11 Tips for B2B Email Marketing

Published on 28 January 2011 | Author Stefan von Lieven


In the past few months, email marketing has advanced to one of the most important marketing topics in business-to-business. In a current study by artegic of top 100 companies, almost three quarters (72%) see a rise or even rapid increase of the significance of email marketing for their sector. Only 5% believe there has been a decrease in its relevance. So, how does successful B2B direct marketing via email work? We have put together eleven essential tips for your b2b email marketing.

1 Start with a clear target

Email marketing is a mighty tool to improve customer relations, boost sales or optimise service processes. Start the optimisation of your email marketing by setting a clear target. Written notes are sufficient, in order not to loose track of the whole picture with all the individual decisions. Possible targets are, for example:

  • Sales support in after sales.
  • Partner activation in direct sales.
  • Increase of intensity of use.
  • Prevention of service cases.
  • Information on latest products.

Do not set too much on your agenda, there are always many desirable results. It is better to start with a maximum of three defined targets.

2 Offer real added value

Especially in B2B, one thing counts: Relevance. Even if you put much effort in the design and have fantastic product news: this is not about what you wish to tell, but what customers are interested in. It is essential to achieve a real customer benefit. Ask yourself, what you know about your customers or ask them directly about their expectations. Current marketing information, studies, industry news or tips for the use of existing products are often more exciting than the latest products, new customers or press releases. Feed the interest in technical information in order to attach your own marketing information to it. If you become an essential source for industry or market information, your own news will also be taken on board.

Keep your actual newsletters brief, clear and informative. Move full texts and details to the website, which can be reached after the click. An important factor for relevance is being up to date. Short updates are often more effective than elaborately edited quarterly magazine-style newsletters. Keep in mind: no one scrolls through a B2B newsletter in the evening while sipping a good glass of wine.

3 Keep your customer in focus through individualisation

The big chance in email marketing is customer-specific communication. However, detailed data for the individual salutation or simply adequate content is often lacking. Individualisation always pays off. Not in order to send every customer exactly what they wish for, but to achieve effective improvements in relevant segments by means of important distinctive features. Check, what the decisive criteria for your target group are and offer product and specific information according to region, products, customer group, application, etc. It is often enough to differentiate the most essential features, e.g. between end customers and resellers or between existing customers and contacts, who are not yet customers. Small changes in design and subject can often make a difference, e.g. the title “partner newsletter” or “premium customer newsletter”.

Important: Test it! Especially with individualisations, you need to check the actual success with your target group.

4 Activate your readers

Scope alone is not enough in B2B – as generally in all marketing today. However, active subscribers, who read and respond to your newsletters and mailings, do not arise on their own, unless of course, you do an exceptional job in point 2. Include activating elements in your communication. Online check lists, feedback options, surveys and downloads help to increase the activity and engage subscribers. Because: click and read performance can be trained. Organise, for example, a competition quiz with expert questions in each or throughout several editions of your newsletter. When your readers are grabbed by their ambition, you will receive all their attention.

5 Generate opt-ins at all touch points

A sufficiently large mailing list for your newsletters is the basis for all actions in email marketing. Therefore, the creation of a mailing list should be one of the priorities on your agenda. Think where you come in contact with existing and prospective customers. Classic examples are websites, print outs, brochures, expos and events or sales. It is vital to solicit your customers’ consent for email communication at all touch points. Make sure this is a legally-binding agreement. Existing customers may be contacted without explicit consent, but only if you are dealing with notifications and information regarding customer relations.

Place your newsletter offer in a prominent position directly on the website start page. Keep in mind: A newsletter subscriber is worth more than a website visitor and the possibilities to develop a customer are significantly higher here, as you usually have more than one opportunity.

Also, set a link or a field for the email address in a clearly visible position in the navigation. Do not hide your newsletter in sub-categories, such as service or contact. Directly visible and common key words, such as “newsletter” are the best choice.

Incentives can help to overcome the hurdle of laziness. Topical incitements, such as information or service offers, which are only available by email or through registration, are ideal here. Whitepaper, professional articles, check lists and other information are often provided after registration in B2B. You can then directly ask for the consent for the newsletter. Tip: Do not ask for too many details in your first contact. Name, first name, company, gender, as well as email address, are usually sufficient to establish an initial good communication.

