Despite the ubiquity of social media, email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to reach and sustain a relationship with B2B buyers.
In fact, in their 2020 State of Email Report, Litmus found that 4 out of 5 marketers said they’d rather give up social media marketing than email marketing. Surprising? Not when you consider just how effective email marketing can be. Open rates average close to 20% across industries. Email is one of the most cost-effective marketing tactics, too. The highest ROI comes from sending 9 to 16 emails per month ($46 for every $1 spent ROI), but you can still get solid results by sending just 5 to 8 emails per month (41:1).
So, what to write about? The best customer relationships are true partnerships—mind-melds, of a sort. Use that as a litmus test when planning email content, and make sure the information you’re sharing is valuable to them—not just you. Keep in mind, too, that email is just the delivery device—content can come in the form of the email itself, an embedded video, a link to another asset, a survey and more. Use the format most suited to the information you wish to share, and to your customers’ preferences.
Here are six ways B2B food brands can use email marketing to stay connected with buyers.
- Take customers behind the scenes – Food industry professionals are obsessed with food safety and are always interested in seeing how products are grown, made, packaged, stored and shipped. The storytelling opportunities are endless. If you import fruits and vegetables, introduce your growers and talk about land stewardship, safety protocols and seasonality. If you produce packaged products, take them on a virtual facility tour and talk about innovation, packaging and distribution. Introduce the people on your team who help them be successful.
- Keep buyers abreast of regulations – Regulations governing food production, safety and distribution change all the time. In the food industry, ignorance is never bliss. One of the most valuable things a food brand can offer its buyers is knowledge and reassurance. Use email to educate buyers on regulations moving through the drafting and approval process, how the new guidelines will affect them, how they’ll affect you and, importantly, what you’re doing to address the regulations on behalf of your customers. If you’re making improvements to leap ahead of current guidelines, let hem know that, too. It positions you as a leader and partner they can trust.
- Be the supply chain expert –Whether you’re an international company or a local farm-to-market operation, there is always a supply chain involved in getting food from here to there, and supply chain disruptions are inevitable. No one can control the weather, political upheaval or ships getting stuck in the Suez Canal (well, the captain could have, but that’s for another blog). That said, food brands that make it a point to maintain supply chain visibility and have robust redundancy plans in place to mitigate risk offer immense value to the buyers who rely on them. Keep your buyers in the loop on changes in the supply chain, risks on the horizon and mitigation efforts underway (or already in place). Help them assess and address their supply chain challenges and opportunities.
- Gin up excitement about new products on the horizon – This one’s pretty obvious, but many brands wait until launch to get customers excited about a new product. The key here is “on the horizon.” Though you may not want to give away too much for competitive reasons, don’t make the mistake of keeping everything close to the vest. Bring buyers along for the ride to the extent that you can. Make them feel like they’re part of the process or better yet, the reason behind the innovation. Generate interest beforehand to maximize sales when the time comes.
- Crowdsource the next great thing – New flavors, inclusions and food products are being introduced to consumers all the time. Buyers are a great source of information regarding what’s selling, what your competitors are putting out there and what’s missing from your repertoire. Make them part of your R&D team by giving them an easy way to share their observations, ideas and needs. Conversely, share with them what you know about market trends. Invite them to take surveys, then publish the results and offer observations on what was learned—especially observations that can help them become more profitable by increasing market share, lowering costs, avoiding risk, streamlining their supply chain, addressing consumer concerns, taking advantage of trends, etc.
- Help buyers through unforeseen challenges – The global pandemic caused chaos for everyone everywhere, across all industries. From labor shortages disrupting the supply chain to lockdown measures dampening sales, the food industry had to deal with myriad challenges in rapid succession. Whenever something like this happens, share what you know in real time and invite others to collaborate on solutions. Challenges reverberate throughout the food industry ecosystem; offering empathy alongside tangible solutions is a powerful way to showcase leadership, attract new customers and strengthen relationships.
Email marketing remains an essential tool for marketers in the food service industry. Thoughtful content delivered in a timely manner to the right audience can help food brands stay connected with buyers, attract new customers and create the goodwill that fosters longstanding partnerships.