B2B email marketing remains one of the most direct and effective ways to communicate with a target audience – both when it comes to prospective buyers and existing customers.
As well as getting in front of them via a place they spend a lot of their time (their email inbox) it can prove a very cost-effective way to stay in touch.
When it comes to email marketing, the key difference between reaching a B2C and a B2B audience is the type of content you may send out and when.
If you’re selling lower-priced products then you’re likely to be after high volumes and a quick turnaround. This calls for a very different approach to someone with a high ticket item who’s looking to secure a 3-year service contract.
Here, we’ve pulled together some practical advice and top tips for ensuring you get the most out of your B2B email marketing.
In our email marketing guide for B2B organizations and our email campaign cheat sheet, we outlined the secret to a solid B2B email marketing strategy. And here we’re going to look at ways to increase the success of your campaigns even more.
Tip 1 – Know why you’re doing it
It all starts with knowing the purpose of your emails. Why are you sending them?
If the answer is ‘to sell more’ you’ve probably not given the question enough thought.
Ultimately, the only reason we do anything in marketing is to sell, but to do so you need to have several methods and mechanisms in place. If you want your email marketing to be successful, you need to think in detail about your objectives.
Let’s look at some examples of potential goals you may have for your emails:
You may want to increase the number of subscribers to your blog, or simply grow your overall database.
With any kind of content marketing, you’ll be aiming to create a sales funnel which attracts the right kind of visitors, who in turn become subscribers you then nurture and convert into leads, eventually turning them into paying customers.
It’s simply a numbers game. If you have your sales funnel worked out properly, you’ll be able to see that if more people subscribe to a specific list, you get more leads and customers down the line.
If your conversions are working well then you should focus more of your efforts on getting subscribers. Crafting an interesting auto-responder which moves the audience along the funnel is one good strategy.
But if you really want to get lots of people to subscribe, you need to be clear on why anyone would want to. The answer to this question should drive everything you do, from the overall campaign to the content.
If you put something out there and hardly anyone subscribes as a result, then you know that your assumptions are probably wrong. There may be a mismatch. What you think people want and what they want, could be very different things. In that case, go back to the drawing board and re-craft the ‘why’ for your potential subscribers.
It could be that your attraction tactics work really well and you’re getting lots of subscribers, but once you have them nothing much happens. Your aim here should be to work on increasing engagement with your audience.
In this case, start by looking at the specific content of your emails. Check out our blog on the anatomy of a great email newsletter for more advice here.
Engagement is most easily measured through the open and click-through rates of your emails achieve. If these figures are low, your emails probably aren’t enticing enough.
Ask yourself these questions and look for ways to improve on them:
- Do you offer links and encourage click-throughs?
- How many links are in your email?
- What type of links are they – plain hyperlinks, or image and button links?
- If your open rate is low what are your headlines saying?
- Are your headlines too long or too short?
- Try experimenting with personalization in your headline
- If none of this makes a difference, do you have an audience/content mismatch?
- Are you getting the right subscribers for your email content?
- Are these the right subscribers, or does the content need to change?
- Do you need to change who subscribes to your lists?
Converting email subscribers into buyers
Achieving this aim remains the holy grail of all email marketing. Once you’ve got your subscription number growing and engagement is up, the next key question is how many of those go on to become customers.
Let’s look at what needs to happen for an email subscriber to become a buyer.
Of course, a big part of the answer to this question will depend on the type of goods you’re selling. If it’s office supplies then that’s one thing, but a 3-year maintenance contract is quite another, and a comprehensive consulting engagement yet another.
What is needed in all cases, however, is:
A well thought through B2B email marketing plan should work on building trust. Nobody will buy anything from you without trust and believe you’ll deliver on your promises. It’s one of the main advantages that emails have. They allow you to show off your expertise, talk about who you are and what you do, and offer an insight into what it may be like to work with you.
Do you have the authority and expertise a customer will expect you to have? Your emails are where you can really show off your knowledge. One auto-responder email set should be an educational sequence, which shows what you know and how you apply that knowledge.
For service industries, in particular, this is going to be vital. For other industries, providing an insight into how you go about securing the quality of your products, delivery and maintenance, are all topics you could explore in your emails.
You don’t need to like the person you are dealing with – but it helps. B2B communication can often suffer from being boring and corporate. Nobody responds well to that. Adding a bit of personality into your communication can be a positive step, especially when it comes to direct emails. It is one of the main reasons why it’s worth having your emails come from an actual person, rather than a generic office@ or info@ email address.
