What’s the secret to writing engaging emails and proactively avoiding high unsubscribe rates?
One thing you can do is to engage users by sending relevant content that you think they’ll genuinely find useful based on their segment. After all, marketers segmenting leads for email marketing campaigns realize as much as a 760% increase in revenue. Here’s your quick guide to B2B email segmentation.
How to think of B2B segmentation
Segments are like departments in a company. Imagine that you had an important announcement that only affected one department. No one else would complain if they didn’t get notified.
Would you tell the whole company? Probably not because it would appear confusing and irrelevant for most people. Now, imagine you have an announcement that would affect the entire company but each department in different ways. You still probably wouldn’t want to send a single email because doing so would dilute the power of your message if you don’t tailor the email to each department.
Of course, it’s impractical to segment each contact by hand unless you don’t have many, to begin with. Fortunately, your CRM is constantly collecting data points about your contacts. That lets you easily tease into segments to deliver the most engaging content.
Your product probably appeals differently to different kinds of buyers. So with all that in mind, it’s easy to see the value of SaaS or B2B email segmentation.
Getting started with email marketing segmentation best practices
Use your CRM like a North Star. Here are a few quick ways to slice and dice:
Age: Not how old they are, but how old their record is in your CRM.
Activity: Number of site visits, form fills, customer engagement emails recently clicked, purchases, etc.
Interests: The pages that someone visits on your site say a lot about what they want—especially if they download an asset or make a purchase.
Company size: This is a super valuable data point in B2B marketing if you can get your hands on it. Because email is trackable, company-level data identifies who is most interested in your product.
Inactivity: I know… ironic, right? If a contact has been inactive for a reasonable period—anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, but no more—you can attempt to re-engage them with an offer.
The number of purchases: Especially for B2C marketers, this metric can be helpful in sending the right content.
Geography: Contacts within different states or countries will likely engage with content differently and sometimes not at all, hurting the metrics that matter.
Along with the content you want to send, the size and age of your CRM will dictate how granular your segments should be. There’s obviously a huge difference between a thousand contacts and a million.
When you send segmented emails, you can get a much better understanding of what resonates best with whom. Some platforms enable you to send one email to multiple segments, too. At WebMechanix, we send out digest newsletters to a segment of folks who were created in the last year (age) or were created anytime but active in the last six months (activity). We also track service line interest and leverage those together to create a mini-segment, enabling us to understand the performance of our email marketing program a bit more meaningfully.
If you’re looking to improve your email game, this is the key to doing it.
Split testing involves sending two variations of one campaign to see which one performs better, and it’s a great place to start. You can let variations of copy, segments, imagery, number of links, landing pages, and CTAs duel it out and then go with the victor… the possibilities are endless. If you’re just getting started with split testing, think in very broad strokes, like subject lines or even sending pure text versus something with imagery.
I’ve sent out thousands of campaigns totaling about 150 million emails. Based on that experience, split testing is great, but only worth it if you have enough volume. After lots and lots of statistical analysis over the years, I’ve found that the sweet spot threshold for getting meaningful data is right around 3,000 contacts, split into two groups, or groups of at least 1,500 contacts if you want to send more variations.
Don’t have that much volume? That’s okay! Consistently testing one basic quality (like time of day) over a few sends can still produce meaningful results if you take several campaigns and aggregate the emails from each test group. Where there’s a will, there’s a way :)
As we’ve learned, reputation is everything for email. If you aren’t acting responsibly as an email sender, it will hurt you (and you may not even know it). I won’t get too far down the technical rabbit hole, but there are a surprising number of checks and balances in place to weed out spammers. Even something as seemingly harmless as using a URL shortener for your links can be a spam trigger. Here are some other broad strokes to keep an eye out for.
Don’t batch and blast
In fact, many reputable email marketers consider “blast” to have a negative connotation ill-suited for describing what you should do as a marketer. I’m firmly in that camp. The point is to nurture your relationship with contacts, not to torture them with irrelevancy. We’re much smarter marketers now than we were a decade ago when email “blasts” were more standard practice. So leave your blasts in the past. Onward.
