Six Tips for Effective B2B Email Marketing
For many of us in the email marketing profession, customer interaction equals B2C. Tens of billions of marketing emails are sent every day – to consumers. “Buy This!” “Check Out This Incredible Offer!” “Download the Last XYZ You’ll Ever Need!” … the thrust of most email campaigns is planned, designed, targeted, segmented, analyzed, measured, filtered, and executed with one purpose: drive consumers to a website and convince them to take action. So goes the eCommerce engine. And it works.
There is another segment of email marketing, just as compelling, equally relevant, and in some ways arguably more impactful to the digital marketplace. That segment is B2B. In most organizations, B2C and B2B rarely intersect. Yet, there are a number of essential keys to successful email campaigns common to both consumer and business outreach. Assuming you are on top of your deliverability best practices (e.g. your emails are reaching the right inbox when and as expected), here are 6 ideas to get the highest productivity out of your campaigns.
1. Go Viral. Like B2C and social viral strategies, B2B content gets shared. A recent report from the Earnest Agency indicated that 72% of B2B buyers are most likely to share useful content via email. This presents an incredible opportunity to tailor content for the explicit purpose of have it read by multiple influencers and decision makers inside a target company. The key is to focus on “content marketing” – emails which are loaded with useful details, inspirational in messaging, and understanding of the customer’s needs. Keep your topics current and pithy: marketing information, studies, industry news and tips for the use of existing products are almost always more interesting than the latest products, new customers or press releases. Feed interest in technical details and then attach your own marketing information to it. Becoming an essential and trusted source for industry or market information will give your own news significantly greater weight. A great set of examples of innovative content marketing can be found here.
2. Subject Lines Matter – Especially for B2B. Over the last 18 months, email marketing has become a central discussion topic in B2B marketing. A survey of 100 of the top B2B marketing organizations by B2B strategist firm artegic found that almost three quarters see a rise or even rapid increase of the significance of email marketing for their industries. With this increase, the importance of capturing the reader’s attention early is crucial. Adestra has reported that the key to getting a B2B reader to open a marketer’s email is the subject line – great subject lines can drive consistent opens rates of 90% or higher. Interestingly, subject lines containing “money,” “revenue,” and “profit” performed best. What delivered the lowest performance? Words like “Help,” “ Free,” “Reminder,” and “Percent Off.” Here’s the takeaway: test, test, and test again. Just as in B2C email, testing subject lines – especially utilizing an automated process that learns as it tests – is the differentiator between high open rates and marginal results.
3. Opt-Ins Everywhere. Actionable email marketing campaigns require lists of sufficient size and accuracy to create reach – this is 101. Yet many B2B email marketers still overlook opportunities to invite potential customers to engage. Look for any angle where you touch your customers: websites, downloads, conferences, inquiries, clickthroughs from affiliate sites, any source where you communicate. Of course it’s crucial to ask for implicit consent at every touch point – make it a binding agreement beyond reproach. Once you have their consent, you have a much more valuable asset. Here’s why: a newsletter subscriber is simply worth more than a website visitor. Web visits are transitory and unpredictable. While you ultimately want the drive your traffic there, your customers don’t necessarily engage with you there. Newsletters offer multiple, regular opportunities to develop customer relationships. So make it as easy as possible for prospects and customers to find your newsletter opt-in. Locate links or fields in easy-to-spot in navigation areas, not hidden at the bottom of pages or buried in sub-categories like “Contact Us” or “Services.”
4. Give to Get. A golden rule in selling is: if you want something, provide something valuable in return. Offer your customers collateral or material they can use to increase their confidence in your offerings when you ask them to provide you with information such as their email address or personal data. Best practices include whitepapers, professional articles, top-ten lists, industry statistics, free assessments, etc. This approach enables you to continually earn the right and permission to maintain an ongoing dialogue.
5. Social Nets Expand Your Reach. Include all of your social sites into your email templates. This ensures your customers can find you in places other than email and your website. When you do, be sure to give them a call to action: "Like Our Facebook Page for exclusive offers" or "Follow us on Twitter for best practices on generating website traffic" or "Check out what our customers are saying about us on our YouTube channel." Incorporate hashtags – especially when tying your brand to events or special promotions. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for email subscribers on your social channels.
6. B2B email – perhaps even more than B2C email – should look, feel, and read as though it is from a real person, to a real person. A key best practice is to send B2B outbound mail from a personal sender email address rather than a corporate identity such as “Info” or “Customer Support.” I’m a person, you’re a person, we’re having a dialogue. I can’t do that with a generic brand, because unlike B2C email, in B2B email marketing brands don’t speak ... people do. This achieves a closer engagement with the recipient and fosters a stronger relationship. More specifically, map sender titles to recipient titles – for instance, if you are emailing senior management, the sender should be at the same level to achieve a closer connection. If you can tie a recipient to a known resource in your company, the association will be even stronger. This one best practice can lift open rates by nearly 30% according to many surveys.
Ultimately, successful B2B email marketing requires the same disciplined approach employed in B2C. Test, compare, measure, optimize, repeat.