Did you know that 87% of B2B companies use email marketing to generate leads? How about that 81% of B2B marketers use email newsletters as a tactic to distribute their content? Or, that 85% of B2B companies use email marketing to assist with content marketing?
Effective email marketing isn’t as easily achievable as one might think. From creative demands through budget limitation to channel decisions, there’s a lot for email marketers to take into consideration while developing their marketing strategy. Not to mention the whole email campaign design process and testing. The biggest one of all, though, is your audience. Are you targeting individual customers or businesses?
“The best path to a consistently growing B2B email marketing strategy is to be better than your competitors. – EmailOut
Email still remains the most preferred channel of communication for B2B companies (stats don’t lie). It not only allows marketers to have a direct, conversational type of communication with their customers but also, email delivers an ROI of 42:1 which is higher than any other channel. To achieve an effective B2B email marketing channel, you – as an email marketer – must focus on properly targeting your audience with the right content. If you don’t, your email campaigns will be falling on deaf ears.
In this article, we’ll cover the following topics on B2B email marketing:
- What is B2B email marketing?
- The difference between B2B and B2C email marketing
- B2B email marketing stats
- B2B email marketing best practices
- B2B email marketing examples
Let’s dive in.
There is a big difference between marketing to businesses and marketing to individual consumers. That’s the reason why there are two different email marketing methods – B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer).
We’ll take you on a journey that will explain the difference between the two email marketing approaches, why EVERY company should have a B2B email marketing strategy and how YOU can start implementing such a strategy with your email marketing. Are you ready to learn more?
B2B Email Marketing: The Difference Between B2B And B2C Marketing
Business-to-business or B2B marketing refers to any marketing concept, strategy or content involving the exchange of products, services, ideas or information between two (or more) businesses or organisations. Any entity selling products/services/etc. to other businesses (vs. consumers) typically uses a B2B marketing strategy.
On the other hand, business-to-consumer or B2C marketing refers to any marketing concept, tactic or strategy where a company promotes its products/services/etc. to individual consumers. While B2C marketing focuses on the emotion-driven purchase decision process, B2B marketing focuses on logical process-driven purchase decisions.
How does a B2B marketing strategy translate to your email marketing, though? Unlike B2C, where your job as an email marketer is to tap into the consumers’ emotions to convince them to buy your products/services, B2B is based on logic. Why? Because when working with another business or organisation (vs. a consumer) it’s essential to understand the logic and reasoning behind a purchase decision.
What do B2B customers want? If your customer is asking what the problem is they want you to educate them in which case you can share information such as trends, benchmarks, 101 education, how-to guides, etc. If your customer is wondering how to solve a problem, what they want from you is to give them a solution in which case tell them how to fix their issue, give them solution comparisons, etc. Lastly, if your customer is simply wondering if what you are offering is right for them, they want you to provide some credentials and support so they can make an informed decision – for example, tell them what your pricing is, offer them case studies, ROI analysis, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis, etc.
B2B vs B2C Marketing
The difference between B2B and B2C marketing lies not only in how they are applied to your overall marketing strategy but also, in the audiences they target and how you communicate with them.
B2B marketing targets the needs, interests and requirements of people who are making purchases on behalf of or for a business rather than themselves. This makes the business the customer. For example –
a) purchasing a social media management tool;
b) buying lead-gen software;
c) purchasing a professional email marketing software subscription; or
d) buying an accounting software subscription/licence.
B2C marketing targets are the same, however, the purchase decision is made by the individual themself making them the consumer. For example –
a) buying stationery and office supplies if you are self-employed;
b) purchasing a Spotify subscription for personal use;
c) buying clothing or getting gym membership; or
d) purchasing phone apps for personal use.
You can gain more in-depth knowledge about the differences between B2B and B2C customers with the help of this comparison chart.
B2B Email Marketing Stats
The internet is full of step-by-step guides, tutorials and helpful articles on how to improve your B2B email marketing strategy. But, how do you separate facts from well… fiction? By looking at the numbers. After all, they do speak louder than words, especially B2B email marketing stats.
Sceptics might question the power of email marketing and yet, stats point out it’s stronger than ever –
a) active email accounts are expected to reach48 billion by 2024;
b) 47% of recipients open emails based on the subject line alone;
c) email engagement is the top metric B2B marketers track to measure content performance in the last 12 months;
d) 59% of B2B marketers state email is their most effective channel for revenue generation;
e) 64% of B2B marketers use email automation techniques;
f) 87% of B2B marketers state email is one of their top free organic distribution channels;
g) B2B marketing emails see a 23% higher click-to-open rate (CTOR) than B2C emails;
h) the prime time for sending B2B emails is Tuesday @ 10 a.m., 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. (EST, USA),
i) the optimal time of day for sending B2B email campaigns is between 8 a.m. – 10 a.m (GMT, UK),
j) the best days of the week to send B2B email blasts are Tuesday and Thursday; and
k) email has an ROI of 42:1.
