7 Best Practices to power your B2B Email Marketing in 2018
Chris Whife 14th March 2018
Can you imagine the future without email?
That’s rather hard to picture.
No matter how much things change in marketing, it’s difficult to envision a future where email marketing isn’t the core strategy for conducting B2B marketing campaigns.
Even after the rise of social media, messengers and the growth of mobile platforms, email marketing remains an essential and reliable part of B2B marketing.
The question, of course, is why?
There are a few answers to this question. The first is that email marketing is the default form of permission marketing. Seth Godin defines “permission marketing” as “the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal, and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them”. In short, permission marketing is about not asking for a sale right away, but gradually gaining the prospect’s trust (and therefore, their “permission”) through communication and time.
According to ExactTarget, 77% of customers would rather receive permission-based marketing communications through via than any other medium. Email is a way to contact people in a relatively non-intrusive fashion. Compared to phone, text, or social media, it is the least invasive and least distracting way to reach someone. When done correctly, it provides B2B marketers with a chance to have organic conversations and learn more about their clients before making a pitch. Of course, when done incorrectly, B2B email marketing can feel a lot like spam, but therein lies the massive importance of the permission marketing concept.
Why email marketing?
The second answer to the “why email marketing?” question is that email is cheap and offers a terrific ROI. While you might decide to purchase email marketing lists, the act of sending an email costs you nothing by itself. Crucially, when you are focusing on email marketing, you aren’t spending money on advertising—whether online, in print, or somewhere else. This factor leads to a killer ROI when you execute your B2B marketing campaigns well. According to Experian, the average return on investment for email marketing is $44.25 for every dollar spent.
The third reason that email marketing is such a boon for B2B marketers is the innate potential for word of mouth. When customers or clients appreciate your product or service, the hope is always that they will refer you to their contacts or friends. With email, those referrals can happen in real-time. Your contact uses their email account to communicate with you. They can quickly grab email addresses and forward them to you if there are other people they think you should contact. Instead, your prospects can forward content from you to colleagues or executives in their organization. This web of communication can benefit your marketing efforts very much.
7 Best Practices of B2B Email Marketing
Now that we’ve established the “why” of email marketing in the B2B realm, we can focus on the “how.” You know the benefits are there if you can execute your email marketing campaign correctly. Now, all you need to do is figure out how smart B2B email marketing looks. Below, we’ve created a loosely chronological list of B2B email marketing best practices to get you started.
1. Choose an ESP (email service provider)
Email marketing needs to be scalable to be successful. It also needs to be compliant and aesthetically attractive. Email service providers (ESPs) help you achieve all three aims. Many companies use these services to automate their email newsletters—much easier than building newsletters in Outlook and sending them out in bulk. ESPs also let you customize emails with images, links, colors, fonts, and layouts. Using ESP templates is a great way to make sure your emails LOOK as engaging as they (hopefully) read. Finally, ESPs help you stay compliant with spam laws by incorporating features such as user opt-out options.
Popular ESPs include MailChimp, Constant Contact, HubSpot, and Pardot. Do some research on each to get a sense of features and interface. You are going to be using your ESP extensively for the foreseeable future, so you want to make sure it feels like a good fit.
2. Focus on the email list
In the world of B2B marketing, few things are as valuable as an accurate, detailed, and current email data list. A B2B email marketing campaign is only as good as the email list behind it.
Whether you build a list or buy one, you need a respectable number of prospects. You also need details about who to contact at each company and how to reach them, as well as vital firmographic details and other supporting information. Far from being just a database of names and email addresses, your business email marketing list should include the company’s name, industry, target market, geography, technology installations, intent to buy, and more.
Assembling all this information is difficult, which is why some B2B marketers decide to buy email marketing databases. If you do choose to buy email addresses, though, tread carefully to avoid low-quality data. (More on this point later.)
3. Consider Segmentation
Ideally, you have a targeted email marketing list—one that includes only companies that could feasibly be interested in buying your product. Even with a targeted list, you can benefit from email list segmentation.
Segmentation means breaking your email list into distinct categories or groups. You can then target various parts of the list differently, depending on specific factors. For instance, you might segment your list into “loyal customers” and “new customers” and then approach them with different campaigns. No marketing content is relevant to everyone. Segmenting helps you deliver more relevant, targeted, or customized content to the right people.
Do note that ESPs typically charge extra for segmentation. However, the price is worth it to ensure each contact on your list is only getting relevant content. Higher relevancy results in higher open and click-through rates, and better engagement results in more conversions.
