Email has been a staple of B2B marketers for decades. It’s a channel that organizations rely on to reach out to existing customers, amplify their content and generate leads. Technology that enables email segmentation, personalization and automation is helping companies of all sizes step up their B2B email marketing capabilities.
Still, there are rules that high-performing email marketers must follow to get the most from this ubiquitous marketing channel. Below, we list five B2B email marketing best practices (and one key bonus tip) that help you better influence sales and generate qualified leads. But first, we need to understand where email marketing fits into the buying cycle.
The role of email in the B2B buying cycle
DemandGen’s 2022 Content Preferences Survey asked 174 B2B executives about how content influences their buying behavior. Nearly 55% of respondents said they relied even more heavily on content in 2022 versus the previous year.
Nearly 62% of B2B buyers said they read three to seven pieces of content when making a purchase decision and a few (11%) read more than seven pieces of content. Only 28% read less than three pieces of content.
That’s a lot of content, and it’s part of a complex, increasingly self-driven B2B buying process that’s become predominantly digital. The top content types preferred by buyers are also telling—43% of respondents listed research/survey reports as the most valuable type of content for researching a B2B purchase, followed by case studies, webinars and B2B media/news publications. Whitepapers and eBooks are being sought out 34% of the time.
Source: DemandGen 2022 Content Preferences Survey Report
The list of types of content buyers have engaged with in the past year is similar, with the addition of blog posts being consumed by 54% of them. Industry newsletters are lower on the list of content types that buyers are seeking; however, consumption has increased from 34% to 41%.
While industry newsletters are part of the larger ecosystem of B2B buying, executives may not be willing to disclose their contact information solely in exchange for a newsletter subscription. Even so, survey respondents listed email (71%) as the second most popular medium they use when sharing content with colleagues and peers.
When creating a B2B email marketing strategy, it’s important to understand how buyers use email throughout the buying process. Best practices for effective email campaigns are hyper-focused on buyer preferences, content needs and current trends that leverage emerging technologies to improve the overall customer experience.
Best practice #1: Personalize email targeting across channels and segments
Today’s B2B buyer expects brands to have a deep understanding of their needs, reflected through personalization. How important is personalization? As far back as 2016, 74% of B2B buyers said they’d switch brands if a company didn’t personalize communications with their business. That number has grown to a whopping 80% of buyers saying they’re more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences. In fact, B2B customers typically expect a more tailored experience throughout their entire purchasing process than B2C customers do.
This data underscores the importance of engaging B2B buyers with emails tailored to address their specific needs and meet them where they are in the buying cycle. Moreover, leveraging personalization in your email marketing strategy offers many advantages, including:
- Increased open rates
- Improved click-through rates
- Enhanced engagement
- Higher conversions
How to personalize your B2B emails with integrated marketing tools
Effective email personalization requires that you leverage the appropriate marketing automation tool to fit your needs. HubSpot is one of the most popular marketing automation tools for email personalization, but there are many other options to pick from, such as Marketo Engage. If your B2B organization doesn’t require sophisticated lead scoring or an advanced all-in-one platform, you might be better off with a more streamlined email marketing tool that offers CRM integration and personalization, such as MailChimp.
Marketing automation tools, account-based marketing (ABM) platforms and AI-driven technologies are instrumental in tailoring email content to specific buying segments and profiles. They integrate with your CRM to leverage customer, sales, intent and behavioral data. This integration ensures that the personalized emails you send are backed by data-driven insights that address each buyer’s specific needs.
Best practice #2: Build a reliable B2B email marketing database
Best practices #1 can only be achieved by prioritizing and focusing on best practice #2—building a solid, up-to-date and actionable database. A well-maintained customer database and email list provide accurate customer insights, which are critical for segmenting your audience and developing customized messaging. It allows you to track and analyze customer interactions, preferences and behaviors. With this information, you can create personalized campaigns, improving engagement, customer experience, customer retention and email conversion rates.
How to build and maintain your B2B email marketing database
An effective email marketing database requires that you integrate customer data from your CRM with your email lists from your marketing platform and establish processes to maintain them.
Update your email list: Continuously grow your email list through lead generation strategies, such as gated downloads and eNewsletter subscriptions. Equally important is regularly updating and purging outdated contacts, especially in B2B email marketing where job changes are common. List cleaning prevents bounce rate increases, which can harm your email deliverability and sender reputation. A poor email reputation can prompt email service providers to mark your emails as spam or even block your domain.
A clean email list ensures that your messages reach the right recipients, enhancing the effectiveness of your campaigns and protecting your sender reputation. This process not only refines your engagement metrics but also ensures your marketing efforts are directed at active, decision-making contacts, improving the effectiveness of your email campaigns.
Establish data governance practices: Refine your email marketing efforts by setting company-wide standards for monitoring and enhancing customer data. Integrating customer data platforms (CDPs) and customer experience platforms (CEPs) with existing martech tools can help you clean and enhance data. Moreover, these tools enable your sales and marketing teams to collaborate on email creation and deployment.