When you’re just starting out or starting back up, it’s always tempting to email more people than you should— you’ll want to do so yourself or someone else will ask you to. This temptation is especially true in B2B for those with a sizable or old database. Resist the temptation to “blast” everyone you can. Instead, bravely whittle down your list to the folks who engage with your brand.
I get it: No one likes only being able to email 10–20% of their contacts. That stings even worse when you have content that’s likely to be highly relevant and engaging. The downside is that the longer you wait, the less likely an email account is to be still valid and regularly used by the owner, and the more likely you’ll be reported as a spammer.
I’ve had to fight this battle many times in my career. Eventually, I did some informal research using data from about 7,700 B2B SaaS customers. I first used a tool to verify each email—doing so costs about a penny per record. Once I got the information on the validity of each email address, I compared it to the contact creation date.
It turned out that the sweet spot between contact age and email validity was about 13 months. After that point, there was a steep drop-off where contacts were far likelier to have addresses that were invalid or unverifiable. So if you’re looking for a good benchmark, that’s the one I use.
Consent is non negotiable
Having permission to email people matters a lot. This alone deserves its own book, but here’s the short version: You need to be a law-abiding marketer. There are lots of laws around the world that require consent before you can email individuals. The GDPR immediately comes to mind, but it’s by no means the only one you need to watch out for.
And that’s it! With these tips, you’ll get more engagement and sales out of your emails. How confident are you with your current B2B or SaaS email marketing process?
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Led by Chris Mechanic, this week’s virtual roundtable discussion brought together business-to-business chief marketing officers to discuss how COVID-19 has affected their businesses.
Each attendee is encouraged to share at least one insight so that everyone leaves with something useful. Based on previous roundtables, we’ve found that smaller groups give people more time to talk; this session featured five new attendees:
Josh Martin, Perfect Sense
Nick Panayi, IPsoft
Grant Johnson, Chrome River
Tom Alexander, Wiss & Company
Jim Greenway, ITRS Group
Here are the highlights of this week’s discussion.
Here at WebMechanix, we’re being more careful and pulling back on things we may have splurged on before COVID-19. We usually train and hire a new set of interns every year, but this year, we’ve held off. Fortunately, we haven’t seen any major drops in business.
In the accounting and finance industry, the clients who automated their accounts receivable and payable before this crisis are very happy that they did so.
One CMO has been putting out mental health awareness events for their clients, which they have enjoyed.
As expected, software for remote work is booming. Those fortunate enough to be in this industry are zooming past their projected yearly goals.
Some software teams have found that they are more productive working from home. In particular, they’ve found that teamwork and collaboration are more streamlined in a WFH environment.
Digital care packages can be just as successful as physical ones. One CMO has had great success substituting physical mail gifts with Audible, Disney+, and other virtual gifts.
It may be good to break through the email inbox of noise with unique ideas, like sharing useful content and being personable rather than using the same generic “uncertain times” messages that everyone else uses. Emails sent these days often show no understanding of the recipient’s business, life situation, problems, or indication that they actually care (many haven’t emailed their recipients in over six months until COVID).
During this time, people creating websites and content are relying heavily on technology services.
One of the CMOs is using this moment to breathe and rebrand without having to deal with the pressure of lots of money being spent on campaigns and being held accountable to MQL goals. It’s an opportunity to reflect.
Demo requests through inbound marketing have noticeably increased since the start of COVID-19 for the tech services industry. They weren’t getting many inbound leads before.
In the Enterprise AI software industry, budgets are frozen, but the need for solutions is not. So what can you do? This is the time to help your customers, but not through a generic email—you need to offer value. For instance, one CMO is allowing prospects to immediately try out their software instead of requiring a demo pilot.
Most enterprise companiesnever anticipated the volume that they’re getting now, which may mean that they’re not ready to handle it.
