Ever heard the phrase “build once, sell twice”?
Well, email marketing is one of the few ways you can build once and sell twice.
It’s especially important for B2B companies since there are longer sales process, increasing competition, multiple customer segments, different buyer persons and more decision-makers required to approve something new.
In addition to this, B2B customers can be worth hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. So it’s critical to capture the details of every single website visitor and nurture them until they’re ready to progress through your funnel and eventually make a purchase.
In this article, I’m going to run through the best email marketing strategies for B2B, some great examples, and even my favorite tools.
Let’s get into it!
How can email marketing help B2B businesses?
The main goal of business to business (B2B) email marketing is to build and nurture relationships with decision-makers from other businesses. Ideally, we want to guide subscribers through the marketing funnel with targeted and personalized communication.
Since the sales cycle is long and there are additional considerations it’s highly unlikely you will convert a user into a customer in the same session. This might be the goal of an eCommerce business but it is not typical for B2B companies. So with this in mind, there are four ways I believe email marketing can still help B2B companies:
- Build brand awareness: Even though you might not optimize for the sale in the first session or email you can build great brand awareness by sending valuable content to your subscribers.
- Lead generation: You can attract and nurture marketing qualified leads (MQLs), guiding them through the marketing funnel to eventually convert them into customers. If you aren’t running any email marketing campaigns this will not be possible.
- Customer retention: Sending valuable and frequent emails can build stronger relationships with existing customers through continuous communication, fostering brand loyalty and trust.
- Cost-effective marketing: Email marketing is said to be the most cost-effective marketing strategy. This means email campaigns provide a budget-friendly platform for reaching potential clients.
How to land more customers with B2B email marketing
1. Understand your Ideal Custom Persona (ICP) and Marketing Personas
This is the most important step in creating email marketing campaigns. And it’s equally important to delineate the difference between your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and Marketing Personas. You’re never going to be emailing soulless corporations, instead, you’ll be sending targeted emails to very specific people with similar attributes.
Ideal Customer Profile (ICP): This is a description of the ideal organization or company that would benefit most from your product or service. It's generally a high-level overview of factors like company size, industry, revenue, geographic location, technologies they use, etc. The ICP is used by sales teams to qualify leads and by marketing teams to segment the broader market. It is not as critical as marketing personas when running B2B email marketing campaigns but it is still good to be across.
Marketing personas: This is a semi-fictional representation of an individual decision-maker or influencer within the target company. Personas typically include demographics, job responsibilities, goals, challenges, preferences, and buying behaviors. I like to think of them as drilling deeper into the ICP. Within an ICP, there could be multiple personas representing various individuals involved in the purchasing process such as CEOs, CTOs, Growth Managers, and even end users.
2. Understand the B2B buyer's journey
The B2B buyer's journey refers to the process that businesses go through when making a purchasing decision. Unlike business-to-consumer (B2C) purchases, which can be driven by impulse or personal preference, a B2B purchase needs to be calculated and can involve many decision-makers and considerations. This is why there is a longer sales cycle. The B2B customer journey covers three stages, namely:
1. Awareness: Your potential customer becomes aware of a problem or need within their organization. They might start researching broadly to better understand this challenge and potential solutions, in some cases, they’ll land on your website if you have top or middle-of-funnel blog articles.
2. Consideration: The buyer has clearly defined their problem and is now seeking potential solutions. They’re likely comparing various products, vendors, and methods to address their needs. Again, they may reach your website through blog posts, referrals, cold outreach, social media, etc.
3. Decision: This is when the buyer has narrowed down their options and is close to making a decision. They may request product demos, engage in negotiations, start a free trial, or seek final approvals from their organization. You want to create email campaigns that help push these buyers to proceed with your product or service. Your email subscribers probably won't sign up for your email marketing campaigns at this point but it’s very possible you can nurture them to this point through your email campaigns and sequences. Some businesses might want to focus on converting trial members into paid customers at this point.
💡Pro tip: Most of your email subscribers will be in the awareness or consideration stage so be sure to tailor your segments, sequences, and messaging to suit the correct stage.
3. Create relevant segments
There are many ways you can segment your audience and a lot of it will come down to the structure of your website and the information you collect from your subscribers. The more information you collect the easier it is to segment your audience accurately. However, this comes at the cost of lower conversion rates since you’ll be adding more friction to the signup process.
For example, Mulesoft, a B2B automation tool, requires you to fill in nine fields before you’re able to download their free resources.
The reason for this is to appropriately segment their subscribers so they can send targeted emails that resonate. On top of this, Mulesoft has likely segmented their subscribers based on the resource that is being downloaded, in this case, it’s a report on API management and the latest developments in integration technology.
However, there are numerous ways to segment your audience and it will depend on your business, the nature of your customers, where they come from, and your funnel. Building on the previous points we can segment our audience in the following ways.
