Optimizing B2B email marketing campaigns – best practices

Don’t set and forget it – regularly testing and optimizing your automated campaigns can increase open and click-through rates, improve engagement and drive conversions

Why optimize your current automated email marketing campaigns?

Optimizing your automated email marketing to increase open rates and click through rates should be high on your ‘to do’, or even ‘ta dah’ list. One advantage of automation is that you can ‘set and forget it’ – but only for so long. Revisiting your automated email tracks regularly ensures that they’re still meeting business objectives, building brand awareness with your prospects and customers, nurturing your target audience, and providing valuable information to move the recipient to the next desired action in your marketing or sales funnel.

“Email is a push channel, so we need to push it to work harder.”
Kath Pay, author of Holistic Email Marketing

Prevent the wrong message at the wrong time

Optimization of your automated emails has other uses too. Making sure your automated emails are optimized is essential to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. It can also help to prevent the wrong message going out to the wrong person at the wrong time. Even large, sophisticated organizations have sent a time-critical message on the wrong day or have risked regulatory non-compliance by not unsubscribing users when requested. Or, because B2B email campaigns can be over a long duration, emails are still being sent, even when the recipient has stopped engaging, leading to ISPs sending them to the Spam folder.

Automated email is any marketing or sales email that is deployed based on predefined triggers or user actions that doesn’t require anyone manually hitting ‘send’. Automated email requires strategic thinking and a good understanding of your available data points that can be used as triggers. For example, cookies on a web page that collect behavioral data could trigger an email campaign giving in depth information contained on that page.

Is your B2B organization using automated email campaigns effectively?

Almost half of all companies use some form of email marketing automation and the average ROI for email marketing is a remarkable 4,000% [Omnisend, 2022]. Yet, while automation is firmly embedded in everyday B2B email marketing, many organizations are underusing its capabilities. One survey found that most (58%) companies are using just one to five email automations [Email on Acid/ Holistic]. This suggests that not every customer journey stage (lead nurturing, onboarding new customers, upselling/ cross-selling, re-engaging or support, for example) is supported with meaningful engagement by email. Or that there is limited personalization for different customer segments and their distinct needs, preferences and purchase behaviors.

“Automated email marketing lies at the heart of any successful digital marketing campaign, yet it’s often the most overlooked and undermanaged asset.”
Catalina Dobre, VP, Digital Production & Client Services, MarketOne

Best practices for email campaign optimization

When optimizing, an iterative approach helps you to learn the successes and failures from previous sends and decide what to tweak in the next.

Build a high-quality rather than high-volume email list

It’s better to focus efforts on building a highly targeted, and hopefully highly engaged, email list than emailing a large number of recipients who add up to an impressive number but are clearly not interested in buying from you – they’re not opening your emails, they’re not clicking on your links or visiting your website. Sending emails to inactive subscribers can hurt your deliverability as unopened emails are eventually routed to Spam by email service providers. You’re also wasting resources that could be better funneled in building a compliant email list that converts.

Keep your automation campaign workflow simple

Design your sales nurture path based on goals, target market, and buyer stage and design an automated drip campaign but keep paths as simple as possible. Campaigns with long and complicated nurtures can overwhelm the recipient and distract the marketer from the original campaign objective.

“Marketing automation is more than just automating portions of your marketing process – it provides valuable data points that allow marketers to determine who to target within their list of leads with varying outreach methods.”
Jacob Hanson, SendGrid

Maximize email design, minimize text

Your subscribers are busy people. More than 50% of marketing emails are deleted within two seconds of reading them [Litmus]. They want to scan not read, so if you’ve been convincing enough in your subject line to get your email opened, keep the text concise and to the point. One theme, brief paragraphs ideally under 60 characters consistent with brand tone of voice and a compelling call-to-action keep the reader’s attention. The design should lead the eye through the email to the CTA. After reading, they should have no questions about what to do next. Eighty-five percent of all emails are opened on a mobile device [Hustler], so make sure emails are optimized for mobile.
Other best practices for email content are:

