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B2B Email marketing that stands out

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B2B email marketing matters more while face-to-face marketing remains on hold. This article is about creating an effective email campaign. Busy people clear their inboxes as fast as they can and many people are so full-on busy that they don’t respond to an email even if they intend to.

Since lockdowns and working from home, digital marketing channels have become increasingly noisy and email response rates have fallen. HubSpot quoted average open rates for email messages of around 20%-21% in 2019, falling to 16% in 2021. This was after an initial increase after the first lockdown when marketers sent fewer campaigns. Now in 2021 email volumes have increased by 7%, and email fatigue is a reality. Can we make email messages stand out better amidst the digital “noise”?

Tighter targeting for B2B email marketing

Experts in email marketing always recommend personalising the message. This can be more than simply placing the readers’ names in the field at the top of the message, it can mean personalising the message to make it extra relevant.

There are two parts to this. The first is to segment the contact database more finely, and the second is to tailor offers to smaller segments to make each message more meaningful to the reader. There is a clear trend towards this increased granularity in B2B marketing. While some businesses still send one “newsletter” to their whole database, tighter targeting is more effective, because the contacts generally represent many roles with varied interests. This finer segmentation is probably the biggest single change you can make to increase email response rates, and any insight you have into your customers’ circumstances and needs is enormously valuable. The message must pitch the right offer, to the right people, for the right reasons.

Everyone knows that good marketing campaigns are customer-focused. In this respect email marketing is becoming easier, as marketing automation systems are very transparent. You can see who opened each message and if they clicked to get more information. This insight should help to shape the next email marketing piece to work better than the last.

Email marketing that is technically correct

It is important to get the technical aspects right. Here’s a quick re-cap.

Never send marketing emails from a generic email address such as “info@”. These are likely to be trapped in the spam filters of corporate email systems.

Keep the database current and clean. Nobody wants to receive two copies of the same message, and removing the rubbish from the database increases the response rate for each campaign because you are sending fewer messages.

There must be an unsubscribe feature. This ensures that you comply with the GDPR, and people who are never going to be interested can unsubscribe. The email open rate will increase if the list is cleaner.

It is important to fill in the preview text area with words that encourage the recipient to read further.

B2B Email message format

The subject line has to capture the contact’s attention in a few words. I have read that about eight words works best, and that 75-100 words is recommended for body copy. That feels about right. However, this may not allow enough space to explain everything fully, so there may be links to longer landing pages. The headline and the first few lines of the message should state the purpose of the email clearly, because the viewing pane in Microsoft Outlook may only show the first part of the message.

I specialise in business and technology markets, and I don’t believe that flashy designs, emojis or pictures of cute dogs work for B2B email marketing unless they match a company’s brand values. B2B marketing is about being professional and communicating in a succinct and helpful way – although companies selling creative services may want to be more imaginative and demonstrate their original thinking.

Most email marketing systems make it easy to check that the message looks good on PC and mobile screens. They usually suggest that you test different versions of the message to find out which subject line and copy works best before mailing a large list. It goes without saying that the links in the message must be checked to be sure that they are working correctly.

Professional presentation

In B2B marketing the value of products and services can be very high. Usually, the aim of the email message is not to close a sale, but to start a new sales conversation. If you are emailing a “cold” list, the recipient will only read your message if it is directly relevant to their needs at the moment it arrives. The email message needs to look credible too.  The message should therefore include your logo, full contact details and any applicable quality marks and awards. The language and tone of voice should be professional and correct for the audience. It should probably be a little more formal for senior executives and more casual for millennials.

Hard-sell offers and false promises are a turn-off, but genuine discounting will close orders if people can purchase easily online – as with printer cartridges for example.

It is always worth repeating an email offer to the same group later on. A contact who is not in the market for your offer today might become interested a few weeks later – but exclude those contacts who have already become sales leads or customers.

Finally, if a professional copywriter is writing your email messages, they will know classic ways to structure an advertising piece that contains all the elements it needs.

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