posted in Sales & Marketing

Always on the hunt for the next marketing gold mine, especially in B2B, where numbers are smaller, but the prizes are bigger. That’s B2B Marketers and Small Business owners alike. Social media has claimed so much of the limelight in recent years, with a constant barrage of updates, features and new uses. Amongst a sea of tools, methods and tactics many have seemingly increased our audience size but in many cases decreased our personalisation and targeting. Meanwhile Email Marketing has grown up, BIG Style!

What is and how to use Email Marketing for B2B

In this article we provide you with a guide to email marketing that can be easily understood and applied. That’s not to say the topics here are simple. Email marketing is vast, and trawling the net for the best practices for each aspect will lead to a lot of research. Here we provide you with what you need to know, and importantly, what you don’t need to know to use email marketing in your business. With some useful links and resources thrown in along the way!

First, let’s get familiar with what we mean by Email Marketing...

What is Email Marketing?

Email Marketing has almost always been there, a staple part of the online marketing ecosystem. But that leads me to wanting a unifying definition of what we can passively call “Email Marketing” without so much as a further thought of what we actually mean.

In the “good ‘ol days” a simple email account, some email addresses and a few sales emails later you’d have your scatter-gun email marketing machine ready to go. Probably breaking a few CAN-SPAM laws along the way!

Today we have advanced automation with cloud hosted email marketing platforms. Lot’s of jargon to simply say things have grown up and got clever. More is now possible than you have previously imagined (probably). Email Marketing Software doesn’t require a tech genius to operate, with drag-and-drop and tick box tools you don’t need to know one piece of code. This has made the application of Email Marketing really diverse

So rather than list all the things that fit in, or don’t fit into the definition of Email Marketing, I thought I’d open it up. Take the very construction of the name.
“Email” electronic mail which is sent from a mailbox, to a recipient.
“Marketing” our favourite definition being the practices by which you get potential and existing customers to know, like and trust you.

If we combine the two, this provides us with an extremely broad definition.

“Electronic Mail which is sent with the purpose of enhancing the recipient's knowledge, their preference and their trust of you, their potential supplier...”

Too broad I feel. For me it misses a key differentiator in what makes Email Marketing so beneficial and more powerful today than it has ever been. The lack of labour required and the ability to target more precisely, and continuously refine your target.

So maybe a better definition would be

“Electronic Mail, targeting the know, like and trust stages of the sales funnel individually, sent with purpose, ease and refinement...”

There are a tonne of other differentiators that could be thrown into the definition. The key thing of note here though, is that email marketing is vast. From a monthly newsletter, to a lead generating “Drip Email Campaign” (more on that later), so much is possible in this rich vein of online marketing.

With such a vast topic, and many applications, you should know your stuff about email marketing. Especially when you consider the benefits...

7 top benefits of email marketing

I’ve already eluded to a couple of the benefits that I think make Email Marketing stand out above the rest, but it doesn’t stop there. The exact benefits of Email Marketing depend highly on what you use it for. If you read my article on Inbound Marketing recently, you’ll know that Email Marketing featured highly. This is because Email Marketing can be applied at every step of the sales funnel, from lead capture through to engaging existing customers.

Here’s a list of some significant benefits you can quote when justifying an investment, or ramp up in your email marketing efforts.

1. Highly Targeted Marketing

The method by which you come into possession of a person's email address tells you a lot. Think about it. They could have subscribed to your newsletter after visiting your website, or they could have handed over their email address at a tradeshow. In both of these instances, you can infer a lot about the person and their stage in your sales funnel.

Why does it matter? Now you can speak to THEM individually. You wouldn’t send the same email to an existing customer as you would a fresh lead. They NEED different things from you. You want new leads to get to Know you, and you are trying to build and maintain trust with existing customers. The purpose of your emails are VERY different.

