The How-to Guide of B2B Email Marketing for 2020
Many people out there are under the misconception that, because of the rapid rise of social media in recent times, email is declining. This could not be further from the truth. It’s important to realize that more people are using email today than at any other time in the past.
By 2020, there will be more than 3 billion people using email. Another interesting fact is that checking email is the main activity for 94% of internet users, who are getting online solely for this reason. When we think about B2B email marketing, it all boils down to the exchange of information between two or more companies via conversational emails.
All B2B marketers know that their customers typically have longer sales cycles than B2Cs. They also have multiple touchpoints and means of communication. The typical B2B email list is also smaller than those of B2Cs, meaning that the cost per lead is usually higher and will differ considerably from one industry to the next. It also means that B2Bs will need to work harder and more effectively to extract the maximum from each contact.
Using email marketing to guide them through this often lengthy process is the key to success for any B2B.
The Importance of B2B Email Marketing Strategy
The majority of marketers (59%) look at B2B email as their most successful tool when generating ROI. When done right, email marketing campaigns can produce an impressive 4,000% ROI. That’s equal to $40 for every dollar you invest in this digital marketing strategy.
For this reason, 83% of B2B companies utilize newsletters as an integral part of their content marketing program. In fact, 40% of them see email newsletters as a critical element for the success of their entire content marketing. Also, 93% of B2B marketers use email as a top distribution channel for their content.
When looking at B2B customers, around two-thirds have made at least one purchase as a direct result of an email marketing message. The reason being that many of them have highlighted email as their top communications channel for initial product introduction, as well as the post-purchase follow-up. And to top it all off, email marketing was shown to be 40 times more effective as a lead generation tool than both Facebook and Twitter put together.
That said, B2B email marketing won’t generate any of the abovementioned benefits if you’re planning on sending out thousands of generic emails and hoping for the best. A great deal of optimization will need to go into the process, as well as using the right email marketing platforms that will best suit your needs.
To see your email marketing strategy work wonders in 2020, we’ve put together a comprehensive how-to guide, as well as some of the most noteworthy trends to keep your eyes on going into the new year.
Top B2B Email Marketing Trends for 2020
Based on the importance that email marketing has to offer, B2B companies will need to stay on top of all emerging trends when looking to develop their own email marketing program. While some processes and best practices will remain consistent, others may become obsolete or will need to be optimized to perform as they did before.
To that end, we’ve highlighted the top email marketing trends that will influence the market going forward into 2020 and beyond. These include things like user-generated content (UGC), interactivity, accessibility, and email automation.
As its name would suggest, user-generated content (UGC) is any content created by your products’ and services’ users. UGC can take on pretty much any form, going from text, images, videos, audios, etc., and it will work to drive real-time engagement with both customers and prospects alike.
Research shows that around 82% of consumers look at user-generated content and feedback as being extremely valuable. Click To Tweet In addition, approximately 70% will analyze this type of content before making any purchasing decision. This comes at a time when email subscribers are three times as likely to share content on social media than people coming in from other sources.
As such, email marketing will work great together with your social media, helping you generate even more UGC in the future. Incentivizing people via email marketing to contribute content will also help promote authenticity, thus having a direct influence on your conversion rate.
To gather user-generated content from your email marketing efforts, you will need to know how, when, and why you should gather this feedback, in the first place – asking a simple question that will direct your readers to a broader survey will answer the how.
In terms of when to ask for this content, it’s important to allow your customers enough time to experience the product before asking for their feedback. Good email marketing tools will help you decide when it’s the best time to do so. Lastly, understanding the why behind this approach will be the most crucial aspect for most consumers. While some companies can rely on their own brand’s market value to gather user-generated feedback, others have been adding gamification and interactivity into the mix as a means of driving more diverse UGC.
In 2017, over 61% of email opens in the United States occurred on a mobile device. That means around three out of every five people check their emails on the go, while around 75% of Americans say that they use their smartphones to check their email. Given that most mobile users will immediately delete any email that has display errors or is not optimized, you will need to take both a multi-device responsive and an interactive approach yo your email strategy.
Bringing interactivity and responsiveness together can pose a challenge to even the most expert of B2B marketers. If, in the past, interactivity had more entertainment purposes, going into 2020, it will also have more functionality. Its main objective will be to promote engagement and provide your target audience with incentives that keep them from immediately leaving your emails.
Among these interactive elements, we can include things like polls, surveys, and UGC. You can also add user-controlled interactive images and product carousels. Likewise, you can insert animated buttons and CTAs, rollover effects, or accordion features that increase the readability of long-form emails.
With over 250 million smart speakers being installed around the globe and with 54% of consumers using a voice assistant at least once per day, it’s no surprise that virtual machines are implementing the ability to read emails.
Likewise, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 36 million people are blind. This poses somewhat of a delicate problem for marketers. The emergence of assistive technologies will help both email readers and B2B marketers alike.
In terms of the email copy, aim to be concise and to the point. Keep in mind that the average attention span is just above 13 seconds. Also, the average adult person can read at a speed of 250 to 300 words per minute. This suggests that the ideal length of an email is between 50 and 125 words. These types of emails had a response rate above 50%. If you’re looking for the highest click-through rates, emails with around 20 lines of text, or about 200 words were shown to perform best.
