The Ultimate Guide to B2B Email Marketing

email marketing illustration

Content may be king, but email marketing isn’t going anywhere—in fact, it’s as important in 2021 as it ever has been. 

So how do you take advantage of this highly effective B2B marketing tactic? This guide will show you how to: 

  • Get started with email marketing
  • Build your email list
  • Develop an email marketing strategy and send email campaigns
  • Measure your email marketing success
  • Avoid mistakes that can lead to unsubscribes or sap your ROI

Let’s dive in! 

Getting started with email marketing

Before you implement an email marketing program, you’ve got to understand one basic truth: 

Email marketing is about your customer—not your brand

The emails you send out need to be focused on what will give your customers value, be it industry information, free trials, or learning opportunities. The point of email marketing is relationship building—not obtaining a quick, one-time conversion. 

If you focus on building the relationship, the conversions will come. 

Reasons to use email marketing

Email marketing is something that every marketer should have in their toolbox. Just consider that, according to HubSpot, email generates $38 for every $1 spent

That’s a 3,800% ROI! Not to mention the fact that McKinsey reports email marketing is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.

Email marketing can be used for many reasons and to achieve many different goals, including:

  • Boosting brand awareness
  • Promoting a new product or service
  • Sharing content
  • Lead generation
  • Move leads through the sales funnel
  • Increasing conversions for a specific product or action

Your emails will look different depending on the goal and audience you’ve set for each campaign. 

How to build your email list

How do you get your customers’ and prospects’ emails in the first place? 

There are a few different ways to do this. 

One way is to buy an email list—however, this is NOT recommended as it’s almost certain to backfire. If prospects start getting emails they never signed up for, you’ll not only find yourself with a whole lot of unsubscribes, but you’ll also potentially damage your brand reputation. 

The better way is to set up an opt-in program that offers your customers value in exchange for their email address and/or other personal information. Here are a few options. 

Create a lead magnet 

A lead magnet is a piece of content that will attract leads (hence the term!). It’s something that is valuable enough for prospects to feel comfortable offering their email address or other information. 

How do you create an irresistible lead magnet? 

First, study your audience carefully. Consider your personas. Get to know your community. 

What are their biggest concerns? What are their pain points? What makes them feel successful? Take those answers and create a simple one-page tool, resource, or cheat sheet that solves their problem. That is your lead magnet.

To be most effective, use your lead magnet to pre-qualify your opt-ins. Make it on a subject or action related to your service or industry. 

Successful lead magnets are fast to make (it should cost you little to publish) and easy to use (it makes the consumer feel successful or more knowledgeable immediately). And the better and more tuned-in to your customers’ needs, the more likely your customer will share it, thereby growing your community.

Once you’ve created your lead magnet, create a simple landing page. This is where your audience will opt-in to your email list and obtain your lead magnet. 

As the page you use to grow your email list, this is one of the most important pages you’ll create on your website. Make it clean with clear, simple text describing what you are offering and why they need it. 

Eliminate any other distractions to your reader—there should be no sidebars, advertisements, or secondary calls to action. You want the bold button to compel the reader to subscribe now.

Next, you’ve got to promote your lead magnet. 

  • Put a graphic on your website’s sidebar. 
  • Talk about it on social media. 
  • Advertise it on Facebook and Google AdWords. 
  • Mention it at the bottom of blog posts. 

If you do this consistently, and your lead magnet is meeting your prospects’ needs, you’ll soon see your list begin to grow. 

Include an email sign-up button or form on your website

In addition to the lead magnet, you’ll need a simple form or block on your website where customers can sign up for your marketing emails or newsletter if you have one. 

Newsletters can be a great way to build an ongoing relationship with your customers, however, you’ve got to be sure that you have the time, resources, and content needed to deliver something valuable on a regular basis (weekly or monthly). 

If you’re not there yet, it’s best to simply send marketing emails around different topics, offers, or content as you have them. 

Developing an email marketing strategy and sending marketing emails

Now that you’re growing your list, it is time to create your email marketing strategy. 

While the occasional pure promotion is acceptable, the majority of your emails should provide valuable information to your audience. 