  • Add shareable links so emails can be easily forwarded
  • Keep your CTA near the top to avoid scrolling
  • Use action verbs for your CTA text to tell users what to do next
  • Include an Unsubscribe link to comply with GDPR and US CAN-SPAM laws

Personalize messaging

Personalization matters more than ever. Seventy-one percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions. And 76% get frustrated when this doesn’t happen. Want your company to beat competitors? Personalization drives 40% of revenue for fast-growing companies [McKinsey]. Here are some tips:

  • Use audience segmentation to create highly targeted emails that speak to their pain points so that they feel more relevant and useful to the recipient.
  • Set behavioral triggers to automate an email. For example, a prospect visiting a specific product page on your website could trigger an email with more detailed information and a free trial.
  • Use dynamic content to update the information within an email in real time every time it’s opened. For example, a countdown timer that tells a prospect how many hours are left until a deal runs out, or how many tickets are left to an event. Use automatic RSS or XML feeds to pull in the most recent social media, blog posts or case studies to offer newsletter subscribers the most recent information. Personalize the email image according to audience segment attribute – for example for a financial article, in Europe you may want an image of a euro, in the US the dollar would resonate. Or use conditional content based on awareness level to personalize the email according to buyer journey stage. The possibilities for dynamic content are endless in B2B emails.

Unsubscribes are good

Make sure your email recipients know where that ‘Unsubscribe’ button is and clearly signpost your Preference Center so they can easily update their marketing preferences and let you know the kind of content they’re interested in seeing. Your content and business won’t be for everyone and sending emails to an unengaged audience will damage your open rates, long-term engagement, and brand reputation as they are at risk of being marked as Spam. Practice good data hygiene and let those uninterested users go.

Use automation and machine learning for optimal send time

Schedule your marketing automation platform to send emails so that they reach your recipient at the right time, no matter where they are on the globe. Machine learning is good at testing, analyzing and optimizing email engagement using data, including best send times for your audience segment. Seventh Sense, for example, analyzes your contacts and engagement history to predict when recipients are most likely to read your email, iterating over time to increase open rates. Tools such as Phrasee and Persado also use artificial intelligence to test email subject lines and copy based on engagement data.

Adopt a test and learn approach

Using your marketing automation platform’s A/B testing capabilities is essential to learn what’s working (and what’s not). Choose one element of your email to test and record results so you can see what resonates most with your audiences. Campaign Monitor tested an old design against a new one and found that simply changing an email to have a more appealing visual design got a 127% lift in click-throughs. You can also test subject lines, pre-headers, call to action colour and text (e.g. generic words such as ‘Read more’ versus benefit-focused copy such as ‘Learn 3 ways to optimize email campaigns’), length of body copy, tone of voice. Make sure you know what you’re testing and why you’re testing it. Keep variants to two only so you can determine the winner and test and test again – optimization is an ongoing process.

Delve into data

Maximize the capabilities of marketing automation and its reporting dashboards by using trackable links and looking at the available data and using insights to inform next sends. Regularly review the reporting to get the big picture on all your email automation efforts.

Summing up: make every email work as hard as it can

Optimizing your automated B2B email marketing campaigns is crucial for driving better engagement, increasing open and click-through rates, and ultimately boosting conversions. The ‘set and forget it’ mindset for automation will only get you so far – regularly test and refine your automated campaigns to ensure they align with your business objectives, nurture your target audience, and deliver valuable information to move recipients through the marketing or sales funnel. By optimizing your emails, you not only enhance personalization and prevent delivery mishaps but also maximize the effectiveness of your messaging by delivering the right content to the right people at the right time. Optimizing your emails can also help to prevent costly mistakes to brand reputation and wasted resources by not ensuring deliverability or sending to the wrong recipients.