In this guest post, Validity’s Guy Hanson (pictured below) shares his experience on how to get the best out of your email marketing campaigns…
We all know that the strategies and tactics for marketing a B2C business versus B2B business can be fundamentally very different. However, similarities do exist, and many tactics and practices can be transferable. The reality is that whether its B2B or B2C, buying behaviour remains similar. Business buyers know how easy it is to get a cab through Uber, or book accommodation via AirBnB, and they expect the same levels of customer experience in their professional roles. And this is where one can learn from the other to achieve better outcomes.
This is especially true when it comes to email marketing. According to a recent report by Validity Inc. ‘The State of Email Marketing’, there is a lot that B2B marketers can learn from their B2C counterparts with respect to increasing email effectiveness — and it all starts with objective setting.
Set commercially minded objective
Validity Inc.’s report showed that when it comes to setting goals, the majority of B2B marketers cite ‘communicating’ with subscribers as their primary motivation. B2B buying cycles tend to be longer, and there is often a broad mix of decision makers, budget holders and influencers that you’re trying to keep on the same page. These factors mean keeping subscribers engaged between transactions is more difficult and makes good communication even more important. The B2B buying journey is not linear, and email can play a vital role by promoting other brand touchpoints – website, trade shows, 1-to-1 meetings, customer days – all of which support the overall process.
However, emails which are intended to ‘communicate’ generate lower open rates compared to those that are designed to ‘generate revenue’ — which is the focus of most B2C marketing strategies. B2B marketers should think like B2C’s when setting objectives and craft emails that focus on improving the bottom line.
Data quality is priority number one
B2C marketers know the importance of good quality data and understand that poor data has a negative impact on sender reputation, making deliverability much tougher as a result. By comparison, B2B is often a minefield of data with missing fields, duplicate and incorrect consumer details. This typically is because there are lower standards around data consent for B2B businesses — many marketers still buy in prospect lists, and in some cases the quality is terrible. I’ve had personal experience working with B2B senders where 1 in every 4 bought-in addresses they send hard bounces, which significantly impacts their deliverability and reputation.
When buying lists, ask providers where their addresses come from, how likely are they to be correct, and most importantly, would the recipient expect to receive marketing to that address?
Get data rich, or die trying
Validity’s report found that B2C marketers do a better job of capturing data on subscribers (35 per cent) compared with B2B marketers (25 per cent). While the scores are low for both, the impact on B2B is greater as it compromises the ability for adequate testing. And testing is very important for a number of reasons including being able to leverage new technology like AI — a lack of data is one of the three major factors that causes AI initiatives to fail.
B2B senders need to be more proactive in building richer data profiles for their email subscribers through tactics such as surveys, progressive registration, and integration with solutions like Gainsight. The data gained from these methods can help B2B businesses to take a more targeted approach to marketing and improve sales turnovers.
Put your data to the test
Many B2C businesses have institutionalised testing as part of their email marketing strategy. This testing addresses every part their strategy including subject lines, creative elements, timing, etc. B2B programs tend do this type of testing much less, and it’s a big missed opportunity. Learnings from institutionalised testing provide important information for incremental improvements across program effectiveness.
Prioritise customer service
Only 25 per cent of senders list customer service as a primary objective of their email programs and B2B scores lower than B2C in this regard too, according to a recent report by the Data & Marketing Association (DMA). Unfortunately, it’s all too common in B2B for customers to buy, and then experience deafening silence until contract renewal. In reality, post-sales marketing is hugely important to sales, reinforcing value and helping generate cross-sell/up-sell opportunities. While recipients may not always be in the buying frame of mind, B2B senders can always provide them with useful, targeted information (how to guides, checklists, etc.) that position them as trusted advisors, which can eventually lead to a purchase.
This can also help reduce the threats of competitors hijacking your deals. The internet means information to support buying decisions is now widely available and easily accessible. Proactive communication, placing this information directly in the hands your customers and prospects, reduces the need for them to look for it – and perhaps being diverted by one of your competitors in the process.
In order to achieve maximum effectiveness from email marketing campaigns, B2B marketers would be wise to take note of some of the strategies their B2C peers are employing to give themselves a competitive edge.