How effective are B2B emails? Are they really worth sending out? If yes, then what should you consider before sending them out? What are the B2B email marketing best practices you should follow?
Email marketing has become a standard tool for businesses to reach their target business audience. However, not all companies are using B2B email marketing strategy effectively. Some marketers send too many emails or forget to include essential details. Others miss the mark with messaging to their target audience. These and other mistakes can result in low response rates, poor customer satisfaction, and lost sales.
Effective B2B email marketing is a powerful way to connect with your customers. The key is to follow these best practices to ensure you get the most from your B2B email marketing plan.
1. Authentication and email deliverability
Before clicking send on your next email, you should double-check that your business has set up SPF, DKIM, and DMARC protocols correctly. These DNS records are used to authenticate the emails you send.
In all likelihood, B2B marketers won’t be the ones who set these records up. However, you need to check in with IT to ensure you’ve got everything in place for optimal email deliverability.
Sender Policy Framework (SPF) is a way for email servers to verify the sender’s identity. Your email marketing service provider may already have an SPF policy that covers your marketing emails sent through their shared servers.
However, you may need to add your email marketing provider’s SPF record to your DNS if you plan to use a DMARC policy to customize your domain authentication or if you already have an existing SPF record. Check with your provider and your IT department for assistance.
DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is a technical standard that protects email senders and recipients against spam, spoofing, phishing, and other malicious activities.
DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) is an email authentication protocol designed to help prevent spam from reaching your inbox. To get DMARC to pass, you must configure either DKIM or SPF correctly. If you don’t have a dedicated IP, opt for the DKIM security protocol to ensure DMARC will pass. You can also set up SPF as another security safeguard if required.
2. Email database hygiene
Email marketing platform Aweber recommends that companies clean their email lists at least every six months. And when it comes to B2B email marketing, you may want to consider tending to your email marketing lists more often. After all, people change jobs an average of 12 times in their lives, so B2B contact information and buyer needs can go stale quickly.
Clean up hard bounces
Maybe you’re thinking, “Big deal if some people are no longer at a certain company and my email bounces.” Well, a high bounce rate is a big deal. Here’s why.
Email Service Providers (ESPs) track how many bounces your email campaigns generate and use that data to determine your email credibility. So tend to hard bounces regularly to keep Email Service Providers (ESPs) happy, so your emails don’t end up in the spam folder. Plus, won’t it be nice to see your deliverability rates improve?
Manage email addresses with low-engagement
This type of list cleanup is a little more painful: Valid email addresses of people who don’t seem that interested anymore. So it kind of hurts, doesn’t it, to delete valid email addresses. But, it’s more important than you think.
When people stop engaging with your email marketing campaigns and email newsletters, that’s often a sign that they are no longer interested or that their needs have been met. Use this as an opportunity to do a reactivation campaign by emailing your low-engagement peeps and asking if they’d still like to hear from you. Everyone who says to keep them on the list stays. Everyone else, “buh-bye.”
It’s better to cut them loose than to have them mark your email as spam.
Bonus: your open and click-through rates will start looking much better because your target audience is better represented.
3. List segmentation
Even the cleanest email lists are more valuable when B2B marketers focus on email list segmentation. After all, you’d like to send your B2B customers different content than you would send to qualified leads, right? Therefore, your email content and calls to action will probably differ for potential customers from established clients.
Here are some other audience segmentation ideas for your B2B email marketing list.
- Past purchases
- A buyer persona (and you may have different buyer personas per industry or customer type)
- Job function
- Prior email campaign or content engagement
- Lifecycle stage
- Geography or sales territory
- Behavioral changes (stop interacting with specific content; begin visiting new pages on your site, etc.)
- Event attendance
- and so forth
If there’s a way to home in on specific sections of your audience and craft even more relevant email content and offers, experiment with that list segmentation as part of your B2B email marketing efforts.
4. Email personalization
Email personalization goes beyond adding someone’s first name or company in the content or email subject line. A successful B2B email marketing strategy will ensure the email touch is relevant and valuable to your target audience of B2B buyers.
List segmentation will take B2B email marketers a long way in developing personalized email campaigns. But segmentation isn’t the only consideration.
For an effective B2B email marketing strategy, marketers need to consider the following areas regarding personalization.