When talking about email design in the context of accessibility, consider pulling away from email templates and focus more on text in HTML. There are several easy ways that you can design more accessible emails by:
- Using real text HTML.
- Keep a text to image ratio of 80:20, where 80% of your email is text, and the remaining 20% consists of images.
- Avoid long sections of center-justified text.
- Use appropriate font sizes.
- Use high contrasting colors for easy readability.
- Optimize your line spacing.
Email automation has seen a steep rise over the past decade. This trend is only expected to accelerate going into 2020 and beyond. As marketing cloud services have become more proficient at processing data, they can create improved stat models and cross-channel optimization. This has paved the way for automation and machine learning to become a powerhouse when it comes to B2B email marketing.
As time goes on, we can only expect that the customer lifecycle stages and workflows will increase in their level of automation. Similarly, smarter automated segmentation will also lead to improved performance, accessibility, and customization.
Automated reporting will help relieve marketers, all the while reducing costs and providing an increased ROI. Marketing automation platforms will also support better A/B testing, freeing up the company’s resources for other types of optimizations.
Choosing the Right – Marketing Automation Platform (MAP)
At its core, marketing automation represents a set of tools used to simplify some of the most time-consuming activities. Going from data entry to email and report writing, lead qualifying, etc., all of these will take up roughly 72% of marketing’s time. Performant MAPs will not only send out emails automatically, but they will also identify your target audience and personalize content based on their preferences and behavior, among others.
MAPs will collect customer data through their multi-channel interactions, generating a complete 360-degree view of each customer. This data will be used to personalize all emails and messages based on individual profiles.
Some advanced MAPs out there today include:
- Eloqua – Offered by Oracle, Eloqua is a marketing automation software as a service (SaaS) platform. It aims to help B2B organizations manage their marketing campaigns and lead generation initiatives. It features a marketing campaign planning canvas and email automation, used to target both customers and prospective clients. The platform also tracks opened emails, as well as customer activity and behavior on the website, storing customer information for further analysis. Pricing starts at $2,000 per month.
- Pardot – This is a full-service marketing platform that integrates with Salesforce, Netsuite, SugarCRM, and Microsoft CRM. This is a MAP that’s primarily oriented towards B2Bs, offering an extensive suite of email marketing automation services as well as B2B sales multi-step decision making. Aside from email marketing, it also includes lead management, real-time sales alerts, a landing page builder, and automated drip marketing. Pricing starts at $1,250 per month.
- Marketo – Similar to Pardot, Marketo integrates with Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and SugarCRM. It also provides a whole host of email marketing features, including things like email and landing page creators, intelligent lead nurturing, A/B testing, real-time campaign triggers, mobile-ready template library, dynamic content, automated workflows, etc. Pricing revolves around $2,400, but it depends largely on the number of contacts.
- SharpSpring – This platform is a great all-rounder that will provide you with a full set of features, including an extensive email template library, behavior-based email, dynamic content, campaign tracking, and more. Pricing for this platform starts at $450 and depends on the total number of contacts.
- OpenMoves – This cloud-based email-marketing platform has an automated triggered email module that you can use to send anniversary emails, after-purchase messages, or automatic welcome emails. You can also nurture your leads by sending them customized messages based on their behavior. Pricing starts at $25 per month for 5,000 emails, and there’s a 30-day free trial.
- HubSpot – Email marketing is only a small part of what this platform can offer. Among its email applications, we can include things like lead generation, integrated analytics, personalization, automation, content management, etc. Prices start at $200 per month.
Before you go out to choose a MAP, make sure that it will fit with your business needs.
The Five-Step Plan for a 2020 Email Marketing Strategy
Email marketing can be used to build relationships, brand awareness, generate leads, promote content and products, nurture leads, etc. But before we can go into all that, let’s start with the strategy. It’s always useful to remember that every B2B customer receives over 120 emails per day.
If you want your emails to be noticed and prevent them from drowning or ending up in the spam folder, you will need a well thought out plan. There are five basic steps to get the ball rolling.
- Defining the Audience – For your emails to be relevant and effective, you will need to know your target audience. To do this, you should develop buyer personas. These should include everything from the person’s wants, needs, pain points, FAQs, job title, responsibilities, etc.
- Define Your SMART Goals – Depending on what you want to achieve with your email campaign, your goals will need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.)
- Select an Email Campaign Type – Your email campaigns will vary based on your audience and goals. As such, you will need to segment your email list and set up different email campaigns for each.
- Set up a Schedule – Consistency is key to building trust. And trust is essential in B2B lead generation. Set up a posting schedule and stick to it, and this will ensure that people won’t forget you.
- Measure Everything – Keeping track of your metrics and KPIs will greatly enhance the overall effectiveness of your email campaigns.
Building Your Email List
Aside from purchasing email addresses, which isn’t recommended, there are plenty of more professional ways to build your email lists. Some of the most effective are lead magnets, opt-in forms, and co-registrations.