The tone of your emails is also incredibly important. It will say a lot about who you are and how you act and it’s the reason why many companies have style guides and documents, outlining how outside communication is to be handled.
How informal you go with your language and tone will depend a lot on your target audience. A young, urban executive won’t respond well to stuffy corporate talk. On the other hand, if you want to reach senior managers and more traditional-style CEOs, who were around long before the internet was even thought of, then a formal tone may be expected.
By the way, if your audience is made up of two very distinct buyer personas, like the two we have mentioned here, then you’re best to create different emails that are tailored for each. Segmentation like this is key if your content is to be successful.
Ideas for improving email conversions
Here are some examples of what you could do with your emails to drive more direct sales conversions.
When you are selling a physical product, using emails to offer special discounts or added value offers can be a great way to increase conversions. Make the recipient feel special and lucky to be on your list, by rewarding them for opening your emails. Consumer e-commerce sites have long mastered this skill but it can work just as effectively in B2B marketing.
As well as running special offers, always promote the next step in your funnel heavily. This may be a product demo or an extended trial. Another way to utilise email when you sell digital products is to create a special onboarding series of emails, to make working with your product easier and help increase client retention.
For digital products, you’ll have a specific funnel that ranges from very small asks (‘like’ our Facebook page) to ever-increasing asks (attend our webinar / buy option A with fewer features / buy option B or C with more features). The entire funnel needs to be driven by special emails. That is the most effective way to do it.
In the same as physical products, emails can be used to make the onboarding process of service products far easier. There will be a steep learning curve for working together and emails can help ease that.
Before a sale takes place, using a conversational tone, passing on valuable information and showing off your expertise, are all easy ways to keep your audience interested. Events can also work well and emails will play a key part in your marketing strategy, keeping your audience engaged and interested.
Tip 2 – What to write in your emails
Once you’ve figured out the ‘why’ and purpose of your emails, the content should become far easier to put together.
Tips for keeping your email content fresh:
- Offer exclusive content that cannot be found anywhere else
- Maintain a personal tone
- Make sure the information you provide is high quality and valuable
- Keep it relevant and a good match between your audience and what you’re offering
Tip 3 – Email automation
Writing a one-off email, such as a newsletter, is one way to use email to connect with your audience. Automated emails are another.
We all know that emails are often automated but if they are well written then we forget that part and engage with it just the same (tone-of-voice will play a big part in this).
You can use automated emails for:
- Blog subscriptions – send emails out every time a new blog is published and offer the option to send summary emails at set intervals, like once a month
- Autoresponders – when someone signs up for something, send them a batch of relevant emails that will help lead them on to the next step, or create a specific information chain delivered through an email course
- The first email – take extra care here, your very first email to someone needs to be very well crafted
Learn how to create automated email workflows in our free guide.
Tip 4 – Never spam
It’s very important that you always give someone the option to easily unsubscribe. If it takes more than one click, it’s not easy enough. Never make them have to log in somewhere, or give a reason for unsubscribing first. One-click unsubscribe is standard, polite and simply best practice nowadays.
And of course, never send an automated email to someone who hasn’t asked for it. That’s spam.
Tip 5 – Segmentation
Knowing who you are talking to is everything in B2B email marketing and sending the same newsletter to 10,000+ contacts in your database is quite the opposite.
Yes, it’s not always that easy to segment a database, but it works and you need to do it. Use software that can help you segment your audience, by groups, tags or other specific custom fields. You need to be able to pull out a specific segment and target them with a highly tailored email.
Tip 6 – Design
Always keep the design of your emails simple and ensure they’re easy to read and navigate. Including too much flashy content can distract, while having too little in the way of images and design can make it boring. You don’t want to be sending out an entire novel in each email but make sure all the important information is included.
The number of emails being read on mobile devices is increasing daily. Having to zoom in or out is a no-no for any type of email but especially for B2B email marketing. Your emails must be responsive, meaning they automatically change the way they look according to the screen size they’re viewed at. The content should rearrange itself and display in a way that makes it easy to read.
If you’re not sure which email marketing software you should use, then have a look at this article.
Sometimes emailing cold, when the person doesn’t know who you are yet, can also work and be a good way to start engagement. Here’s how you do it.