In B2B, email marketing is one of the most used and most effective ways of communicating. It might not be as shiny as some newer channels and touchpoints, but it's still a fantastic way to build an owned audience from which you can get results. Email marketing is also one of the few channels used to create authentic and personal interactions with the individuals that keep your company running.
Your company's potential and existing customers didn't give you their information lightly, so use it right — email marketing is relationship-building, measurable, and profit-building.
You should use email marketing to build upon an existing relationship with your potential and existing customers by providing relevant, valuable information that helps them take action on their goals.
And remember that email marketing isn't about you, your company or your offering. It's about them, your potential and existing customers. If you keep this rule in mind, your contacts will read and use your content, and they will look forward to hearing from you again.
Unless you have the resources, free time, and capital to individually build a personal relationship with each of your potential and existing customers, email should be your best friend when it comes to communication.
How email marketing works
As we explain in our article 'What is email marketing?', this marketing method is an interactive process with your potential and existing customers. Companies that use it effectively find that it helps boost conversions and revenue by providing subscribers and customers with valuable information to achieve their goal or solve their challenges and problems.
When to use email marketing
Email is one of the most foundational communications tools there is – in the same way that the telephone or SMS is part of our daily life. This means there's countless ways you can use it in marketing, but some of the main reasons companies use it is to:
- Build and maintain relationships with prospects and customers.
- Keep the company and its services on the top of the receipients' minds.
- Alert recipients about relevant content and news.
- Gain more data to increase relevance and personalisation.
- Promote products and solutions.
Email marketing benefits
Email is just one item in a modern marketer's toolkit, but there's a few factors that give it an edge over other methods of communication.
- With email, you are effectively the owner of the content and the distribution platform. There's no entity outside of basic privacy regulations that affect how, when or why you should reach your subscribers – you're the one who decides. This gives you many more possibilities than with social media, for example, where you need to battle with algorithms to build your audience and get your content in front of your followers. With email, you have a direct connection.
- Soon there will be four billion email users worldwide, so if you're looking for a way to reach prospects and customers, email is an excellent tool. Not everyone visits your website regularly, nor is everyone active on social media — but basically everyone has an email address.
- It's relatively easy to see a return on investment from email marketing, compared to other online marketing activities. The range of tools that allows you to send and track the performance of emails is very wide, and it's fairly simple to follow a customer's path from a marketing email to a subsequent purchase or conversion.
- Email is an excellent way to nurture leads, move them down the funnel, and encourage them to become customers. As mentioned above, email gives you a direct line to your audience and the trackability of email makes it easy to see who is most interested in your communications, allowing you to focus on nurturing them more.
Email marketing also has its disadvantages - but used correctly, it provides a direct line to your audience that few other mediums can match.
Getting started with email marketing
If you're at a B2B company, each of your prospective and existing customers likely receives a huge number of emails every working day. Your emails to them will be mixed in with invitiations to meetings, messages from their boss, and alerts about urgent things they need to take care of. If you don't take the time to construct good marketing emails, they won't get noticed or will end up in spam folders.
It's therefore essential that you learn how to create emails that people will want to read. You'll never get 100% of your recipients to open and read your emails – in fact, you'll be lucky to get 50%. But by following some key steps, you can increase your success rate considerably.
Define your target groups
A relevant email is a good email. Like everything else in your communication, start with your buyer personas, understand what they want and need, and tailor your emails to the target group's needs.
You can find more information about defining these target groups and segmenting your list accordingly in this article: Email marketing: Becoming data-driven
Set your goals and KPIs
Before you set your email marketing goals and KPIs, consider the context. Research the average email marketing stats in your industry and use them to benchmark. It's no use looking up average open rates for B2C ecommerce marketing if you're a B2B company with industrial customers. If you need help to find out what your industry's benchmarks are, we can give you a hand.
Create a way to sign up
If you want to send emails, you need people to send them to. You need a list of email addresses to people who have permitted you to send them relevant content. To make this list, you need to make sure people have a number of ways they can opt-in to receive your emails. Building a high-quality list of engaged subscribers takes time, so while you build the list, you must value every single subscriber — do this and you'll begin to see your email list grow organically.
