11 Best Practices for Successful B2B Email Marketing in 2021

11 Best Practices for Successful B2B Email Marketing in 2024

Most of us are familiar with B2C email marketing. This is especially true if you shop online, because the websites often ask to send emails when an order is placed. Sometimes they’ll even collect emails without an order, usually in exchange for a coupon. After that, you’ll get announcements about every sale, promotion, and product launch that they have. You’ll also see a limited number of newsletters in B2C email marketing, especially with nonprofits.

However, these days B2B businesses are also wading into the world of email marketing. In fact, if you’re reading this, I am hoping that you are one of the 83% of B2B companies already sending newsletter emails. Sending notices to a business email is a great way to inform potential customers about the range of products and services that are available. Combined with content and other marketing efforts, this is quite effective. Let’s look at some best practices.

What is B2B Email Marketing?

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Strictly speaking, B2B email marketing is the practice of sending emails from one business entity to another with the purpose of selling products and services. Emails are usually sent from the marketing or sales team and are addressed to the decisionmakers in target companies. Such decisionmakers can include department managers, procurement, and anyone else with influence.

B2C VS B2B Email Marketing

One of the objectives of B2C email marketing is convincing people to buy something right now. Whether that’s a toy for a birthday, new seasonal clothing, or the latest beauty product, you’re asking the target customer to choose you over a competitor. Unless a customer needs something regardless of marketing can’t wait, offering a promotion is often the best way to sell things. For many of us, waiting until there’s a sale and then stocking up has become a way of life.

On the other hand, B2B email marketing is done a bit differently. While promotions are occasionally used, most B2B buyers need to make an informed decision. Smaller examples of this might include choosing the right company laptop for employees who travel or work from home. This level of buying decision is similar to the consumer process, except it needs to pass the procurement process.

Purchasing large machinery or an office full of printers and copiers is much more complicated. As a rule, the larger the purchase the more corporate bureaucracy has to be dealt with. In addition, some things like production equipment must meet certain standards to be effective. To that end, B2B email marketing does a lot more with providing information. When the buyer determines a product is perfect, they’ll call sales and negotiate a price.

Prepare Your B2B Email Marketing Infrastructure

Our first set of best practices focuses on preparing your infrastructure. Infrastructure includes email services, lead generation, automation, targeting, and more. These are things that you should prepare in advance for your B2B email marketing strategy.

1.) Choose the Right Email Service Provider for Your B2B Emails

Choose the Right Email Service Provider for Your B2B Emails

There is no one definitive provider. Depending on your needs, there are many email marketing tools competing for your business. Big names for email management include MailChimp and Constant Contact. Most of them can be used for both B2B and B2C efforts, so if a tool works well for your B2C campaigns you might want to try that one first.

However, sometimes your B2C email solution doesn’t work well for business pitches. In this case, choose a solution that has features that will help your B2B marketing such as CRM functionality, social scoring, tagging, automation, and the ability to create popups and landing pages for your lead magnets. That way, you’ll be able to do all your B2B email marketing in one place.

2.) Create Lead Magnets to Fuel Email List Growth

B2B email marketing is all about providing valuable information to stakeholders. This information can include industry news, client successes (with permission), and product or service specifications. Overall, the idea is to both be of service and help a potential client decide what their company needs. To that end, one of the best ways to grow your email list is by providing content in exchange for joining.

This type of lead magnet is tried and true: One research study indicates that 36% of B2B decision makers consult white papers at the beginning of the buying process. These white papers tell this person and their team what is available on the market. From there, they can view specifications and compare them with corporate requirements. In addition, these white papers help justify the expense as necessary.  

3.) Create Sophisticated Automations for Your B2B Customer Journey

Create Sophisticated Automations for Your B2B Customer Journey

B2B email marketing campaigns should be automated. Emails should be sent out based on the ideal customer journey from first inquiry to ongoing purchases. Typically, you want to send automatic emails based on customer behavior, and which encourage their making a purchase. Automations should include the following:

Lead magnet autoresponder

These send out an email to customers who participate in a lead magnet activity. It could be that they downloaded a white paper that requires an email address or filled out a response card. Either way, you’re looking to build a relationship with this person.

New user welcome

Did someone join your online community? Many B2B brands have a place where users can interact with their products and services. In this case, you should send out a welcome email. Another time to do this is when the customer joins your email list through other avenues, such as requesting information.

Email drip campaigns

Sending just one email probably won’t get your products sold. At least, not as often as you need B2B email marketing to work. For that reason, you need to have automatic drip campaigns. These send regular, targeted information to your sales prospects.

Re-sending to non-openers

If your email didn’t get opened the first time, send it again. You might not want to do this with every email, but you should still follow up on a regular basis. This way, you get another chance at getting an email opened without investing in the creation of new ones as often.

Re-engaging with subscribers

Finally, some B2B email marketing efforts should be directed towards re-engaging your subscribers. Many decision makers are busy, and they don’t have time to engage with everything which comes their way. So, you’ll want to send emails that encourage engagement for the best results.