There are a few sayings out there, but none is more true than “if you’re trying to speak to everyone, you’re speaking to no-one”. This is why targeting or “Segmenting” your email list is such a significant benefit of Email Marketing. You can speak directly to each person on your email list with the information THEY need.

“...if you’re trying to speak to everyone, you’re speaking to no-one...”

All of this makes Email more efficient and more effective at getting the right messages, to the right lead, prospect or customer at the right time. Email Marketing can be made to work at every stage of your sales funnel, by targeting and segmenting. This means learning this one box of tricks can serve you really well in your marketing journey.

2. Low Labour Intensity - High ROI

Labour Intensity doesn’t even scratch the surface. Email Marketing Software is designed for the non-developer. No Coding. Drag and Drop. OMG sort of easy. Allowing you to concentrate on crafting your emails and marketing messages.

If using “Autoresponders”, “Automation” or simple welcome messages the labour is all in the setup. Once you’ve created your campaigns or autoresponders, the Email Marketing Software just takes over. You can sit back, monitor and tinker if you so wish!

Even if you create and send an email campaign each week, you’re reaching hundreds, potentially thousands of email inboxes each week. And you’re just writing one email! You could easily write one email a day, and set up the campaign in little more than 20 minutes. If you had 5 segments in your list (say Cold Leads, Hot Leads, Prospects, Opportunities and customers) you could reach each of these segments once per week. For less than a couple of hours work!

What’s the real return? You move leads, prospects and opportunities along the sales funnel and you maintain a trusting relationship with your existing customers. The end result? Kick Ass SALES.

3. Low Cost (Real Money £££)

Return on your labour is all well and good, but what about cold hard cash? Well, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with this next nugget. Plenty of email marketing software is free. Yes, free. If sending under 10,000 emails a month Mailchimp is completely free. Even their paid plans are scandalously cheap and give you access to some seriously supercharged features.

So in many cases Email Marketing Software is free, apart from your labour and maybe paying a tiny £10-30 a month for loads more emails and automation features. Email Marketing is so accessible. But for that reason there are plenty doing it poorly. All the more opportunity for YOU to stand out.

4. Increases Professionalism

As I mentioned, this is a double edged sword. You need to get it right. When you do, you can seriously build your brand. Even as a small business, you can create a strong perception of professionalism.

Emails hit hard. They make people sit up and pay attention. A person's email inbox is extremely personal, and you’ve been invited in. It is your time to impress, regardless of your business size, you can pack a punch. The perception of your business size, calibre, quality, and professionalism could almost be built on those emails alone.

5. You Can Get Started Quickly, with Immediate Results

You can take control and get up and running really quickly. You don’t have to hire a developer or designer, you can just sign up for a free account with some Email Marketing Software and explore. Within no time you can be sending campaigns to your existing customers.

Unlike a website which needs to rank, or Social Media where you need to build a following from nothing, email marketing works from day 1. You can start building your brand, enhancing your perception and adding value to your customers today. There aren’t many marketing methods which have such a short runway. I explain how you can take off with some helpful tips to get started and master Email Marketing.

6. Drives Website Traffic

If you’re managing your website, or have someone managing your website, you’ll be discussing traffic. I’m not talking about your daily commute! You should already be aware it’s not a “build it and they will come” task. You need to DRIVE traffic. The more traffic you drive, the better your search engine ranking. The better your search engine ranking, the more organic traffic you get. A beautiful, virtuous circle.

Email marketing can really get your traffic wheels spinning. You’re not reliant on your search engine ranking to gain the traffic. So email marketing is a great way to drive traffic whilst your site is wallowing woefully on page 3-10 of the search engine results. In this respect, email marketing is an essential tool in getting your website to perform. We all want our websites to perform don’t we?

7. Starts a Conversation & Keeps You “top of mind”

I wrote an article a while back explaining why you should subscribe to a blog, even if YOU don’t read it. The reason was founded in conversation. Sharing something, offering a point of view and asking for an opinion are fantastic ways to start of conversation. The route to achieving this is through email marketing.

