Email is still one of the most popular communication avenues for B2B businesses because your audience likely prefers communicating with you via email. B2B businesses should integrate their email marketing program with all of their other lead nurturing efforts in order to successfully help their audience through the customer journey. To do this, email is used as a lead nurturing tool that distributes your lead nurturing assets, such as ebooks and blog content.
Sender Address & Name
When you create your email address for your email marketing program, use your domain (this builds trust) and get creative, as long as it fits in your messaging guidelines. For example, try [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] The key is to create an email address for each section of your sales and marketing efforts, so your customers can keep each aspect of your business separate in their email according to their personal preferences. e.g. [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] Plus, if they unsubscribe to your marketing emails, for example, they’ll still receive transactional emails.
This setup is critical, so be mindful of this decision and get feedback from your team before setting up the email addresses and email marketing account. You want these email addresses to be used by your customers and prospects, so be sure to include that note in your emails, too. Then, be sure to assign team members (or add it to your to-do list as a solopreneur) to monitor each email account so you can provide customer service through these avenues.
Tip: Avoid using [email protected] or any free email address (e.g. @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @outlook.com, etc.) as they reduce your overall trustworthiness to customers. They also show customers that you don’t want to communicate with them via email, showing them that email is only a one-way ticket for your sales and marketing efforts. Don’t make these mistakes. Make your email addresses friendly so your customers feel comfortable communicating with you via email if they need your assistance. (Most customers prefer email communications, so let it be two-way.)
As a small business, you will likely want to say that your emails are from your Business Name. Typically, only celebrities can get away with being recognized by using their First and Last Name or Name from Business Name.
Tip: If you’re unsure of what sender name to use, A/B test. Then, once you have your winner, be consistent. Lacking consistency will only confuse subscribers and may lower your open rates.
Choosing an Email Marketing Platform
Using an email marketing platform is important to organize subscribers, review analytics, and automate the business’s email marketing program. Email marketing cannot be done effectively in Gmail or Outlook. It’s best to start by using a free email marketing platform, such as Zoho Campaigns, Mailchimp, Mailerlite, SendPulse, or SendinBlue.
There are also industry-specific platforms available. Strategically, there are no big differences between each platform. The important thing to do is to choose a platform, and start creating and sending emails, and gathering subscriber email addresses. Once you do gather subscribers, it’s important to organize them in some way, either in different lists or by tags. This will not only help you send better campaigns to each audience, but it will also help you transfer lists to a different platform if you decide to use a different one later on.
Collecting An audience
B2B businesses should never pay for an audience. Instead, you should create a simple system to request a prospect’s or new customer’s email address when they inquire about your business. The key is to separate prospects and customers so you can send them different email content that relates to their unique needs. This helps you better serve them wherever they are in the customer journey.
We recommend using a lead magnet to encourage your audience to sign up for your email list. This opt-in process typically involves a landing page on your website encouraging sign-ups in exchange for the lead magnet itself as well as the email that contains the lead magnet download. The email containing the lead magnet download should be a trigger-based automated email (standalone or sequence) that automatically sends to your new subscribers when they are added to your list.
Lead magnets encourage people to subscribe to an email list. Subscribers give up their email address, and in return, businesses give them a lead magnet, such as an ebook (see Types of Content in the Other Communication Efforts section). The format of the lead magnet will depend on your business’s services and what your customers could benefit from having. Nowadays, people guard their email addresses, so businesses use lead magnets to encourage people to sign up for their marketing emails. If a subscriber is willing to do that to receive the lead magnet, they are already interested in that business.
Email Creation & Design
Newsletters can be used by B2B businesses to maintain contact with customers and stakeholders. These are often used on a monthly or quarterly basis to keep your audiences in the loop on your business. The content included depends on the intention of the emails themselves. Each email must have a purpose; if an email does not have a purpose for your business and a benefit to your audience, it does not need to be created and sent.
Depending on the business and services offered, a B2B business will want to showcase long- or short-form content within their emails. The length of the content depends on the intent of the email. If an email’s purpose is to provide a transactional purpose, such as confirming an appointment or sending a digital bill, the content should be very short. If an email’s purpose is to provide an informative purpose, the content can be longer.
Most emails are opened on a cell phone, which means campaigns developed solely for large computer screens are often useless on a small screen. Simple, mobile-friendly emails that are responsive are more effective than immaculately designed campaigns that aren’t responsive, so businesses should be sure to use a simple layout and test all emails on multiple devices (or using a service like Email on Acid) before sending them out.
Within most email marketing platforms, businesses can see what devices their subscribers are using to view each email. Combined with testing, you can ensure that every email looks good on those devices.
Automated Email Sequences
Automated email sequences (also called sequenced email campaigns, email automation, and drip campaigns) are ideal for B2B businesses because you can create them in advance, turn them on, and they automatically send to your subscribers.
Automated email sequences can be time-based or trigger-based. Time-based emails are scheduled in advance at a specific time. Each email in the sequence is sent at a specific time interval. (For example, email 1 is sent immediately after a subscriber is added to the list, email 2 is sent one week later, email 3 is sent one day after that, etc.) This type of sequence is ideal for sending onboarding sequences to inform your new customers how your business works, what they can expect when working with you, and recommendations after your team performs the requested services.
