Last week, we kicked off our blog series covering email for B2B technical companies with an overview of email marketing and why it is still a viable and valuable marketing tactic. Today, we’re looking at the best practices of B2B email marketing.
(Miss post one of the series? Read it here: Is B2B Email Dead?)
Email marketing has been in use since the late 1970s, and email as a communication form is actually close to 50 years old. Over time, the use of email marketing and its best practices have evolved, shying away from the spray-and-pray model of the late 1990s to the sophisticated, targeted approach we see now.
The top B2B email best practices for the 2020s are:
- Plan emails as part of your overarching marketing strategy
- Segment your database to keep emails relevant to recipients
- Keep your database clean and up to date
- Stay abreast of internet privacy laws and email laws in any country or region that impacts your contacts
- Develop each email with a clear goal and prominent CTA
- Follow email design best practices to make emails functional and attractive across devices and email clients
- Test, test, test! Test emails across devices and email clients before sending
- Track core metrics and adjust your email strategy accordingly
1. Plan emails as part of your overarching marketing strategy
Email marketing should never be an afterthought. As you’re developing your annual marketing plan, think about where email fits in. Consider including email in the following ways:
- Does your plan include a focus on a specific audience segment, industry or persona? Build out an email nurture targeted to contacts in that group, educating them about how your company serves their needs, solves their specific problems or helps achieve their goals (learn more about email nurturing).
- Same idea can apply to goals on promoting a product or service area. Identify who in your database would be most relevant for the product/service, and build out a nurture series educating and offering resources around the product/service to fix the recipient’s problem or achieve their goal.
- Plan email as a promotional tactic for new resources, events, etc.
Email newsletters are another way to include email in your strategy. Newsletters should be sent at a consistent cadence, anywhere from monthly to quarterly. Consider segmenting your audience and sending email newsletters for each segment, customized to that group’s specific needs, goals and focus area. Follow these best practices for your email newsletter.
2. Segment your database to keep emails relevant to recipients
We’ve already touched on this best practice, but it deserves to be highlighted. According to Mailchimp, recipients are 75% more likely to click on emails from segmented campaigns than non-segmented campaigns (more statistics here).
Easy ways to segment include:
- Offer specific email types as subscriptions, so people can opt themselves into the information they are most interested in (this can also help keep you compliant with internet laws including GDPR)
- Break out newsletters by industry, customer type, persona, etc. based on segment priorities and distinctness of content/contact goals
- Send promotional emails to targeted groups as opposed to everyone in the database
3. Keep your database clean and up to date
Outdated and invalid contacts bog down your database, increase bounce rates and decrease engagement metrics. If your email marketing tool charges by database size, they can also be costing you quite a bit of money.
To keep your database up to date:
- Remove or update any hard-bounced contacts, as their emails are no longer valid
- Re-engage or remove aged contacts. Identify contacts that have not opened emails or visited your website within a certain period of time. At TREW, we use 18 months as the “inactive” threshold and send a re-engagement email to these contacts. If they do not re-opt in to any email type, we remove them from our database.
- Remove bad fit contacts, or exclude from emails
- Merge or remove contacts that have moved on from their companies
4. Stay abreast of internet privacy laws and email laws
This may not be the most exciting item on our list, but it’s crucial to be aware of and compliant with applicable email laws. Several internet privacy and email laws have been introduced over the past few years that impact who a company can email and how, with hefty fines for non-compliance.
The main email laws impacting North American companies are:
A US law built to fight spam emails that applies to all US companies. It requires that header information (from, reply to) is not misleading, that subject lines are not deceptive, and that every email includes the company mailing address and opt-out link. Learn more.
The Canadian version of CAN-SPAM is a bit more strict, requiring that contacts consent to having their emails collected and used for marketing. Like CAN-SPAM, it requires that contacts have access to opt-out of email communications. It applies to Canadian companies only. Learn more.
GDPR is the most stringent law of the bunch. Even though it is an EU law, it applies to all companies that process or hold information on any EU citizen, regardless of where the company is located. GDPR requires express opt-ins for specific email types and that only the information needed to complete the requested task be collected (so, if someone signs up for a newsletter, you can’t ask their birthday). Learn more.
Have more questions on privacy laws? View our internet privacy law guide.
5. Develop each email with a clear goal and prominent CTA
Each email should have just one clear goal and CTA (newsletters are the exception). The email subject, copy, images, links and CTA button(s) should all support the goal and lead the reader to complete the goal action.
6. Follow email design best practices
Some basics of email design include:
- Avoid having a wall of text- use white space liberally, and include headers and sub-headers to break up content
- Use a minimum font size of 14pt to ensure readability across devices
- Set the email width to 600px
- Include a link to an online email version
- Define the height and width of images, and include alt-text
- Use table-based positioning as opposed to HTML/CSS-based positioning as some email clients will not follow these rules (cough, Outlook)
- Make your CTA buttons at least 44 x 44 px to make them easily clickable on mobile
7. Test emails across devices and email clients before sending
This is important! An email can look great on Gmail on your desktop computer, but be almost illegible on a mobile device or in Outlook. The email could be missing mobile code, or it could use CSS positioning which Outlook doesn’t read. Testing ensures that you can spot issues before an ugly or non-functional email gets sent to your contacts.
Many email sending programs have a way to preview emails across specific devices and email clients. The below image shows HubSpot’s tool:
As part of testing, you should also send a test email to yourself/ your team to check links, review copy, and ensure images appear correctly.
8. Track core metrics and adjust your email strategy accordingly
Core metrics on any email include the open rate, click rate, click-to-open rate and bounce rate. You will also want to measure the email goal completion rate.
- Open rate: The percentage of people who opened your email out of all the people it was delivered to. The average for B2B emails is 15.1%.
- Click rate: The percentage of people who clicked a link in the email out of all the people it was delivered to. The average for B2B emails is 3.2%.
- Click-to-open rate: The percentage of people who clicked a link in the email out of all the people who opened it. The average for all emails is 14.3%.
- Bounce rate: The percentage of emails that were not accepted by the recipient inbox out of all the emails sent. There are a couple reasons why an email bounces, some permanent and some not, but it’s typically due to an invalid email address, content issue, or reputation issue. Bounce rate should be under 1%, and most email sending tools will stop a send if it surpasses 5%.
Email metrics and metric-based improvements deserve their own focus, so we’ll thoroughly cover this topic in a later post in this series.
And there you have it! The best practices for B2B email marketing. Download our Content Marketing ebook to get started creating great content to promote in your email marketing efforts.