Hands down, B2B email marketing is your most effective marketing option for reaching out to other businesses. You can generate leads, share product news and build long-term relationships. But there’s one big challenge.
When something works so well, everyone uses it. In fact, 85% of B2B marketers are using email for lead generation. As the most popular digital marketing strategy, you’ll need to elbow past all the other B2B marketing emails in your contact's inbox to stand out.
In this article, we’ll show you the best practices on how to break through the B2B email marketing clutter—and how to do it in style.
B2B (business-to-business) email marketing is when you use email to promote products and services to other businesses for professional purposes rather than to individuals for consumer purposes.
Historically, B2B marketing lacked creativity and personality. That is changing! Businesses are realizing that communicating their values with a distinct personality can be extremely effective. You’ll see in the examples below how some B2B email marketers are infusing creativity into their messaging.
Email marketing is only effective when it’s done right. To make sure your audience likes what they see and clicks your call-to-action, you need an email marketing strategy that:
Defines clear goals - What do you want your audience to do?
Identifies your audience - Who are you talking to? What are they interested in?
Establishes a clear plan - How often will you communicate with your clients? How will you measure your efforts?
Without these elements, you will have no way of knowing whether your B2B marketing campaign is having the desired effect. We’ve made you this handy email marketing cheat sheet to make sure your strategy ticks all the right boxes.
Oftentimes, there are several decision-makers and influencers on your email list. Instead of sending them all a mass email, you have a much better chance of winning their trust, loyalty, and business by speaking to each person’s specific needs. Personalization in emails generates a median ROI of 122% and you can accomplish this through subscriber segmentation. You can tailor emails specifically for certain audiences, or include dynamic content blocks within your general email campaigns that are only visible for your target audience.
👉 Tip: There are different ways to use email segmentation. Check out the video below, which shows you how to do it with MailerLite.
If you work in a B2B company that uses a CRM or other software tools, you should be able to access data on your product life cycles, customer behaviors, and other insights into your target audience. Use this information to help segment your email list.
B2B segments can include:
People in different business sectors
Job roles within a company
Different business relationships (e.g. people that know you well)
Regardless of the type of segment, the main thing is to ensure that the right message goes to the right person.
For example, an IT manager and a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) may both have input into a purchase decision for new technology, but they will probably care about different elements. Your task is to make sure you know who you’re talking to—and tailor your email content to suit.
Many of the following ideas can function as a B2B email template for your content marketing initiatives. Take a look at the email design, structure, and messaging.
Some questions to keep in mind as you review these emails:
Is it a personalized email?
Do the campaigners know their audience?
Does it have a clear CTA?
Is the language actionable?
Does it list features, rather than benefits?
Smart B2B email design can have a big impact on lead generation, so take the time to note what resonates, and what doesn’t.
A welcome email is the first impression that an organization makes with its new subscribers. Welcome emails generate 4x higher open rates—and they drive 320% more revenue on a per-email basis than other promotional emails. So when a subscriber signs up, set up an automated email to say “Hi” and set expectations.
In this example below, MarketingSherpa welcomes its new subscribers into the community in their email subject line and then provides a list of all the newsletters that the reader can access. By offering several options, MarketingSherpa is segmenting its new subscribers.
It’s simple, it’s personalized, and it’s a neat way of reminding your new leads why they signed up in the first place!
Events generate the most leads in B2B marketing. If you’re attending conferences and business-to-business events, let your audience know about it! Share what’s happening, and help your clients to get even better at their jobs. Here’s how to do it:
Before an event:
With so many different speakers, topics, and stands, big conferences can be overwhelming. Help your clients by sharing a guide on what’s happening. You could even use the event to invite your potential customers to join the conversation, just like Influence & Co did here:
Pre-event email newsletters like this will reinforce your image as a connected, informed member of the business community, and tell your email subscribers where you’ll be so that you can have more valuable face-to-face interactions.
After an event:
Chances are not every member of your audience was able to attend your event. So it’s up to you to be their eyes and ears, deliver valuable insights and build your reputation as a thought leader who understands the market.
Even if your post-meeting email only contains a few key thoughts, it shows your audience that you’re up to speed and that you care about the industry.
Below, the Charity Ball newsletter summarizes everything that happened with a 2-minute video and a link to a photo gallery of the event.
"We need your opinion!"
As a business that serves other businesses, you have access to the best source of information in the industry: Your clients!
Most of your existing or potential customers would probably love to be recognized as thought leaders. So why not ask them to share their knowledge by sending them a survey invitation email? Check out the example below:
The Uberflip content marketing manager makes the recipient of the email feel credible – and at the same time, attracts material for exclusive content. Anyone who shares their insights will gain exposure, which can lead to greater brand recognition.
Have you introduced a new feature? Created a limited edition product? Set up pre-orders? Share it with your audience! An announcement email builds hype and gets your subscribers involved. You can even add CTAs so that their subscribers can go directly to what interests them, as Atlassian did below.
"Just for you!"
Success in business is about knowledge, and one way your B2B audience tries to stay ahead of their competitors is by gaining access to the latest information.
