For some B2B organizations, email marketing simply means sending out a company newsletter from time to time. But for those who have discovered content marketing, it’s a whole different story.
From generating strong business leads, to helping nurture leads along the sales process, content marketing can take email marketing up to a whole new level.
So, how can you turn a bog-standard company newsletter into a sophisticated, lead generating machine?
Why your company newsletter is a waste of time
Whatever size or shape it may take, every newsletter takes considerable time to put together and will proudly shout about the latest company news, achievements and developments.
The first problem is who is really going to be interested in reading about that?
- Your investors? Yes, they will be.
- Your employees? Possibly.
- Your suppliers? Yes, as they may be interested to see if there are any opportunities to cross-sell or upsell to you.
- You may even find it interests the odd customer too.
But the people you really want to influence – the key decision-makers at a company who are looking to solve a problem and achieve their company goals – will not care in the slightest about your news. (This may be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s the truth).
Now, we’re not saying that company newsletters are a waste of time. They can have a valid place within the wider marketing mix if they’re designed with the right audience in mind. But as a lead generation tool, they just don’t work.
So, let’s look at what you could be doing instead.
Your email marketing will only ever be as good as the foundations it is built on and that means your database. Both the list of contacts you already have and those you’ll generate moving forward.
The quality of your contact segmentation is key here. You need to know exactly who is in your database and what the purpose is of having them there. In terms of marketing and sales, you also need to know:
- whether a contact is already a customer
- whether they have been a customer in the past but aren’t anymore (and why)
- are they likely to become one again (in other words wherein the buyer journey they might be)
- if they don’t want to hear from you ever again (these exist too and you need to know who they are for your ‘exclusion’ list)
You’ve probably already got some sort of technology in place to help you keep your database up to date. The system may be simple or more sophisticated, but whatever you use it’s important that the individual parts all work together. There is nothing worse than having to manually update a CSV file across different systems.
Even with a largely automated system, you can sometimes hit issues keeping the synchronization up to date. However, if you are serious about generating leads then this is an area in which you need to invest time and money getting it right.
What to do with existing contacts
If you haven’t done any targeted email marketing (other than sending out a company newsletter or similar) to your current contacts list, then your first step should be to go through the list and segment it.
Consider what you know about the people on it. What information is important? How much do you already know? What else would you like to know?
The easiest way to kick start any kind of email marketing campaign is to create a download for data capture. This could be aimed at a specific segment of your database and then used to filter out a particular demographic.
Using gated content in practice
For example, imagine you have a long list of contacts but don’t actually know where they are based and you only want to do business with people in a specific area. You could create a download that will only be relevant to those based in a target location.
The people who download this content are not only likely to be in the right area but, will be interested in what you are talking about.
You can also use the download to get a sense of who is actively looking to solve a specific problem, by basing it on a particular topic or issue.
The idea is that through content marketing, you can better segment your list into useful groups, then nurture them on by sending them information that will be relevant to them, so creating a warmer contact list.
If the list you are working with is very cold – in other words, you haven’t made contact in quite a while and they probably won’t remember who you are – then you need to be a bit more careful. Using content marketing to nurture a cold contact list can be done, it just takes a bit more sensitivity.
Should you import all contacts at once?
A question that always comes up when processing existing contact lists, is whether to import them all at once.
Often, when you start a new email marketing campaign or strategy, you will also implement a new work system to help manage it more efficiently. (email marketing software providers in comparison).
In most cases, you will need to pay a fee based on the number of contacts you have in your software, so it makes sense to filter the good ones out first.
One way to do this is to use your first email to ask if they’d like to self-subscribe to the new system. Add a call to action that links to a download, where you ask them again for their name and email address. Then have that information go straight into the new system. Doing it this way, you’ll also have a timestamp and if needed can get a double-opt-in.
From this point, you’ll know you’re working with a clean list and only people who want to hear from you.
Just to add, you always need to be mindful that you’re working in line with any regulations that are applicable in your country, with regards to sending out emails.
Email marketing to generate new leads
The idea behind email marketing for B2B organizations is to build a relationship with leads. In B2B, you seldom have a short sales cycle. On the contrary, it usually tends to be far longer and often more difficult, with several decision-makers involved.
But even in a shorter cycle, building trust is necessary before anyone will ever buy from you.
In the digital world we now live in, all you have to help you gain that trust is bits and bytes. When they come in the form of emails, they tend to work quite well in building up a relationship – but only if you take great care in what you send, to whom and how often.
Think about your own experiences. How often have you subscribed to a company’s newsletter because you are genuinely interested, only to end up feeling completely bombarded? They end up sending you emails at very short intervals and it doesn’t take long for you to hit unsubscribe – not because you aren’t interested, simply because it’s too much! Don’t fall into that trap yourself.