- Message: if the email is for a healthcare buyer persona, don’t send an email that sounds like it’s for the construction vertical targets, for example.
- The context: is the email triggered by an action the contact takes on your website? Is it based on reaching a milestone or making a purchase? Leverage dynamic content from your marketing automation platform to incorporate those details into the message when appropriate.
- Reading/browsing preferences: does the recipient tend to engage more with video or white papers on your site? Send emails to them about educational content and formats they prefer to consume.
5. Email message length
Believe it or not, the optimal email marketing message length is 50 – 125 words. Crazy, right? How can you possibly explain the awesomeness of your offer in so few characters???
First of all, I have faith in you. You can do it. Second, this limited word count is more about B2B email marketing campaigns outside of newsletters.
Why 50 – 125 words? Well, people get a lot of emails every day. A LOT! Experts estimate that around 4.5 billion emails will be sent and received daily by 2025, according to The Radicati Group. They also estimated that individual business users would receive an average of 126 emails per day by 2019.
So, cut your recipients a break and give them B2B email campaigns that are concise, easy to digest, and cut to the chase ASAP. However, if you need more words to get your point across, try doing an A/B test of a longer message versus a shorter one.
6. Email design
Let’s discuss designing emails your B2B customers and prospects will trust and engage with. Here are some of the B2B email marketing best practices to keep in mind when it comes to design.
You want to earn trust when people see your emails in their inboxes. Make sure that the sender name field is easily recognizable. Opt for something related to your company and department. GetResponse shared these email sender name examples:
- [Company Name] – “The B2B Mix”
- [Name of the person] from [Name of the company] – “Stacy from The B2B Mix”
- [Name of the company] [Name of the message or topic] – “The B2B Mix Newsletter”
- [Name of the department] at [Name of the company] – “Podcast Team at The B2B Mix”
- [Name of the company] Team/Community/Crew – “The B2B Mix Crew”
If your subject line sucks, so will your open rate. So you’ve got to be intriguing and trustworthy with the line you select. Make sure you’re subject lines are:
- Succinct. A study by Marketo revealed that a subject line consisting of 41 characters or 7 words is the ideal length for maximum engagement.
- Compelling. Write something that makes your readers want to open your emails. Lead with a remarkable statistic. Ask a question. Do something to pique the recipient’s curiosity.
- Fun. Sure, we’re talking about B2B email marketing tactics, but that doesn’t mean you have to be boring. Use an emoji. Try a pun. B2B customers like to smile, too. 😊
- Transparent. I don’t know about you, but I find it a little deceptive when people place “Re” or “Fwd” in the marketing email’s subject line. It’s a trick to get me to open—to make me think it’s a response to something I sent them or something someone I know forwarded to me. So don’t use these tricks or other gimmicky subject lines.
- Tailored to the reader. Use the recipient’s name or company in the subject line. Add a call back to some other relevant content that the recipient interacted with, etc. There are plenty of email marketing automation and personalization tools to help you here.
Preheader text snippet
This snippet is the bit of copy that you see immediately following the subject line when you’re viewing your inbox. You can think of this as an extension of your subject line that gives readers more information about what to expect from your email.
A study by GetResponse found that email messages with preheader text have an average open rate of around 29%: Almost 7% more than emails without preheaders. So preheaders are definitely a component to incorporate into your email design.
Not sure what to write for a solid preheader? Unlayer shares these tips for writing great preheaders.
- Keep your preheader text between 30 and 70 characters
- Use personalization
- Relate the preheader to the subject line, but don’t copy the subject line
- Ensure that the preheader length is mobile responsive
- Use this area to add context, value, or pique interest
Your email header is the first thing your email subscriber will see when they open your message, so it should give the reader a clear sense of what the message is and a reason to keep reading. Consider combining a solid headline with a captivating visual to entice recipients to read more.
Ensure your header and overall email design stay true to your brand guidelines. In addition, you want your emails to be consistent with your other marketing materials and online presence.
We discussed message length earlier, but the art of email copywriting itself is crucial, too. Ensure you share relevant content and write in a conversational tone that fits your brand voice and meshes with the intended audience. A beautifully designed layout with trash copy is wasted.