So if you have access to information or insights that your customers can’t get elsewhere, make the most of it! Generate a report or other content, and use an email marketing campaign as one of the distribution channels.
In the B2B email example below, Hubspot offers exclusive access to a ‘Marketing Agency Growth Report’ - for free! By offering valuable content, they help their B2B audience stay on top of their game.
Similarly, DigitalMarketer shares a guide and a tracking sheet to help their subscribers optimize their email marketing strategy. Again, it is offered as a free gift to their subscribers.
Our free plan includes access to the features you need like automation and landing pages.
Webinars are a great way to deliver insights that your customers find valuable and relevant. Use your B2B email campaign to make a date with your audience so they can catch your live stream.
In the B2B email below, NewsCred entices their subscribers by implying that unless they attend the webinar, they will miss out on a marketing performance metric. When sharing a webinar invitation, a bit of ‘FOMO’ (Fear Of Missing Out) never hurts!
Don't forget to use your webinar emails as an opportunity to stay connected with any subscribers who missed the live webinar by sending them a follow-up link to the recorded version so they can catch up.
"Hello? Still there?"
Months after you launch your B2B email campaign, you might notice that some subscribers are becoming inactive. What happened? First of all, don’t worry! It happens to the best of us.
Many times, your inactive subscribers are either A) too busy at the moment, or B) no longer interested. In either case, there is hope.
You can set up a B2B re-engagement campaign targeting inactive subscribers. This is broken down into a series of 4 different emails:
Send a reminder: Check in with your audience, and let them know that you’re still here.
Add an incentive: Free delivery, exclusive content, promo codes… you name it! Anything that persuades your subscribers to stay and continue to enjoy your product.
Create urgency: Insert a countdown timer into the body of your email. Let your audience know that they might lose a valuable benefit if they do not engage within the time frame.
Say farewell: Hopefully, this last email will not be needed. But if it is, stay positive! Keep it friendly, and include a CTA so that the audience can always resubscribe in the future.
Grammarly includes a ‘wrinkle in time’ badge, a clever way of noting the time that has passed. They also add in a bright red call to action, so that their customers can quickly re-engage with their product.
"Checked this out, yet?"
Use B2B email marketing campaigns to drive traffic to your other sources of content.
Build connections to your website, company blog, or other online resources such as surveys, that will create value and deepen your relationship with your clients. It’s all part of that core strategy of making yourself relevant and helping them to be better at their job.
Below, Inside Design links to multiple relevant articles, so that their subscribers can select which content they are most interested in.
Here, Upwork takes a straightforward approach, sharing a general list of ideas and inspiration for other businesses, driving traffic to their other content sources.
"New strategies to adopt now!"
In B2B marketing, white papers are longer pieces of content, often researched, that exhibit your expertise and insights.
B2B white papers will reinforce your authority in your field. If you have insights into your industry trends, policy changes, or solutions, then don’t keep it to yourself—share it! Write a long-form piece of content that delves into these topics, and show your audience that you’re up to speed with everything that’s happening.
In the newsletter example below, Merkle shares a white paper on how consumer behavior has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic, and how businesses can develop their re-emergence strategy.
"Here's one we made earlier."
A B2B case study is a chance for you to tell your story while also exhibiting your expertise with a real example of success. You might:
Explain how your product or service changed a customer’s life
Show how you are impacting your field
Present your contribution to a project
Case studies are valuable to B2B marketers because they show subscribers your solution in action! Let your product speak for itself, and your audience will see the benefits of becoming your customers.
In the case study below, Animalz starts with a strong opening sentence, explaining exactly why their subscribers should continue reading. Then, instead of a CTA button, they start telling the story straight away, to get their readers hooked! Everyone loves stories. Tell yours, and show your subscribers exactly how you deliver value to your customers.
"Did you know?"
B2B email marketing doesn’t end with the sale! In fact, B2B email campaigns should continue to nurture the customer relationship post-sale. That means that you should be informing customers of updates, sharing new products, and offering advice on how to get the most out of your service.
Emails such as the Asana example below will increase customer satisfaction with your product. They also ensure that your organization is at the top of the list when their company enters its next procurement cycle.
When most people sit down at their desks, something strange happens. They stop being their usual self and turn into their business self. Your business self is rational and goal-oriented. You are focused on getting tasks done and interacting with others in a highly professional manner. You use words like, ‘touch base’, ‘add value’ and ‘best in class’. Transforming into your business self is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s necessary.
But a lot of B2B email marketing campaigns fail to excite their audiences because they focus too much on the rational business points without adding the human, emotional aspects that are necessary to build a genuine relationship.
The power of email marketing is the ability to build long-term relationships.
So when you’re building your B2B email campaigns, find a balance between sharing your business’s value while keeping in mind that you are speaking to a human.
Email is one of the most useful tools in your B2B marketing toolbox. Use it wisely and strategically, and you’ll enjoy the benefits!
Editor's note: This article was originally published in August 2020, but has been updated with fresh ideas and examples.
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