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Email Marketing Best Practices for B2B Ecommerce

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Since the days of the early internet, email marketing has continued to evolve and grow.  According to some estimates, this industry is expected to reach US$22.16 bn by 2024.  There is no denying that Email Marketing is still relevant and offers marketers the ability to craft a unique personalized message for a singular customer and deliver it directly on their preferred device.  There is power in that. 

Harnessing this power and optimizing it for best results is what separates the most successful Email Marketing Campaigns.  There are many examples of best Email Marketing Campaigns and messages for B2C Ecommerce companies.  Can we use the same B2C principles to craft email messages for B2B Ecommerce? And how will your approach change if your Ecommerce site targets both types of customers? Let us review some nuances and challenges a B2B company needs to consider in planning its Email Marketing Strategy.  We will start with asking and answering questions about Engagement and Types of Campaigns.

Engagement

The first question to ask is; When is the right time to engage with a prospective customer? As soon as you can.  On a B2C site, this is typically done with an enticement of an x% off deal, this allows the site to send out their first email communication to the prospective customer with the x% off coupon code.  This method can work if your site caters to businesses and consumers.   If you solely operate in the B2B space, the offer of an x% off is not enough to entice customers.  Sales cycles for B2B purchases take several days if not weeks.  Your customer needs relevant information and quality reassurance before they make a decision.  Sometimes, several people are involved in the approval process.  There are ways to overcome the initial hurdle to start an engagement.  You can provide case studies, white papers, customer reviews as well as pre-sales utilities such as Quotes to initiate the engagement.  The point is to give them something valuable that will help them learn more about your company and products.  This allows them to make an educated purchase decision.

Frequency

Once you have initiated the engagement, come the next set of questions; How frequently should we communicate with a Prospective Customer? Is there a specific time of the day that gives you better results? The frequency of communication has to be weighed against the quality of information.  If you have compelling case studies, reviews, or competitive analyses that you can share with the prospective customer, then yes, you should have a series of messages like a Welcome Campaign that communicates the value your products add. Most Email Marketing Providers (ESP) will let you build an automated Welcome Program that sends out targeted messaging based on pre-identified triggers, such as return visits and browsing habits. 

There is definitely a correlation between when (weekday and time of day) that you send out an email to your prospects or customers and the open rate.  Common mistakes are sending out an email later in the day or week.  And definitely do not send out anything important closer to a long weekend.  Typically, in the B2B world, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are favored over all other days.  You can also conduct some A/B testing to determine if there are certain days or times that work best for your specific business.

Types of Campaigns

In general, email campaigns can be broadly classified into the following categories based on the triggers within the customer’s journey. 

·         Educational Emails/Newsletters

·         Acquisition Emails

·         Retention Emails

·         Promotional Emails

These campaigns are common to both B2B and B2C experiences, however, the implementation strategy and the messages used to reach their intended target audience are distinct. B2C sites mainly rely on captivating promotional offers to drive traffic.  For B2B sites, it is the content that drives sales. There are no impulse purchases on these sites. The educational content on your products, site features, other customer’s experiences with your products, and related product recommendations help new and existing customers validate their purchase decisions.  The sales cycle for products sold on B2B sites is longer. There could be multiple people within the customer’s organization who need to sign off on the purchase decision. At times, the final purchaser or buyer needs additional information to get management approvals before placing an order.  A point to keep in mind is that educational campaigns are not only about the products you sell.  You can also use these emails to highlight site features specially created to support prospects make a decision. If your site has features like Request a Quote, Subscribe and Save, Requisition lists communicate these to new and existing customers. If you are planning on adding new features or have recently added new features, emails are a great way to communicate the value proposition of these features.  

How about winning back customers who have not purchased in a while?  This is where you have some similarities with the B2C world.  Winback campaigns for B2C and B2B Ecommmerce sites would look very similar, however, the frequency of when you send out the email depends on your product’s life-cycle and when you expect them to replenish the product.  That brings us to a

The replenishment campaign is very unique to the B2B customer experience. Majority of the products in the B2B world are repeat purchases. These campaigns send reminder emails to customers who have previously purchased a product right before the time it’s ready to be re-stocked. 

While Promotional emails are also popular in the B2B world, it’s best to limit dependency on promotions for certain product types, strategic targeting, or a specific time of the year.  Promotions must drive value to the business and its customers. 

Your strategy for an Email Marketing campaign is largely driven by your customer base.  Always provide a feedback mechanism for your customer to let you know what they think.  If you have a support line where they call, ask if they have received any marketing messages and what they think about the content and the frequency of the messages.  Monitor your campaigns, they will guide you to validate what your customers like.  Most Email Service Providers have the ability for you to test your campaign.  Spend the time and effort to perform some A/B testing. Most importantly, do not be afraid to tweak and test content.  Happy emailing!

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