You’re appearing in your customers email inbox, and if you provide them with something useful they will reward you with conversation. If you ask for it, and if you’re speaking directly to them. Even if they don’t reply to your email and engage in conversation, you’ve just appeared in their inbox. This keeps you “Top-of-Mind”. The next time they’re in need of your capabilities, you’ll be the supplier who pops to mind.

The power of staying “Top-of-Mind” should not be underestimated. Your website may be circling the drain on page 10 of the search engine results, but you may still get first contact. This benefit of email marketing alone should be enough to get you fired up! Remember though. You need to be remembered for the right reasons, so you’re email marketing better be professional, useful and good quality.

For even more reasons why you should get your ass into Email Marketing here are a couple of articles. This one is from Constant Contact and has a full “29 Reasons to use Email Marketing”. This one is from B2B Marketing, providing the essential reasons why business owners need Email Marketing.

6 Ways email marketing can be used

I’ve covered a few of the tantalising benefits of email marketing, and along the way I’ve mentioned a few ways you can use it to achieve these benefits. To be clear, I wanted to provide an overview of the different approaches.

1. Sharing Great Resources

As I just mentioned, email marketing can be really powerful for sharing great resources. But what does this mean? Well, if you’re looking in the right places you can find information and resources that can be really useful to your customer.

I outlined a method by which you can find this kind of useful information in a previous post. So if you’re struggling with how to find things to share, I’d suggest you head on over to that article and take it in. You don’t need to be a tech guru. The methods are REALLY simple. Using news aggregators like Feedly and setting up Google Alerts, the information you’re seeking will come to you without ANY ongoing effort.

Assuming you’ve read the previous article, we’re now clear on how you FIND the articles, information and resources. I’ll now explain what you then need to do with all this great stuff!

Just sharing the information by providing a link in an email may work for you, but you really want to be making life easy for the guys receiving your email. This is where some work could be involved, so here’s a bit of a plan.

1. Read the article or resource you’ve found

This sounds like I’m taking the P#@s, but I’m not. You need to validate that it’s actually useful information, and not just more boring tripe.

2. Think about why the article or resource is useful to them

This could be just based on their general industry or company profile. However, you may be in the midst of a project of quoting for some work which relates to the article. If you’ve got a deep understanding of your customer you should know their business objectives. If this is the case, is what you’ve found a threat? Opportunity? Maybe you don’t know. This doesn’t matter, you can still start a conversation.

3. Develop your angle

Will you ask them a question? Will you offer them some insight about how this impacts the industry, your relationship or your supply chain? Will you simply offer them the information or resource saying how you found it useful?

Whatever your angle, have one. This overcomes the problem of simply “sending them a link” and hope they work it out for themselves. It also makes it a lot more likely that they’ll actually read the article and reply.

Get the level of information right

A word of warning on this one. If you’re offering industry insights, make sure you understand your audience. If the balance of import to export trade in the UK doesn’t have a direct impact on your customer, don’t share it. It’s information. It may even be interesting. But will it make them think, act or behave differently? If the answer is no, the information may well be simply that. Information. Not useful, high value information.

If however there’s a plan to upgrade transport links between your businesses and it’s likely to cause delay or even improve delivery times, this information is valuable. It may change the way you do business together. Or maybe there’s a new European standard that’s being introduced and it’s introduction has been delayed or controversial. Jackpot. This may be something they’re not even aware of. You’ve just scored some brownie points.

How often should I email?

It depends firstly on how good you are at finding information to start with. If you follow my steps from this article then you should have that nailed. Then it depends on how quickly you can draw insight or questions from the articles you find, and how many people on your email list this applies to.

Remember you could be sending one email to many customers, but the insight you draw out could largely be the same if they’re all in the same industry. If however it’s a very specific insight that relates to a specific customer you may send the email only to that customer.

