email marketing best practices

13 B2B Email Marketing Best Practices That Drive Engagement

Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding!

That’s the sound of 347.3 billion emails hitting inboxes across the world – every day!

Is your business part of the daily commute on this busy highway of communication? If not, then now is the time to get started. Email marketing generates $36 for every $1 spent, meaning email marketing ROI is 3600%.

Before you shake your head and say these numbers only represent the B2C market, here’s another statistic for you: 77% of B2B buyers prefer to be contacted over email. That’s more than double any other channel.

Now we can go on quoting stats, but take our word for it, email marketing is a vital (if not the most important) digital marketing channel.

It could be, that despite your best efforts, you haven’t seen the type of success that marketers boast of online. We would recommend a strategy reset. Align with some tested and proven B2B email marketing best practices to sharpen your approach and get the results your competitors are enjoying.

13 Best Practices To Optimize Email Marketing For The B2B Ecosystem

Here’s a curated list of our top B2B email marketing best practices to get you started.

1. Set your coordinates

Like any other marketing activity, your message must lead to a certain behaviour, nudge people to consider a CTA, or influence a set of decision-makers. Hence, ‘Step Zero’ of your marketing activity should be goal setting.

Sit down with your team and pen down your objectives. A good place to start is with the four questions below:

  • What do you want to achieve from your email marketing campaign? Are you aiming to boost lead generation, nurture existing clients, or re-engage inactive ones?
  • Who will be at the receiving end of your emails?
  • How often do you want to send emailers? Weekly, fortnightly, or monthly?
  • If you want to keep email marketing as an ongoing activity then do you have the resources to manage? What do you need to invest in terms of software, time, and personnel?

At the end of this activity, you should be sitting on an email marketing strategy. That’s exactly how you want to start, with a plan!

Some notes for B2B scenarios:

Unlike B2C marketing, selling to an organization requires more strategy and time commitment. The buying decision is often made by several people and over an extended period of time. So, when answering the above questions imagine the entire buying lifecycle of the product and the people you need to convince at each stage.

2. Target the ‘right’ inbox

With your strategy in place, it is time to get into the details of ‘whose’ inbox you will reach.

As discussed in the B2B marketing scenario, you will have a ‘group’ of decision-makers across your sales lifecycle. Using audience segmentation as a tactic will sharpen your messaging efforts, help you understand your customers better, and improve your marketing analytics.

While building audience segments in a B2B campaign keep in mind:

  • Industry and company details including the size of the cohorts you want to target
  • Their place in the decision matrix and designations
  • Business needs: their pain points, objectives, and the value your offering brings to different groups
  • Their place in your funnel: are they new to the product, are they repeat customers, etc?
  • Their locations and, if applicable, language

Audience segmentation is only possible when you have a large enough list of emails to target. So, make sure you keep working on growing your email lists and subscribers. Make it an ever-present and vital part of all your marketing efforts and be sure to include your opt-in form with content items, landing pages, special offers, and social media outreach to acquire new subscribers.  

3. Hook the reader with an enticing subject line

Your subject line will determine whether your email gets opened and read or deleted and ignored, so concentrate your creativity on making your subject line catchy and clear.

In a B2C emailer, you can directly pitch a sale and as long as the subject line is quirky and attention-grabbing you have a good chance of bumping up your open rates. However, B2B sales work a bit differently; deal values are higher and decision makers are scattered, hence, positioning your brand is the first priority.

You need to come across as a reliable expert in the field and engage with the reader before pitching your product. One cannot hard sell with CTAs like ‘Buy Now.’ Instead, a long-term approach focused on fostering a relationship has a better chance of success.

No one will hand over a big contract on the strength of one (or even several) emails. Think of your emails as a relationship-building exercise, where your CTAs are more about getting to know your customer bit by bit.

Here are some tips for writing compelling subject lines:

  • Short and sweet: Recent data from Campaign Monitor found that somewhere between 28 and 50 characters is the optimal length for a subject line. Keeping in mind that since most emails are now read on mobiles, it is better to keep to the shorter side of this range.
  • Tell what your email is about: The subject line should clearly depict the subject of your email. Include the main value that your readers should take from the message. 
  • Clear, specific language: Keep your subject line clear and to the point. Often, we get carried away in the quest to sound different or try to be clickbait-y. Think of your audience — a busy professional on a workday clicking through official emails might appreciate clarity over creativity.

4. Keep the message direct and concise

The average person gets over 120 business emails a day; many of them require an answer or an action. People at work don’t have the time to go through long blocks of text trying to find your point. It is best to keep your B2B emails short and to the point.

  • Keep the length of the email between 80-150 words.
  • Add relevant visuals or graphics to break up your text and support your message. Visuals to emphasize your brand such as logos and brand colours are a must. An image that makes the offering obvious is also great to introduce your offering to the busy professional.
  • Make it scannable with bullet points, highlighted text, layout formats, and colours.  
  • Keep the language light, and avoid jargon unless it is specific to the industry.

5. Make your emails personal and conversational

No one wants to be at the end of a generic email. And yes, we all know it’s software adding our names from an Excel sheet, but it still feels good, right?

A B2B email is read by a person. While you might not want to come across as too casual, an easy-to-read, conversational tone is appreciated and will set you apart as a helpful, friendly brand.

Apart from maintaining a positive vibe and adding automated personal features, make sure that the main content of your emails resonates with the audience segment you are sending it to. It is easy to fall into the trap of sending the same email to everyone, especially when time is tight. We recommend that you spend some time on each audience segment, put yourself in their shoes, and build a message that is more likely to connect with them.