Trigger-based email sequences are based on triggers, meaning when a subscriber opens an email or clicks on a specific link within an email, they are “triggered” to receive a specific email based on their open or click (or lack thereof). These triggers show your subscriber’s behavior, so it helps them see more relevant content based on their actions and preferences. Trigger-based sequences are often more complicated than time-based sequences because they offer more options within the sequence, but they deliver a more unique experience for each subscriber based on their behavior. By delivering a more relevant user experience to your subscribers, open and click rates, and purchases or appointments are likely to increase.
Common uses for automated sequences are for new leads who want to download a lead magnet or new customers who need some guidance on how your business works. Either way, the email sequence takes the prospect or customer on a journey to better understand the business and services provided to either choose the business or use the services.
The length of an automated sequence depends on the content included in it. And the content in the sequence depends on the customer or prospect journey. Based on what they need to know, you can determine what content to include and link to, and how many emails to create.
Tip: Each email should have one call to action, so let your calls to action determine how many emails you create. Or, if you have one call to action for most of your emails (perhaps after a lead magnet), then allow your content to determine the number of emails.
The key is to integrate your other content assets into your email marketing efforts. Use your ebook, for example, as a lead magnet on a landing page on your website. Then, in the first email in the sequence, give them the ebook as a download. From there, take them on a customer journey using your blog articles, case studies, and other content.
Tip: Creating fresh content is not necessary for your email marketing. Instead, what is fresh is bringing your customers what they need when they need it in their email inbox.
Common automated email sequences are lifecycle emails. Sending these specific emails at the right times during the customer journey can improve the customer’s experience. These emails include:
- Welcome emails
- Follow-up emails
- Thank you emails
These short and sweet emails show the subscriber that the business cares about them in a timely manner. These emails can be automated and trigger-based or they can be created in advance and sent in batches, depending on the structure of the business. Either way, they can help customers stay engaged with the business and help them through the customer journey in an automated fashion.
Email Marketing Best Practices
A/B Testing: Creating and sending content to subscribers isn’t enough for B2B businesses. Emails should be tested using the A/B method. Testing means taking a small portion of the business’s list, say 10% each, to send two versions of the same email to see which one leads to more opens, clicks, and appointments. Each test should only test one thing, such as:
- Subject line
- Sender email/name
- Call to action button color
- Plain text vs. HTML
- Long- vs. short-form email content
After the test is done, the business can wait about 24 hours for the results to see who won. Which email led to more click-throughs? Then the business should use the winning email to send to the rest of the audience.
Note: Some email automation platforms, like Mailchimp, don’t offer A/B testing for lists that have less than 10,000 subscribers. This is because they recommend a test group of 5,000 subscribers each. (Mailchimp also does not offer A/B testing on their free plan.) However, if your list is small, you can still A/B test sequence to sequence or newsletter to newsletter. Just remember to only change one thing for each (except the content, of course), and test each change for a few campaigns rather than just one.
Personalization: Personalizing emails starts with using the subscriber’s name in the email and continues with using the user data to personalize each subscriber’s emails in an effort to improve their customer journey. For B2B businesses, this means sending customers on your email list a reminder when they are due to receive your services again. This also means recommending services in an email a while after they received a similar service that is relevant, if your business offers multiple services.
Segment Subscribers: Segmenting your subscribers is a great way to personalize messages to groups of your audience. Segments can be as simple as “prospects” and “customers” or far more complicated. Segments, however, can also be used with tags to increase personalization, allowing the business to send a specific message to a specific group of subscribers, increasing ROI immensely because the subscribers will find the email highly relevant based on their needs and place in the customer journey.
Email Scrubbing: Even with B2B businesses, subscribers can become unengaged. When more subscribers than usual are unsubscribing or reporting the business’s emails as spam, it’s time to scrub the list because an email marketing program is only as effective as its lists. Before scrubbing a list, it’s important to attempt to re-engage the unengaged subscribers first. This can be done by sending a re-engagement campaign to try to get them interested in the business again. This campaign can include a lead magnet or special promotion from the business. Those who open the re-engagement campaign stay. Those who don’t will be scrubbed from the list.
Scrubbing an email list means deleting inactive subscribers, looking for and removing spam and duplicate subscribers, and narrowing down the list to active subscribers who are likely to benefit the business. Spam email addresses can be easily spotted by searching for letters and numbers jumbled randomly in an email address. Duplicate subscribers can be found using a spreadsheet. There are email scrubbing services, but a B2B small business can manage these processes in-house better because they know their customers.
Resend to Non-openers: Email is effective, but subscribers are busy. To increase the performance of campaigns with minimal additional effort, you can resend campaigns to non-openers. This can be automated in most email marketing platforms by checking a box or copying an email and setting the trigger to “did not open” the initial campaign. However, this should only be used on the most important campaigns because some subscribers may see the duplicate content as spam. To mitigate this possibility, businesses can limit the use of resends and be clear in the subject line that it’s a resend. In fact, you can A/B test your resend subject lines to see what performs best.
Email Design: When a business uses both marketing and transactional emails, it’s best to have the same basic look for all emails to offer a better customer experience to each subscriber. It can be jarring if the latest campaign emails are on brand and inviting, and then the “Thank you for your purchase” email is colorless and stale. When beginning an email marketing program, you should unify the look of all emails. Yes, the look can change over time and adapt for individual campaigns, but there still needs to be cohesiveness among all emails so subscribers know it’s your business within the first one-second glance (see Visual Branding in Foundation).
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