B2C Email Marketing Stats (for comparison)
a) 59% of customers state that marketing emails influence their purchase decision-making;
b) cart abandonment emails sent within an hour of a client leaving your website will boost conversions by 33%;
c) 54% of SMBs send out cart abandonment emails;
d) 80% of B2C marketers use email to nurture their audiences; and
e) B2C marketers who take advantage of marketing automation can witness conversion rates as high as 50%.
Having a B2B email marketing strategy in your marketing arsenal is a powerful weapon. Furthermore, by integrating such a strategy with your main marketing one will help you target the right audience at the right time with the right message and get higher results and an even better ROI.
B2B Email Marketing Best Practices
Did you know 93% of B2B marketers use email? Email marketing is the best tried-and-tested approach to reaching individual consumers as well as business ones.
Since B2B customers, unlike B2C ones, look for logic and positive ROI, the one question they ask themselves is: “How can YOUR business help THEIR business?” The answer: you must ensure your email marketing is constantly resonating with your business customers and your email campaigns’ primary focus is on what matters to them most – time, money and resources.
However, with B2B customers’ inboxes being constantly bombarded with hundreds (if not thousands) of promotional emails and sales pitches, how are you supposed to create a distinctive B2B email marketing campaign that will drive results? By taking advantage of the best practice.
1) Write the perfect B2B subject line
Your subject line is like a movie trailer. If you can’t hook your targeted audience with a few dozen characters, don’t expect them to open and engage with your email. Spend just as much time on crafting the perfect subject line as you do on designing the perfect B2B email marketing campaign. You’ll see the ‘pay off’ in the email marketing KPIs. Ah, and keep in mind the optimal subject line length – according to stats – is around 43 characters; with a maximum length of 60 characters.
2) Limit the number of call-to-action (CTA) buttons
You think the number of emails you get is a lot? Take a look at the amount of call-to-action (CTA) in those emails. Some have two, four and sometimes even more than 10 different CTAs. Don’t fall into this trap by making your B2B customers’ heads spin wondering which one they should click first and ultimately decide to click on nothing at all.
Instead, make sure you have one clear CTA per email allowing your targeted audience to focus on your email’s content and consequently on one action. Such a B2B email campaign will be received quite favourably by your audience resulting in better conversion rates and ultimately, higher ROI.
3) Segmentation is key to reaching the most relevant audience
Not every B2B email you send is appropriate for all the people on your email list(s). Each one of your subscribers might be at a different stage of their buyer’s journey or seeking a different solution. Cue, email list segmentation. By segmenting your email lists you will not only be able to relate with your audience better but also, give your subscribers that personal touch they are looking for. This approach will make them feel like you are listening to them and you know what they want and what their needs are. When it comes to emails, customers prefer quality over quantity. Thus, make sure you are giving them exactly what they are asking for.
4) The Skinny: optimise your emails for the small screen
Around 60% of email opens happen on a mobile device (depending on the industry); 75% of Gmail users are accessing emails on their mobile device; and, around 42% of customers will delete an email if it is not optimised for mobile devices.
Don’t allow your email to be amongst those deleted. Make sure you optimise it for the small screen with mobile-friendly email layouts, appropriate font types and sizes as well as fine-tuning the links, CTAs, image size and other design elements.
5) Email automation: use it wherever possible
If you are using professional email marketing software, there are certain automation rules (triggers) you can set up to create a drip B2B email campaign which would send follow-up emails based on the recipients’ activity – for example, a link click, a subscription, a purchase, etc.
Your drip campaign is a triggered sequence of automated emails sent to a targeted, segmented email list aimed at achieving specific results. An effective email drip campaign will allow you to nurture your leads, communicate more accurately with consumers based on their specific actions, increase sales and re-engage inactive customers in a scalable manner.
6) Test, test, test
As an email marketer, testing your campaign before you send it out to your targeted audience is an important ‘must’. We all scrutinise our work, but in the end, we may have missed things like a typo, wrong link, missing or broken image, etc. Therefore, always get another pair of eyes to go through your B2B email marketing campaign.
Your next step is to split test (a.k.a A/B testing) your campaign to enhance its performance via open rates by slightly amending your subject line or increase click-throughs with a change of the email copy and CTA placement. But remember, the best way to test is to always pick one variable at a time (for example, the subject line). It’ll allow you better insight into what works and what can be improved.
B2B Email Marketing Examples
Let’s take a look at 5 B2B email marketing examples that – if implemented – will help you increase open rates, engagement, conversions and ultimately ROI.
1) The Welcome! And Thank you! Email
First impressions always count – a lot. Thus, no matter what your subscribers signed up for, make sure to always be respectful by first thanking them and then welcoming them to the fold. If you do nothing, you create the wrong impression and that will end up harming your businesses.
