B2B email marketing is not dead: 3 ways to revive (or improve) your strategy

We hear it from prospects and new clients all the time: email marketing doesn’t work. Open rates are low, no one replies, and the few clicks they do get don’t go anywhere.

On the other hand, we’ve seen email marketing be an effective, valuable, and cost-efficient marketing channel. In fact, one of our clients recently had their best week in email marketing ever, leading to 10 demo requests. The key is to make sure you’re doing B2B email marketing right.

What does it mean to do B2B email marketing right?

Approach B2B email marketing like B2C email marketing. Here’s what we mean by that:

In many B2C (and D2C) companies, email marketing is their most effective and foundational marketing channel. They build entire teams dedicated just to email marketing – with directors, managers, specialists, and so on. They invest time and resources into curating hyper-relevant and personalized content for different segments of their audience, tracking email data rigorously and cleaning their databases diligently and regularly. 

While a full team might not be necessary (or feasible) in every B2B context, taking steps to allocate more resources into this channel that is low-cost and accessible can yield impressive results – if you follow these three critical things that B2C email marketers do. 

1. Clean up your email database regularly.

In most cases, the reason for a low open and engagement rate is because it’s been a while since your database last had a thorough spring cleaning. Low open and click rates then contribute to bad sender IP reputation, landing your carefully curated emails in the spam folder – or worse, blocked entirely from inboxes. As such, it’s crucial to regularly clean your marketing database and ensure those open and engagement rates stay above industry standards

To clean up your database, you need to remove unengaged email accounts from your regular send lists to ensure that they are not bringing down your stats. “Unengaged” can mean a lot of things:

  • There’s debate in the email marketing community as to whether “unengaged” should be measured by open or click rates. Open metrics are becoming unreliable due to the prevalence of bots, but click metrics need to be matched to website analytics to make sure they’re accurate. Ultimately, it’s a judgment call for each organization based on whichever method works best for them and how quickly they can supplement their database with new contacts.
  • For Hubspot, their predetermined filter is defined as “never engaged with a marketing email from you and hasn’t engaged with the last 11 emails you’ve sent them” or “previously engaged with one of your marketing emails but haven’t engaged with the last 16 emails you’ve sent them.”
  • Across our clients, we define contacts as “unengaged” based on historical data. For example, at one of our clients, our historical data reveals that the likelihood of re-engagement after 3 months of no engagement is 5.23%, while after 2 months that number is 10.8%.

Recommendation: Find what engagement criteria makes the most sense for your email database – whether it’s based on open or click metrics, a time period or number of emails sent – and set up a process to clean out your database regularly. 

2. Standardize the data in your email database – and then hyper-personalize.

If you’ve ever worked with a large marketing database, you probably know how difficult it is to keep your data clean. You’re getting data from numerous sources (sales intelligence vendors, conferences, website forms, etc.), and some fields could be interpreted in different ways – or change overtime – and can get messy (industry, region, position, and so on). Plus, most contacts are added to the email database and completely forgotten, leaving them on a general list where they will continue to receive generic emails that aren’t always relevant to their needs.

However, investing in standardizing the contacts in your email database can be a game changer. It can lead to more accurate data tracking, strategic insights, and hyper-personalized email campaigns that are significantly more likely to engage your audience. Once contacts are standardized, it’s extremely easy to filter contacts for personalized outreach. Segmenting your audience into lists before sending them customized emails has multiple benefits – ranging from higher open and click rates, to better deliverability, improved customer experience, and increased ROI. 

Recommendation: Stick to the standardized format as you grow your database of contacts from multiple sources (freelancers, conferences, online forms, and so on). You can also invest some resources into automating this process, or hire a vendor or freelancer to do it for you (quick plug: we offer this service). Then, when you’re writing your next email to your entire audience, think of ways to tweak them into multiple personalized versions. Can you add an interesting article for different industries? An event happening in a specific city? Holiday well wishes for residents of that country? Finally, plan a hyper-personalized campaign for a specific segment of your audience.

3. Run opt-in / out emails.

Yes, opt-in and opt-out emails can seem scary. Many of us live with the assumption that no one really wants to receive marketing emails. However, you’d be surprised by how many people are willing to receive emails if they provide them with relevant, valuable information and content.

Recommendation: If a dedicated email feels too extreme, start by including a quick opt-out message at the end of your regularly scheduled emails or newsletters. It will build credibility with your audience, ultimately improve your email marketing performance, and you might be surprised by the results. 

PS: If you’re scared of people opting out, maybe it’s time to rethink your email content strategy as well; we recommend “the reader”.

The bottom line

Contrary to popular belief, B2B email marketing is not dead. In fact, it can be a powerful tool if executed properly. With minimal additional investment, email could end up being your most cost-effective, successful marketing channel yet.

Further reading:

Tim is a Marketing Director at Blue Seedling, avid surfer, and proud cat dad.

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