Despite the rise of social media and the advancement of other digital marketing tools, email marketing is far from obsolete. In fact, research by McKinsey has found that email is 40 times more effective for gaining new customers than Facebook or Twitter.
Of course, in order to get the results you require from your email campaigns, you need to ensure you're going about things in the right way. In this email marketing guide we'll explore the ways in which email can give your business a serious boost, and what you need to do to have the greatest chance of engaging and converting prospects with your messages.
Research from the Direct Marketing Association found that email has the highest conversion rate, at 66%, in comparison to social media, direct media and other forms of marketing. Why is this? Let's take a look at some of the reasons why email is so powerful at increasing engagement and fueling sales.
So what is it about email specifically that makes it so effective at driving sales and engagement? There are a number of reasons, most notably:
Perhaps the biggest advantage of email marketing is that it allows you greater levels of control over who you're targeting, and the content you're targeting them with. You're likely to have different types of customers within your B2B customer base, with variations on things like industry, revenue, location, and company size.
The different types of business will have different needs and preferences, so it's important to personalise your approach. Email allows you to easily segment your marketing list, and then send out content that is tailored to each one, with better rates of engagement as a result.
This chart taken from the Adestra/IDM State of Digital Personalization report shows the benefits that marketers attribute to email personalisation.
With things like social media, SEO and paid ads, you have much less control over whether or not your content gets seen by its intended audience. In fact, studies by Forrester Research have found that 90% of email gets delivered to its destination, but just 2% of your followers on Facebook are likely to see your posts in their feed.
While there's obviously no guarantee that the recipient will open your email when it lands in their inbox, you have a much better chance at getting your message seen.
Unlike many of its marketing counterparts, email remains a great value. Indeed, research from Campaign Monitor states that email marketing creates $40 of revenue for every $1 that is invested into it.
Once you have your marketing list put together, the only outgoings are likely to be things like your email service provider and marketing automation software. Thankfully there are now plenty of options to choose from, so it's easy to find the right provider to suit your budget.
Effectively building strong business relationships is imperative for B2B sales, so your B2B email marketing strategy needs to reflect this. Communicating via email allows you to show more personality whilst also getting your messages about your product or service seen. It also makes it much simpler for prospects to get back to you with any questions they have or clarifications that they need.
Every time you run an email campaign, you are given lots of very useful metrics that you can then use to shape your future email marketing efforts. They can also provide you with more in-depth insights into the types of customers who are most interested in your products and brand.
Obviously ,you don't have to monitor all of these metrics, but decide which are most important to your business and relevant to the goals you've set. This could include:
Email list growth rate
Email share rate
If you want to make your next email campaign as successful as possible, a very good place to start is ensuring that you’re following these best practices as part of your strategy:
While the ultimate aim of your email campaign is obviously to drive sales, that doesn't mean you should go in for the hard sell. Instead, focus on email marketing content best practices such as crafting content that is interesting, engaging, and relevant to the needs and interests of your prospects. This will help them to see you as genuine and trustworthy, as opposed to just another salesperson. It also has the added benefit of being more likely to be shared, potentially increasing your reach without you having to lift a finger.
Try different topics and formats in your emails to keep things fresh. Things like infographics, videos, case studies and statistics can all be used to engage your audience. Put some thought into your content, aim for quality over quantity and you'll find that your prospects are more endeared to your brand as a result.
This is a big one. Now more than ever, people and businesses alike expect to see content that is tailored to them. If you haven't already, you should put your buyer personas together to make personalisation easier. This involves drawing up profiles of the different types of businesses that buy from you, along with their needs, challenges and preferences. You can then segment your campaign, and send emails to each group that are most likely to resonate with them.
You might even want to target specific accounts, i.e. in the case of particularly high-value deals. Personalisation is imperative here; you'll have little hope of moving them further down the funnel without it. Gain as much insight into the client as possible, and use this information to target them more effectively.
This chart from a study by Seismic and Demand Metric demonstrates the fact that the majority of B2B marketers believe personalised content is more, or much more, effective.
Although they are often left to the last minute, it's a bad idea to neglect your email subject lines. Ultimately they often mean the difference between getting your message seen or not, and successful email marketing. In fact, research from Convince and Convert notes that 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone. With this in mind, it simply doesn't make sense to leave them as an afterthought.
They need to be carefully crafted in order to stand out from all the other emails in the inbox, and give a clear sense of what the message will be about, whilst creating some sort of intrigue. This isn't an easy task, but it's certainly worth doing well.
Examples of good subject lines for successful B2B email marketing campaigns:
We helped [Their Competitor] achieve [Benefit]
[Benefit] for [company name]
Who Should I Speak to About [Topic] at [Prospect’s Company]
Hi [prospect], thought you might find this helpful
Every email you send should have a call to action; a step that you want the recipient to take after reading your message. Generally it is better to have just one CTA per email, to avoid your recipients becoming overwhelmed and your message being confused.