So there is no short answer. A good strategy would be to find at least 2-3 pieces of content to share per week. Let the content be your guide. If it applies to everyone in your email list, craft something for everyone. If it applies only to a few people in your list, craft an email for that segment. If it applies to a single customer, craft an email for that customer specifically. You may find your frequency isn’t consistent, but as long as the information and insights you’re sharing are high value why would it matter? Mix it up a bit!

2. Promoting Offers or Spare Capacity

This one sounds like a no brainer. Maybe not as relevant in the B2B sector, but there is a definite shift towards businesses offering reduced cost services to fill capacity. Email Marketing is the perfect way to deliver this information. It’s instant and easy to update. Forget flyers, offer sheets and printed materials. You can plan and execute an offer in a matter of minutes with email marketing.

Think about it. If you want to fill capacity because you’ve had a slot pop up, you can have an email put together and sent in a matter of minutes. The offer itself could last less than a day. This allows you to put tight timescales on the offers and promotions you create. If it doesn’t work, you can quickly try something else! If it works too well, you can quickly turn it off! That’s light years quicker than producing anything in hard copy print. Meaning you keep your SME levels of flexibility, whilst using big business promotion tactics.

If you’re not currently offering promotions, you can still promote your existing rates and charges. Reminding customers of your prices, latest machine or labour capabilities keeps them in the loop. If you keep them up to date they may even start using your rates and capabilities during their quoting phase. If they then win the work, you were the source of the estimated cost, giving you first stab at winning the order.

How often should I email?

Promotions and price lists are likely to become repetitive emails. We all know the businesses out there who seem to constantly have an offer or sale on, it gets boring. Your customers can become immune to this type of tactic. So limit its use. I’d suggest to maybe 1-2 times per month at most.

3. Promoting a Competition

Now competitions don’t have to cost a great deal of cash. The most important thing about a competition is that it generates engagement. Email marketing is perfect for launching and keeping people updated with the progress of a competition. It wins hands down over other methods for SME businesses as it is so targeted.

If you’ve got a competition page on your website emails to your customers can drive traffic to that page. In turn you can significantly boost your traffic. As we said earlier, traffic generates rankings which generates traffic. So ask yourself, how much is a boost in your rankings actually worth? How much are you paying that SEO company per month to boost your rankings?

Setting up a competition

I’m not going to go into detail about the types of competitions you could run, but think outside the box. Best workplace linedance ? Best caption for a funny picture? Best guess at a question you pose? Best workplace decoration for a holiday like Easter, Halloween or Christmas? All you need is a basic page on your website with the ability for visitors to comment and leave links to their videos, or leave their answers.

Of course, platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ are built for this type of social interaction so this can be achieved on your company pages within these sites. If however your aim is to drive traffic, the best place for this interaction is your website. Of course, you can Tweet and post out the responses to social media to get even more traction, but this isn’t essential.

If you don’t know how to setup a page like this on your site, just ask your web developer. It should only be 1-2 hours work to setup a page with a comments section and some information about the content. If you manage your own website through a Content Management System, even easier!

Don’t forget, include an email list signup box on your new web page. That way any new visitors to the page can also get involved, making your competition bigger and better.

How often should I email?

The frequency for this type of email has to be judged based on the level of engagement you’re getting in your competition. When launching a competition, you may want to send 1 email every couple of days as well as hitting social media. If you’re just using email, maybe 1 a day. But don’t send the same email again and again!

You can use some pretty awesome tools as part of the email marketing software to prevent “over-doing it”. It’s pretty standard practice within email marketing software to be able to only send a repeat email or “tweaked” email to people on your list who opened the last email. So if someone doesn’t open your email, you don’t keep on bugging them with the same message!

4. Generating Content Through Email Marketing Surveys

This is a double whammy. If you’re looking for a source of content, you can use email marketing to generate it. Using email marketing you can run a survey, ask a question, do a poll. It could be something silly or it could be a way of getting some industrial intelligence. You can then use the results to create an article of your own to promote. Using Email Marketing of course.

