Email remains a great medium to build relationships with your prospects and existing customers. Yet many business-to-business (B2B) organizations get overwhelmed and fumble in their email marketing efforts. If you’re here, you might have questions like:
- How to integrate email marketing in your sales funnel and leverage it to drive lead generation efforts?
- Which is the right email service provider that fulfills your B2B needs? GetResponse is a great choice (unbiased review here)!
- What metrics should you use to measure the success of your B2B email marketing efforts?
- How to craft persuasive email subject lines and compelling email content that your audience loves?
- What do the top B2B email marketers do differently to drive a strong return on investment?
In this B2B email marketing guide, I’ll answer the above questions and then some. You’ll also learn email marketing tips, look at B2B email marketing examples, types of effective B2B email marketing campaigns, and more.
Table Of Contents
- Frequently asked questions about B2B email marketing
- B2B email marketing tip #1: Segment subscribers and personalize your emails
- B2B email marketing tip #2: Nurture leads based on their behavior
- B2B email marketing tip #3: Create personality-filled email newsletters
- B2B email marketing tip #4: Play the “long game” and set KPIs for each email marketing campaign
- B2B email marketing best practices
- B2B email marketing examples
- Call to action for your B2B email marketing strategy: Measure, analyze, and iterate
Let’s begin with:
Frequently asked questions about B2B email marketing
Let’s quickly understand the nitty-gritties of B2B email marketing.
What is B2B email marketing?
B2B email marketing involves leveraging email campaigns to target businesses or professionals instead of individual consumers. It’s a powerful marketing channel where you have control and ownership of your audience instead of social media platforms where algorithms can reduce your reach in a snap.
Does email marketing still work in 2021?
In their B2B content marketing benchmarks report, the Content Marketing Institute found that the top B2B performers were more likely to nurture subscribers, generate sales, and build a subscribed audience. It shows the reliability of B2B email marketing in 2021 and its crucial role in content marketing success.
How to align email marketing with your sales cycle?
Gartner’s research found that B2B buyers do the majority of research before contacting a supplier.
That’s why you need to sit down with your sales team and find the top questions of your prospects, their pain points, and the average length of a sales cycle. Then tailor your content and email marketing efforts to align with your sales cycle based on this information.
What is a good B2B email open rate?
Plezi, in an analysis of four leading industry studies conducted between 2018 to 2019, found the average B2B email open rate to be 22.2%. Depending on the source and sector, the rate goes as high as 29.64%.
Editor’s note: To compare your results with others in your industry, you may want to check the GetResponse Email Marketing Benchmarks report. On top of featuring the average email opens, clicks, and unsubscribe rates it includes expert comments that’ll help you understand these metrics better.
How long should a B2B marketing email be?
A 2015 research by Boomerang app found email length between 50 to 125 words is the sweet spot, leading to above 50% response rates. But two caveats are that the research is old and not specific to the business-to-business niche.
B2B email marketing tip #1: Segment subscribers and personalize your emails
In the B2B niche, multiple people from a company are involved in the sales cycle. The final purchase decision about your products and services, for instance, may include a product manager and the head of technology at a prospect’s organization. So engaging solely with the final “decision-maker” and writing emails just keeping them in mind doesn’t make sense.
You need to segment and address audiences’ concerns separately to persuade the whole team. This calls for collecting more information from prospects to identify their needs and sending them personalized content.
For instance, Hootsuite asks for eight fields of information for downloading their free guide on growing a LinkedIn audience:
GetResponse Email Marketing Benchmarks report found that forms with more than four fields see a considerable drop in conversion rates:
Note: Your results are likely going to be higher, if you truly understand your audience and focus on driving traffic that’d benefit from your offer.
But asking for appropriate information on your landing page is crucial. It will enable you to tag prospects in a fitting buyer persona segment and send them relevant emails later.
Among other questions, “the number of people using the company’s official social media accounts” is important information for Hootsuite (a social media scheduling tool). It lets the company filter leads that might be genuinely interested in their products.
Sid Bharath, the CEO and founder of Broca (a company specializing in AI-powered content marketing), expresses how creating “very specific segments” has done well for them.
When customers onboard our software, we capture details about their company, like their industry. We also capture the usage of our product. It lets us create highly personalized emails based on their interests and what they’ve done in our product. Such segments have worked really well for us.
If you’re considering leveraging email for content distribution, collecting the correct information about your subscribers could help send the most relevant content to address their individual needs.
Want to limit fields in opt in forms? Use progressive profiling!
