B2B email marketing: A strategic approach for lead generation

Surprisingly, email marketing is actually 40 years old! Alongside being one of the older online channels for B2B marketing, it’s also the third most trusted source of information for B2B buyers. However, with constant advancements in technologies and the B2B buyer’s inclinations ever shifting, nailing down a solid strategy for your email marketing channel can prove challenging. So, let’s look at a strategic approach that works; some organizations see their email marketing provide business leads that account for 58% of all revenue, here’s how they do it.

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Sort your data

Every email campaign starts with a set of data, and campaign success hinges on the management and sorting of this data. Start by building lists of tagged data, so you know where they’ve come from and if they’ve entered your sales pipeline before. Use this as a chance to check on the quality of your data, so you can ensure the email addresses are valid, and the additional information you have (names, business, location) is appropriate and usable.

Now we get to segmentation. This is where your email marketing erupts into the 21st century and appeals heavily to the modern buyer. Segment your data in a way that allows different lists to receive individualized, targeted messages that apply your use cases and promote maximum product value. A great way of doing this is by job title; you wouldn’t use the same vocabulary or tone for a marketing director as you would for a sales manager, so split your data by job function or seniority so that you can send them an appropriate message. You can also segment data by industry, if you have a broad buyer persona.

This enables you to construct highly targeted campaigns, with a message that’s far more specific to the person receiving it (and also looks less like an automated blanket copy).

Segmentation of data is essential to running a truly successful email marketing strategy, but for many ESPs (Email Service Provider), it’s considered a luxury and you may incur some extra costs. Check the market and see who can do it for less.


Get automated

Automation for B2B marketing in general is considered “above average importance” for 48% of B2B organizations, and it’s easy to see why – it can help you generate twice the amount of business leads! However, only 13% of B2B organizations are currently using automation to help with their email marketing.

It all starts with a solid ESP that allows for automation; all the best ones do, so get yourself one that’s good to go. Then choose what you want to automate. The best emails to automate are responsive i.e. when someone completes a certain action or journey, they automatically receive an email. You can use these actions (or triggers) to enter prospective customers into a specific email flow that has a tailored message for the action completed. For example, let’s say that someone in your database downloads a piece of content. You can automatically send follow-up content and messages of a similar subject to the original content and help continue the conversation and improve the chance of conversion.

Automation takes time to set up, and needs to be checked on a fairly regular basis to ensure subject lines and copy remain enticing for the reader, but once the initial hard work is done, you’ll save plenty of time and resources thanks to automation.

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Don’t expect it all at once

As Jordie van Rijn rightfully points out – “nobody ever bought an airplane after reading one email”.

This is where B2B marketing truly differs from B2C; for a vast majority of B2B organizations, a business transaction is nothing like popping to the shop, seeing something new and grabbing it. It takes time and discussion between various decision makers. 70% of B2B buyers purchase to solve a problem, and 30% purchase just to gain something. This means that the majority of people reading your emails will only engage with you if they’re already aware of a problem within their business, and believe your business can help them solve it. An average of 7 decision makers are involved in a B2B purchasing process, so one of them won’t come to you unless they’re in desperate need, or they’re sure at least a few others will agree with them.

This means that your email marketing has to be strategically planned in waves that reflects a journey. The first is received and acknowledged, and from there, referencing the previous contact and offering something further or new, you’ll begin the nurturing process. After time, you’ll notice leads come forward and ask for more, and these nurtured leads will be far more likely to move through your sales pipeline successfully. Though some may come forward after the first email, there’s a chance they haven’t really thought about their needs and they’re less likely to go on to buy.

The biggest take home from this is quality over quantity. Email marketing isn’t about slamming the send button as much as humanly possible, it’s about explaining to people how you can help them and why they need you, in detail. This detail is what can help them to realize a problem that they have or, a problem they might have in the future that ultimately, you can help to solve. When looking to generate business leads, remember the end goal – obtain more customers; so make sure they’re interested and informed enough to buy.

Use your assets

Almost 70% of B2B buyers prefer rich text emails, but don’t just fill them with sales-y fluff about how great you are – give them something to enjoy. Send over a customer testimonial, these are proven to be as valuable as in-person referrals; or let them know about some downloadable content, or a webinar you have coming up. This not only makes you look like a more trustworthy source, but it also gives something back to them. You’ll not only gain credibility, but you’ll also pique their interest, and they’ll be more inclined to look at your website and view some more content. The average buyer consumes 3-5 piece of content before inquiring – so help them along that path.

Mobile friendly

Even in the world of B2B, mobile is seriously on the up, with 80.8% of business professionals using their phone to access email as well as a PC. Google also found that 50% of B2B searches are mobile searches, so it’s paramount to keep it everything mobile friendly. From the templated email format, to any large attachments or images, make sure your email is properly formatted for mobile use. Ensure this is carried through to your landing page and website – there’s not much point having a wonderfully exciting email to be let down by the landing page formatting.

Always analyse

Analysis can make or break a B2B email marketing strategy. If you send out a campaign, and get the result you want – that’s great! But why? You need to analyse an email campaign whether you succeed or fail. You need to know what didn’t work, so you can avoid it, but also what did work – so you can replicate it.

The easiest way to do this in an organized and regulated fashion is to set up email marketing KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) which carry numerical values that can be measured with every send. These include:

  • Delivery rate
  • Open rate
  • Click through rate
  • Landing page hits
  • Landing page conversions
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Response rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Leads generated
  • Leads qualified
  • Leads converted

These are just a few, but by measuring these KPIs, you can start to gain insight into the reasons behind results. If the delivery rate was high, but the open rate low, perhaps your subject line wasn’t right. If the open rate was good, but the leads generated and click through rates low, then perhaps your copy or formatting needs some work, and so on.

Set up a strong, structured and clear reporting strategy for these KPIs, and after each send, take the numbers down and analyse. Make sure you put your learnings into practice before making the next send.

Always analyse

If your analysis provides unclear results, then don’t be afraid to run a 10% test. If you’re testing a subject line for example, then take 10% of your data, and send 5% one subject line, and 5% another. Then see which group had better open rates and improved lead generation. Use the results to plan your send to the other 90%. This is a sure-fire way to run the most successful B2B email marketing campaign, however less than 50% of B2B organizations are conducting tests. Don’t be afraid – it’s a good thing to do.

However, make sure you’re testing one variable at a time. If you change two things at once, then you’ll never know the exact reason a campaign did or didn’t work.

A strategic email marketing approach may take time to set up and maintain, but the rewards will show the benefits. B2B email marketing is known to produce high quality leads that result in sales, and over 75% of businesses saw email marketing generate “good” or “very good” ROI.

A great way to maximize lead generation from your email marketing campaign is to know who’s clicking onto your website from the email. Lead Forensics can help you there. We can tell you what businesses are visiting your website, what they looked at and how they found you. This means after an email campaign, you can see the businesses that found your website after receiving the email; and as we also provide the contact details of key decision makers, you can have them on the phone in seconds.

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