Best practice #3: Segment email audiences by behaviors
Segmenting audiences by job level, business size and industry is standard practice in email marketing, allowing messages to be tailored to the general needs of each demographic. However, you can supercharge your audience segmentation by also considering subscriber behavior.
How to supercharge your audience segmentation
This deeper layer of segmentation is a nuanced approach to email marketing that involves grouping subscribers based on their interactions with your emails. This can include how often they open emails, which links they click and whether they’ve made purchases from past emails. By analyzing these behaviors, you can create segments such as active engagers, occasional openers and inactive users. Tailored content can then be developed for each segment, with the active group receiving more frequent and detailed communication, while re-engagement campaigns can be targeted toward less active subscribers.
One strategy to re-engage disengaged subscribers is to send a “We Miss You” email with a special offer or a feedback request to pique their interest. It’s crucial to convey value in these re-engagement emails, perhaps by highlighting what they’ve missed or will gain by re-engaging with your content. If several re-engagement attempts fail, it’s practical to prompt these subscribers to opt out. This can be done through a straightforward unsubscribe email, which politely offers them the option to leave, ensuring that your list remains high-quality and compliant with email marketing best practices. It also respects the subscribers’ choice and maintains a positive brand image even as they exit.
Best practice #4: Use video in your email campaigns
Video emails are one of the most effective means of B2B outreach, generating instant interest and engagement. The majority of sales professionals say that video emails get more opens, clicks and responses than text-based email content. According to a Vidyard Virtual Selling Report, buyers are 50% more responsive to email campaigns when at least one video is included in the email cadence.
How to use video in your email campaigns
- Add the word “video” to your subject line
- A/B test subject lines that include the video emoji
- Add video thumbnails to the end of short content to increase read-throughs
- Direct readers to videos that are hosted or embedded on your website
- Deliver customized videos to segmented audiences
- Make it easy for recipients to share videos
- Leverage video testimonials, product demos, how-to and explainer videos and company culture videos
Best practice #5: Promote your blog and website content with email
CMI lists the top four B2B content distribution channels as social media, blogs, email newsletters and non-newsletter emails (in that order). It’s important to note, however, that non-newsletter email (and organic social) outperforms blogs and newsletters (in that order).
(Source: Content Marketing Institute)
How to use email to promote blog and web content
Blogs make excellent fodder for your email content, enabling you to update your customers about new products, services and industry trends. They boost your thought leadership potential and solidify your standing as an industry authority. Furthermore, leveraging content-centric strategies in your email marketing efforts enriches the subscriber experience, fosters loyalty and drives conversions through educated, content-driven interaction. Use the following tactics to capture the attention of your subscribers and encourage them to explore your website:
- Leveraging marketing tools to automate blog distribution through eNewsletters ensures consistent communication with your audience, keeping them engaged and informed while streamlining your content marketing workflow.
- Transforming in-depth blog and web content into concise narratives and lists caters to the growing preference for quick, digestible information, making it easier for readers to absorb key points and takeaways.
- Similarly, extracting quickly consumed micro-content from blogs to create compelling subject lines, impactful quotes, informative infographics and engaging video reels, enhances the visual appeal and interactivity of your emails.
Bonus tip: Continually optimize your email marketing strategy
As with any marketing strategy, effective email marketing doesn’t end at sending out emails. It’s a continuous process of analyzing outcomes and tweaking tactics to ensure peak performance. This begins with understanding your audience through analytics and then applying this knowledge to refine every aspect of your campaigns.
How to optimize your email marketing strategy
To put email optimization into practice, start by establishing clear goals and corresponding KPIs to measure success. Regularly monitor metrics like open rates and click-through rates to evaluate your emails’ performance. If certain emails have low engagement, delve into the details—perhaps the subject line didn’t resonate, or the email went out at the wrong time. Use segmentation to tailor your messages to different audience groups based on their behavior and preferences. This personalization can lead to higher engagement and better results.
Next, embrace A/B testing. Test different elements of your emails, from subject lines to imagery and even send times. Keep one variable constant while changing another, and measure how each version performs. This will help you understand what triggers a positive response from your audience. Finally, stay informed about email marketing trends to adapt your strategy to new technologies and shifts in consumer behavior. By maintaining a loop of analysis, testing and optimization, you’ll be able to craft an email marketing strategy that is not only effective but also dynamic and responsive to change.
Bottom line: Effective email caters to the customer
Today’s B2B email marketing best practices tend to look a lot like B2C best practices—namely, it’s all about the customer. Email remains a top content format and distribution channel for B2B buyers and sellers alike. But making your email campaigns impactful requires a deep understanding of your target audience’s content preferences and expectations. Buyers expect brands to provide the high-quality, personalized content they need, when they need it. That means using customer data to gain insights into their position in the buying journey and to understand their challenges, needs and goals.
If you need help leveling up your email marketing strategy, please don’t hesitate to contact us.