I like to think of email marketing as a Swiss Army knife. It’s versatile, reliable, and always there when you need it.
Think about it; you can do cold outreach, nurture leads, create an onboarding series, invite people to events… And so much more! But like a Swiss Army knife, email is only as useful as the person wielding it.
Email marketing remains a constant force that connects your business to your target audience, but you can’t just wing it. Sending an email here and there will be fruitless – but in the same breath – you can’t bombard people with spam.
How do you make emails stand out in a sea of promotions and spam? A powerful combination of strategy, engaging content, and, of course, the right tools.
This article gives you a solid strategy and the tools to execute emails that convert strangers to leads. Let’s dive in!
We’ll go into more detail about strategy in this article, but from a high level:
- Ensure you target the right audience; nobody likes receiving emails from people who haven’t taken the time to research if they’re trying to reach the right person.
- Know your buyer persona. If you don’t, you can’t create personalized or relevant campaigns.
- Segment your audience! A one-size-fits-all approach to email marketing is a mistake.
Sending more emails won’t automatically result in more leads or conversations. This approach can easily backfire and lead to higher unsubscribe rates. You can also hinder your B2B email marketing efforts by prioritizing quantity over quality, failing to personalize content, and failing to track and analyze campaign performance.
Creating an Effective B2B Email Marketing Strategy
You shouldn’t do anything in marketing without it being part of a robust marketing strategy.
1. Setting Clear Objectives and Goals
You need to know where you’re headed. What do you want to achieve with email marketing? Before you answer that, have you identified who you’re sending emails to?
Identify Your Target Audience
Who are you trying to reach? What are their needs and pain points? Here’s how you can get this right or wrong.
The right way: Let’s say you run a B2B software company. You know your target audience: small to medium-sized e-commerce retail businesses looking for inventory management solutions. They need a solution that streamlines inventory management, reduces human error, and improves order fulfillment.
You send out targeted email campaigns that show you understand how complex inventory management can be. You showcase your solution, emphasizing its ability to streamline inventory management. You include case studies, testimonials from satisfied customers, and tailored product demos.
The wrong way: Your competitor has a similar product, but instead of focusing on identifying their target audience, they decide their audience is “all businesses that need inventory management.”
They send out one-size-fits-all email campaigns promoting their services without addressing specific needs or pain points. There’s no personalization, and their email just looks like an ad. Straight in the spam folder!
Define Success Metrics
Are you seeking higher open rates, more click-throughs, or increased conversions? It’s essential to set SMART goals and objectives. No, I’m not shouting at you; SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
A poorly defined goal is, “I want more people to read my emails!” A SMART goal is, “I want to increase click-through rate from 2.8% to 3.5% in the next 90 days by optimizing the design and placement of CTAs.”
If you don’t know whether your marketing sucks or is bearing fruit, you can’t determine where to improve or double down. Establish some benchmarks and set realistic targets.
2. Crafting Personalized and Engaging Content
If you want to engage readers (once you get them to open your email with a compelling subject line), you must create content that resonates. Will they see themselves in the stories you tell?
Creating Buyer Personas
A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer. You create buyer personas, but they’re still based on real people (perhaps your current customers), and you need to know the problems and challenges they face to tell them how you solve them.
Often, we use the Jobs to be Done framework to determine how we communicate with potential customers. Here’s an example:
Paint a complete picture of your buyer persona by:
- Conducting interviews with prospects
- Talking to your current customers about why they chose you
- Talking to people who didn’t work with you to find out why
Remember to consider all aspects of your buyer persona, including:
- Demographic: Their age, location, role or title, and industry.
- Firmographic: Type of organization, number of clients, revenue, who their competitors are.
- Psychographic: Their dreams, desires, how they want to work, where they want to go, and what they believe.
- Behavioral data: How your prospect interacts with your business, such as visiting a website, downloading a whitepaper, attending a webinar, or requesting a demo.
- Technographic: Whether they’re open to adopting new technology or they’ve used premium tools in the past.
- Budget and timeline: The budget and timeline of your prospect’s purchase plans.
Once you build a buyer persona, you can start crafting your messaging.
Crafting Targeted Messages
Crafting emails or an email series is challenging. How much do you try to fit in one email? What should the length be? What kind of email series are you creating? So many questions!
Start simple. Create emails that speak to your ideal customers’ pain points and concerns. Use stories. Stories connect us. They make us human and engage readers who have maybe been in a similar story. You want your potential customers to see themselves as the heroes in their own stories, and you are the guide.
- Speak to pain points and how your product or service helps solve your audience’s challenges.
- Use personalization; names, job titles, and other personal details.
- Offer relevant and timely content – where is the reader on their buyer journey?
- Share helpful tips, advice, and resources to build trust.
A casual, conversational tone makes your emails feel human and engaging. Of course, this depends on who you’re speaking to – but most people want to talk to another human being, not a robot. Try writing like you speak without waffling; people are busy! If humor or wit is appropriate, go for it!
Finally, images, videos, and my personal favorite, GIFs, can make emails more enjoyable and easier to digest. They also highlight your personality. Don’t overdo it, though, and ensure your visuals are mobile-friendly!
3. Building and Maintaining a Quality Email List
Ideally, you need an active list for a successful email campaign. Many prospects join your email list after reading a blog post, in exchange for lead magnets, or through other connections on your website and marketing materials.