Use email-friendly fonts that will display accurately across devices. If you want to be a little fancier in your font game, you can use a web font in your email if you have a system font set as a fallback. On the other hand, you don’t want a crazy font issue to make your latest campaign or newsletter email a disaster.
Make sure that any images you use are web-optimized to keep the overall size of your email in check. The larger the files, the more difficult it will be to ensure delivery to your subscribers’ inboxes. You can use photo editing software to optimize your images or try an online solution like Squoosh.
Also, keep in mind that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) monitor the text-to-image ratio in emails. The more text you include compared to design elements/images, the better. And think about it this way: Many people, especially business email users, block images in emails from downloading by default. If the reader’s first impression is a bunch of blank space because the picture didn’t download, they will probably delete the message.
GetResponse recommends a 60% – 40% or 70% – 30% text-to-image ratio, and you should also remember to use ALT text on your images.
Pro tip: if you want to have fun with your email images, consider incorporating a gif or using a static image of a video that subscribers can view on your site or YouTube after clicking.
Call to action
Your email should feature a call to action (CTA) that guides B2B leads and prospects to the next best step you’d like them to take: book a demo, download a white paper, or start a free trial. You can determine the appropriate CTA based on each message in an email sequence or based on a lead’s stage in the sales funnel.
Some additional tips for stellar CTAs:
- Focus on one CTA per email, two at the most. You want to keep the recipient focused on taking the next most valuable action.
- Make your call to action short and action-oriented.
- Keep the CTAs above the fold.
- Make your CTA stand out without being distracting.
Sometimes email marketers overlook the footer and only use it to feature the elements required by law. However, this area represents extra space where you can promote other content, give a special offer, or emphasize something else about your brand.
Accessible design. Email is one of the most common ways people communicate, so your emails need to be accessible to everyone, including those with visual impairment. Check out this video from Constant Contact covering how to create accessible emails.
7. Email spam markers
You can do many little (and big) things that scream, “this is spam,” and get your message caught by a spam filter. To lessen the likelihood that you’re emails go to the junk folder, make sure you:
- Include an unsubscribe link in your email
- Avoid poorly designed emails with glitchy code
- Use the recipient’s name instead of addressing them as “friend” or “dear”
- Don’t use purchased email lists
- Ensure your email list is clean and that you’ve removed hard bounces
- Don’t use all-caps or excessive punctuation (like multiple exclamation points or question marks in a row)
- Avoid non-system fonts (or at least include system fonts as a fallback)
- Don’t link to suspicious sites
- Leave “spam trigger words” out of your copy
8. Email-related laws and regulations
We’re not lawyers, so we aren’t going to tell you what you need to do in your business. However, we will point you to some key sites where you can learn more about some of the most notable spam and privacy laws marketers need to be aware of these days. Check with your legal experts if you have questions. This area is one B2B email marketing best practice you shouldn’t skip.
B2B email marketing best practices include abiding by the laws
Here are just a few of the more well-known regulations. Check what regulations govern marketing in your country or region as well as the country/region of those whom you email.
CAN-SPAM – applies to the marketers and the emails they send to contacts within the United States.
CASL – Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) protects consumers and companies from spam (and other digital technology misuses).
CCPA – The California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (CCPA) gives consumers more control over the personal information that businesses collect about them.
GDPR – The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the world’s most stringent privacy and security law. The European Union (EU) member states drafted and passed the law. Still, it imposes obligations upon organizations everywhere, as long as they target or collect data from people within the EU.
Tools & Resources to Help You Apply B2B Email Marketing Best Practices
- Salesforce Marketing Cloud Email Swipe File – design examples
- Really Good Emails – these are B2B email marketing examples specifically.
- Swipefile.com Emails – design examples
- HubSpot – email marketing and email automation
- Unlayer – email design
- MailChimp transactional emails – email platform for transactional messages (system maintenance, billing info, etc.)
- ZeroBounce – email validation platform (list cleanup)
- SubjectLine.com – free subject line evaluation tool
Ready to Apply These B2B Email Marketing Best Practices?
The elements of a successful B2B email marketing strategy vary, but the basic principles are always the same. Keep these factors in mind as you plan your next email marketing campaign, and you’ll be well on your way to success. Thanks for reading!
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