For a good start into customer contact, you can also use welcome emails, which introduce your company and the upcoming news or familiarise subscribers with the topic they just subscribed to.

6 Use the service processes for email supported communication

In direct marketing, every communication boosts customer relations. And the customer lifecycle offers a variety of communication opportunities.

Whether order and dispatch confirmations, information material for website enquiries, feedback after service, reminders of appointments or a change of consumable material or additional information on the purchased products: Each of these communication motives does not only offer an excellent opportunity to score through attentive service, but also enjoys high relevancy and attention, provided that the timing and motif of the mailing are chosen correctly. Such service messages have regular opening rates of more than 70 %. This benchmark can hardly be achieved through traditional newsletters. Use these opportunities to point to further information, such as newsletters or superior or complementary product categories (cross and up-sells). A precondition is the integration of the email marketing in the service processes in order to trigger the corresponding automated emails. However, pay attention to the tight legal framework for advertising in such communication.

7 Be personal

Emails to a person should also come from a person. If possible, use a personal sender address in order to achieve a closer relation. At the latest when your target group is on management level, your sender address should be on the same level. If your target group is in the purchasing department, the reference to a personal sales contact person is important. Here as well, the respective employee can be added as sender or contact by means of simple personalisation features in email marketing. Try it: You will receive the best response on emails that look like a manually created, personally sent message.

8 Support your sales team

Email marketing unfolds its full B2B potential in customer management. It is exceptionally suited for sales of maintenance, wear and consumable materials, for targeted cross and up-sell information, as well as automated reminders regarding contract or leasing termination. Your sales department will be happy about that, as you will not miss contacting any of your customers and enquiries will almost come by themselves. Correct email marketing supports the sales department in identifying the most exciting customers. Prior to the actual customer enquiry, you can already identify who is interested in which product or information or clicks on check lists and white papers.

Thanks to the simplified personalising feature of emails, communication, such as the invitation to exhibitions or other events, can be carried out centrally and at the same time customised with each name of the respective sales contact. B2B bonus programmes can also be effectively supported by email marketing.

9 Include your trading partners

Marketing in B2B is often indirect and the actual buyers are hidden behind an intermediary or a partner distribution net. However, the effort of your partner is often vital for the marketing success. It is important to boost the marketing efforts of partners through targeted dialogue marketing. Help your partners with information and sales arguments, market and competition information and other sales support.

However, if you prefer to speak directly to the end customer, include your trade partner. The solution: A trader marketing platform, where partners enter their end customer details and in return receive quality and well presented content for their marketing. Turn-key and with the option to supplement contents and send it in one’s own name, this platform can open up direct access to end customers. Of course, this can only happen with the consent of the trading partners, as such a solution is a trust centre and should not allow direct data access.

10 Centralise the solution for optimal efficiency

The construction of an integrated email dialogue marketing solution is not trivial and cannot be substituted by marketing on a budget, especially with quality and business critical contacts in B2B. All the more important to draw the maximum benefit from a once-established solution. The following applies: all email marketing communication should take place via a central platform. Whether different newsletters, service communication or PR, only an integrated and centralised solution can minimise costs and take full advantage of synergies, for example, between newsletters and service communication. Furthermore, there are factors, such as the data management security and design quality.

11 Learn and optimise

Compared to many other marketing types, email marketing offers one invaluable benefit: benchmarking. All actions can be precisely analysed. This gives you the chance to test and optimise all factors, which may influence the success of a mailing. Sender, subject, salutation, images, layout, design, volume, style, frequency – all this may have implications. In order to find the optimal communication for your target group(s), you must: test, test, test! This applies particularly for the subscription process. Try different registration pages and opt-in emails in order not to loose any customers when generating the addresses. Professional email marketing solutions, such as the ELAINE Online CRM, can support you when you are trying to identify the best variant within a campaign. Trials with different variants of a mailing help to determine the version with the highest response rate.

In B2B, dispatch day and time are particularly important. Does your target group work in the field and spend only certain days of the week in the office? How is the work distributed on the different days of the week and time?


artegic AG provides strategic consulting, technology and business services for online CRM and dialogue marketing via email, RSS, mobile and social media. artegic's online CRM technology ELAINE FIVE, which is used for the sending of over 2.7 billion messages monthly enables marketing automation based on self-sharpening analytical profiles. artegic's customers include, e.g. Rewe and PAYBACK.

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