If you’re afraid of turning off your visitors by asking too many questions early on, then there’s another tactic you can try:
Request only a small amount of meaningful information from your prospects in the beginning. Then progressively profile an email subscriber through their future touchpoints through forms, emails, and surveys with your brand. Take help from your sales and customer support teams as well if needed.
GetResponse lets you use tags to add labels and custom fields to add relevant details about your subscribers. Here’s the difference between the two as per the GetResponse’s guide on building an email list the right way:
And here’s an example showing the difference:
You can also score every user based on their actions, such as link clicks, ebook downloads, and webinar sign ups.
How about assigning a tag to an engaged subscriber once they reach a certain score? It can trigger an automated workflow that could be pretty handy (as discussed later in the article).
Consider multiple lists for different B2B email marketing campaigns
Besides tags, it might also make sense to create multiple lists based on your email marketing needs. A “master list” of all your brand advocates (the leads), an exclusive one of your customers alone (when a lead makes a purchase), one of your frequent customers, and the like. Such an organization method can help in personalizing your communication.
For instance, Content Marketing Institute (CMI) provides eight different subscription options on its email updates page. They all represent various characteristics of the audience and help CMI send personalized updates:
Ensure that you perform the necessary steps to prevent subscribers in more than one list from getting repetitive emails. Except for Autoresponder messages, GetResponse can prevent a contact on multiple lists from receiving a message more than once.
Send personal reports and updates
The GetResponse Benchmarks report found that personalized subject lines and body content in emails increase open rates and CTR. It shows the importance of sending personalised emails highlighting the personal achievements of your customers through your products.
For instance, I love my weekly summary reports from RescueTime, a time tracking software. They share specific information about my work week and trends that are personally relevant and useful. Here’s an example RescueTime email report:
Similarly, Ahrefs (an SEO suite) shares a monthly update on my new and lost backlinks, referring domains, top new pages earning links, and the like. It’s irresistible because of its actionable insights.
B2B email marketing tip #2: Nurture leads based on their behavior
In their benchmarks report, GetResponse found that automated emails triggered by the subscriber’s behavior have the highest engagement rate:
So, apart from sending educational blog posts and company updates, also leverage email marketing campaigns to connect with your target audience at crucial stages in their buying journey.
Smoothly onboard new leads (and treasure the welcome email…)
If you want to make your email marketing investment worthwhile, a great way to start is by guiding your valuable leads around using your product. When a new prospect signs up for your product, their engagement is typically the highest. Welcome emails were found to get an average open rate of whopping 86.03%:
So don’t waste the opportunity to initiate a conversation about your product(s). Also, use this email to add some value to your new leads that expressed interest in your offerings. When I signed up for Thinkfic, an online course platform, the co-founder of the company extended a warm welcome with an invite to their live webinar:
Adding customer training webinars in your welcome email could be a great way to engage a lead while they are most interested in your product.
Otherwise, you can run a dedicated welcome email sequence that walks the new customer (or prospect) through your product by breaking down the specific steps they can take. Here’s Alitu, a podcast editor, reaching out every day to guide me through their features:
To save time, GetResponse lets you create complete funnels for your webinars and comes up with pre-made templates for you to begin with:
Wield your email service provider’s superpowers: automated workflows
What happens when a prospect in the consideration phase steps back and cancels their engagement with your brand?
You can ask for their feedback to improve your products. Or, depending on the information available about the prospect, kick off a different kind of engagement with them. An email campaign can work well for this.
When I canceled my Alitu trial account, Colin from the company (who also took me through their welcome email series) reached out to me asking what could they do better:
You can consider continuing your communication with them as well. Buzzsprout (a podcast hosting platform) automatically put me on their newsletter after their onboarding series.
But be careful and inform your email subscribers that you plan to continue sending fresh content. Else, it might annoy them. Remember, email marketing is about permission-based marketing communications.
Top email service providers will help in automating parts of your B2B email marketing. GetResponse, for instance, lets you start a workflow based on established subscriber actions. Indeed even if a custom field value is updated (for example, your customers moving to a new city), you can trigger an action:
B2B email marketing tip #3: Create personality-filled email newsletters
Alex Birkett, a co-founder at Omniscient Digital, shares that his agency likes to use a “very informal and personality-filled copywriting” in their emails. “We want to talk to our audience like we’re their friend, just shooting the shit and giving great content marketing advice that they can’t get elsewhere,” he quips.
There’s merit in their approach as people might get surprised with a friendly tone in B2B email communication. Here’s how to emulate the same approach for your B2B email marketing strategy.