Choose what type of email you will send
There's many different kinds of marketing emails, and trying to decide which one to use can be overwhelming. Your choice will be different if you are sending a weekly newsletter compared to a big product announcement. Questions like these plague every company, and the answer is always subjective. You could start by learning about the different types of emails, then decide which is best for your audience. You should also set up lists for various email types so that your potential and existing customers can sign up only for their wished-for and relevant emails. Some recipients will want to be notified when you launch a new product, but they might not want to get weekly updates about other things — it should be possible for them to choose.
Make a schedule
Decide how frequently you want to contact your segmented list, and tell your audience when they subscribe — this way, they'll know in advance when and how often they will hear from you. Make sure to stick to this schedule over time so you don't lose your audience's trust — if you suddenly start sending five marketing emails a week instead of one a month, they might feel like you have misled them.
The time and day you send your email can have an effect on how successful it is — for guidance, take a look at this article: When is the best time to send a marketing email?
Measure your results
Measure everything. Being meticulous about every fundamental metric will help you make small changes to your emails that will yield extensive results.
If you now understand the main steps for creating an email marketing approach and plan, we'll go through what's involved in building your email list.
Building your email marketing list
Now the pleasant part begins — filling your email list with potential and existing customers that will be excited to hear from you. There are many ways to build your email list. Tactically, list building comes down to two key elements that work cohesively to grow your subscriber numbers — lead magnets and opt-in forms.
Use lead magnets
Lead magnets are what they sound like — something that attracts your potential and existing customers to join your email list, usually in the form of a relevant offer. The offer could be a number of different things, but it is always something that's valuable which is provided to the reader in exchange for their data.
There's just one challenge — people have become protective of their data. You can't expect to receive email addresses if you don't give people something in return.
Think about it and decide on a lead magnet that is relevant, useful, and makes your prospects' lives easier. It's always good to think whether you would be willing to hand over your email address in exchange for access to the lead magnet.
Here are some ideas for lead magnets that you could provide to attract email list subscribers:
- Free consultations
- Reports or studies
- Trial subscriptions
If you're short on resources, you can repurpose your existing content to create lead magnets when starting to build an email list.
How to create lead magnets
Remember that your lead magnets should be relevant. Here are some tips that can help you create and provide valuable assets that will grow your email list.
Make your offer actionable and solution-oriented
Provide useful content that solves a problem, and suggest realistic ways to achieve the desired solution.
Ensure lead magnets are easy to consume
Your lead magnets must be in digital format. It doesn't matter whether they are PDFs, videos or something else, as long as they are easy for your potential or existing customers to obtain and consume.
Don't over-inflate your lead magnets' value
It's tempting to describe your lead magnet as the most fantastic and valuable piece of content ever, in order to get more signups – but from the subscriber's perspective, there's nothing worse than signing up for something and being disappointed by what follows. Be honest, and ensure that your promise matches the value you will provide. Otherwise, you risk damaging trust.
Lead magnets are a stepping stone to your solution.
The main point of your email list is to guide subscribers to a paid solution. You shall offer free content to demonstrate the value you provide as a company, and these free offers should subsequently lead to further interest in your products, solutions or services.
Create offers relevant to each stage.
Every new lead will be at different stages of their buyer's journey, and you must know which stage. Segment your list by providing separate opt-in offers that pertain to each stage of the buyer's journey. You will get to know a lot about a contact's mindset by keeping track of the content they consume.
Enticing opt-in forms.
You use your opt-in forms to get the contacts' data. Opt-in forms are the gate between your future leads and the incredible asset that you have created for them. Here are some tips for creating an enticing opt-in form:
- Design and headers – your forms should be well-designed and stand out to attract people to sign up.
- Relevant content – Your lead magnets are intended to get people to hand over their data, but it should never be to deceive them. Any information and content on your form should be a truthful representation of the offer.
- Simplify forms – Your forms are usually your first interactions with potential customers. Make it easy to convert and don't scare them away with long forms with lots of fields. Instead, only ask for the most essential information. Their first name and business email address is an excellent start.
- Ensure your workflows work – Always test the workflows and the user experience thoroughly before you go live. Double-check that the form works as intended, that the thank you page is live, and that you deliver as promised. The first impressions need to be effortless and straightforward.
Sending marketing emails
If all of this goes well, after a while you will have a robust list of contacts, subscribers, and leads that are waiting to hear from you, preferably via an email with a snappy subject line that grabs their attention - for tips on how to create these, take a look at this article: Email marketing subject lines: Tips for making them clickable
Even when you have all this in place, you can't start emailing just yet unless you want to end up in a spam folder, or worse, on a blocklist.