- Lead Magnets – As their name would suggest, lead magnets are various free offers and gated content that are valuable to your prospects and given in exchange for their email address. Among the types of content used as lead magnets, we can include eBooks, white papers, infographics, case studies, free tools, and webinars.
- Opt-in Forms – Either used in combination with lead magnets or as stand-alones, opt-in forms are required by law. Basically, they provide you with consent from prospects you to send them newsletters and other marketing materials. They can take the form of pop-up forms, dedicated landing pages, or built-in widgets. Regardless, you should make your opt-in form stand out from the rest of the page. Its copy should also be relevant to the offer and should be as simple as possible. Start by only asking for their name and email address.
- Co-registration – Though more commonly used in B2C, co-registrations work equally as well in B2B marketing. This is also a cost-effective technique of building your list. Co-registration takes place when two or more companies partner up to build their respective email lists and form a mutually-beneficial relationship. When visitors or potential customers register to your partner’s webinar, for instance, that partner can also offer them the chance to sign up for your newsletter and receive similar content from you. The key to a successful co-registration effort is to find the right partners. Ideally, you would want to work with someone that targets the same customers as you but doesn’t compete with your product or service.
Segmentation is becoming increasingly important in today’s B2B email marketing. Basically, you are breaking up your email list into subcategories, based on the customer personas and several other factors. This way, you will ensure that your emails will have maximum impact. After all, segmented emails will generate 58% of all your revenue.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this process, so you can break up your list whichever way fits your needs best. That said, you can segment based on factors like:
- Job Title
- Geographical location
- Lifecycle stage
- Previous Engagement with Your Brand (a lead scoring strategy will come in handy here).
The more variables you consider and the more exclusive you make your subcategories, the better your open rates and click-through rates will be. Just remember to create separate lead magnets and opt-in forms for each section of the buyer’s journey.
It should come as no surprise that personalized emails generate better results. They can improve your click-through rates by 14% and your open rates by 26%. Depending on which marketing automation platform you choose, you can personalize your emails in a wide variety of ways.
- Adding the recipient’s name in the subject line or greeting
- Including region-specific information when necessary or appropriate
- Adding job title and company name
- Sending relevant content based on known content consumption
- Tie-in emails based on past engagement
- Finish the email with a personal signature
- Using relevant CTAs
For a B2B company to be successful and effective, it will need to deal with email automation. You can send highly-targeted automated emails in a couple of ways:
- Using a Drip Campaign – Also known as an autoresponder, a drip campaign will send out a series of emails based on triggers whenever someone takes a certain action. For example, you automatically send an email when someone downloads an eBook or white paper.
- Using Workflows – Similar to a drip campaign, email workflows will send automated emails based on people’s behavior and/or contact information. Basically, you will send emails to, say, leads that viewed certain web pages or leads from certain companies and industries. This way, you increase the chances of sending the right message to the right people at the right time.
Avoiding the Spam Folder
Every B2B marketer’s worst nightmare is to have their emails land in their recipients’ spam folders. All your work will be in vain if this happens. The worst part is that this happens more often than people realize. To avoid your emails being flagged as spam, consider the following:
Become Whitelisted – Instead of sitting idly by and hope that you don’t end up on the blacklist, you can take a proactive approach and aim to become whitelisted. You can do this by having your new subscribers add your email address into their address book. Provide directions on how to do this in your onboarding email.
Avoid Trigger Words – Certain words used in your email’s subject line and copy will often red flag your emails and, by extension, your entire campaign. Words like offer, promo, free, buy, or hurry are obvious contenders. Less obvious are opt-in, click below, or order. Both groups will get your emails marked your emails as spam.
Having a Double-Opt-In – Once someone opts-in to your email list, send them another email asking them to confirm.
Work With a Reliable Email Service Provider – Some spam filters will also flag certain email campaigns if they’ve received spam emails from that IP address in the past. To avoid this, refrain from sending emails in bulk and work with a reliable email service provider.
Make sure you images have title tags – Many email clients will not sure images by default so make sure to add a title tag or alt tag to your images.
To make sure that you maximize your assets within your B2B email marketing strategy, you should A/B test everything. This includes variables like subject lines, email copies, CTAs, buttons, images, opt-in forms, signatures, etc.
A typical A/B test works by:
- Selecting one variable to test. Don’t select two or more for the same test.
- Create two versions of that variable, add them to two similar emails, and send them out at the same time.
- Analyze which version performed best.
- Rinse and repeat.
Improve Your KPIs
The most widely used KPIs in B2B email marketing are deliverability, open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribers. To improve your results, you should always look to optimize these performance indicators.
- Deliverability – Make sure you do the most you can to avoid spam filters. Remove any emails from your list that generate hard-bounces.
- Open Rates – The message and subject line will have the biggest influence on your open rate. Also, consider the time of day and week when your emails will work best.
- Click-through Rates – Make sure the offer is relevant to your audience. Optimize your email copy and CTAs and make sure they are as clear as possible.
- Unsubscribers – Make sure your landing pages align with what your emails promise to offer. Always look to provide value to your audience based on the best practices mentioned above.
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