B2B Email Marketing Best Practices

Email marketing is one of the oldest tricks in the digital marketing handbook.

We use it to promote our company news, whitepapers, webinars, product launches and our presence at trade shows. And email marketing has always provided the benefit of directly measuring performance. Marketers can access feedback – whether the recipient opened the email or clicked on a specific link – for campaigns almost immediately.

But even as early as the 1990s, email marketing was being abused as the term “spam” was coined, similar to its physical mail equivalent “junk mail.” With the average user receiving upwards of 90 emails per day, email marketing would seem like a digital tactic of the past.

This just isn’t the case, however.

WHY IS EMAIL MARKETING IMPORTANT?

The email marketing, most specifically the “is email marketing dead?” debate is almost as old as email marketing itself. Many believe its days are over but then studies are constantly published demonstrating that this assumption is not true.

Here are some statistics that show there is a case for email marketing:

  • 86% of business professionals use email when communicating for business purposes. (Hubspot)

  • Consumers who purchase products through email spend 138% more than those that don’t receive email offers. (Hatchbuck)

  • 58% of millennials say that email is their preferred way to be contacted by a brand. (Adobe)

  • Email generates around £29bn retail sales annually. (Marketing Week)

  • ROI for email increased from an estimated £30.03 for every £1 spent in 2016 to £32.28 in 2017. (DMA)

B2B EMAIL MARKETING AND GDPR

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force last year and was designed to protect personal information and increase the rights of individuals by giving them more control over their information. This generally means that organisations need to gain consent from a subscriber before that subscriber is sent marketing communications via email. Making email marketing a little more difficult than previously.

Should a subscriber choose to opt-out of email marketing communications, organisations would breach this new regulation if the opted-out subscriber is sent marketing communications after unsubscribing. The subscriber can also request that the data previously held is deleted from the organisation’s database.

So, organisations can still conduct email marketing, however, permission by the subscriber is needed (proof of opt-in is also required) who will also get the option to manage the type of content they receive from organisations at any time.

TYPES OF B2B EMAILS FOR EMAIL MARKETING

For those opted-in subscribers, there are three common types of emails that B2B marketers can use when sending email marketing communications. They are all relatively similar, but the objectives and projected outcomes are quite different, therefore the content is generally different.

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING EMAILS

Improving B2B relationships is always a good idea and email marketing can be used to do just this. These emails might come in the form of surveys, welcome emails or simply in the form of a re-engagement email for a subscriber that has gone cold. The goal of the email might be to generate feedback to show that the subscriber is still willing to engage with your organisation and the content that is sent to that subscriber.

CONTENT EMAILS

This type of email doesn’t look to sell the subscribers directly. The aim of the email is to signpost visitors to content, usually new. The content may take the form of a blog post, news article or case studies/product updates on the organisation’s website, or even a newsletter. The goal of the email might simply be to generate some awareness about your organisation or its services or to provide some information regarding a topic.

OFFERS EMAILS

This type of email is similar to the content emails but there is usually a transaction involved - most likely data in some form. Offers such as free downloadable whitepapers, webinars and audits can be attained by providing some information in return for the offer. The goal of such an email is to generate a lead from the subscriber list to then progress the subscriber through the buyer's journey, potentially towards a sale.

EMAIL MARKETING BEST PRACTICE TACTICS

Scour the internet and you’ll find a large number of articles with tips on how to conduct email marketing. Some will provide tips on how to write subject lines and others will indicate what time is best to send those emails.

Here are 10 B2B email marketing tactics for best practice on a more strategic level:

1. PERSONALISE EVERY EMAIL

Every email should include an element of personalisation. At the base level, including the subscriber’s name and organisation/industry sector within the body/subject line can increase the overall engagement with the campaign. Make sure that the sender also clearly identifies themselves by including the name of the sender in the email body and at the top of the email. There are many levels of personalisation possible, which depends on the level of segmentation an organisation is willing to adopt…

2. SEGMENT SUBSCRIBERS

Email contacts, once subscribed, can be segmented to enable targeted and timely campaigns so that the chances of the contacts doing what you want them to do with your emails are higher. HubSpot provides a comprehensive list of segmentation categories – such as geography, persona, organisation type and industry – that can be used to segment lists and contact preferences. From re-engaging old contacts to rewarding active customers, there are many methods and many reasons to segment subscribers.

