9 Proven Ways to Boost Your B2B Email Performance

October 5, 2016 Lauren Smith

B2B Email Marketing

What started as a 1:1 personal communication platform evolved into batch-and-blast campaigns (shudder!) for businesses, and has been changing ever since.

Email has become one of the most powerful channels to reach consumers. Email is ubiquitous – there are over 2.6 billion email users worldwide. With an ROI of 38-to-1, it has the highest rate of return among digital marketing channels. It’s also the channel consumers prefer most for brand communications, with 72% of consumers saying they prefer companies to communicate with them via email over any other channel.

Emails are no longer solely text-based. With the use of HTML and CSS, they can have colors, buttons, images, and more. Through segmentation and dynamic content, emails create personalized experiences by leveraging subscriber preferences, customer behavior, and Big Data. We’re back to creating those 1:1 personal emails, but on a much larger scale.

More recently, email designers have begun using techniques commonly found in advanced web design, like HTML5 video, live Twitter feeds, and carousels.

Today, email marketing is more powerful than ever, and is the most effective platform for brands to distribute middle and bottom of the funnel content.

Email is an ideal medium to distribute your content initiatives. Since email is a permission-based marketing channel, those signing up to receive your emails explicitly request more information. They want to educate themselves on a topic or industry. Your campaigns can help them do just that.

Here are some tips for successfully distributing your content via email and improving your B2B email performance.

1. Provide frequency options

Your subscribers represent individual people – people with different needs, wants, and expectations. That’s why providing multiple frequency options is key. For example, consider offering a daily, weekly, and monthly version of your newsletter.

By providing different subscription options, potential subscribers will feel more in control of the emails they’ll receive and therefore are more likely to sign up.

2. Offer content options

One way to provide subscribers with relevant content – and encourage potential subscribers to sign up for your emails – is by offering several content options. For example, if someone only wants to receive communications about email design techniques but not email marketing strategies, give them the option to subscribe to a niche newsletter that focuses on their interests.

As an added bonus, having a variety of emails from which to choose from can appeal to more subscribers, helping you grow your list organically.

Email preference center

3. Send an engaging welcome email

Don’t make your subscribers wait for your next newsletter or campaign after they opt-in. Onboard your subscribers or send them a welcome email thanking them for subscribing and include some of your best evergreen content.

Welcome new subscribers

Check out the full email.

This not only gives your subscribers peace of mind that their subscription was successful, but it will also give them a preview of the type of content that you’ll be sending. By immediately demonstrating the value of your emails, you’ll get your subscribers excited for future sends.

And the benefit for you? Your best content will be promoted on a consistent basis.

4. Keep it valuable, not promotional

When writing your email copy, put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes and ask, “What’s in it for me?” Don’t focus on your wants and needs, focus on theirs. If they read an article, will it increase their knowledge on a certain topic? If so, make that clear.

For example, rather than, “Check out our new blog post on calls-to-action,” try something like, “Writing a call-to-action is hard. Here are some tips on getting it right.” This approach makes your topic more relatable and compelling for your subscribers.

5. Optimize your inbox view

Before your subscribers can read the content in your email, they must first make the decision to open the campaign. This decision to open (or not) takes place in the inbox, where the subscriber will frequently see a few key pieces of influential information – your from name, subject line, and (sometimes) preview text.

The from name is the field that appears first in most email programs and is likely the first thing your subscribers look at when deciding whether to open an email. A successful from name will be recognizable and relevant to your audience, imparting trust and a desire to open.

There’s no golden formula to writing an effective email subject line and, of course, the subject lines you use must be aligned with your brand’s voice and goals. However, a few general tips include:

  • Be concise
  • Personalize when appropriate
  • Leverage topicality
  • Be intriguing, but not misleading

In inboxes where it’s supported, preview text is a bit of copy that typically shows up underneath or to the right of the from name and subject line. It is alternatively referred to as snippet text or a preheader. Treat this space like an extra subject line and use it to further encourage your subscribers to open.

6. Share third-party articles

Your subscribers crave education and inspiration. But creating great content is hard and time-consuming. Look to others in your industry for helpful, actionable content and curate those articles in your emails. You’ll be sharing great content, building trust with your subscribers, and it’s minimal work for you. Plus, sharing content from your partners can help strengthen those relationships. Win-win-win-win!

3rd party email content

Check out the entire email.

In this example, iOS Dev Weekly includes a roundup of iOS development updates from a variety of sources. The sender, Dave Verwer, didn’t have to create all of this content – others in the industry had already written it. He’s not only providing his subscribers with helpful content, but he’s building relationships with the brands behind the articles he’s sharing (maybe they’ll promote his newsletter or share his content, too!).

7. Utilize brand partnerships

Utilize your brand partnerships to expand your content’s reach. Work with others in the industry on content initiatives, like webinars, eBooks, and blog posts. Then, when it’s time for promotion, you can both leverage your email subscribers to reach a larger audience.

Email brand partnerships

Check out the entire email.

8. Make it easily shareable

Send great content that your subscribers will want to share. Use your current subscribers as an avenue to reach new ones. By encouraging your subscribers to forward and share your emails, you’re significantly expanding the reach of your content and increasing the possibility of additional subscribers. Litmus’ Viral Email Report found that emails with prominent “share with your network” calls-to-action were 13 times more likely to be shared than the typical email.

9. Measure and improve

If it’s not measurable, it’s not worth doing, and even email isn’t an exception to that rule. There are plenty of different analytics that you can measure with email distribution platforms that will give you insights as to the health of your database. When it comes to measuring the effectiveness of your content via email as a distribution channel, the three key metrics you should keep an eye on include:

  • Click-through rate (CTR): CTR is the percentage of email recipients who clicked on a link (or multiple links) in an email. The CTR of a particular email will reflect the actual interest of your audience in your email’s content because it shows how many were compelled to read the content after opening the email.
  • Open rate: The percentage of recipients who actually opened an email. This number will indicate the effectiveness of your subject line and preview text, and how trustworthy your from name is.
  • Unsubscribes: The number of people who unsubscribe after a particular email send. If the number is higher than usual, there was likely a misalignment between your content and your audience.

Don't be an unruly visitor

Email is so powerful because you can use segmentation to distribute highly targeted content. If you’re segmenting effectively when distributing content and executing campaigns, your content will be far more successful in moving your leads through the buyer journey.

As mentioned, email also stands out from other content distribution channels because it’s permission-based, which means you attained someone’s consent to receive your emails.

Never forget that you’re a guest in their house, and no one likes unruly visitors – if you’re not sending the content they expect, they can (and will) unsubscribe at any time.

Learn more about effective email distribution tactics in The Ultimate Guide to Content Distribution.

About the Author

Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith is a Boston-area content strategist who has written hundreds of posts and reports on email marketing and design. She’s passionate about creating great subscriber experiences and helping the world send better emails. Lauren currently heads content marketing at Litmus, a web-based email creation, testing, and analytics company. In her spare time, she enjoys trying out new recipes, traveling, and debating the Oxford comma.

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