Regular requests to “buy now” are tedious and lead to your emails either ending up in the spam folder or lots of unsubscribes. 

To avoid this, offer regular tips, compelling content, and special offers just for subscribers. This ensures your emails stay valuable to your audience.

Segment your lists

Segmenting your lists lets you target specific audiences with different email campaigns. 

One of the simplest ways to do so is to segment out prospects, first-time customers, and long-term customers. 

You can also segment by interest or industry if you offer products and services that are geared toward different types of customers. 

For example, you may want to target your ecommerce customers with one email campaign, and your agency customers with a different one. 

Similarly, you may have email campaigns targeting CMOs and another targeting CFOs. 

Once you’ve segmented your list, start brainstorming email campaigns based around one clear goal: boosting awareness, or encouraging people to buy a product, or generating interest in your content, etc. 

Create your emails

First, consider your email subject line. Is it bold, compelling, and unique? Use the word “you” to personalize the message at first glance. Make the subject line so closely tied with your audience’s concerns and goals that they can’t help but open your email to read more.

Inside the email, design the message around one clear call to action. What do you want the reader to do with this email? 

Possible actions could be: 

  • Share the email content with a friend
  • Post the email article on social media
  • Download a free report
  • Purchase a product 

Make sure you are clear on your desired outcome, then design from there.

Keep your email simple

Readers want to scan the email, not read every word. 

Use a bold image, large headings, and simple sentences to quickly communicate your message. Don’t bog the reader down with a lot of text—keep it short and simple.

Above all, create a consistent tone for your email campaign. When your readers see your email address in their inbox, do they immediately know what to expect? By strategizing carefully around your email marketing campaigns and taking care in each email construction, you build a relationship of trust with your readers. Later, when you call on your audience to purchase, they will be ready to take you at your word.

How to measure your email marketing’s effectiveness

One of the most important aspects of email marketing is ongoing analysis. Thanks to the many email platforms out there, these analytics are easily available and easy to use. 

Overall, the four key KPIs you should focus on are: 

  • Click-through rate: the percentage of readers who are clicking your calls to action
  • Open rate: the percentage of recipients who are opening your emails
  • Deliverability: the percentage of recipients who are actually receiving your emails (in other words, how many “undeliverable” emails you’re sending out)
  • Unsubscribe rate: the percentage of readers who are unsubscribing from your emails

Note that you can view each of these based on every individual email, or over time. 

Of course, in order to know how you’re doing, it helps to have some benchmarks. These are overall email marketing averages for different actions in 2020, reported by Campaign Monitor:

  • Average open rate: 18.0%
  • Average click-through rate: 2.6%
  • Average click-to-open rate: 14.1%
  • Average unsubscribe rate: 0.1%

If your rates are lower (or higher, depending on which KPI you’re looking at), then it’s probably time to start split-testing your emails.

How to split-test email campaigns

Split-testing means that you send a different version of one email to two segments of the same audience in order to see which performs better. 

To do this effectively, it’s essential that you test only one element of your email at a time. For example, you could create two different subject lines and see which email has a higher open rate. Or you could create two different calls to action, and see which promotes a higher click-through rate

This is something you can do periodically in order to continue improving your email marketing program over time. 

Email marketing mistakes to avoid in 2021

Even the best email marketing campaigns can be derailed by a simple mistake. Here are 8 of the most common to avoid. 

Forgetting to welcome subscribers

Getting a subscriber is tough work, so why wouldn’t you thank them for requesting your newsletter? 

After going to the trouble of finding your site, then signing up to get emails from your brand, first off, it’s just polite to send a thank you (take a cue from Emily Post), but it’s also good business. These purpose-driven welcome emails “generate 4x more opens and 5x more clicks” according to Dispatch. 

Make them count by providing not only a “thanks for showing up” salutation but by following up with added value. That could be a promo code or a special offer. Or you could use the welcome email to collect more information. Bottom line: Skipping the welcome email is missing a huge marketing opportunity.

Sending too many emails

This is probably consumers’ biggest pet peeve when it comes to email marketing and one that should be avoided at all costs. According to Campaign Monitor, 121 business emails are sent and received each day. That’s a lot of traffic to disrupt. 

So one might think, the more emails the merrier, right? Wrong.

