HomeBlog Eight Ways to Rethink B-to-B Email Marketing

Eight Ways to Rethink B-to-B Email Marketing

June 21, 2018 | By Jessie Johnson

  • An integrated, data-driven approach to email marketing enables b-to-b marketers to deliver a personalized, relevant experience within an audience context
  • Email marketing capabilities have evolved to support a programmatic and scalable approach to customization, enabling the next best action on the buyer’s journey
  • Demand creation marketers must continuously test and optimize their email strategy, both on its own and as it integrates with other delivery mechanisms in the marketing tactic mix

Buyers expect a personalized experience that delivers relevant content, offers and interactions on the basis of who they are and where they are in the buyer’s journey or customer lifecycle. B-to-b marketers support that journey – but do not control it. The ability to design and scale this one-on-one experience across programs and audience segments is the hallmark of the savvy demand marketer. 

Email has been a key component of the b-to-b demand creation and direct marketing mix since the early 1990s, and has since evolved well beyond a batch-and-blast or broadcast approach. Demand marketers must master several different types of emails, including planned program emails, event management, triggered emails, newsletters and transactional communications.

Today, email is a contextual and adaptive touchpoint that depends on a number of dimensions driven by an individual’s profile, timing, device, and preceding events and interactions. As email marketing capabilities continue to evolve with audience expectations, success requires rethinking email, both on its own and as it integrates with other delivery mechanisms in the marketing tactic mix. Here are eight places to start:

  • Audience context. Buyers expect a high degree of relevance from content and messaging delivered through a direct channel like email. This requires a preceding exchange of data and permission to contact, and an understanding of buyers’ preferences for communication channels and frequency. Successful email marketing starts with the audience profile, built from and maintained by a combination of first- and third-party and augmented data sources, and mapping to stages of the buyer’s journey or customer lifecycle. Consider the role of self-guided interactions in the buying cycle, which people participate in the buying process, and their interaction preferences, and use this insight to inform email strategy as well as template-level decisions (e.g. level of customization, offer selection and treatment, email cadence, salutation and signature, utility links).
  • Program integration. An email and the offer it promotes should be part of an integrated tactic mix that works toward a demand creation objective. Leverage email to amplify messaging and points of activation and engagement in other channels (e.g. Web site, social media, display advertising, chat and events).
  • Content planning. Inventory existing content to identify content assets that may be leveraged and repurposed in email form for each persona. Think of content as components that, when compiled, assemble the finished product. Map this content to the buyer’s journey, find points of integration within the tactic mix, and identify offers that pair best with the email delivery mechanism for each audience segment. Experiment with real-time personalization and interactive content (e.g. infographics, video, GIFs).
  • Personalize the experience. Personalization is all about delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, through the right channel. Email should be personalized in the context of the audience’s profile and stage within the buyer’s journey or customer lifecycle. This optimizes the email for engagement, and drives interaction and participation beyond the initial click. Combine information from individual contact histories with explicit profile data to trigger and tailor email messages using relevant data points (e.g. frequency of engagement, specific content topics driving the interactions).
  • Path and progress. By design, emails typically provide multiple ways for a buyer to interact with an organization through mechanisms like standardized template links, demand creation offers, calls to action, personalized content recommendations and the ability to manage personal email preferences. Use dynamic content to deliver the optimal offer and call to action (CTA), using the audience profile, buyer’s journey stage and previous interactions as a guide. Consider destination pages and post-conversion experience as opportunities to deepen the engagement initiated with the email click. Email messaging, tone, and look and feel should be consistent with the landing page, and the conversion steps or offer redemption process should align to expectations set in the email.
  • Content components. Myriad inputs from implicit, explicit and augmented data sources may combine within rule sets and algorithms to dynamically deliver personalized content components (e.g. header, introductory paragraph, content offers, CTA, signature, subject line) to drive the next best action. The final treatment of that email as delivered to the individual recipient is compiled from the base email template and the assembly of dynamic content blocks. Capabilities of core technologies (e.g. marketing automation platforms, personalization, demand orchestration platforms) allow for programmatic content assembly and delivery in email as well as Web properties.
  • Triggered emails. Triggered emails are activated and deployed in response to signals interpreted from specific contact activities (or inactivity), behavior and interactions in the context of individual history and buying cycle stage. Stage progression and increased readiness to buy may be interpreted from lead scores, content interactions, form submissions, onsite search query language or intent-based signals. These signals may trigger an email with the goal of conversion to the next stage of the journey, such as registering for an event or signing up for a free trial. The targeting, treatment and timing of b-to-b emails must be designed to support demand creation objectives for activation, validation and acceleration.
  • Artificial intelligence. Advanced capabilities for email leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to determine the next best offer or conversion opportunity, adapt delivery and creative treatment, and provide a scalable approach to personalization. AI also helps email marketers optimize for send time, subject line and frequency, or engage in bidirectional email communication with the recipient – with the goal of setting an appointment.

Email is a highly data-driven and adaptive delivery mechanism that allows marketers to design a personalized and relevant experience using predefined combinations of data, content and creative to optimize for the individual – in context of the demand unit. As marketers, we may have a destination in mind, but the audience is in control of the journey.

Join us at the SiriusDecisions 2018 Technology Exchange in New Orleans on November 7-9 for a closer look at the capabilities stack driving the modern approach to b-to-b email marketing.

The SiriusDecisions Customer Lifecycle Framework

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Jessie Johnson

Jessie Johnson is a Research Analyst at SiriusDecisions. Jessie is a marketing technology thought leader focused on leveraging marketing automation technologies and actionable intelligence in demand creation, content strategy and development, and integrated marketing. She has more than 10 years of experience working with b-to-b organizations. Follow her on Twitter @jjhnsn.

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