This crisis will open many companies’ eyes by forcing them to realize that they don’t need as many offices or expenses as they thought. It’s also spurring many businesses to embrace digital transformation for the future since we may be forced into an all-digital situation again in the future.
One CMO will focus on the depth, breadth, and agility of his digital marketing going forward.
There’s an increase in traffic in the telecommunications, gaming, and finance industries, especially finance.
There’s a learning curve to working remotely, especially for developing the discipline to do so.
Many CMOs have frozen hiring decisions during this time, but some haven’t frozen their marketing budget.
Account-based marketing can be fruitful during this time. Try Twitter and LinkedIn retargeting and DiscoverOrg.
One CMO has done a test sending out emails to a list with demand-signals versus one without. It’s not worth it if you think you will generate demand. But it may be worth it if you surround the rest of the sales strategy with intent signals and bring prospects down the funnel. ABM is a practice, not a tool you can turn on and just expect results.
One CMO did a deep dive into TechTarget’s database and found ABM to not be useful. Just because someone from a recognizable company looks at a topic doesn’t mean it’s valuable since these companies have thousands of employees.
In-person events don't matter as much as you think. One CMO spends over a million dollars a year on events, but they’re still seeing great success without them. They’re trying to find the best way to reallocate advertising during COVID-19. There was also a conversation about the effectiveness of trade show booths. The group’s experience suggests that these don’t yield good results, as attendees get bored quickly and leave.
These CMOs have taken COVID-19 as a period to reflect and plan for the future. Most are well poised to work and advertise digitally, and some find that now is a good time to do that. Many are simply keeping tabs on the situation and providing as much value to their customers as possible until things return to normal. They're handling the current business situation well, given the increased traffic and leads.
Stay tuned for more roundtable discussions! Let us know in the comments what your current business situation is.
HubSpot has released a COVID-19 web page that documents how the pandemic has affected businesses, based on aggregate data collected from its global customer base of 70,000+ companies. The data exposes certain trends and establishes benchmarks against which you can measure your own business. Here are some of the implications of the data.
Deals Created and Closed
The first thing you’ll notice is that the deals created and closed drop significantly during COVID-19, most likely because prospects have cut back on their non-essential spending until things calm down. While this result may seem obvious, it’s essential to base your decisions on real data because some companies have actually seen a positive or neutral change in sales due to COVID-19.
Closed deals have gotten closer to their pre-COVID-19 benchmark each week since the initial drop to 36% below the benchmark. Based on this trend, closed deals may slowly return to the benchmark or plateau at 20% for a while.
The regions that have seen the biggest drops are Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. The consumer goods and construction industries have seen a slight uptick over the past week; all other industries are down significantly compared to their benchmarks.
If you hop over to the Conversations tab, you’ll notice that there has been an almost linear growth in conversation interactions through HubSpot week over week. And that makes sense: Forced to work from home, employees have had more time and opportunities to interact online with businesses.
Perhaps people are going stir-crazy and considering what they’ll buy once things return to normal. Or perhaps they have more time to voice their concerns or ask questions. Companies are probably contributing to this growth by offering more digital support than before.
Moreover, if you filter the data by region, company size, and industry, you’ll discover some interesting insights. Every region in the world has seen an increase in conversations, with Asia-Pacific leading the pack. And every company size, big or small, has increased its conversations. It’s a global trend.
Nearly every industry has seen a jump in conversions except for the travel industry, which has seen severe drops. Will the travel industry bounce back eventually, or will this pandemic keep its business low for years to come?
The Website Traffic tab confirms what many of us are thinking: COVID-19 has pushed people to spend more time online, which has increased site traffic for a lot of businesses. However, as with conversations, the only exception is the travel industry, which has seen significant drops of up to 40% below the benchmark.
