated email right away to start the process, make sure your email doesn't go into their spam folder, and to get them accustomed to receiving email from you right away.

For a thorough review of email marketing best practices, click here to download Silverpop's free 148-page ebook "Almost Everything You Wanted to Know About Email Marketing." (Registration required.)

Sound Off! How are you using email marketing? Please join the conversation below. And if this was helpful, please share it with your network.

The Principal and Founder of Artillery, Douglas Burdett is a former artillery officer and Madison Avenue ad man. He also hosts The Marketing Book Podcast, where he interviews authors every week about the latest in modern marketing and sales.

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