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How to Create a B2B Email Marketing Strategy that Actually Works

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The B2B email marketing audience is a tough nut to crack. Decision-makers are putting the best interests of the company first and basing their decisions on logic, not emotion.

But when done right, a targeted B2B email campaign can generate a lot of business. That’s one reason 93% of all B2B marketers prefer using email marketing over social media and SEO.

To create your own effective B2B email marketing strategy, you need to know what value to give subscribers, and which tools you need to do it. I’m going to help you figure out both, and throw in a lot of other powerful tips, too.

PC: Lyfe

Why is B2B sales so difficult?

There are a few things you need to iron out before you can have a truly effective email strategy. The top three factors that affect B2B sales are:

1. Salespeople don't spend enough time selling.

On average, sales reps spend only 35% of their time selling.

If you're not hitting your goals, you should track what your sales team is doing more closely, and take steps to reduce the time they have to spend on non-selling tasks.

You can start by tracking your sales performance metrics. The beauty of tracking metrics is they're quantifiable and can be measured over time. If your team is hitting their goals or falling behind, you'll see it in the numbers.

The most important metrics you can track are:

  • Percentage of your sales team hitting their quota
  • Average deal size
  • Conversion rates at each stage
  • Total revenue
  • Sales funnel leakage

Related: 7 Ways Top Sales Reps Spend More Time Selling

2. You’re targeting the wrong people.

It doesn't matter whether salespeople are productive 100% of the time if they're selling to the wrong prospect. One way to mitigate this is by creating an Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and using it across the board.

Here are three steps to do it:

Describe your ideal customer.

Identify customers who love using your products and follow your brand with a passion. These people get more value out of what you're offering them than the average consumer and aren't afraid to show it.

Try to come up with a list of your top B2B customers that documents their budget, company size, geography, and industry.

PC: G2

Talk to your top customers.

Now that you know what to look for, get in touch with your top clients to discuss their experience using your product.

You need to document how they discovered your company, their purchasing decision, and how they're benefiting from your solution.

Identify ideal client characteristics.

After interviewing your best customers and gathering data, you need to search for repeating patterns. Also, look out for shared characteristics, universal themes, and pain points that your product was able to solve. Then you can take all this information to find new targets.

Related: How to Create (& Target) a Custom Buyer Persona

3. Sales and marketing departments don't have aligned goals.

Synergy between sales and marketing is vital to the growth of your company. Companies who are aligned generate an estimated 209% more revenue. Aligned companies also achieve an annual 20% growth rate, compared to a 4% revenue loss in companies who aren’t aligned.

So, how can you push your sales and marketing departments to work together as a team?

PC: Accent

Make sure each team has concise, well-defined, and physical goals that are updated regularly. These goals need to be accurate, understandable, and shared with the rest of your organization for better accountability.

Have your sales and marketing teams meet regularly. Schedule a quick sit-down every week to discuss where the teams are in terms of shared goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). Do whatever else it takes for both teams to get on the same page, if necessary.

Ensure that your marketing team uses pain-based messaging. Your target customers have a specific pain (or problem), and your company is good at solving it. That’s how both sales and marketing should frame your value to prospects.

The pain points need to be based on the experiences of real-life buyers—which the sales team should be able to point out and identify. Constant communication between sales and marketing is the key to delivering a relevant marketing message.

Celebrate the collaborative success of each team (and have a little fun in the process). Highlight the importance of winning and accomplishing something as a team. Celebrations help connect and bring people closer together.

Related: 8 Steps to Close More Leads with Sales and Marketing Alignment

6 Quick Steps to Create Your Email Marketing Strategy

Reports show you can expect a $38-$44 for every $1 spent on email marketing, but if you want results like that, you’ve got to have a well-defined strategy. Here’s how you can create yours.

1. Start by defining your goals. The most common ones are getting new customers, building brand loyalty, and increasing sales, but you need to put actual numbers behind it. How many new customers do you want to bring in? How many upsells? How many leads should you re-engage?

2. Develop an organic email list of people you’d like to be subscribers by sending targeted newsletters that have the "Subscribe Now" button. Also, make it easy for users to Unsubscribe, so your email doesn't get tagged as spam.

3. Divide your email list into segments and clean them further. Eliminate dead leads and those that don't fit your ICP.

4. Write compelling subject lines that your audience will find hard not to click. Verbs, numbers, and emojis go a long way here. Your tone and timing have to fit the message.