3. CONNECT YOUR EMAIL COMMUNICATIONS TO THE BUYER’S JOURNEY

B2B marketers will know that a large percentage of a subscriber list or email contact currently subscribed will not ordinarily be ready to buy. Contacts will be situated within different stages of the buyer’s journey, and therefore the content emailed to those subscribers need to be different. Apart from basic segmentation, email contacts and communications should also be connected to the buyer’s journey. So content is always relevant and also sent out for a purpose: to progress that contact through the buyer’s journey closer towards a sale, when that contact is ready for it.

4. YOU’RE ADDRESSING AN INDIVIDUAL, NOT A CROWD

I often find myself surprised upon reading marketing emails to find that the content, specifically the written copy within, is geared towards groups of people rather than an individual. My name might be included in the subject line, but the actual content doesn’t feel like it’s for me.

When writing campaign emails, always write the email like you’re writing a personal email to a colleague or friend within your Gmail or Outlook account, not to a group of people. Write to that one person. The persona, decision-maker or someone on that chain of command himself that is part of the complex sales process. It will improve engagement.

5. AUTOMATE WHERE POSSIBLE

Once subscribers are segmented, certain rules should be created within those segments, where once triggered by an activity, automated emails can be sent out to those subscribers. Email marketing is a prime method of qualifying and nurturing subscribers into leads and then sales, but to effectively do this automation software is required so that each email is relevant and timely.

6. FOLLOW UP ON EVERYTHING

Often, marketing emails aren’t acted upon simply as they might have been delivered at a busy time in the recipient’s calendar. Not because the content wasn’t relevant. A short follow-up email, just to nudge someone, can transform the performance of a campaign. So if an email doesn’t get a response or if an event is triggered or if feedback is required, a short email can remind a subscriber to take action on a campaign that could reap huge rewards. Even sending follow-up emails to the “unreads” has shown to increase the overall open rate by almost 50%.

7. CHOOSE A SIMPLE EMAIL DESIGN

Email design is one of the easiest elements of an email to get wrong, however, getting it right is easy. And the general rule is that an email design should actually have minimal design elements included. Avoid a complex email structure, keep images to a minimum and use HTML text/fonts (black). B2B marketers sometimes forget that their subscribers aren’t B2C customers, where there is more focus on visual elements. Clarity should always be the focus of B2B emails.

8. LOOK TO GET SUBSCRIBERS OUT OF THEIR EMAILS TO A WEB PAGE

“Treat your emails like a homepage.” This quote completely summarises what B2B marketers need to do with emails, which is to grab attention and then divert that attention to a web page. Emails should be short and to the point and the CTAs should be clear, repeated if relevant. I haven’t met anyone who works in marketing that likes to spend time within emails, so it’s our jobs to adhere to this wish and move our subscribers away from those emails and on to web pages and websites.

9. GET INTO THE HABIT OF CLEANING LISTS

Designing emails for engagement is important, but if those emails aren’t being delivered in the first instance then the design is irrelevant. Having a clean list increases deliverability, reduces bounce rates and gives the organisation increased data accuracy. Don’t be afraid to remove inactive subscribers from your lists or asking them what content they want to receive. Keeping a list clean ensures that those we are speaking to are actually interested in hearing from us. If they are not interested in an organisation or its products, then there is no reason to keep that contact as a subscriber.

10. TEST EVERYTHING (SMALL TESTS ARE A GOOD START)

Testing is part of a marketer’s everyday remit, as we scrutinise our own work and look at ways to improve the performance of our campaigns. Again, HubSpot provides a list of email elements for testing, from content tests to visual tests, where the slightest of tweaks can improve open rates and click-through rates and can mean the difference between a good and bad email marketing campaign. The general rule is to pick one or two elements at a time to test and see how that improves performance, before moving on to tweak other elements of an email.

EMAIL MARKETING IS HERE TO STAY

There is no doubt that email marketing, certainly as a mass media channel, has lost its effectiveness. With new GPDR implications changing the way organisations access and store data, it does appear that email marketing is getting increasingly more difficult.

But this is the case with any marketing channel within any marketing campaign. As ever, campaign and marketing managers must become smarter by understanding their buyers and their behaviours, as well as what the technologies and new software programmes can do for the organisation and its buyers.

Email marketing platforms are helping B2B marketers, with data being used in a more effective manner. Campaigns can be reused, just like content can be reused and often those campaigns can happen without the marketer doing anything on a day-to-day basis. Which is why email marketing is here to stay and will always be an important tool to use for promotion, to capture leads and for nurturing subscribers towards a defined goal.