The comprehensive guide to B2B email marketing campaigns

Holly Locastro

 - 

September 13, 2021

Contents

What is email marketing?

Even if you’ve never heard the term before, you probably have a good idea of what email marketing is just from the name. And you’d be right; email marketing is just that – marketing messages sent via email.

B2B email marketing campaigns are just one of many channels in the marketer’s arsenal–and with more and more shiny marketing tools and platforms popping up every day, good old email marketing is becoming perceived as ‘outdated’ in some circles.

But implemented well, with a solid strategy, great tech and amazing content, you won’t get better bang for buck anywhere. It’s still one of the highest-converting channels for middle and bottom-of-funnel leads.

Did you know?

Email still drives the highest ROI out of all B2B marketing strategies. On average, businesses can earn $44 for every dollar spent on email marketing.

But the art form is evolving – and to predict the future, we first need to go back a little.

B2B email marketing campaigns – then and now

Email marketing has progressed in three main ways:

  • The emails themselves (how they’re written and built),
  • And the list of recipients (how it’s obtained, segmented and nurtured),
  • And marketing automation (how we trigger emails and sequences).

In the ‘old days’, email marketing was only employed by a few forward-thinking marketers and salespeople. The copy followed a letter correspondence-like format. It was regular, intimate, and effective.

One of the first movers into email marketing was Gary Vaynerchuk.

From his blog:

“When I was building up business for WineLibrary.com, I relied heavily on email marketing. It was 1996, and email marketing had not taken off yet, but our list had 400,000 contacts. And my open rate back then? 80%. No joke. Now, they’re in the twenties. They’re in the twenties for everyone. But I reaped years and years of benefit from the 80% rates because I hopped on email early.”

Then the deluge came.

Businesses would purchase huge lists of contacts without making sure the people on those lists would actually care about their offer. They’d blast a sales message out and see what came back. Open rates could be slim and conversions even more so.

(This practice still happens today and we strongly recommend against it. You’ll end up blacklisted from your email provider and known across the internet as a no-good spammer).

The backlash began.

Filters were introduced to our inboxes. The Spam Act was introduced to Australian law in 2003. More recently, government regulations like the GDPR in Europe introduced huge deterrents to businesses who obtain customers’ details or contact them without express permission.

Today, email marketing hasn’t slowed down – but the approach has gone from a shotgun blast to more of a gentle hug. Instead of shouting into the void, we’re trying to start a conversation – and new technology means we can make that conversation a lot more relevant to the individuals within our audience by personalising our content.

We’re now able to split our audiences into smaller, much more interesting segments than ever before. We can split audiences by the actions they take, as well as being able to segment by demographics. Basically, we’re trying to recapture that early email magic, and achieve the relevance and intimacy that those first email marketers enjoyed.

Email marketing stats 2021

We all love a good stat. In fact, the only thing better than one is a bunch!

Here are a few email marketing stats that every email marketer needs to know about in 2021:

From a marketer’s perspective:

Email continues to go from strength to strength, continuing to prove itself as one of the most cost-effective ways to build an audience and a business.

Australian email benchmarks

Campaign Monitor (a service we use and endorse 👍 ) updates its email benchmarks each year. 2020’s Australian results make for some interesting reading. A few highlights:

  • Average click-through rate: 2.8%
  • Average click-to-open rate: 14.9%
  • Best day for highest email open rates: Saturday 19.6%
  • Best days for highest click-through rates: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday 2.9%
  • Worst day for lowest email open rates: Sunday 18.3%
  • Worst day for lowest click-through rates: Sunday 2.7%

How did COVID affect email marketing?

The events of 2020 have also had an effect on B2B email marketing – however not strictly in the way you might expect. From emfluence’s 2020 Email Marketing Benchmarks report:

Did you know?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, some people forgot to review their automated campaign offers, and as a result, we saw a downturn in automated email engagement that we haven’t seen before—the average click rate in our last report for an automated email was 23%. Transactional emails, however, saw a big increase in engagement, jumping from an average click-to-open rate in our last report of 23% to an average of 31%

Explaining the different types of email marketing

We generally split email campaigns into three different ‘types’:

Single email campaigns

One email sent around a promotion, topic or trigger. They can occur regularly, but won’t be linked to each other. This could be a one-time sales blast to your contacts or a monthly newsletter.

Trigger-based emails

Emails which send automatically based on an action your contacts take. For example, delivering a piece of content they may have ordered, or notifying them about an offer you might have if they visit a certain section of your website.

