Businesses Discover Email Marketing's Nurturing Side Credit: Watering grass image via Shutterstock

The times they are a-changing for email marketing. While still holding on to its place as a prominent marketing tool, email marketing today is more effective as a nurturing platform than for acquiring leads, according to new research. Marketers call it "drip nurturing."

Drip nurturing is marketing shorthand for the practice of sending — "dripping" — multiple messages to customers at scheduled intervals. More than 60 percent of business-to-business marketers are using email for drip nurturing, according to a recent survey of more than 100 B2B marketers in the U.S. conducted by Pardot, a marketing automation software provider.

Of those, 65 percent are using targeted messaging that changes which emails are sent based on how the prospect responds, the survey found.

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Many B2B marketers rely on testing to improve their campaigns. According to the survey, 58 percent of respondents test to see what type of content results in the best click-through rates. Another 57 percent test for correlation between subject lines and open rates, and 46 percent test to see how open rates are affected by time of day the email is sent.

The sweet spot for sending emails is between 8 a.m. and noon on Tuesdays, the survey found.  The most effective offers in an email include an invitation to a webinar, followed by white papers and case studies.

Freebies, discounted services, limited-time offers and personal, text-based emails are less popular with recipients, the survey found.

"The fact that email is being used more for drip nurturing than lead generation isn’t that surprising," said Adam Blitzer, co-founder and chief operating officer of Pardot. "We’re moving into an age that places more emphasis on communicating through various channels. While companies are still using email, they’re also using landing pages, forms, social media, paid search ads, and more to generate leads."

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.We're also on Facebook & Google+.