Prospects who download lead magnets are essentially putting their hand up and asking for more.
To collect quality leads, consider the following:
- Place opt-in forms on your blog, website, and social media channels and actively encourage people to subscribe to your email list.
- Offer valuable content, like whitepapers and webinars, that require users to provide their email addresses to unlock.
- Create an offer in the form of a lead magnet that promises and delivers a quick win for customers but requires an email address.
- Incentivize your current subscribers to refer others to join your list. Give them discounts or exclusive access to new content and courses.
It’s essential to maintain your list. Some people join your list by accident (thinking you offer something else) or get what they need from you and are no longer interested. When people unsubscribe, that’s OK. It just means they no longer need your advice and services.
To manage your list well, start by removing inactive subscribers. For example, if they haven’t opened your previous five emails. You might try re-engaging them first by offering them a reason to reconnect. If you still get crickets, consider removing them from your list.
Also, consider segmenting your audience. Many email marketing platforms help with segmentation. HubSpot, for example, automatically segments your list based on various criteria like demographics, behavior, and engagement levels.
4. A/B Testing and Optimization
Don’t just send emails and forget about them! Use the data you collect, such as bounce, open, and click-through rates, to optimize your email marketing campaigns.
A/B testing, or split testing, involves creating two versions of an email. You’ll send each email to a different portion of your audience and see which performs better. It’s best practice only to change one element at a time. For example, you might test subject lines, CTAs, or images.
- Send both versions at the same time
- Divide your list into random, equally-sizes segments for a fair comparison
- Track key metrics to determine the winner
Optimizing Subject Lines and CTAs
Subject lines are an obvious place to start. You could test different lengths; try short and punchy or longer and descriptive. You can include emojis for flavor. Try various tones, like formal, casual, or humorous.
Personalization could grab the attention of the reader, as can scarcity and urgency. Try anything you want, there aren’t any rules, and nothing will break if your ideas don’t work.
For CTAs, you can test the following:
- Button vs. test links – which generates more clicks?
- Different colors and sizes
- Your CTA copy
- Changing the placement
Again, monitor the key metrics. Track open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates to measure the success of your campaigns. Look for patterns and make data-driven decisions – there’s no need to guess! Then, iterate and repeat.
5. Leveraging Automation and Personalization
Finally, plan your campaigns using automation and personalization. You’ll save time, increase engagement, and drive better results.
Automate email sequences, or drip campaigns, nurture leads depending on where they are in the sales funnel. You can deliver timely and relevant email campaigns without manual input.
Take time to map out your campaigns, define the actions that trigger each email in your sequence, and time your emails to maintain consistent engagement. When is the best time to reach out to leads? Connecting with leads is essential when your product is top of mind, so use automation to follow up promptly.
Dynamic, or smart content, enables you to personalize emails. You can personalize subject lines, use merge tags to insert personalized information like first names, and tailor content to specific segments.
2 Powerful Tools for B2B Email Marketing Lead Generation
For small businesses, Mailchimp is a popular option.
Its user-friendly interface makes it easy to get started and navigate the platform. Various built-in templates and a drag-and-drop email designer help you create beautiful emails, and with the advanced capabilities of Mailchimp, you can set up drip campaigns and A/B tests. Finally, with advanced analytics and reporting, you can optimize your campaigns.
Pricing: There’s a free plan with basic features. You can send up to 10,000 emails per month to 2,000 subscribers. Paid plans start at $11/month.
HubSpot is a comprehensive marketing platform. Well-known for its robust CRM and inbound marketing tools, you can create and send highly-targeted email campaigns. For example, you can nurture different list segments with powerful tools like drip campaigns and triggered emails.
With the HubSpot CRM, you can identify leads based on where they are in the buyer journey. For example, you can create lists: Leads, marketing-qualified leads, and sales-qualified leads. You can then tailor content and move prospects along your sales funnel.
Detailed analytics and reporting allow you to easily monitor open rates, click-through rates, and conversions (they even give you insights into standard rates for unsubscribes and bounces, and advice on optimizing your emails).
Pricing: With the free plan, you can access a robust CRM and basic email marketing tools. For plans with more advanced marketing features, pricing starts at $45/month.
Email Marketing B2B Lead Generation: Part of the Puzzle
Email is an intelligent play. It’s still one of the most widely used marketing tools, and if you get it right and you’re consistent, you can engage cold, warm, and hot leads.
- Nail down your buyer persona
- Set clear goals and objectives
- Create personalized and engaging content
- Build and maintain a quality email list
- Use A/B testing and optimization
- Invest in a quality tool to automate and personalize your email campaigns
Follow the steps above, and you’ll have a solid foundation to email your list and generate leads. Always start with a strategy. And remember that an email strategy is part of a larger marketing strategy – it’s not your only play.
At Lean Labs, we include email marketing as part of the strategies we create for clients. We know it’s tempting to rush to market and get your product in customers' hands, but without a solid plan, you’ll waste time and money on mediocre marketing.
Why don’t you see what we would do if we were in your shoes? Unlock the Growth Playbook today to see how we plan for growth, set the right budget, accelerate results, and guarantee you don’t get burned.
September 27, 2023