Image 1: Welcome Email
Image 2: Thank you Email
How to implement it? Regardless of you using an ESP with automated triggered campaigns or manually sending emails, saying ‘welcome’ and ‘thank you’ will take you a long way to building a long-term, strong relationship with your customers. Make sure your welcome email is an introduction to who you are and what your business can offer to the customer, provide helpful links to useful content and why not add links to your company’s social media profile, and don’t forget to use personalisation unlike the two examples above, too.
When should you send it? Every time you get a new subscriber -for welcome emails; and, every time a recipient completes a significant action – for thank you emails.
2) The Inactive Subscribers Email
According to stats, approx. 40% of the subscribers on your email lists are inactive. Each time you send an email out to your email list(s) about half of the recipients have probably already lost interest in your product/service. However, this presents the perfect opportunity for you to reach out to such inactive subscribers/users and re-engage them.
How to implement it? By segmenting your email lists, you will have a clear idea of who the inactive subscribers are (those who haven’t opened or interacted with your email in the last 6 or 12 months). You can then send them an email that tells them who you are and what you do, remind them why they signed up initially and either ask them a question or send them an invitation to a webinar to spark their interest and start up a conversation.
When should you send it? Two or three times per year depending on how fast your email lists are growing and what the results from your segmentation are.
3) The Product/Service Promo Email
For your promo product email to make an impact, you don’t always have to write long content with tons of CTAs and imagery. Keep it neat, short and sweet with a few sentences on how your product/service can help their business, a relevant image or graphics and one CTA.
How to implement it? Your product/service will evolve in time. Each time you add a feature or release a new and improved product, it could be THE THING that will convert leads to customers. However, for conversions to occur you have to let the people on your email list(s) know about the upcoming changes. So, keep them up-to-date. But remember, use simple language instead of long, confusing phrasing is the best way to gain attention.
When should you send it? Every time you add a new feature or release a new, improved product.
4) The Case Study Email
As we are moving further down the marketing funnel, the value of a case study to B2B buyers increases. Why? A case study is a perfect way to showcase how useful and helpful your product/service can be for them in terms of business improvement be it sales, productivity or customer support.
How to implement it? Regardless of you having a ready case study or emailing clients to participate in one, the latter taking more time to wrap up, you are offering people something of value to their business. In both cases, you can use the case studies findings (the results part is where the true value lies) for several months, even years.
When should you send it? Depending on what you have you can either send such emails bi-monthly or quarterly. The frequency can be adjusted as required based on the number of case studies at your disposal.
5) The Unsubscribe Email
People unsubscribing from your emails happen. It could be because their interests have shifted or they are no longer interested in the topic they initially signed up for. Whatever the reason, you are legally obliged to honour their request to leave or you risk a hefty fine for breaching privacy laws such as the GDPR, CCPA and other U.S. privacy regulations.
How to implement it? Quite a lot of businesses neglect to acknowledge some of their subscribers’ requests. Especially, if a subscriber wants to opt-out from their marketing communications. Sending unsubscribe emails acts as a confirmation. Your goal is to inform them you heard them loud and clear, not to sell them on staying connected. Most professional email marketing software includes an unsubscribe link as standard.
When should you send it? Every time a subscriber wishes to opt-out from your email marketing communications.
Other examples of B2B email marketing emails are –
a) when a user’s trial period is about to expire;
b) reminders for taking further actions – for example, cart abandonment emails;
c) re-engagement campaigns;
d) sign up for a free trial campaign;
e) campaigns offering discounts on products/services for a limited time;
f) newsletters with curated content;
g) offering whitepapers and more.
There are numerous ways of how email marketing can be used as a communication channel for B2B customers. It all depends on your business’s marketing goals. But, one of the greatest things about email marketing when it comes to engaging B2B customers is the ease with which email marketers can customise their email marketing campaigns to fit their customers’ specific needs/interests/goals.
Don’t make the same mistake other businesses make when they assume their existing B2B email marketing strategy is ‘the bomb’. No matter how good your open rates, conversion rates and ROI are at the moment, there will come a time when these results will diminish. Instead of waiting for this to happen do something to prevent it. Review your B2B email marketing strategy often, make sure any necessary updates/changes are implemented and take advantage of B2B email marketing best practice.
The most important thing to remember before sending any marketing emails (B2B or B2C) is to get the recipients’ explicit consent. If a recipient hasn’t opted-in for receiving marketing communication from your business, you risk being fined under GDPR.
Highly recommended further reading –
1) Top B2B Subject Lines To Use Right Now
2) Email Marketing and Content Marketing
3) Email Personalisation
4) Email Design Best Practices
5) Optimise Your Email For The Small Screen
6) Email Marketing Automation