Your simple 5-step checklist to more effective B2B email marketing

Guest post by Janice Sakata-Schultze, master marketing and copy sherpa for Schultze Travel Communications, a full-service travel marketing company based in Golden, Colorado. You can find out more about her work and read up on her marketing insights on her blog.

Sending emails to your customers used to be so simple. You could write a snappy subject line, create sales-driven copy, format everything in simple text, and send them out as much as you wanted.

Now there’s so much more to think about and keep track of. You have to consider the quality of copy, the timing, frequency, optimization, segmentation, social sharing and responsive design. It all adds up to a giant hassle that could drive the most rational person to near insanity.

Well, before you go running and screaming out of your office, take a deep breath and know that you too can develop an email marketing plan that works. Starting with creating emails first, you can figure out when and to whom to send them, how to share them and which channels are working best. Breaking the whole process down into bite-size pieces AND having a great email marketing provider are essential.

Follow this five-point checklist when you are developing your current B2B email marketing practices, and you won’t go crazy.

1. Creating fascinating emails and subject lines

Of course, the first step to turning your reader into a customer is to get them to read your email. In addition, you have to keep them hooked throughout to get to your core sales message.

If your reader knows you or your company, chances are they’ll open it up. But if they don’t, send it from your name or your company’s owner or CEO. According to Dan Hare in SmartInsights, an individual sending an email will elicit curiosity and increase the likelihood your reader will open it.

Next, think about the subject line. One of the more popular trends to is have single word subject (A quick example: during Barack Obama’s 2012 Presidential campaign, the most enduring email had the subject line, “Hey”). Instead of following this fad, consider the most pressing problems your audience has. Then address that pain, or provide a solution for it. For instance, if your reader has problems with inventory, have a subject line that says, “Tired of being buried in stockroom?”

The final factor you’ll want to consider is segmentation, which means creating targeted content for predefined groups of readers, also known as dynamic content. That way, your reader will have relevant information that keeps them reading and makes them look forward to your next email.

2. Making your emails look good everywhere

You’ve heard a lot about mobile marketing, and you may not think it really applies to B2B emails. Not true – in fact, B2BNN reports that about 50% of B2B marketers sold products through mobile marketing, and a 75% intend to implement this strategy by the end of last year.

Effective email marketingImmediacy is the reason why you need to pay attention to this strategy. More people are getting their information or making purchases on their smartphones or tablets. If you don’t employ some responsive design tactics to make your site mobile-friendly, your visitors will find your emails hard to navigate or just plain look strange. That could lead to their leaving your site and losing a potential sale.

Now if you’re thinking you have to know fancy HTML code and need advanced programming skills, relax. You only need to follow some easy common-sense steps in writing your emails. This Copyblogger post from Rob Walling provides such a list that even the most technically challenged marketer can follow.

3. Sharing what you know

Many marketers know that social media sharing provides the lifeblood for growing their customer base. But all too often, they limit the content to blog posts, articles and other social outlets. Your readers will then find it difficult to share with their friends and likely won’t follow through.
Social media for B2BSocial media has proven to be a reliable audience builder, especially if you are providing highly valuable quality content that others can’t wait to pass along. Roughly 56% of the marketers are getting the message and using social share as a marketing strategy. So you’ll want to place social share buttons at the very top of your emails so that your readers can click on them quickly.

According to this Exact Target blog post, you will want to make sure that your social post copy entices recipients and that your URL is shortened to fit character requirements. That’s especially important if you’re sharing on Twitter, which has a maximum 140-character limit.

4. Knowing that timing is everything

Sending your emails at specific days and times gives you a clear roadmap for your email strategy. First, check your email delivery provider (like an AWeber, Mail Chimp, Infusionsoft, or others) and see when your emails have the highest click-through rates. Next, you’ll want to take note of those metrics and send your emails out during those highly receptive time periods.

MarketingProfs reported some interesting statistics that revealed a few secrets to B2B email marketing success. Tuesday appeared to the best day for open rates (44% of companies surveyed), while Friday was the worst (53%). The highest click-throughs and conversions occurred between 8 AM and 12 noon local time (53%). The survey also found that the most effective offers are webinar invitations, then white paper and case study downloads.

5. Letting your audience have control

As with any digital marketing campaign, the success of it all boils down to numbers. Constant A/B testing of headlines, subjects lines, content, timing and other factors leads to marketers fine-tuning their decisions and seeing which emails bring in the best return. You might think that making these choices also means assuming what they want to hear and how often.

Maybe one thing you haven’t considered is allowing your customers and prospects to decide for themselves how often they’d like to hear from you. While this may sound counterintuitive, this strategy actually results in cleaner and more valuable lists where your recipients want to hear and are likely to buy from your company. That also helps with your optimization and better search engine rankings for your company.

Here’s how to do this, as reported by Brian Anderson at DemandGen Report: Offer your readers and “opt-down” option as well as on opt-out. This allows them to reduce the frequency of emails, combine them into a summary, or receive only emails on preferred subjects or topics.

Each of these five steps can easily improve your email marketing success. Give them a try, and see your sales numbers skyrocket!