A YouGov study found that 75 percent of consumers say they resent a brand that sends too many emails. And resentment does not increase sales. You don’t want people to associate annoyance with your brand. So spare them the feeling by strategically delivering your promotions to a healthy timeline, say once a week. 

By doing this, you’ll keep your subscriber list strong and improve loyalty rather than repeal potential customers. 

Failing to include a call to action

Hopefully, most marketers understand that including a CTA is the bedrock of a successful email marketing campaign. But even more important is to keep that CTA clear and concise so that a subscriber has no trouble understanding the message. 

Fail at clearly stating your CTA and in the midst of scrolling their inbox a subscriber is likely to swipe delete.

As data from 2018 suggests, 40.61% of all internet searches happen on mobile. That’s a big opportunity for marketers to meet customers while they’re taking a screen break. But if your message is difficult to understand, it’s likely to be deleted within three seconds.  Source: Litmus

Including too many CTAs

Much like bombarding an inbox with too many emails is verboten, so too is stacking too many CTAs in one email. 

Remember, once a subscriber opens an email, you have three seconds to persuade them to act. Give them too many CTAs and you’re liable to confuse the reader or, worse, frustrate them. 

If you want to improve conversion rates, make sure your emails make it easy for a subscriber to act and give each email its own goal.

For instance, say you want to roll out a promo and invite subscribers to an event. Putting these two CTAs in the same email could result in customers acting on neither. They should be sent as separate emails with individual CTAs—one asking subscribers to use a promo code, the other inviting them to RSVP for the event.

Failing to use good design

Sounds simple right? But you’d be surprised how many email campaigns fail because the email template is poorly designed. 

Some key design elements to avoid:
 

  • Inconsistent fonts: Too many fonts look messy and confusing. Good design is clean and crisp with one consistent font throughout.
  • Inconsistent font size: Rather than mix up font size with all different sizes, using H2 and H3s to emphasize topics rather than going crazy with bolding and underlining specific points.
  • Low-res images: Using images is a great way to get a reader’s attention, but they’ll fail miserably if they’re too low resolution. Check and test your image size before sending.
  • Too many images in one email: Equally bad practice is to put too many images in one email. To start, this can push CTAs below the fold or too low in the email forcing the subscriber to scroll. This can be dangerous because it wastes valuable attention span time when a subscriber may lose interest and leave the email altogether. 
  • Broken links: Woe to the marketer who fails to check links before sending an email newsletter. More often than not, a failure to test a link will result in having to send a mass apology email (not a good look) explaining the error and providing the corrected link. 
  • Poor color palette choices: Believe it or not, color plays a big role in email marketing. Just look at brand logo colors. For instance, the eye-catching red that defines Netflix defines its brand identity. 

Not segmenting subscribers

No two subscribers are the same. 

Having a huge list of subscribers is great, but not separating them into different groups is a missed opportunity. How so?

Use the data you’ve collected to segment your audience, as mentioned above. Other options for segmenting include:

  • Job title
  • Location
  • Browsing history
  • Purchase history

Really, you can segment by whatever you prefer, and the more you dig into the data, the more insights you’ll discover about your subscriber list that you can then use to improve your email marketing campaign. In an era where Millennials and Gen Z B2B buyers are demanding more personalization, failing to do so is a big missed opportunity. 

Not optimizing for mobile

As mentioned before, nearly half of all searches happen on mobile. So if your emails aren’t opening properly or have wonky resolution on mobile, you’re going to lose subscribers fast. 

Test, edit, and test again to ensure your email campaign is optimized for mobile.

Failing to proofread

Oooh boy, this one is a biggie. Do you know what people don’t like to see? Sloppy copy. 

Source: Email Overload Solutions

This is why it’s so important that one person does not work in a vacuum on a brand’s email newsletter. Not only should multiple people read it before it’s sent out, but it should also be checked for:

  • Spelling
  • Tone
  • Professionalism
  • Ease of understanding

If you’re ready to get started with your B2B email marketing or just need a little boost, our team of experts is ready to help

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    We work with clients around the globe and turn their brands into industry titans utilizing strategic marketing and PR initiatives. We’d love to help you next!