Email Marketing Software Loves Survey Software

Depending on how you create the survey you could include a link to a page on your own website, or a link to a survey you created on some survey software. The benefit of using survey software is that it’s likely to integrate with your email marketing software. Why’s this a benefit? You can send repeated emails only to those who haven’t yet completed your survey. Meaning you don’t bug your engaged email list subscribers.

You can use email marketing at every step in the process. From getting people to fill in the survey through to feeding back the results to everyone on your email list. We all like to see how our opinions compare with the masses, and this could be useful information for everyone.

How often should I email?

If you’re creating worthwhile surveys, getting high value answers and engagement, why would you stop? Reality is, coming up with a survey of good quality which yields either useful or hilarious insights is difficult. You also need to give your survey enough time to gather results. If you’ve got a highly engaged email list you might run a weekly poll. On the other hand, if your email list is a little lack lustre, or you’re just starting with email marketing a monthly survey could help boost your engagement. (When I say engagement I mean people actually opening your emails, something your email marketing software will be able to tell you)

5. Newsletter Distribution

Everything I’ve written about so far could arguably form part of your monthly or weekly newsletter. If you are running a competition, survey or have an insight you want to share, go ahead and include it in your newsletter. But a newsletter should have more substance than just rounding up everything you’ve already sent.

Newsletters can come in many shapes, sizes and guises (say that 10 times fast!) and we will in fact be covering how to come up with a “mouthwateringly brilliant” newsletter in a future post. For now I’ll explain what I mean by newsletter.

What makes a newsletter different?

Unlike the other methods of email marketing I’ve described so far, a newsletter will typically have a fixed frequency. In that sense, it’s more like a newspaper that’s produced regardless of whether there’s actually news. This happens to be the number 1 reason why newsletters are often started, but quickly fade away.

Your newsletter could contain a whole host of information. Here’s a few quick ideas.

  • Progress towards a target like ISO certification, particularly useful in keeping customers aware of your capabilities.
  • Details of a problem solving activity you’ve been carrying out with some increasing performance metrics that your customers will care about.
  • An employee “Bio” is a really effective way of getting the personality of your brand across, make it light-hearted and personal as well as professional.
  • A brief overview of some recent work completed, the problem you faced and how you overcame it. (You could even write this in collaboration with the end customer of the work you did)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but like I said, keep an eye out for the upcoming article on how to you can write kick ass email newsletters.

Newsletters are typically contained within the email itself, however it’s a great idea to have your newsletter setup as a web page also. If you’re using email marketing software, this is already done. Create the newsletter and the software will automatically setup the newsletter on a web page for your email list subscribers to click through to. (All the more reason why using email marketing software is a no brainer)

How often should I email?

If you’re just starting out with email marketing, the newsletter isn’t a bad place to start. However it’s also the place where most start, and end their efforts. Mainly because they bite off more than they can chew. Get comfortable with writing content, general emails, short articles, then tackle the newsletter is my advice.

Most people responsible for marketing in small manufacturing businesses tend to run out of steam when it comes to writing the monthly newsletter. The demands of the day job kick in and the newsletter schedule goes out the window. My advice would be to plan out your first 3-4 newsletters, roughly that is. Outline roughly what you’re going to write for each, then come back to it and try and apply some detail. Don’t just put a section for “Company News”. That’s a sure fire way to run out of inspiration!

If you’re just starting out, maybe tackle a quarterly newsletter. If you’re comfortable with writing maybe crank it up a notch to monthly. Beyond that it all depends on your business. As an SME business with 10-50 employees you’ll run out of “Employee Bio’s” before the year is out if you produce a weekly newsletter. On the other hand, they could last you a few years if you do a monthly or quarterly newsletter.

6. Content Distribution

Last, and by no means least, content distribution. To be clear I specifically mean YOUR content. That’s articles, presentations, videos (if you’re posh) and all manner of other information you publish online. If you’re already producing content it’s highly likely you’re on board with email marketing as a way of getting your content read. If not, what’s holding you back?