This could a number of things, for example:
Watch a video
Make a purchase
Share a piece of content
Sign up to a service
Register for an event
Start a free trial
Complete a survey
Follow your social media
Whichever call to action you choose, you should pay attention to the way in which it's worded. Use action words such as 'shop' or 'register', and add a sense of urgency by sticking something like 'now' or 'today' at the end. Keeping your call to action text is a good idea, as research has proven these are more likely to be effective.
It's also crucial to think carefully about the design of the call to action. It needs to stand out enough to engage the reader and encourage them to complete the task. A good option to do this is to create a button, and choose a colour that hasn't been used in the body of your email in order to draw more attention to it.
Fewer and fewer people are now checking their email on desktop clients. According to the Litmus 2017 Email Client Market Share research, mobile and webmail opens have far overtaken those on via desktop clients (17% desktop opens vs the 32% webmail and 51% mobile opens).
With this in mind, it's essential that your messages are just as clear and attractive on mobile devices as a desktop computer. Ensure that your formatting works across all devices before sending out your campaign, and be wary of sending too many graphics in one email as these can often take a long time to load on mobiles, or not show at all. Any buttons, such as those for your call to action, should be big enough to enable people to click from a touchscreen.
When it comes to giving your email campaigns a serious boost, here are some tried-and-tested email marketing strategies that work. See how you can adapt these great email marketing campaigns for your own products and brand.
It's a very bad idea to let your previous customers fall from your radar. A customer that's bought from you in the past and had a positive experience is more likely to make a higher-value purchase from you, and will also be much easier to convert. Therefore, it makes sense to run email campaigns to bring these buyers back into the fold, and target them with special offers or loyalty programs.
Here’s a good example from Birchbox; they’re retargeting previous customers by offering a choice of two deals.
If your prospects are under pressure to act in a timely manner, you're more likely to encourage them to convert. Use words and phrases like 'now' 'hurry' 'just a few remaining' etc, so that your readers know they have to come to a purchase decision sooner rather than later.
Time-limited deals, such as discounts or free trials make for great marketing emails that feel urgent. You could even add a countdown so buyers can see how little time they have left to go ahead with a purchase. The example below from Kate Spade uses free shipping to tempt customers into a timely purchase.
If your business has an online store for products or services, it's a great idea to encourage those buyers who haven't quite made up their mind yet. This means that when someone adds a product to their shopping bag on your website, but doesn't complete the purchase, you can send them an email reminding them of the product. You could also ask whether they're having any issues with the site, or if they need further information.
This process can be set up with automated software, so an email of your design is sent to the customer without you needing to keep checking if there have been any abandoned carts recently.
The example above from Net a Porter aims to gently nudge the customer into completing the purchase, giving them six reasons for doing so.
Although we may like to think otherwise, the experiences of others play a big part in our buying decisions. If you come across a product with hundreds of great reviews, and a similar one with no reviews, which are you more likely to buy?
This is why social proof is one of the best email marketing tactics. You can leverage any good feedback or reviews you've had from previous customers. You could also use case studies and testimonials that detail exactly how you've helped a business; whether it's achieving more customer engagement or reducing outgoings. This will then give the prospect a clear idea of exactly what you can do for their business.
Here’s one of the best B2B email marketing campaigns from Basecamp, which uses the number of previous sign-ups as a tactic to encourage more.
Using an email service provider has lots of benefits. It saves you lots of time thanks to automatically updated email lists (e.g. if someone opts out), you can use pre-designed email templates, and the majority of providers will offer tools to make segmentation very simple, allowing for more targeted campaigns.
With this in mind, let's take a look at five of the best email marketing solutions and services currently in the market.
One of the most-used providers of all, MailChimp offers a free business account that enables you to send up to 12,000 emails each month, Alternatively, their paid options start at $10 a month.
Pros: Lots of templates to choose from, simple to use, segmentation tools, high deliverability rate.
Cons: Customer service only available during Eastern time zone business hours, a large number of unsubscribes can lead to your account becoming cancelled.
Another popular option, particularly for transactional messages. Sendgrid's free account allows you to send 12,000 emails a month, paid subscriptions begin at $9.95 a month.
Pros: Easy drag-and-drop editor, advanced analytics, high deliverability rate thanks to the specialised team.
Cons: Can become costly; $199 for up to 250,000 emails/month, $535 for up to 1,000,0000. Some features might be hard for those without technical knowledge.
This service allows you to send emails to up to five recipients for free, or they offer paid plans from $9 a month.
Pros: Professionally-designed templates, drag-and-drop editor, a large array of fonts so you can match your emails to your company website.
Cons: Can get pricey for larger businesses, no free trial.
Amazon SES (Simple Email Service) is a widely-used SMTP server with subscriptions from $4 a month.
Pros: Well-known and trusted brand, one of the most cost-effective options out there; send 1000 emails for around $0.10.
Cons: Limited number of emails can be sent over 24 hours, fewer number of analytics available in comparison to some other providers.
Another of the most popular providers on the market, who has subscriptions starting at $15 a month.