You need to find the balance between staying top of mind and being annoying. It’s tricky, but if you keep analyzing your results you will begin to understand what people enjoy and what they don’t.
Different types of emails
There are different types of emails you can send out too. One type being the one-off or batched email, which you will create and then send at a specific time. Another is the automated email, which will be sent out at specific intervals, in response to someone filling out a form on your website. Both these emails types have a place within a comprehensive email marketing plan.
The automated ones will usually be part of a ‘workflow’. They are your typical nurturing campaigns. Click here to learn more about how using strong workflows can help you effectively convert leads.
One-off emails or batched emails
Your company newsletter is classed as one of these types of emails. As we said, they do have their place in the mix. There is nothing wrong with them, as long as they go to the people who will really want them.
If you are a source of information and an expert in your field, then it makes sense to send out regular newsletter type emails, providing content to your readers. That is why it is so important to be able to segment out your list.
Every workflow will also come to an end at some point. When it does, it can be a good idea to continue sending those contacts an email periodically.
In B2B, you just need to be super mindful of the frequency at which you are sending emails out. Check back regularly with your audience to see how it’s going. If you notice a lot of unsubscribes when you’re sending out this type of email, then it’s time to re-evaluate and change your tactics.
Check out the anatomy of a great email newsletter, for all the ins and outs when it comes to emailing leads.
Automated nurturing emails
Remember, the purpose of a nurturing email is to build a relationship and trust. Not necessarily to sell anything. Keep that in mind when you are creating your workflows and campaigns.
We’ve put together an email campaign cheat sheet to help you get started. It contains important advice, whatever type of email you may be sending out.
Once you’ve worked out your email marketing strategy and have implemented it, it’s time to keep reviewing and adjusting what you’re doing.
While automation may sound like it’s a tactic you can just set up and forget about, it definitely isn’t. At least, not until you’ve tried and tested it to find the perfect nurturing workflow for converting your leads.
KPIs are very important when it comes to email marketing. Only by looking at your emails and the results they achieve, will you find the most important metrics to monitor and work on improving.
Start with the open rate and click-through rate. These are key metrics, as they will show you how engaged your list really is.
If you send out an email to 1,000 people and your open rate is 65% then you know 650 people opened your email. They won’t all have read it necessarily, but the chances are most people will have read something.
The click rate is how many people clicked on a link you included in your email, for example directing them to a download. It’s important to have links within your emails and the more relevant and interesting the information it promises, the more people will click on it.
After these two metrics, unsubscribe is the next metric to keep a close eye on, as it will give you a solid indication of what’s happening with your database.
Once you’ve got the basics in place, it’s time to take it all up a gear. To do this, you need to evaluate the interactions that are taking place at different points in your email and with the content itself.
Place different links at specific points in your email and look who clicks on what. Use two or three links to help you segment your list. Perhaps offer a download for one segment and a second one for another. Depending on which they go for, you’ll know where their interest lies.
From there, a workflow can then send them even more targeted emails that only talk around the areas they’ve expressed an interest in, before slowly bringing them to a point where they can be handed over to sales.
If you work with Lead Forensics, then you could start off by sending out an introductory email to all the people who visit your website (thanks to the software, you can do this even with contacts who haven’t converted yet). Alternatively, you could choose to put in an introductory phone call, if that’s more your thing. Even better, try out both and see which leads to the best results.
For anyone who engages with you and your emails, make sure you follow up by sending them more information. The important thing is to stop when they are no longer engaging with it.
In our article ‘Is there ever such a thing as a dead sales lead?’ we explore exactly that question. To decide whether to give up on a lead, you need to base your decision on the facts, figures and trends. Look at the numbers from your campaigns, as they will tell you the answer.
Of course, there will always be many variables at play that can affect the success of any campaign. Wherever possible, use A/B testing to make sure you’re hitting the highest possible numbers and to help you along the path to converting more and more leads.
It’s important to optimize every part of the sales process, so no leads are ever missed. To help with this, have a read of our blog ‘How to increase your email marketing conversions’.
The secret to great email marketing
And there you have it. Email marketing remains one of the most underused marketing tactics in B2B organizations. But that should change and for one very important reason – it works!
Yes, it can take a lot of work, particularly if you want to get it right. But once you have quality content, effective emails and a strong strategy in place, in the long run, email marketing can be worth its weight in gold.
Just start small and increase your efforts step-by-step. Gradually add more emails, more workflows and more content. Ultimately, all your efforts will lead to more leads! Tools like Lead Forensics can help you at every stage, making it the perfect time to invest in a solid email marketing and lead nurturing strategy.