Awareness stage segments: Subscribers who engage with foundational content on your website such as top-of-funnel (TOFU) blog posts or webinar attendees. These are new subscribers who generally have a basic understanding of what you do.
Consideration stage segments: These are subscribers who've viewed multiple product pages, downloaded product brochures, attended more in-depth webinars, or requested more specific information.
Decision stage segments: Subscribers who've started a free trial, or requested a product demo, consultation, or a quote. They’ve probably engaged with content like technical specifications, detailed product guides, or contract terms and conditions. These are potential customers that need to be convinced to pull the trigger and buy from you.
ICP-Based Segments: This is an additional segment that includes the location, company size, industry, etc. This is usually data you would need to request from the customer through a survey or lead form.
Persona-Based Segments: These subscribers are segmented based on their job role, pain points and challenges, purchase history, and even website behavior.
Engagement-Based Segments: This refers to the specific actions any of the users take on your website or within your emails. It could be opens, clicks, website scrolls, etc.
4. Create email sequences for each segment
This is where the fun begins.
Now that you have everything mapped out you can start writing tailored emails for your subscribers. Be sure to include a mix of value-based emails and sales emails. Remember, you’re trying to educate your subscribers and give them as much value as you can before asking them to take action.
Here are some emails you could send depending on which segment your subscriber falls into.
|Email content ideas
|Awareness stage segments
|– Industry news
– Free guides & resources
– “How-to” guides
– Other educational content
|Consideration stage segments
|Specific guides and resources
Specific educational content
Subtle sales emails (use cases)
|Decision stage segments
|– Sales emails showcasing testimonials, use cases, features, and more
– New features/services“
– How to” guides specific to the product
|– Industry-specific news
– Value emails specific to the size and industry of the company
|– “How-to” guides specifically for the role and goals of the subscriber
– Resources specific to the role and goals of the subscriber
|– More content the subscriber is clicking on or opening frequently
5. Personalize your emails
If you’re collecting data from your subscribers there’s no reason not to personalize the emails as much as possible. At the very least address your subscribers by their first name. Doing so demonstrates a deep understanding and appreciation of the recipient's needs, leading to increased trust and credibility.
According to Sender, 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers a personalized experience.
Tailored messages capture attention faster and foster engagement, significantly increasing the likelihood of a positive response or conversion. Not to mention, the B2B landscape can be competitive. Customization differentiates businesses from the multitude of generic communications, making their messages memorable and more impactful.
Don't forget to A/B test your subject line and occasionally personalize these as well.
6. Write in a conversational tone
This might be one of the best ways to improve the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. Writing in a conversational tone and including storytelling can help brands build better relationships with customers. Especially if you want your company to seem relatable and approachable.
- Humanizes the Brand: Despite the B2B nature, at the end of the day, you’re communicating with people. A conversational tone makes the brand feel more human, approachable, and relatable, building a stronger emotional connection with the recipient.
- Break down barriers: Traditional corporate jargon can be intimidating, confusing, and plain boring. By using everyday language, businesses can convey their messages more clearly, ensuring that their audience comprehends and resonates with the content. A good copywriter can help you achieve this.
- Encourages engagement: Emails that sound like they're coming from a genuine person rather than an automated system are more likely to provoke a response. A conversational tone can make the recipient feel like they're having a one-on-one chat, motivating them to engage in a dialogue or take the desired action.
- Stands out in the inbox: With the influx of emails professionals receive daily, those written in a distinct, conversational manner differentiate themselves from the monotony. These types of emails are likely to capture attention, be read thoroughly, and be remembered.
- Builds trust: Transparency and authenticity are highly valued in today's business environment. By speaking directly and naturally to their audience, businesses come across as more trustworthy and genuine, which is crucial for fostering long-term B2B relationships.
Related article: Email copywriting guide
7. Send emails from a person rather than the company
This might seem a bit controversial but stay with me.
I’ve subscribed to many emails and newsletters over the years and I always forget the faceless brands that send generic emails. But I tend to remember emails from companies that send them from an emp the founder or head of marketing.
For example, Austin Distel, the CMO of Jasper sends personal emails to his subscribers.
Receiving these personal emails, written in a conversational tone from a real person within the company is refreshing. I’m sure your subscribers will feel the same.
Which types of B2B emails should you send to your subscribers?
Welcome emails: This should be an obvious one, whenever someone new subscribes send them a welcome email and thank them for trusting you. It’s also a good idea to let them know what they can expect. Drip does a great job of welcoming new subscribers.
Value emails: Your subscribers sign up to your mailing list to get as much value as they can, you need to honor this promise. At Ticker Nerd, we send our free subscribers as much value as we possibly can even if they don’t convert into paying customers.
New product or service emails: This will help inform subscribers about new features, improvements, or changes, ensuring they get the most value from what you offer. Beehiiv is an email marketing platform that does a great job of this.