Some people in the travel industry project that the industry will still remain below benchmarks a year or two from now since people may fear traveling. Will this result in cheaper flight deals, the collapse of companies, or something else entirely? We’ll have to wait and see. Many travel blogs rely on credit card sign-up affiliate partnerships to make their money. Unfortunately, many travel credit cards paused their bonuses during the COVID-19 crisis.
There has been some debate about whether now is a good time to spend on digital advertising. Some people are pulling out, others are increasing their spending, and the rest are unsure about whether people will buy despite the drop in CPMs. With HubSpot’s data, we can now clearly see a significant dip below pre-COVID benchmarks for ad spend. The data doesn’t change much when you filter by company size.
If you filter by industry, though, you’ll see that human resources is the only one that increased its spend at the start of COVID shutdowns. But by the middle of April, they reduced their spending back to the benchmark. That could imply that they were the slowest to react to COVID or that they increased their spending only to realize that they weren’t getting the results they wanted, so they pulled back.
Our virtual CMO roundtable discussions have featured human resource participants in the past. Based on the conversations we’ve had, we know that many companies have paused hiring decisions and spending. There’s likely a surge of people looking for work since unemployment rates are higher than ever before. But many factors may cause this industry to pause its efforts, such as budget cuts, uncertainty from management, and the desire to screen someone in person as opposed to virtually.
You’ll also notice that ad spending for consumer goods shot up to almost 25% above the benchmark. With such a large diversity of products to offer and so many people cooped up at home, this industry may very well find that digital advertising pays off.
We will likely see advertisers return to the marketplace sooner rather than later because more people are online than ever before, and marketers are capitalizing on that attention. As quarantine restrictions are gradually lifted, advertisers will seek out those cheaper-than-usual costs, which will in turn lead to more fear of missing out as everyone returns.
Marketing Emails Sent
The Marketing Emails data mirrors the patterns we’ve seen with website traffic. Most likely, businesses realized that more people are online and began sending a larger volume of marketing emails. In fact, as early as March 16th, marketing emails jumped 32% above the benchmark and have stayed there ever since. Of course, the travel industry realized that it was fruitless to send marketing emails, so its number of emails sent dropped by 33% during the same period.
What this means for you is that your typical recipient’s email inbox is now saturated and highly competitive, making it difficult to break through the noise and grab someone’s attention.
It’s good that the current circumstances have pushed marketers to do something that they should’ve really been doing in the first place. But from a competition perspective, it may be good to look for other avenues to get in front of prospects. Email marketing is still important and creates sales, which is why we still send out emails. You should still send emails, too—at least once a month. But don’t make it your number-one priority right now.
WebMechanix’s own email data shows that open and click-through rates haven’t been affected much, but results could be different for your business.
Sales Emails Sent
The sales email data offers the most interesting patterns. We see that the number of sales emails sent has gone up dramatically and has lingered around 50 to 60% over the benchmark since COVID-19. Most of this is accounted for by businesses with 26–200 employees. Unfortunately, the data seems to suggest that this effort hasn’t been paying off: The number of sales email responses has dropped noticeably to 25% below the benchmark.
From conversations we’ve had during our CMO roundtables, it’s clear that most prospects are reluctant to make big purchases right now.
With so many people sending emails and prospects holding off on non-essential purchases, sales may find it more worthwhile to pursue other activities. For example, instead of sending more HubSpot sales sequences, your sales team may benefit from more marketing-sales alignment since most prospects are currently in a “nurturing” stage. This may involve learning more about your prospects and building long-term relationships in preparation for life after COVID-19.
Based on the data, the best thing to do now is to realize that we're currently in a nurturing rather than buying stage thanks to COVID-19. While there are more people online, marketers have saturated email inboxes, and ad costs are lower than usual.
Bottom line? Focus on nurturing activities outside of email marketing. Keep tabs on digital advertising because more advertisers may begin returning, and this may be a great time to get a good bargain on ads as quarantine restrictions are lifted.
What are your thoughts on this data? Are there any trends that you or your colleagues have witnessed?
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