Email sequences

A series of emails sent at predetermined intervals in a particular order. These emails will normally interlink thematically, like separate parts of the same story.

Which you’ll use will depend on your audience and your offer. B2B businesses will need a different approach to their B2C counterparts as the sales cycles are typically longer and more information needs to be shared. That’s why email sequences are a great addition to any B2B email marketing strategy.

Let’s dig into each type in more detail.

One-off campaigns: like your monthly newsletter, new product announcement, or an alert for special EOFY pricing.

It’s important to still segment your data and tailor your emails to each segment. You don’t have to create completely new emails for each, but choose a section or portion of the email to personalise, such as the introduction or one of the pieces of content you’re promoting.

If you have a really well set up database with good segmentation, you can use ‘conditional content’ to show different people different things, depending on what’s most relevant for them.

Trigger-based emails: triggered by an action the contact takes – e.g. clicking a link in another campaign or visiting a page on your website.

Sending emails based on triggers requires you to have a little bit of tracking set up on your website. You may be able to do this through your email provider (or we can help).

Here’s how it works. An existing prospect (someone who has already entered their details on your site) revisits a particular page – for example, one of your product pages. They then get an email an hour later asking if they have questions about the product or offering them a 10% discount.

Another example is someone visiting a specific page on your website but quite converting (ie not filling in a form). If they’re already in your database, you can send them a ‘how can we help?’ email.

General email sequence: a predetermined suite of emails that you send out to your contacts over time regardless of their behaviour.

A prospect enters their details through your website and is added to your system as a ‘cold’ lead. The idea of this campaign is to pique their interest by sending them content they might be interested in.

You could trigger a general email sequence when a prospect takes a specific action which is linked to an email delivery – for example, enters their details to unlock an ebook download. You might then send one email to deliver the ebook, one a day or two later to remind them to download it and then another in a week to see what they thought and suggest something else.

Nurture email sequence: You can take the single action-based email a step further by applying the same logic across an entire sequence.

This is similar to a general sequence campaign but with an added layer of personalisation which comes from the actions your prospect takes.

For example, if the reader visits a certain page on your website, or clicks a certain link in a previous email, they might trigger a series of emails with more information about the topic they’ve clicked on.

Building up your contact list

Of course, an email is no good if nobody is there to read it.

You’ve got to start somewhere – so don’t let a small list of contacts stop you from developing campaigns and sequences.

However, you must include email list building into your overarching email (and marketing) strategy, because sending campaigns to the same people week in week out isn’t going to get you the results you want.

We encourage all of our clients to focus on building up their customer and prospect databases. Ideally, you want a lot of contacts, each with a lot of data – name, business, locale and one or two other qualifiers unique to your objectives.

Here are a few quick ideas for building up your contact list:

  • Ask your current contacts if they want to receive your email updates (an important note: you can’t just add them to your list. They need to give you their express consent, otherwise you’re in breach of data privacy laws).
  • Create a ‘lead magnet’ (a valuable piece of content) which prospects will exchange their email address for (note, this is a crowded space, so make sure what you’re offering is of true value – if you don’t, this is a waste of time). Our ‘B2B email marketing checklist’ you can download above is an example. Promote the lead magnet wherever you can – on your website, on its own landing page, in your email signature or anywhere else you can think of. If you have the budget, promote it using targeted social media ads.
  • Run a competition whereby entrants have to provide their email address to go into the draw to win a prize of some kind. Add a checkbox asking if they’d consent to receiving emails from you.

Starting your B2B email marketing strategy

Knowing your audience is essential when you’re developing your strategy.

Emails sent with the wrong tone of voice or with the wrong kind of content won’t resonate with your audience and will severely hamper the effectiveness of your campaigns.

You also need to think about timing for all elements of your email marketing. Random emails every couple of months isn’t going to help you build your empire – you need constant conversation.

So before you write an email, decide: what do you want to achieve?

Your email marketing is a sub-segment of your overarching marketing strategy, and as such should feed into your wider marketing and business goals.

Step one: decide on your structure

Every business is different, but we think a combination of regular single campaigns, longer email sequences and action-based emails is a strong mix. You don’t have to build these all at once – you’ll do them over time, starting with the most important, and add functionality and content as you go.

The exact structure will depend on your industry and audience – as well as your internal goals and the resources you have on hand (or what you’re able to outsource).

Step two: write your email copy

Once you have the structure worked out, it’s time to write your emails.

