Email marketing continues to be one of the most powerful tools at marketers’ disposal. According to Statista, email marketing spend topped $350 million in 2019 in the United States alone.1 When it comes to B2B marketing specifically, email is a powerful method to catch prospects’ attention. 87% of B2B marketers rely on email marketing to generate new leads, and almost a third (31%) of B2B marketers cite email as the channel that makes the largest impact on revenue.2 B2B sales teams also rely heavily on emails as a critical prospecting tool. With so much riding on these communications, marketers and sales teams need to work together to make sure their emails provide maximum impact. We’ve put together some best practices to help you optimize your emails and lead buyers down the B2B sales funnel.
They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. B2B marketers and sales teams should think of their subject line as their chance to make a good first impression on their audience. Forty-seven percent of email recipients say they open a marketing or promotional email based on the subject line alone, and 69% say they will report an email as spam if the subject line is suspect.3 In short, it’s essential to get this one right. Here are a few tips:
A. Keep subject lines short and to the point so they can be easily read on mobile.
B. Avoid words that are spam triggers. Use a testing tool to make sure you aren’t using copy that sets off alarm bells. Tools such as Subject Line Tester are free and easy to use.
C. Tout the email’s central message – for example, if the email offers your client a discount, put the percentage off in the subject line.
D. Personalization is a powerful tool – just including a name in the subject line can improve open rates by 18%.4 If the email recipient was at a recent conference, or recently visited your website, use what you know about them to capture their attention and include a personalized message referencing that recent interaction.
Brand example: The Freelancer’s Union
The Freelancer’s Union is a nonprofit that provides advocacy, programming and curated insurance benefits for freelancers. The subject line of this email from The Freelancer’s Union was, “Yes, you really do still need a business card.” The message conveyed the point of the email and the service the Freelancer’s Union hopes to provide.
For more subject line tips, read my last article.
According to Campaign Monitor, email is one of the top three most influential sources of information for B2B audiences.5 It’s crucial to convey essential information about your business quickly so prospects know right off the bat what your company does and how they can benefit from it.
A clear call-to-action (CTA) is another important component of your email message, as it encourages prospects to take the next steps to learn about a product, sign up for a newsletter or make a purchase. The right CTAs can significantly improve click-through rate (CTR), as studies have shown that emails with a single call-to-action increase clicks 371% and sales 1617%.6
If this all sounds like a lot to convey in just one email – that’s because it is. But it’s achievable with snappy copy and good design.
Brand example: Wired Plus
Wired Plus, an email marketing agency, sent prospects the email below. The body of the email starts with a benefit for its readers – tips about email workflows, something that is relevant to the audience they are targeting. The message has a CTA to read more, which offers the reader a benefit and helps Wired Plus lead the prospect to their website, hopefully propelling the next step on their buyer journey.
Underneath the CTA, Wired Plus spells out precisely what their company does and how they can help the reader. They offer another CTA to get in touch; however, it’s much more subtle than the big magenta “Read more” button used in the earlier paragraph. This is an excellent example of how to educate the prospect about your company without being heavy-handed, long-winded, or boring.
Personalization is a trend that blurs the lines between B2B and B2C marketing. People have come to expect a high degree of personalization in advertising for products in their consumer lives, which has seeped into their expectations for marketing in their professional lives. In fact, 72% of B2B buyers want a personalized experience.7 Marketers who use personalization need to make sure their data is accurate because clean data is the bedrock of personalization.
Brand example: The Expert Institute
The Expert Institute is a technology platform that connects law firms with experts for complex litigation. They wanted to try a personalized email campaign where the prospect receives an email directly from the Expert Institute vice president of client relations, George Cuchural. The message, which had an informal tone and minimal design, looked like an email from a colleague or a business contact.
To ensure the campaign reaches as many prospects as possible and generates optimal results, the Expert Institute first cleansed their data. The campaign resulted in a 200% increase in conversion, a 60% email open rate, and a 20% click-through rate.8
A study by Email Monks found that companies that use drip campaigns generate 80% more sales at 33% lower costs.9 A drip campaign sends pre-written, automated emails, or “drips” to its intended audience. Welcome emails and reactivation emails are common examples of drip campaigns. The goal of the campaign is to reach the right audience at the right time with a relevant message to lead them down the buyer’s journey. Companies should carefully map out their drip campaigns to keep recipients engaged and interested.
Brand example: Jaspersoft
Jaspersoft is an analytics reporting company. They decided to use a drip campaign to convert leads that signed up for a free trial of their platform. The campaign sent five emails over a 30-day period, all with pointed messaging and CTAs that would lead to the next step in the buyer’s journey.
The emails included:
At first glance, this looks simple, but Jaspersoft sent leads down 40 different paths based on their behavior during the free trial.
According to Hubspot, B2B marketers with blogs generate 67% more leads than B2B marketers without blogs; this is a testament to the power of content.10
Content marketing is an umbrella term that covers a lot – including social media posts, blog posts, articles, webinars, whitepapers, research, etc. Content is a great way for B2B companies to establish themselves as thought leaders within the industry, increase brand awareness among prospects, and lead buyers down their conversion funnel. There are many different ways to get your thought leadership out to your audience, and email is an integral part of that. The Content Marketing Institute confirms that 91% of B2B marketers say email is their most important channel for its overall content marketing success.11
Brand example: Ciox Health
Ciox Health is a healthcare information management company. In 2016, they wanted to expand and generate new leads. They decided to invest in content that would be distributed over email. They sent an email containing the below infographic that reached 1,884 prospects; 42.8% opened the email, and 14.5% clicked on the content, which led to 18 closed-won opportunities.
Conclusion: Email is one of the most critical channels for B2B companies to generate new leads and engage prospects, so it needs to be approached thoughtfully. By combining strong subject lines with clear copy, compelling CTAs, a personalized touch, and persistent messaging, companies can increase leads and conversions.
Want more email marketing tips? Watch our webinar on email design strategies to boost performance and engagement.
Matt Hickman services as the Senior Vice President of Sales at Data Axle. Matt has 20+ years’ experience as a sales leader and mentor, speaker, sales strategist, and digital marketing executive. He’s passionate about bringing innovative CRM technology solutions to complex marketing challenges and has deep expertise in new business development in SaaS and agency services organizations, with a focus on innovative prospecting, lead generation, and revenue growth with leading global brands. In his free time, you can catch Matt mountain biking or fly fishing in the pristine rivers of Oregon.