Email marketing is clearly not dead — just ramping up in impact and importance for B2B companies in the new year.
“Email marketing is going to evolve because technology and innovation is creating disruption across automation, industrial and manufacturing sectors,” said Eric Fischgrund, founder and CEO of FischTank PR.
“The well-chronicled rise of AI, ML and IoT-driven concepts are resulting in smaller, more nimble companies eating into the market share of brands who have been around forever. Email marketing is going to be used more and more often to differentiate between brands, with large brands touting structure, resources and experience, and small brands touting flexibility and customization — each believing their own respective position will impact decision-making.”
Excellent email marketing techniques became even more important for manufacturing and technology companies during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Mark Goren, president of 10|20 Marketing.
These companies typically rely on trade shows to grow their email marketing lists, scanning badges of people who stop by their booths, but the pandemic shut down all trade shows for the last 18 months, so companies have had to rely on other methods to establish effective email marketing campaigns.
Indeed, a study from Pathwire, How The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Changed Emailing, found that brands had to rely on email to keep customers updated on altered opening hours, changes to shipping schedules and other unforeseen circumstances that have impacted their operations and customer support — driven by the need to maintain strong brand-consumer relationships.
Statistically, over half (55.5%) of senders say they increased their email volume, and 49% are emailing customers more frequently since the start of COVID-19.
Further, the majority (77.4%) of senders say that open rates have either stayed the same or increased during the pandemic.
Nearly 40% have seen increased click-through rates. More time spent at home on devices, combined with users’ desires to hear from brands, worked out well for engagement rates — showing how effective email is for customer communication.
The report also explores how email senders’ budgets have changed since the start of the pandemic. While many brands experienced economic struggles around the world, only 12.4% of respondents said they decreased their email budget during the past year.
Budget increases and stabilization may be tied in part to the increase in pandemic emailing, but it can also be linked to an increased investment in tools and features too.
Two-thirds of respondents say they are introducing changes to make their emails more relevant in ways such as segmenting their contacts and personalizing their email, and nearly a third have started validating email addresses to maintain a healthier email list.
“What we’ve been seeing over the last number of years is a shift to more personalization of emails and the ability to segment audiences,” Goren said. Personalizing emails in B2B and B2C communications improves the open rates and level of engagement. The tools underlying the personalization are becoming increasingly smarter, enabling the email programs to work with CRM and other systems to be able to identify and personalized the different personnel at a company who might be behind a buying decision.
“One size doesn’t fit all,” agreed Julia Ritter, email marketing manager for Pathwire. “You want to make sure that you’re not just getting an email sent out that feels like it came from a robot, you want an email that specifically caters to the [target recipient].”
A manufacturer attempting to reach end customers and integrators would need very different messaging for each, Ritter added. “You want to tell the customers how your product will make their lives easier.”
With integrators, you would be communicating the benefits of working with your company rather than a competitor to deliver a solution to the end client.
But in order to properly tailor the message to whatever audience you are attempting to reach,
in that case, the distributor is going to be using it for different cases, then the integrator, you need to listen to your audience, making sure that you have their behaviors and their needs at top of mind before creating an email campaign, Ritter said.
Among other email marketing techniques that work, according to Ritter:
- Using dynamic content that changes through conditional formatting to provide different messages to different audiences, such as end customers, industry professionals and integrators
- Motion graphics that show how a product works or how a product would fit into different manufacturing environments
- “Advisory” emails to provide customers with the best uses or better uses of anything they’ve purchased. This shows the company is interested in having an ongoing relationship with the customer, not just a one-time sale.
These email marketing trends were already underway before COVID-19. When the pandemic hit, email marketing needed to evolve further, Goren said.
“What we tried to do was create a virtual environment and provide people with a show experience that was online. As we figured out what the content would be, that trickled down into the emails, our paid media plan, and social media so that we could let people know that we’ve made this shift.
Goren added: “We saw tremendous success off the bat in terms of using email marketing to promote this shift into the online virtual space.”
However, email marketing lists didn’t grow as they might have had physical trade shows still occurred, Goren said. So the email focus had to shift to quality over quantity, further highlighting the need for excellent personalization capabilities and a focus on targeted email content.
“Because of the content being offered the engagement numbers ended up improving because we had higher quality individual in the database,” Goren said.
As the pandemic wanes, Goren expects personalized emails to become even more specialized thanks to the continuing evolution of artificial intelligence.
“AI has been available in some of these tools for a little while now,” Goren said. “Marketers are going to have to stay ahead of the curve because the AI is going to help them with the person personalization aspect a lot more. They can make the individual on the other end of the email feel that ‘this person really understands me or knows me.’
Personalization and segmentation have always been core components of successful email marketing, says Audrey Truitt, Digital Marketing Manager at Virtudesk.
“However, with people demanding more relevant content, big category lists won’t make it any longer. Companies, including tech manufacturers and software providers will have to segment their list even more in order to keep people engaged.
“You can segment further by your customers’ buyer behavior and organizational demographics. Mobile-friendly designs is another big trend, that if you’re not utilizing, you’re already behind. 47% of people check their email on mobile, so it’s important to optimize your designs and layout to maximize conversions.”
“Since the pandemic, our clients’ most successful B2B email campaigns were part of an integrated marketing strategy using direct mail,” says Ed Kohler, President of Jet Mail.
“We saw CTR rates triple when the CTA involved a tangible asset.
“For example, when a manufacturing client of ours announced a new product via email, they A/B tested two CTAs: one CTA was Receive Information Kit and the other was Learn More. The “Receive Information Kit” CTA linked to a landing page with a form where users submitted their address as well as other demographic information. The Learn More CTA linked to the product page on the website.
“Recipients who selected Receive Information Kit were mailed the following: a product brochure, corporate brochure, product flyers, spec sheets, a case study, a branded wall calendar and a personalized letter.
“The Receive Information Kit CTA performed 3x better than Learn More and had another major benefit: customer data.”
Parts of this story first appeared on our sister site, M2I: Marketing to Integrators.