If you have a copywriter on hand, give this job to them. If not, you might think about giving it to an agency. Your emails need to reflect your brand’s tone of voice and personality, while still getting across all the essential information and leading the customer to act in a certain way (by downloading a guide or purchasing a product, for example).

There are a few schools of thought on how you should write and what you should write about. We think a safe bet is to stay true to your roots, and focus on telling simple stories that you can then relate back to your product or brand. Businesses we talk to tend to think that because we’re writing for B2B, we need to fill our emails with technical jargon and marketing-speak. Don’t forget that B2B buyers are people, too – they laugh, they like to be entertained and they see right through you when you try to be too clever.

Did you know?

Hot tip: Space out your amount of ‘sell’ over the course of the email sequence, going from a 0 in the first email to a 9 or 10 in the last. Try to have some thematic or stylistic elements consistent through the sequence, or at least appearing near the beginning and coming back at the end.

Step three: optimise

The journey doesn’t end when you press ‘send’ – in fact, it’s quite the opposite. You need to constantly review and refine your email sequences.

Look through the data and let it tell you what’s working and what isn’t. It’s important to adjust your structure, copy and visuals – as well as the timing of the sequence – based on the performance of the emails.

Did you know?

Hot tip: You can optimise as you go by split testing elements of your emails. Split testing is where you send two different versions of an email to a segment of your list – the one that performs best is then sent to the rest of the group. Your email software should let you do split testing fairly easily. Test your subject lines, pre header text, send time and ‘from’ name – and test different content against each other using the ‘conditional content’ feature in your email marketing platform.

Copy components of great B2B email marketing campaigns

Stories: people love to hear stories, and if you can reveal something about you or your organisation, that’s win-win. Businesses are full of interesting stories. but often, our clients don’t see them because they’re too close. A story can come from anywhere – so keep an ear out, and announce to your staff that you’re actively looking for tales to tell.

Offers: There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned offer to get people clicking through.

Social proof: Case studies and testimonials from happy clients always make for compelling email content.

Teases: You want to become a welcome presence in peoples’ inboxes – and one way to do that is to build excitement for your next email. Use a ‘PS’ to promote what you’ll be talking about next time, or weave it into the body copy if you can.

Subject lines: Too often we see subject lines treated as an afterthought, when really they’re one of your most important elements. Nobody will see the email you’ve crafted if your subject is boring.

‘One-percenters’: Don’t forget the essential micro-content – pre-header copy, ‘from’ name and unsubscribe copy (a bit of humour here may stop contacts un-subbing).

That’s it: your guide to creating B2B email marketing campaigns that work. If you liked this, please let us know – we always love getting feedback on our guides!

But before we go, we have a few gifts for you to take on your way…

B2B email marketing glossary

Email list: the list of contacts you’ll be sending emails to.

Data segmentation: Splitting up your recipient list into groups based on the data you’ve collected on them – for example, locale. You can segment this any way you like, but ensure you have the same information for every contact otherwise it gets messy.

Tagging: You can tag your contacts to segment them further or more specifically. For example, if you deal with both government and private organisations, and want to speak to each separately, you can tag them as such.

Personalisation: the act of showing each reader information that’s unique to them based on what you know about them (for example, saying ‘Hi Holly’, or giving me a Melbourne-specific deal).

Email campaign (single): Any singular email sent in isolation. These can be regular or one-off.

Email sequence: A co-ordinated and linked sequence of emails sent in a specific order, working towards an end goal.

Action based autoresponder: An email that’s sent based on an action – for instance, someone entering their details to download an ebook will then receive an automatically triggered email to download the ebook. Another example is a ‘forgot my password’ email.

Hard bounce: An email that comes back to you because the email address is invalid. Remove these from your database, or they’ll skew your results.

Soft bounce: An email that temporarily can’t be delivered. It could be because it’s too large or your recipient’s email server is down.

Split testing: You can test all kinds of email elements like subject lines, CTA buttons or header images by sending two emails and comparing the results against each other. Your email software will most likely have the capabilities to set up and show you the winner. Remember, only test one element at a time so you know what’s making the difference.

Open rate: The percentage of people who opened your email out of everyone who received it.

Click-through rate: The percentage of people who clicked a link inside your email out of everyone who opened it.

Let’s talk!

Already know what you need? Or just want to kick things off with some advice? Schedule a free video consultation with TMP founder, Holly.
© Copyright 2024 
— The Marketing Project — Marketing that serves a purpose — Terms & Conditions Privacy Policy
The Marketing Project
a B2B marketing agency
%