6 Best Practices for B2B Email Marketing
by Bruce Swann
posted on 02-23-2016
Despite a seemingly endless number of innovative (and very cool) channels available for brands, email remains one of the strongest parts of a cross-channel marketing strategy.
B2B marketing of the past was based on funnel activities that drive demand. Today, it’s all about customer journey and being able to personalize interactions with your brand. Modern B2B marketing is complex. Companies must build trusted relationships while delighting customers with value-added information that keeps them active, engaged and interested in pursuing products and services across channels – and do it at scale.
The key takeaway with B2B email marketing is to create a strategy that delivers appropriate content during each phase of the customer journey, whether it’s an infographic, survey results or product sheets and comparison guides. Here are six tips for B2B to help you build an email campaign that delivers results.
- Nail the Right Tone
The tone of an email sets the stage for what’s to come: it’s often the first impression you have to make an impact. With B2C companies, tone is generally designed to grab attention. “Don’t miss this fantastic sale! With a short focus, it’s easy to make the recipient laugh with visually stimulating content or appeal to the “need to know” by piggybacking on current events. There’s a tremendous entertainment factor in B2C email that simply doesn’t exist with information-centric B2B email. And that’s OK, because B2B email marketing doesn’t necessarily need to be visually entertaining or appeal to emotions to be effective.
The right tone for B2B email marketing is more about developing and fostering a relationship – providing a trusted solution for resolving pain points. It’s not necessarily formal, but it must be delivered in a way that the recipient sees the value in each and every email.
- Personalize It
For engaging customers, content that’s personalized and relevant wins every time. Luckily, today’s B2B marketer can personalize email easily by using data attributes. Identify people by their name and company – even better, by their role within the company. Personalization also means recognizing where subscribers are in the customer journey using data elements and performance center data if applicable. Identify who they are (a primary decision maker, influencer etc.) and then target them with customized content that they’ll find informative and valuable. Capture attention in a creative subject line or through compelling imagery. If you know the recipient is in IT for example, include an IT-oriented image.
Personalization in email has evolved quite a bit since the “Dear (insert name here)” technique of the 1990’s. In fact, today’s marketer has access to a wide range of technologies and tools for keeping it personalized and pithy while building upon the consumer cross channel experience.
- Timing Is Everything
The right timing is critical for B2B email marketing success. Look at the data to identify what makes sense for your customers. Data can help uncover the best day of the week or time of day that’s most effective. While there are differences of opinion as to the best time to communicate through email with customers, relying on analytics and email operational reporting is the most accurate way to collect information to inform your campaign.
Timing also has to do with recognizing where in the customer journey the recipient happens to be to trigger appropriate follow-up email. For instance, if someone downloads a white paper or takes some action that shows interest, a timely follow-up phone call or email sent in response is a smart strategy.
- Coordinated, Automated and Cross Channel
The most effective email is coordinated, automated, and cross channel. That means knowing when someone expresses interest by taking some action and being able to follow up that event, but also being able to automate when appropriate. For instance, did they open the email and did they follow up with something else? Having access to this information makes it possible to engage with the buyer in a nurture program designed to keep them moving through the journey – not only with email, but also using additional cross-channel strategies. Doing this at scale is critical for B2B marketing success.
Coordinated, cross-channel campaigns integrate content management with email. Effective email adds value; be sure to create content that reinforces that. Remember, it’s not just text, but visuals and graphics, too. That’s where the story comes together. Effective marketers are not just automating but integrating with a content management system that helps facilitate the whole process, ensuring you get timely content in front of subscribers at the right time.
- Keep Messaging On Point
Effective B2B email marketing targets recipients with the right type of messaging, whether it’s sending a newsletter to someone in the early phases of the customer journey or promoting more focused messages to someone in an advanced nurture program. To be clear, messaging can be both broad and targeted depending on where the buyer is in the journey. Early on with limited information available about a recipient, a newsletter may be the best way to go, offering a variety of topics. Once you learn about an individual’s likes, interests, and role in their company, targeted content makes sense.
- Measure Success
Finally, while operational-oriented metrics – clickthrough rate, who opened the email, who viewed it, etc. – are still important, it’s necessary to be able to connect the dots between the email being sent, pipeline contribution, or the email and revenue contribution. At Adobe, we look at Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs), Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs), and the influence email has on these metrics to inform each campaign.
B2B marketers today are working with multiple channels pulled together around content. They recognize the value in email, while at the same time thinking about mobile or how to integrate with a CRM system. A smart email campaign drives the buyer though the customer journey. And done well, it speaks to the recipient with the right tone at the right time with appropriate messaging that resonates. It’s personalized and it’s a key component of a cross-channel environment. Email is a powerful channel, and one of the most cost effective from an ROI perspective. Best of all, it’s receptive in the marketplace. Recipients have to opt in, and that gives you all the permission you need to communicate to do it well.
Topics: Campaign Management