Getting playful in a B2B email marketing campaign
Are you interested in using a “substack newsletter” like personal tone in your B2B email messages? Then puns, conversational language, provocative language, and wrongly-done punctuations are all welcome.
I got in touch with Robin Nichols (the managing editor at 360Learning) to understand how they adapt a light and playful tone in their newsletters. She takes us behind the scenes of a campaign to illustrate how they choose a newsletter theme, subject lines, informal language, and more:
But can every brand pull off such an informal tone?
It’s more important to:
Keep every email marketing campaign on brand
Being informal is nice, but every B2B email marketing campaign should reflect the voice and tone of your brand. For example, Buffer, a social media scheduling company, is known for its transparency, kindness, and positivity. A bunch of emails I received from them below reflect that. They share valuable content related to social media, posts about their company culture, and more:
Even if you take out their name, it’s easy to recognize an email from the company by reading it.
Remember your email’s design also plays a role in branding. So besides the email copy, you can splash some personality in your b2b email by using photos, and videos like Michal does below for GetResponse (rich media also tends to improve the email engagement rates).
Try artificial intelligence-based content software for drafting emails quickly
Birkett has started experimenting with using Conversion.AI in his email copywriting process for copy-heavy newsletters.
He elaborates on how he uses it:
I use it most often when I’m struggling to come up with a copy, but I have an idea as to what the message and tone should be. Like, if I know I want to write a nurturing sequence, I’ll plan out each step of the sequence, but then I’ll use Conversion.AI to help me write the first draft of the copy. Then I go in and spruce it up a bit with my own voice and personality.
Integrating AI-generated content can help say goodbye to writer’s block and even speed up your writing process.
Repurpose evergreen content in your email campaigns
When I signed up for their newsletter, YCombinator sent a bunch of their interesting (probably all-time popular) posts to kick off our relationship:
Sending your most liked content to your new newsletter sign ups is a great content distribution strategy as it kicks off your relationship on a positive note.
You can even package these into ebooks, downloadables and use them as lead magnets in exchange for a prospects’ email.
You can also use “Thank You” landing pages to serve some relevant content to your new sign ups. For example, when I subscribed to BigCommerce’s blog email list, they shared links to five of their latest feature articles.
B2B email marketing tip #4: Play the “long game” and set KPIs for each email marketing campaign
The business to business sales cycle is often long and intricate. So sending a sales email message as soon as a person signs up on your email list could hurt your efforts.
Instead, you should invest time in earning trust and building a relationship with your audience. Send them educational content that helps them achieve their goals. Birkett shares his agency’s email strategy is simply about getting people to like them.
We can’t expect to convert people directly to agency deals from an email list, but people do business with those they trust and like, so we craft our emails with that (long game) goal in mind.
That doesn’t mean the company doesn’t have KPIs for their email campaigns. Birkett continues, “Of course, we have quantitative goals attached to their automated email campaigns and nurture sequences. These are set at:
a) engagement (do they click on the articles and offers in the email)
b) course sales (we have a content strategy course that is popular).”
You can similarly choose a mix of metrics that closely tie with your bottom line and audience engagement. It’s important that while committing to play the ‘long game’, you try to gauge the effectiveness of your B2B email marketing efforts in the short term through relevant metrics.
- Disengaged subscribers will negatively affect your email deliverability rate. Keeping a check on your CTR and open rates is essential. Low numbers might call for running reactivation campaigns or changing your email service provider.
- An email marketing campaign with the goal of lead generation for your freemium SaaS should generate free trials or paid subscribers. So a declining engagement of a new user with your automated email sequence should trigger an early warning.
But remember to look at these metrics in the larger context of your marketing strategy and the evolution of your business. Nichols looks at the unique pageviews 360Learning gets from their newsletter and compares it with other big traffic sources.
Currently, the unique pageviews is around 8% from the newsletter, which is down significantly from when we launched the blog. That’s actually good news since it means our other target channels are growing.
Analyzing metrics from each email marketing campaign can also inform your future content and marketing strategy. “I’ll look each week at which article from the newsletter was most popular, and try to draw conclusions about what content performs best in the newsletter vs. channels like organic (SEO) traffic, social media, and the like,” Nichols affirms.
B2B email marketing best practices
Before we conclude, here are some additional email marketing best practices to ensure that you deliver an exemplary email experience to your audience:
Taking your email subject line from good to better to best
Your email’s subject lines will probably be judged alongside tens (or hundreds) of other unread emails. And you only have a few seconds to make an impact with them. If you’re too formal, you might end up being boring. If you’re clickbaity, your email might end up in the spam folder.