Whether you produce content on a schedule or when the wind blows in the right direction, emailing your customers with a snippet of the article is a great way to get it read. It goes without saying, the introduction to your content should be enticing. Therefore re-using the first paragraph of your article or the introduction to a video or slideshow in your email is a great tactic. This makes writing your emails really easy!

There is another type of content…

So I defined content as “information you publish online”. The truth is there is another type of content which isn’t published online that is perfect for delivery by email. In fact there is no other way. Know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about the email itself. Let me explain.

Emails themselves can contain a diverse range of content, including embedded videos, images, slideshare presentations and of course, the written word. The reason people think about published web pages when they talk about content is explained by the universally understood aim of content marketing. To drive traffic to your website. But if the content is contained in an email, there isn’t the need to visit a website to consume the content. Problem.

The universally understood reason for content marketing unfortunately falls short of the mark. And I would suggest even if you think you know what you’re talking about, head on over to my article explaining content marketing in the context of an inbound marketing strategy. You will, as a result of reading, have a superior understanding of what the aims of content marketing truly should be. Building, nurturing and sustaining your sales pipeline whilst moving prospects along the “Know-Like-Trust” journey. Head on over to the inbound marketing article for more information.

How emails can both deliver and BE the content

Email Marketing Automation is the answer. I have briefly touched on email marketing automation, but it’s a part of email marketing that is both advanced and simple. Don’t worry I’ve not gone crazy! It provides advanced levels of customer interaction and performance, but email marketing software makes it highly accessible to even the most technophobic.

Here’s how it works. You create content that is ONLY available by email. It’s not hosted on your website or blog, it’s purely written within your email or emails. You then advertise that the content is available to people who subscribe to receive the email. When the user subscribes, they get an email or series of emails containing your exclusive content. The only way they can receive the content is by giving you their email address. Genius.

You’ll need to advertise the exclusive content on your website, providing your visitors with a form to subscribe to receive the exclusive email content. This is fairly simple, more on that in part 2 of this article series.

The best bit about this type of content, you write it once, set it up and let it run. Your subscribers consume the content at their leisure whilst you work on other parts of your sales funnel.

Talking of sales funnels. You could have different email “drip campaigns” as they are conventionally called, for different stages in your sales funnel. This way, subscribers also self-qualify themselves as being leads, prospects, suspects or however you classify them. This then allows you to further segment your email list.

We cover more on Email Marketing Automation in part 2 & 3 of this blog post series.

That’s it for Part 1…

If you’ve stuck with me this far, give yourself a well earned pat on the back. I’ve covered a lot of high value information. Information which you are going to want to re-visit and re-read when you’re setting up your email marketing. So bookmark this article in your browser, favourite it in Feedly or do whatever you need to make sure it’s there when you need it!

Giving you a heads up of what’s coming up in Part 2 & 3

In the next installment in this series I’ll be covering:

  • What resources, software and tools you need to get into Email Marketing
  • Key Considerations you need to take into account to do Email Marketing Professionally and Legally
  • How to grow your email list - in the context of a UK SME business. No big business dreamer tactics!
  • 27 Kick Ass Tips to get your email marketing firing on all cylinders
  • Email Marketing - The Possibilities in Pandora’s Box
  • Overview of Tools you can use for Email Marketing
  • Things to avoid getting sucked into when reading about email marketing in other articles not aimed at YOU

This article has been a real pleasure to write, but at the same time a real challenge. Email Marketing is a massive topic, but greater than that is it’s potential.

Stick with me for Part 2 & 3 in the series and complete your education on email marketing for SME businesses. We aim to help you cut through the crap, so if there are any questions please ask in the comments below, we’ll provide the REAL answer for REAL businesses.

Ready for Part 2? Here it is, click here to head on over there now!

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