Before you start emailing :
Choose an email marketing service
An email marketing provider (ESP) must be able to provide you with the needed support and experience while also improving your email marketing.
HubSpot's email marketing tool allows you to create, personalise, and optimise marketing emails. There are various features that can help you build great email marketing campaigns and support your email marketing goals.
Additionally, it also gives you tools to help you analyse the outcome of your email marketing and share the most critical data with your team.
HubSpot also has smart content tools, which allow you to personalise your emails — it's possible to use smart content to show different versions of the same email to different recipients, depending on factors like their industry, location, or lifecycle stage. Take a look at this article to find out how we use smart content at Zooma: Personalised email marketing: How to use HubSpot smart content
These are a few examples of features you should consider when choosing an ESP:
- Built-in analytics
- CRM platform with segmentation capabilities
- Easy-to-build forms, landing pages, and CTAs
- Email split-test ability
- Simple ways to comply with privacy regulations
This final point leads us on to the next important consideration – complying with privacy regulations when sending marketing emails.
Email marketing regulations
Email regulations are a reflection of people's desire to know how, when and why their data is used. You and your company are legally bound to comply with these regulations, but this won't be a problem if you care about complying with what your potential and existing customers actually want.
The EU's General Data Protection Regulation came into effect in 2018, and regulates (among other things) how companies store and use individuals' personal data. Email marketing involves storing and using this personal data, so you need to make sure you are compliant when working with it.
Some people may view these implemented email regulations as burdensome and unnecessary. But GDPR actually moves you and your company closer to build long-lasting relationships with your customers.
GDPR is about giving your potential and existing customers the right to choose. They want to actively choose things, e.g. to become subscribers or get specific alerts from your customer portal.
Note that GDPR only applies to businesses that operate in the European Union and companies that market to EU citizens. Noncompliance results in significant fees that aren't worth the risk, so make sure that you understand the GDPR guidelines fully before starting with email marketing.
While you do that, here's an overview of steps you can take that can put you on the path to being GDPR-compliant.
- Comply immediately with contact's requests for access to their data.
- Delete contact data on request.
- Keep company records to prove GDPR compliance.
- Make it simple for contacts to unsubscribe from your list or update their preferences.
- Only collect data that is necessary for and relevant to your business.
- Retain data for justifiable business purposes only.
- Securely store your contact's data and only use it for the agreed-upon purpose.
- Use precise, explicit and clear language when requesting consent to store personal information.
You and your company need to take these regulations seriously, so it's a good idea to create a GDPR plan for your company before you start sending out emails.
Avoid spam filters
It takes valuable time to create effective, GDPR-compliant emails, so the last thing you want is for them to end up in a recipient's spam folder.
Ending up in a spam folder will skew your analytics, it'll mean that your contacts will likely miss some or all of your emails, your deliverability rates will be negatively effected across the board and you won't be able to measure your performance accurately.
- Spam folders will skew your analytics.
- Your contacts will most likely miss all or some of your emails.
- Your deliverability rates will hurt cross the board.
- You won't be able to measure your email marketing effectiveness accurately.
You can avoid spam filters by:
A whitelist is a list of approved senders that are allowed to reach the subscriber's inbox. The best way to get on a contact's whitelist is to have them add your email address to their address book. You can include instructions on how to do this in your welcome email.
Mind your text
Avoid using caps and multiple exclamation points, as well as spam trigger words, like "click below", "opt-in", and "order". Such terms are commonly used in spam emails and they are easily detected and marked down by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), even if you're not intending to spam your contacts.
Use a reliable ESP
Your ESP's reputation affects your deliverability. If a lot of spammers use a certain ESP, their bad behaviour can have an effect on your email marketing efforts. Fortunately, you can avoid this by sticking to established, well-known ESPs. We use HubSpot here at Zooma - if you want to see how it stands up against the competition, you can find out in this article.
Implement a double opt-in
After someone opts into your email list, you can send them a follow-up email asking them to confirm by clicking on a link. This is known as double opt-in, because the contact opts in twice – first when they fill out the form, and again when they click the link. This method ensures that your new subscriber is genuinely interested in receiving your emails, and they will be more engaged in the long run.