4. Be smart with your content development
Permission-based email marketing only works if you have something interesting to say. Prospects will appreciate you for not jumping to the hard sell right away, but they still won’t read your emails if they aren’t providing valuable content. Luckily, thanks to your email data lists—and all that information you have about demographics, firmographics, and technographics—you should be able to figure out exactly what matters to your customers.
For instance, say your business sells risk assessment and management software. You have a segmented email list based on the industries in which your prospects do business. You can create content about the common risks businesses in these industries face. Hit things such as workplace accidents, compliance, legal liability, worker’s compensation, and more. Then, turn that information into multiple content formats, such as blogs, white papers, webinars, or case studies. Delivering this content directly to the inboxes of the people on your email list will get them thinking about why your product matters.
Especially if you have many contacts on your email marketing list, automation is essential. Luckily, ESPs make email automation possible. Perhaps you’re working on nourishing a segment of your email list, with the goal of pushing them through the pipeline toward conversion. By configuring your ESP to send 2-3 emails a week, you can keep yourself in a prospect’s orbit without wandering into spam territory.
Automation can also help you respond to inbound lead generation activities in a timely fashion. Say a new client fills out the contact form on your website. You can set up your ESP to send an automatic response immediately, to acknowledge the new prospect.
6. Keep the human touch
Thanks to ESPs, automation is easy to implement in any B2B email marketing campaign. However, it’s important not to get carried away. The human touch has always been important in B2B marketing and technology is not going to change that fact. Remember that account-based marketing is still the name of the game here. By interacting with your prospects and focusing on human relationships, you can gain valuable insights about needs and pain points. This information can help you build targeted marketing campaigns and close deals.
7. Be smart with email text and formatting
We already mentioned that ESPs have email templates that you can use to build more visually engaging email layouts. However, layout and visual spark will only get you so far. Writing emails to prospects is an art. The people you are contacting may get dozens or even hundreds of emails a day.
If you want them to engage with your email, you need to follow a few rules:
Get to the point
- As journalists say, don’t bury the lede. Make the point of your email clear in the first few sentences. Long, flowery introductions are great for essays, but they have no place in a marketing email.
Use calls to action
- What do you want your email to accomplish? Do you want it to encourage recipients to download a white paper, or to RSVP for an event you’re throwing? No matter what the aim is, don’t beat around the bush. Urge your readers to do what you want them to. Wording like “Click here to download the white paper” or “Click here to RSVP” is forceful, efficient, and direct.
Break up content into short, easy to digest paragraphs
- Most people scan their emails instead of reading every word. Dividing your content into digestible pieces will ensure that the maximum number of readers get the point.
Keep it short
- Remember when we said that your prospects probably get hundreds of emails a day? What they don’t have is hundreds of hours (or minutes, or even seconds) to sort through all that email. Your prospects don’t have all day, so keep your emails short and focused on the overarching goal.
Use short and engaging subject lines
- Your email isn’t the only thing that needs to be brief. In fact, it’s vital that you use short, snappy subject lines. Write a subject line that is too long, and it’s just going to get cut off. Write something sharp and attention-grabbing, and your recipients will be eager to read your email first.
You can perfect your email marketing tactics over time by using A/B testing. All ESPs come with different split testing capabilities. These features let you send multiple versions of the same email. One version might go to half your email marketing list while the other version goes to the other. By monitoring the performance of both versions, you can start learning more specifically about what resonates with your audience.
Purchasing a B2B Email Marketing Database: What to Look for If You Decide to Buy
As you can see, there are many things to consider with B2B email marketing. With so many steps to reflect, you’d be forgiven for wanting to buy email marketing lists. The good news is that there are companies out there offering email marketing lists for sale. Buying these lists can save you time and research and still give you detailed, targeted data about prospects in your niche.
However, if you decide to buy an email marketing database, you need to be careful. There are a few pitfalls to this process, and they could derail your entire B2B marketing campaign. Keep these three tips in mind:
- Ensure you get an email list that is specific to your company and target base. Profile selection for custom lists is a must. You don’t want to pay for email addresses you will never be able to use.
- Only buy from data vendors that give you LOTS of data. You want email addresses and company names/locations, but you also need firmographic, demographic, and technographic details.
- Look for a company that offers smart and live updating for their lists. Email data doesn’t stay accurate forever. Businesses change websites (and therefore email addresses), and contacts change roles. With smart and live updating, you can buy an email list with confidence that the information is accurate and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
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