Pros: Advanced automation tools, simple-to-use builder fine for total beginners, 30 day free trial.
Cons: No free plan available, no event management tools.
Along with an email service provider, another tools that can quickly become a real asset to your email marketing is the B2B data providers. Reputable providers such as Global Database offer a wealth of company data, some of it for free, including thousands of potential prospects and their contact details.
Here's how you can get the most from this type of marketing tool.
Getting hold of the right people is imperative in B2B, but it can be difficult to know where to get emails for marketing. Building a good rapport is usually one of the best ways to keep potential clients engaged and lead them further along the sales pipeline. If you're targeting the wrong contact, you could waste huge amounts of time and then find that the person actually has no authority to make a purchasing decision.
Finding direct email addresses can undoubtedly be difficult; companies won't usually publish all of these on their website for fear of being bombarded by emails that aren't relevant to their needs. By using a B2B database, you can gain access to these contact details almost immediately.
Global Database's platform allows you to search the directory based on seniority level, job title, and department, so you can find the specific types of company contacts you need.
We've already discussed how important personalisation is for a successful email marketing campaign - particularly for a B2B audience. In order to be able to tailor your emails to different segments or accounts, you need to have a good understanding of the businesses that you're dealing with. However, as the chart below from Seismic and Demand Metric shows, 53% of businesses don’t have the data they need to do this.
What kind of budget are they likely to have? What challenges are they facing? Who's in charge? Knowing factors such as these allows you to decide the type of messaging that will engage them.
The Global Database business directory allows you to access in-depth company data such as detailed financials for past and present, credit score, technologies used, web traffic statistics and sources, group structure and more.
Being able to segment your prospect list easily and efficiently is also one of the best email marketing ideas. Using a business data provider allows you to search for companies based on your specific requirements. This enables you to build marketing lists that feature different types of clients, so you can then target them with different products, deals, or types of content.
Global Database allows you to filter the directory based on factors such as industry, location, company size, revenue, function, technology used and more.
If you find that your metrics following your email campaign are somewhat disappointing, there are plenty of options you may want to consider, whether you’re looking to get more click-throughs or opens. Let’s explore some of these now.
Average open rates are difficult to pin down, with different studies providing different results. Providing you've run email campaigns in the past, you should have a good idea of where your open rate generally sits, and therefore can determine when your campaign needs to be looked at in closer detail.
If you find your open rate is lagging, here are some factors to keep in mind:
We've already mentioned subject lines, but their importance can't be stressed enough for successful email campaigns. Your recipients don't have much to go on when deciding whether or not to open the email, so having a decent subject line should always be a priority. Keep it short, be creative, but don't be too vague or use confusing wordplay that will lose their attention.
This will often be the first thing that the recipient looks at, so you need to ensure that your sender details are clear, accurate, and come across as professional.
If you don't want your prospects to dismiss you as a spammer, don't act like one. Avoid using all caps in your subject line, or excessive punctuation and strange characters. Ensure that you're not offering any false promises in your subject line - you'll only leave yourself at risk of being reported as a spammer by disappointed/irritated prospects.
Sending your emails at the right time of day, and on the right day of the week can have a big impact on whether or not they'll get opened. For example, a study by Yesware found that sales emails sent at weekends were actually more likely to be opened: 73.6% on weekends vs. 66.3% on weekdays. Of course, this will vary a lot depending on a wide range of factors such as your industry and geographical location, so it's a good idea to do some split testing and see if you notice any notable differences.
If, on the other hand, you notice that your emails are getting opened, but no further action is being taken, there are a few things you can try.
Ensuring that your content is high quality and interesting is a good place to start. Remember to segment your contact list so that each type of customer is only receiving communications that are relevant to them. Call to action is equally as important - split test a few different forms, with different text, in different placements and with different designs, to see which gets the most clicks.
If you don't hear anything back from a prospect, or they don't take any further action, it's foolish to give up on them completely. Sending follow up emails can greatly increase your chances at driving a sale. They allow you to stand out from your competitors, and to potentially build brand awareness and rapport.
Given that the majority of your contacts simply won't be ready to buy yet, it's very important to reach out again in order to remind them of your product. Not only that, but now more than ever, people lead busy lives and it's all too easy to forget about a message that may actually have been of interest.
After sending the initial email, you should aim to send 3-4 follow-ups in order to have the greatest chance at engaging the prospect. Don't get pushy in your follow-ups, but instead focus on asking if there's any information they require, and the specific benefits you can offer them. Asking if they have time for a call is often a good tactic to move things along and get out of the emailing cycle.
Remember to follow up with just a handful of prospects each time; you don’t want to become swamped with work if they all turn out to be ready to buy!
Creating a successful email campaign may seem like a huge challenge, but don't feel daunted. While there are a lot of different factors that go into making it a success, providing you follow best practices and give your strategy the time and care it deserves, you can see fantastic results from email marketing.
Be sure to measure and test everything as you go, as this will allow you to make any adjustments in good time.