The ultimate beginner's guide to successful B2B email marketing

Newsletters and e-mail campaigns are often underestimated as marketing tools. This traditional online channel can be used for more than simply addressing private consumers; e-mail marketing is also a great outlet for speaking to business customers. Whether their purpose is marketing support or to try and win new customers over, B2B newsletters are a valuable means of communication for businesses. We have collected the most important facts on B2B e-mail marketing as well as tips for successful interaction with customers.

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E-Mail marketing for B2B customer retention

B2B products are usually high-priced, complex, and often need explaining, which is a challenge for their marketing departments. Products like these have relatively long purchasing processes, so it makes sense to accompany the customer throughout this step, which can be done with the help of editorial newsletters. With lots of detailed information and useful service tips your business can gain attention and maybe even win long-term customers in the process. Customised e-mails enable you to address certain target groups depending on where they are in the purchasing process. This means you can send individual messages with tailored information. E-mail marketing is the ideal means for ‘lead nurturing, which means that, little by little, this contact eventually leads to a purchase.

The difference between B2C and B2B e-mail marketing

B2B products are usually costly, complex, or both. Businesses don’t generally expect any spontaneous purchases, and instead engage in a longer buying process. Purchasing incentives should depend on the characteristics of the recipient group. Rather than working with private customers, B2B marketing is all about dealing with professional business partners that don’t have much time to sift through newsletters. Both of these factors have an important influence on all further planning aspects such as the layout, how to address recipients, and the main focus points of the content. A B2B e-mail marketing campaign has its own dynamic.

Target groups and mailing lists

B2B mailing lists tend to be less extensive than those comprising of private customers. The challenge is to perfectly develop this small, yet very relevant market, which means taking special care of the contact list. In B2B situations, each individual contact is potentially very valuable. You have to look into bounces (visitors leaving the site soon after arriving) more precisely and get in touch with new contacts in order to stay on their radars. The right B2B newsletter software lets users classify bounces automatically as well as deregister clusters. This is how you can ensure ideal recipient management.

Technical implementation

The technical side of B2B e-mail marketing is your friend as well as your foe. Marketing managers use elaborate tools available to make the most of automation, tracking, and precise segmentation with larger recipient groups. In a business environment you can quickly end up in the spam folder where even an elaborate mailing tactic may sometimes fall flat. You should pay special attention to the following points:

  • Spam testing: In B2C settings many recipients use free e-mail providers such as Hotmail and Yahoo whose spam filter systems aren’t as effective as those used by businesses. When it comes to B2B, e-mails from unknown senders need to be checked carefully. Whitelisting isn’t usually possible. Before you send a B2B newsletter, it’s a good idea to first test for deliverability. Most professional delivery systems have a built-in spam test, this way you can rectify problems before you send any newsletters.
  • Attachments: you often have to expect extra security mechanisms when dealing with customers with very high security standards (e.g. banks). Many systems see e-mail attachments as security risks and block their access or sort them out in advance. A possible solution would be to load the attachment onto the server and then integrate the download link. Even HTML newsletters are classified as security risks by many businesses. Here it’s advised to use multi-part e-mails or text-only e-mails, or you could even ask the recipient whether they prefer HTML or text e-mails when they sign up to the newsletter.
  • Optimisation for business clients: since free e-mail programmes are rarely used in B2B settings, you should optimise your newsletter for professional clients like Microsoft Outlook. Make sure you also optimise your product for smartphone clients, like iOS, Android, and Blackberry. This will ensure that the content is displayed as best as possible on each device.
  • Mobile optimisation: even though more and more people are using the internet on their cell phones, many businesses still fail to optimise for mobile display. All landing pages (not just B2B newsletters) and the content of related links should be checked for mobile-friendliness and responsive display.

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The legal aspects of B2B e-mail marketing

In Europe and Canada a double opt-in process (where a subscriber confirms that they want to receive the newsletter) is necessary, since e-mails can only be sent to recipients who have given prior consent. In the UK, there’s an anti-spam law enforced by the Information Commissioner. If this law is breached, the offenders can find themselves faced with a fine of up to £5,000. You can send e-mails to corporate subscribers, but not to individuals unless they have given their consent through the double opt-in process.

The right timing

Knowing the right time to send out your newsletter is very important in e-mail marketing and is essential for opening rates and click rates. Instead of basing the dispatch time on outdated theories (e.g. never send anything on a Friday afternoon), companies should trust their instincts. This means that finding the best time of day to send out e-mails is sometimes no more than a game of trial and error. With the correct tools for sending e-mails, you can easily perform A/B testing (also known as ‘split testing’). You can read more about this topic in the article on newsletter software providers. With B2B marketing, the right time of dispatch is even more critical, as the time frame in which the customer has to answer is a lot smaller.

Relevant content

Many B2B e-mails end up being walls of text as marketers attempt to cram as much information as possible in order to sell their products and emphasise their USPs. When addressing business customers, you should abide by the general guidelines for successful B2C newsletters. Short and precise wording and crisp texts that always focus on the company’s unique selling points and customer value are what counts here. The layout doesn’t play a very important role, but it should nonetheless be taken into account. Your corporate identity should be reflected through a distinctive colour scheme and logo. Images and videos should only be used when they are actually relevant and support the content. Make sure to avoid symbols and illustrations (e.g. a picture of a handshake when mentioning contract signing).

Three tips for B2B newsletters:

  • Short and precise USP and emphasise customer value
  • Avoid clichés and symbols
  • Always keep the target group in mind

Right campaign planning: the dos & don’ts

A company needs a couple of things upfront in order to run a successful B2B e-mail marketing campaign. Besides defining the target group, segmenting individual recipient groups, and having a long-term content plan, you should always keep the big picture in mind and try to implement multi-level campaign planning. It’s a balancing act between long-term planning and acting on current trends.

With B2B, it’s important to ensure continuity by planning in advance and regularly uploading high-quality content. Knowing the ordering schedule of your customers and targeting them with specific offers is the way forward.

B2B E-mail marketing: dos & don’ts

Dos: Don´ts:
• Short, precise texts • Dry sales offers
• Focus on USP and customer value • Impersonal addressing
• Multi-level campaign planning • Incoherent, uncompelling newsletters
• Legally and technically correct implementation  
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