6. Avoid spam triggers

Spam triggers often land your emails in the spam folder. Email providers consider a combination of factors before assigning you to the bottomless pit of spam.

Your emails can get sent to spam if you:

  • Don’t have an unsubscribe button in your email.
  • Have broken or glitchy code or a format that makes for a poor reading experience.
  • Don’t personalize with the name of the sender.
  • Buy email lists online and mass-send messages to email addresses that don’t exist or have not subscribed to your service.
  • Use all-caps text and extreme punctuation (!!!!! or ?????) or strange fonts in the subject line.
  • Use spam trigger words in your subject line. Spam triggers words are generally linked to making over-the-top promises or offers or sensationalizing information. Words to avoid include Buy, Clearance, Sale, XXX, Earn $, Make Money, Bargain, Cash, FREE, Million dollars, Unlimited, etc. 

7. Include a clear call-to-action

PartnerStack saw a 111.55% jump in its conversion rate by tweaking its homepage CTA copy from “Book a Demo” to “Get Started.” Open Mile experienced a 232% jump in conversions after removing clutter and adding white space around their landing page CTA.

These are just two examples to demonstrate the criticality of CTAs. A call-to-action is the anchor of all your email marketing efforts. Everything you do and say should be aimed at getting your reader to click on that little button.

Be sure to really think through what you want to write on your CTA button, how you want to design it, and where you want to place it in your email. Ideally, a reader should see a prominently displayed CTA above the fold (before they scroll). When it comes to the CTA button, EVERYTHING is important. When in doubt, follow the next point. 

8. Make A/B testing a default for every email you send out

Your open rate might show you how your campaign is working; but do you know why? More importantly, could you have done better?

To improve your campaign, you need to constantly try new things. Testing them on split audiences is a good way to understand what your target likes and will react positively to.

Use A/B testing to try out different subject lines, design options, emailing time or day, CTAs, and more. However, remember to test just one element at a time!

A/B testing is a constant activity and if you don’t have the resources to optimize constantly then we can help.

9. Keep your emails mobile-friendly  

Over 50% of traffic online is from mobile devices. This means at least half of your emails will be read on a smartphone; so you need to plan for optimum readability of your emails on mobile devices. Here are some tips: 

  • Keep your subject line and the body content brief. 
  • Draft the pre-header text more thoughtfully (these are the first 2 lines of the email usually visible under the subject line). 
  • Plan for loading failure of images by ensuring that your text copy makes sense on its own.
  • Test your emails on various devices to see how they display on mobiles and tablets. Tweak buttons, space, text formatting, and visuals accordingly.

10. Use automated workflows

It is hard to imagine running an email campaign manually! Email marketing software is a mature market and offers so many features that it is almost criminal not to use it.

For B2B email marketing, you can use automation workflows that are most useful in the following ways:

  • To manage segments and lists: Tag email contacts with any new information you receive about them, like demographic details and job characteristics. Then use this information to segment subscribers into different lists based on their behaviours (e.g., event attendance) or designation or geography.
  • Set up funnel-based workflow: Create email journeys for all stages of consumer interactions. For example, send welcome emails to new subscribers, and lead them into the next steps. Create email campaigns for someone who has registered for a webinar and so on.

There are several excellent email marketing software on the market. Read our blog on How to Evaluate the Right Email Marketing Software for Small Business before making your selection.

11. Monitor and track your performance

Like everything else on the digital plane, each click has data attached to it. Invest time and effort to understand what this data pipeline is telling you.

Monitor continuously to figure out what is working and what your A/B testing is indicating. Tweak your campaigns to follow the upward-facing trends.

12. Follow up with respondents

Reply and communicate with people who get in touch with you. We have all experienced dud emails where a beautiful emailer got us excited enough to click on a CTA but felt ignored thereafter.

Don’t let your customer’s attempt to engage go into a black hole of unread notifications. Not only will you not gain any ROI or leads from the email campaign, but more importantly you will lose the goodwill of readers and a chance to engage with them later.

Always, always make sure a team member is responsible for monitoring and replying to any actions taken on your emailers. Don’t start unless you have the resources to tie up this last loose end.

13. Lower your email campaign’s bounce rate

The bane of every marketer: bounce rate is the number of emails that don’t land in the inbox. It could be because of a full inbox or a wrong email address. Whatever the cause, you want to ensure that yours remains low.

A high bounce rate could get you labelled as spam by your email provider. So if your bounce rate is anywhere over 2-5%, you need to fix the problem right away.

Here are some basic email marketing hygiene steps you should follow to keep your bounce rate to the minimum:

  • Make sure you update your email lists regularly and weed out any inactive addresses that are bouncing your email back.
  • Avoid buying email lists and build your own with genuine subscribers with a double opt-in strategy.
  • Avoid a trip to the spam folder by avoiding all spam-triggering words and checking for broken links or badly formatted images.
  • Finally, use your own domain in the sending email address to add a layer of credibility.  

Before we sign off…  

For 84% of B2B businesses email marketing is the most implemented marketing tactic. Clearly, these businesses are getting good results and high ROI. As many of these could be your competitors, you can no longer afford to sit this one out.

Focus your marketing manpower on refining your email marketing strategy with these best practices and unlock the full potential of B2B engagement today.

Happy emailing!

Itching to put these B2B email marketing tips to practice? Let us help you get started the right way!