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Best Practices for B2B Email
by Rieva Lesonsky
February 3, 2023
Business man working on laptop with a cup of coffee as he checks his email

In the first two parts of this series, we discussed the importance of email as a marketing tool for all small businesses. So why are we singling out business-to-business (B2B) email marketing here? We’re focusing on B2B in this post because many B2B business owners may have the wrong idea of positioning their email campaigns.

ROI by Industry

As we noted previously, according to Campaign Monitor, email generates $36 for every dollar spent, the highest ROI (return on investment) of any marketing strategy. And most businesses that always A/B test their emails generate an ROI of 48:1.

But many B2B businesses have an even higher ROI:

  • Software & technology business: 40:1
  • Marketing, PR, and advertising agencies: 42:1
  • Media, publishing, events, sports, and entertainment businesses: 45:1
  • Travel, tourism, and hospitality companies: 53:1

There are mixed reports about the use of email by B2B companies. HubSpot reports that 93% of B2B marketers use email, while The State of B2B email Marketing, just out from SuperOffice, reveals that 59% of B2B companies do not use email marketing.

Emotion is Important in B2B and B2C Sales

The two industries have a lot more in common than many people think. According to Kinsta, many business marketers believe that business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing is about being personal and making personal connections, while in B2B marketing, “there is little to no personal emotion involved in the purchasing decision.” They also believe that when it comes to social media marketing, B2C companies market on Facebook, while B2B focuses on LinkedIn.

But Kinsta points out, “People are still buying. Decision-making in companies still comes down to a few people making gut choices.” And that B2B and B2C consumers have more in common than many people think. Both industries are dependent on personal referrals and rating and review sites.

The trend has been growing for several years. An article published in Harvard Business Review several years ago says that for B2B offerings, “personal concerns that business customers bring to the purchase process are increasingly important.” It cites research that showed “with some purchases [things] like whether a product can enhance the buyer’s reputation or reduce anxiety play a role.”

B2B and B2C Differences

One significant difference between B2B and B2C sales is the length of the purchase cycle. Discounting major purchases like cars or houses, most B2C purchase decisions are made quickly, and many are often impulse buys.

B2B sales cycles take much longer, often months, to complete. And this, Kinsta adds, “directly impacts how you attract awareness, generate leads, or even drive sales.” Because “there’s a much slower ramp from attention to interest to purchase,” Kinsta advises B2B businesses that they may need to deliver “lots of additional value-building content.” It doesn’t have to be complex; you can start with an e-book.

And, of course, because B2B buyers typically spend more than B2C consumers, B2B companies have to invest more in their marketing campaigns.

Content Distribution

HubSpot says email marketing is a “powerful vehicle for B2Bs to share their content.” In fact, “83% of B2B companies use email newsletters as part of their content marketing programs, and 40% say the newsletters are ‘most critical’ to their content marketing success.”

The Content Marketing Institute offers some compelling statistics:

  • 31% of B2B marketers say email newsletters are the best way to nurture leads
  • 87% say email is one of their top free organic distribution channels
  • 90% of content marketers say email engagement is the top metric they track to measure content performance

B2B Email Best Practices

Obviously, email should play a significant role in your B2B marketing efforts, but how can you make sure those efforts are effective?

The State of B2B email Marketing report reveals some must-dos:

  • Include an unsubscribe link—8% of email campaigns don’t do that, which is against the CAN-Spam Act (see below)
  • Optimize your emails for mobile devices (responsive design)—almost 20% of email campaigns are not optimized. HubSpot reports that over 80% of email users access their email on their phones, and messages that can’t be read on a mobile device are typically deleted in three seconds.
  • Send your emails from a company name—89% of B2B companies do this • Be consistent—B2B businesses send out one email marketing campaign every 25 days

Some other best B2B email practices come to us from HubSpot:

  • Write enticing subject lines. We covered this topic in part 2 of this series. HubSpot recommends thinking of your subject line like a movie trailer. This is your best chance to hook your customers into opening the email.
  • Use only one CTA (call-to-action) per email. Including more than one can overwhelm or confuse email recipients.
  • Segment your emails. Segmentation is about sending the right emails to the right clients at the right time. Depending on your business, the clients on your email list could be at different stages of the buying cycle, so they’d appreciate—and respond better—to emails targeted to their challenges and opportunities.

Sending Cold Emails

HubSpot also recommends sending cold emails. So I want to repeat the information I mentioned in part 1 of this series since it’s critically important.

Many businesses share the common misconception that it’s illegal to send cold emails. That’s incorrect—you can cold email consumers. Mirabel’s Marketing Manager explains how:

  • Follow all the laws when sending emails. For sales outreach, cold emails can lead to new opportunities and active audience members for your company.
  • What’s the difference between a cold email and spam? Look for these defining characteristics. A successful cold email will:
    • Include intentional and personalized contact with an individual.
    • Communicate information that is valuable and does not rely solely on automated content.
    • Aim to foster a trusting relationship with the recipient.

And you must comply with all components of the CAN-SPAM Act. The basics of the CAN-SPAM Act are:

  • Identify yourself
  • Identify the email as an ad
  • Give a physical address
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  • Include opt-out options
  • Double opt-in is not required, but it is preferred
  • Honor unsubscribe requests

This isn’t something to mess around with. The penalties for spamming consumers are significant. So it’s essential that you make sure your marketing emails aren’t illegal.

About the author
Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog
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Middle aged man working on computer in small modern office space
Designing the Perfect Email

As we mentioned in part one of this series, email dominates the marketing kingdom, generating an impressive ROI (return on investment) of $36 for every dollar spent, the highest ROI of any marketing strategy, according to Campaign Monitor.

Email Design

Another crucial element contributing to the success of your email campaigns is how they’re designed. HubSpot notes there are 13 best practices for good email design:

  1. Craft a strong subject line.
  2. Write an attention-grabbing pre-header.
  3. Be concise.
  4. Keep your email on-brand.
  5. Think about your layout.
  6. Personalize every email.
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