Being straightforward helps. But too descriptive subject lines can get truncated, especially on mobile phones. Here’s an example from Brennan Dunn trying to squeeze in more specifics of his “SparkLoop review” but sees his subject line get shortened.
The GetResponse email benchmarks report found that longer subject lines tend to get the highest opens. But this data could be skewed because merely 10% of the sample had more than 100 characters.
Using words such as “free”, “infographic”, “video”, and the like don’t seem to have an impact on the open rate. Ultimately setting expectations by using relevant text is key.
Don’t forget to use a preheader in your emails. Consider it as the “subheadline”, which provides additional space beside your subject line to summarize the theme of your email. It was used by merely 14% of marketers in the GetResponse sample set, and it positively affected their open rates. The best subject line would be relevant and build a story with the preheader.
Keep one call to action per email campaign
Do you want to drive sign ups for an upcoming webinar? Or drive traffic to a new blog post on your website? Each expertly crafted marketing email should have a clear and compelling call to action. If you ask for too many clicks from your audience, it will negatively affect your conversion rates.
Mind your frequency
Email newsletter fatigue is real. They can potentially even hurt your business as per Peep Laja, the founder of ConversionXL:
Given the high volume and competition, it makes more sense only to communicate when you’ve a relevant update to share with your email audience. Content distribution through email is fine, but try packaging all of your month’s blog posts in a monthly email or only sending your best content.
Stay consistent with your email marketing efforts
I recently got an email from Disneyland Paris (whom I didn’t remember signing up for). They cited technical issues which led them to not communicating with me for over a year.
Barring technical glitches, regularly communicating with your email audience is important for building a formidable relationship and ensuring that they don’t forget you (unless you’re Disneyland Paris).
If an email subscriber hasn’t engaged with you for a month or two, reach out and confirm if they are still interested in receiving your emails. A stale email list lowers your engagement and can affect your inbox placements. Here’s a format for such emails from The Creatives Hour you can build on top of:
Being cheesy and sharing songs such as “Let’s Stay Together” can help. Here’s a re-engagement B2B email by Chris Von from Content Mavericks showing how it’s done:
If you haven’t guessed it, the first two links in the mail lead to this song by Al Green.
B2B email marketing examples
Before we conclude, let’s have a quick look at some cool B2B email examples you can emulate.
Personalized email “hook” from Cloudflare
Remember how personalized email subject lines work better for getting opens? Cloudflare (a web performance and security company) does a great job at using my site’s performance as the hook:
After sharing snippets of my security, the company moves to announcements:
Later, they pitch a product, share a few of their content pieces, and promote an upcoming webinar.
Such an integrated approach where you begin with personally relevant information might make people more receptive to the links you promote later in the email. However, be mindful of your email’s length.
Vibrant webinar invite email by GetResponse
GetResponse announced the launch of their website builder and invited their audience to see its features live with a personality-filled email below. Note the usage of emojis, the vibrant use of brand colors and a colorful visual, the inviting smiling faces – all the way to a benefit-driven CTA “Secure my recording.”
What’s not to like?
Straightforward demo request email by Udemy
If you want to generate demo requests for your product, then the b2b email below by Udemy for business shows a great example. Its subject line is direct “How it works” and mentions “[Video],” which relieves the burden of reading:
The email itself is short with a few links, including their product’s landing page with a video explaining its features, one with a detailed form for generating demo requests, and a course catalog page.
On top of its drag-and-drop Email Creator, GetResponse also offers a bunch of newsletter templates that you can customize for various use cases we saw above and more:
Call to action for your B2B email marketing strategy: Measure, analyze, and iterate
While social media platforms experience algorithm changes and diminish the organic reach of your brand’s updates, email marketing remains relatively bulletproof.
So leverage the B2B email marketing ideas, tactics, and tips I shared in this article. Use robust email marketing software that aligns with your business needs. And measure your performance to iterate your email marketing strategy.
Haydn Fleming (a marketer at Reeview.app) and Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré (the company’s CMO) share some parting questions on how they measure their email marketing success. Feel free to follow their lead.
- “Are your customers opening your emails, and are they engaging with the content you’re sending?
- Are they clicking your calls to action?
- Are they following and engaging with you on social and in your communities?
- Are they also excited about your partners?”
“At the end of the day, increasing lead generation is great, but doing it in a way that creates value for our customers, partners, and community is the key to success,” they conclude.