PC: Yesware

Related: 5 Examples of Awesome Email Subject Lines (& Tips to Create Your Own)

5. Use an eye-catching design that won't crash when it's loading, and optimize your emails for mobile devices (most email services today offer mobile responsive email templates).

6. Use A/B testing whenever you can and use an email scheduler to keep your efforts consistent.

7. Get your audience to opt into emails by offering them exclusive content and discounts.

Related: 5 Emails You Should Send to Boost Subscribers' Trust in You

2 Ways to Maintain Your Email List And Target Better Leads

1. Clean out incorrect or disengaged contacts.

Finding an email address is pretty straightforward. The hard part is getting the right email the person actually uses. You need to make sure your message is going into the correct inbox. If it’s not, delete it.

You also don't want to be constantly sending emails to contacts who aren't opening your messages. That costs you money, and can even negatively impact your sender reputation, which affects how many of your messages actually make it to subscribers' inbox.

2. Add more contacts that you know are your target customers.

Many businesses are using personal contact information services that provide reverse email search data. The data varies per provider, but they usually have some subset of the following:

  • Name
  • Addresses
  • Email addresses
  • Phone numbers
  • Profession
  • Workplace

The data you get from doing a reverse email lookup helps you enrich your leads by filling in the gaps of your email list. You will have more information about the person you want to sell your product or service to, which helps you personalize your messages and increase your ROI.

Knowing the clients profession can also make your template more qualitative. For example, in B2B sales the message needs to articulate the value, service, quality and trust. You should identify the problem and concentrate on finding pain points, then offer solutions.

Grow open rates by learning from subscribers.

One of the most important metrics you can track in your email marketing strategy is your open rate. With this data, you'll have an idea of how much subscribers care about the emails you’re sending them, and how you're doing against the competition.

Nothing else matters if your emails end up in the trash or spam folder.

An effective way to grow your open rate is by learning your business audience like the back of your hand.

B2B may be more professional than B2C, but you still need to be able to relate to your subscribers in specific and tangible ways. Targeted emails will set your business apart from other campaigns that are crowding your subscriber's inbox.

The average email open rate is 20%, so anything between 15-25% is good. However, every industry is different, and there will be variations in email marketing benchmarks for each one.

PC: Campaign Monitor

Also, keep in mind that it's best to analyze what works well for your clients first, before tweaking your strategy. You need to try different pieces of exclusive content you think your audience will find valuable, as well as different subject lines, headers, and graphics.

See what gets the most traction with your subscribers, and build upon it.

4 Most Common Email Marketing Challenges

1. The current email service provider has service limitations.

There are a plethora of email service providers to choose from. Some are experts in industry verticals, while others focus on sales-assisted messaging. If you select a mismatch from the start, you'll run into service limitations when your capabilities grow.

Consider changing your current email service provider or try getting additional ESPs that offer the features and functionality you need.

When looking for an email service provider, you need to consider:

  • Specific features you need for your strategy
  • Your budget
  • Average delivery rates the service has

PC: Litmus

2. Poor leadership and strategy.

Strategy trumps everything else. Many companies suffer from a "brand first" strategy instead of providing value for their subscribers first.

Craft compelling and inspiring business cases to get organizational buy-in for your vision. Your team has to believe and be excited about what you believe. Make a "why" statement, and collaborate with your team for an answer.

3. Using antiquated tools for email creation.

Crafting a marketing email is different from sending a regular one, and there are plenty of things that can fail. The most successful email programs use checklists, email briefs, and content calendars.

You also need a strong sender domain. Often, email marketing fails because senders get flagged as spam. A good ESP will help you avoid that.

Use an all-in-one email tool that allows you to create professional, beautiful, and branded emails. Look for built-in analytics and the ability to send automated emails.

4. Finding the Right People for Your Team.

To ensure the growth of your business, you need to attract the right talent to your team. Having the most qualified people helps to scale your success, which translates to more revenue.

To get the best people, you need to:

  • Know what kind of skills your new hire will need to have to create your ideal email (copywriting, graphic design, ext.).
  • Write a job description that includes the tasks the new hire will need to perform to fit into your marketing strategy.
  • Target the right candidates that have experience using your ESP.

PC: Litmus

Start Sending Emails

B2B email marketing success is doable when you have a sound strategy and the right people in place. Remember to keep your audience in mind, and start planning creative campaigns.

Related: How to Craft Emails People Actually Want to Read