You've probably seen dozens, if not hundreds, of articles online about "email marketing." Most of these articles make the faulty assumption that email marketing best practices look the same from one industry to the next. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially when discussing business-to-business email marketing. B2B email marketing best practices are, in many ways, built around different principles than those for business to consumer email marketing practices. Here's why.
Scale and Competition
This relates to not just the scale of your campaign, it relates to the scale of the sale itself. Yes, consumers do have to make big purchase decisions. However, nearly every purchase decision for a business is a "big" one. By big we mean influential. Which economy car Mr. Smith purchases certainly has a big influence on his life, but Mr. Smith's car purchase doesn't influence whether or not he loses a competitive edge against Mr. Jones.
Business organizations exist in an environment ruled by competition, and every purchase decision they make affects their ability to succeed within that environment. They wish to gamble as little as possible. They want to be certain that this purchase will further their goals, and certainly that it won't hinder them.
So, what's the takeaway here for email marketing?
It's probably going to take more than one email to convince and convert a buyer, for one thing. You cannot take any shortcuts when it comes to building the relationship, the trust required to gain the loyalty of a business customer. Tier your campaign and consider the need to build a relationship over time.
Call to Action? Call to Content
Yes, you still want to have a call to action, but consider the differences between the business user and the consumer. A single email isn't going to sell a product, but you do want to further your relationship with that email. What are decision makers looking for when they open your email? Information that helps them maintain and improve their competitive edge.
That information could come in several different forms, depending on the business and your product or service. Ask yourself which of these three core questions they're asking when they open your email.
Instead of simply saying, "buy today," make your call to action a step toward gaining more information, information that satisfies the questions above, tailored to your industry and customers.
Who Holds the Reins?
You need to target the right decision makers in your email campaigns. That much is true regardless of whether you're selling to retail consumers or business organizations. However, B2B email marketing best practices demand that you be even more vigilant about doing so.
One of the most common mistakes we see is aiming campaigns only at the most important influencers in the organization (or at the relevant department of said organization). Yes, you need your campaign to extend to them, but rarely are they the sole decision makers. You need to convince head influencers, along with those that advise them, those that will work most closely with your product or service, and those that pull the strings on the budget.
The group of individuals that have input on a particular decision within an organization is a "decision-making unit." Decision-making units are important for making purchase decisions because they bring a variety of different perspectives to the process.
You need to consider each of those perspectives when designing your email campaign. It's very likely that certain aspects of your product or service will appeal more to the department director than to the technical director, and you'll need to stress other aspects to convince the technical director.
Speaking of Titles
You may be able to create certain parts of your campaign based on the titles of those in your target audience. The head of IT, a chief financial officer, a managing director; these are titles that give you information you can use to create your campaign elements.
There's one title, however, that doesn't help you at all: CEO.
The CEO of a small tech startup has next to nothing in common with the CEO of a large restaurant chain, and they'll be looking for very different information from you, assuming you have a product that could serve both of their needs.
When you direct a campaign toward CEOs, you shouldn't shape that part of your campaign based on their title, but on their company itself and their actual role within it. Look at the size of the company, its goals, its vision, and its relationships with its own customer base.
Why B2B Email Marketing Is Important
Social media has become one of the main channels of communication between consumers and companies, and even from company to company. However, in the business-to-business world, email is still far more important as a communication channel. B2B email marketing remains the strongest single channel when measured against the all-important yardstick of return on investment.
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