4.) Don’t Forget the Welcome Email

Getting someone’s email address and permission to use it for marketing is only part of the battle. Once someone signs up, send them a welcome email. These should set customer expectations and answer questions they may have. Answer questions in the copy or direct them to a web page where all the information is posted. You should also include any legally required disclosures.

Quality emails from a responsive brand are key to the success of your B2B email marketing. In fact, many expect to get a welcome message within a few minutes of signing up. Meeting customer expectations in this regard makes a positive impression.

5.) Create a Tagging System to Segment Your List Based on Engagement

Create a Tagging System to Segment Your List Based on Engagement

Another way to maximize your B2B email marketing efforts is by tagging your email list. In this case, the idea is to send tailored emails for each group of customers, so they’re more likely to respond. By far the best way to do this is to tag them based on interest level. This means determining what they interact with. For a marketing agency, that might mean segmenting the customers who are interested in a total makeover from the ones who might only want influencer marketing services.

B2B Email Marketing Strategies to Follow

Having the best setup on the planet won’t ensure B2B email marketing success, however. You still have to use your resources to maximum effect over many campaigns. With the infrastructure in place, these are the best practice strategies to follow.

6.) B2B Email Marketing is All About Providing Educational Information to Allow Your Prospects to Make a Better Purchasing Decision

Both consumers and businesses like to be well-informed about major purchases. While a pack of pencils isn’t necessarily a big deal, fixed assets are a major decision. Not only must these meet required specifications, but quality and customer service are important. Many business customers will want to ensure they know about the company and its reputation before buying something.

Studies bear this out. In fact, one study shows that among B2B subscribers, 26% are primarily interested in company news. Such news items can include product releases, but changes in management and acquisitions are also a frequent topic. As the saying goes, people buy from people.

7.) Subject Lines are Critical for Your Marketing Emails

Subject Lines are Critical for Your Marketing Emails

If you’re like most people, when you check your email you’ll initially glance through the subject and sender line. Why? Because you want to see what’s most important and deal with them first. To that end, emails from your boss will get your immediate attention. Sales professionals will also read inquiries from sales leads or customers early on.

However, marketing emails don’t get that much attention. In the case of purchasing decision makers, the ones which pertain to products and services that are needed will probably be read first. The rest of them are often ignored. In fact, most people don’t open marketing emails unless you entice them to do so through your email subject line.

8.) Personalize as Much as Possible

Most of us love personalization. One way we know this is the number of offices we walk into that has personalized desk accessories. Another example is fun stuff with an initial on it. But did you know that personalization within B2B email marketing helps as well? In fact, personalized subject lines are just the beginning. A recent study by Hubspot found that when an email  has a personalized call to action, the email will perform 202% better than the ones with basic CTAs.

9.) Include One Call to Action

It doesn’t matter how well your B2B email marketing material is written, though, if you don’t include a call to action. After all, people who subscribe to your emails already have some interest in your company. Casual web browsers don’t typically cough up their emails. However, not all CTAs are created equal. One marketing agency did a study which found that, for 90% of CTA link texts, the words “more info” were more effective than “buy now.”

Once again, this shows the importance of providing B2B customers with information. Especially with major purchases, business buying is highly information based rather than emotional. Demonstrate that your product or service is best for them, and when they’re ready to buy you’ll have the advantage over competitors.

10.) Pick the Right Time to Send

Although getting people to open your B2B email marketing content is never going to be an exact science, sending it at the right time does help. In general, the best time to send email is just before your customers are most likely to check their emails. For business customers, this is often 10 AM. Since many people get to the office between 8 and 9, the 10 AM slot is just after they’ve dealt with the most important emails.

Thing is, once the typical decisionmaker has read and responded to emails from the boss and coworkers, they’ll start looking at other emails which are relevant, including marketing. Other popular times to send email is at midnight, 1 PM (catch the after-lunch email check), and 4 PM (last call for distractions). As always, pay attention to customer habits by checking open times. This will allow your company to fine tune its approach.

11.) Don’t Forget to Re-Engage with Your Subscribers

Finally, anyone who does B2B email marketing needs to keep people from falling through the cracks. While people are often quick to subscribe to emails, many don’t keep up with everything that’s sent to them. This is one reason why Epsilon has found that around 40% of a given email list is inactive.

To combat this problem, you’ll need to re-engage your subscribers. There are many ways you can do this, such as by sending a few manual emails. Consumer surveys are another method you can use, as is the “we haven’t seen you in a while” email. As always, check to see if your jurisdiction requires the occasional re-subscription.

Being successful in B2B email marketing is an important way to acquire and nurture sales leads. As email becomes a more important way of communicating, putting your best foot forward is more important than ever. Yet, this is an art form that functions differently from consumer marketing. Luckily, by following these best practices you have a good chance of success.

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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