Sales emails: The purpose of email marketing is to drive revenue so at some point you’ll need to encourage sales and conversions. You can do this by offering limited-time deals, exclusive offers, or writing sales copy to subscribers. Client Ascension is a B2B agency program that does a great of this.
Discount emails: Some B2B companies won’t ever run a promotion or discount but if you do then this is something you can send to your ‘decision stage’ segment. It could help tip over potential customers who needed a reason to pull the trigger.
Testimonials & case study emails: This is how you can demonstrate the real-world value and success of your products or services, building trust and credibility. It’s best sent to consideration and decision stage segments.
Newsletters: This is a much more involved style strategy but it can be highly lucrative. Email newsletters will allow you to keep frequent communication with your subscribers indefinitely.
Related article: How to start a successful email newsletter.
Note: Avoid trigger words to keep your emails out of the spam folder and ensure your deliverability rate is as high as possible. Review these 300 words and phrases to avoid.
Related article: SaaS Email Marketing Guide
Four high-performing B2B email marketing examples
Over the years I've come across great examples of B2B email marketing campaigns that serve as a benchmark for the rest of us. Below you will find email marketing best practices to guide your work.
Each blog post has a slide-in popup on the right-hand side. The call to action (CTA) is clear and compelling. But what makes it even more interesting is that once you subscribe you’re surveyed immediately so Drip can push you into the correct sequence and send appropriate messages.
Right Message is an email marketing tool that happens to also have a great email marketing campaign. Similar to Drip, Right Messages collects an email and then immediately starts segmenting its audience so they can send the most accurate emails.
3. Bamboo HR
Bamboo HR drive customers to get a free demo by entering their email address. However, once an email is entered the user is prompted to submit additional information so they can be segmented appropriately.
Client Ascension takes a different approach, rather than collecting emails and then trying to segment them they make it clear who their service isn’t for. This prevents them from having to keep up with multiple segments, ICPs, etc. Also not how their call to action (CTA) is big, bright, and enticing.
Best email marketing software for B2B businesses
- MailerLite: Best for basic email marketing capture forms, segmentation, and automations.
- ConvertKit: Great for smaller companies that want to use a robust tool capable of deeper segmentation. ConvertKit also integrates with Right Message.
- Right Message: Helps you collect leads and segment them based on survey responses. There’s a two-way integration with most email providers.
- OptinMonster: Great for collecting emails in a smart way and segmenting them. I personally use OptinMonster as my go-to lead generation software.
- Hubspot: Best overall email marketing tool since it captures leads, segments them, and even sends automated emails in one tool.
- Tally Forms: If you want to collect more data about your audience then Tally Forms will help you do this. The tool is extremely simple to use and helps collect data in a non-intrusive way.
- MailChimp: This is one of the most popular email marketing tools. It has a growing suite of products that can handle most of your marketing requirements from email to SMS.
Frequently asked questions
What is the difference between B2B and B2C email marketing?
B2B email marketing targets professionals and businesses with informational content, emphasizing long-term relationships and ROI. B2C email marketing on the other hand aims at individual consumers with emotionally-driven content, promoting immediate purchases and brand loyalty. The sales cycle in B2B is also much longer with a formal tone, whereas B2C focuses on quick decisions with a more casual approach. Both strategies are tailored to the unique needs and behaviors of their respective audiences.
Is B2B email marketing legal?
Yes! Provided you have all the right compliance, terms, and privacy policies this is legal. However, mass cold emailing people who did not opt-in for your emails can be classified as spam which is not legal.
How can I build my email list?
Having a clear B2B email marketing strategy is important for building a solid email list. However, you'll experience the best results when you spread your marketing efforts across other important growth initiatives such as social media marketing or producing relevant content on your blog. Here are ways you can grow the list, increase leads on autopilot, and help convert them into paying customers.
Value proposition: You must communicate the benefits of subscribing. What insights, updates, or offers will they receive? Make a clear promise and stick with it.
Optimized your signup form: Strategically place email sign-up forms across your website, especially on high-traffic pages. Ensure the form is simple and quick to fill out.
Lead magnets: Like the examples in the post, you should offer valuable resources (e.g., whitepapers, webinars, or e-books) in exchange for their email address.
Engaging content: Regularly publish high-quality content that addresses the pain points of your target audience. This encourages sharing and, subsequently, more sign-ups. A/B test subject lines!
Social media marketing: Use your social media platforms to promote your email newsletter, highlighting the exclusive content subscribers will receive. Don't be afraid to try influencer marketing if it means you'll get in front of your potential customers.
Referral programs: Encourage current subscribers to refer colleagues in exchange for perks or exclusive content. Platforms such as Beehive, Convertkit, and Sparktoro make this incredibly easy.
Events and webinars: Collect email addresses during registrations and ensure attendees know they'll receive follow-up content via email.
Publish more content: An easy way to grow your list is through publishing more SEO-optimized content. Search engine-optimized content can regularly generate leads since your ideal customers are searching for specific content to solve their pain points.