Email is an old hand on the Internet and most companies have integrated email marketing – usually via a regular newsletter – into their communications for years. Once set up, this often runs without much attention, possibly even throws off a satisfactory ROI or is simply seen as a must. Wrongly, in our opinion: As the channel with the potentially highest ROI, email marketing deserves an extra portion of attention. With optimized lists, tailored content, a revised layout and A/B tests, you can get much more out of this channel than it seems at first glance. We show you how to get your email marketing strategy up to speed.
People send 200 billion e-mails every day, yet many companies consider e-mail to be the "hidden champion" among the various means of communication. Business-to-business companies in particular pay little attention to this marketing opportunity. Yet e-mail can also enrich the marketing mix of B2B companies – at least if the content generates real added value for the recipients.
What makes e-mail successful as a marketing tool in the first place?
E-mail marketing works based on existing address data, for example, from customers or people interested in the company. Therefore, marketers can tailor content to target groups precisely, which makes the relevance of the content very high compared to other advertising media.
In addition, e-mail marketing is flexible and therefore super suitable for a test-and-learn approach: For example, you can test different subject lines or content against each other within a campaign. Proper tracking also provides insights for continuous improvement of future marketing e-mails. Finding out which personalized elements have the greatest impact on a particular audience in an e-mail becomes relatively easy.
Plan and implement an e-mail marketing campaign: Here's what to consider
Before implementing an e-mail marketing campaign, there should be agreement on what the purposes are and what the use cases are. Two examples:
- E-mail push campaigns: Push campaigns refer to the classic sending of e-mail newsletters that pursue a predefined goal. This can be a one-time mailing or a string of several mailings.
- Drip marketing: Drip marketing is the sending of e-mails that are automatically triggered by a certain action by the user. In B2B, for example, this could be a confirmation e-mail for a webinar registration.
In the following best practice example, you will learn how to use a push campaign to bring users to your own website to trigger a certain action there. The step-by-step guide is based on a project that Webrepublic implemented for the international med tech company Nobel Biocare.
Step 1: Objective and planning
In the planning phase, we recommend starting with the overall context and campaign goal and defining precise objectives for each individual e-mail: What is the purpose of the campaign overall, what is the purpose of each individual e-mail, and how will we measure success?
In our collaboration with Nobel Biocare, we pursued the goals of generating awareness for the All-on-4® treatment concept and registrations for a global webinar series on the product. In the beginning, we made sure we could measure and optimize the key performance indicators (KPIs) along the user journey.
Step 2: Segmentation and quality of the address lists
In a further step, we recommend checking the data quality of the existing address lists: What information do the existing address lists offer? Do the data records allow personalized addressing? Can the existing e-mail data be assigned to different user personas? Is it possible to see which interests or topics are linked to a particular e-mail address?
In short, the quality and scope of the available data determine how successful an e-mail campaign can be and how individualized the content can be.
One way to clean up data and thus increase the quality of address lists is to send re-opt-ins. With this you actively request recipients to give their consent again to receive marketing e-mails. At the same time, you can request interests and other information to better segment address lists for future campaigns.
Step 3: Definition of the user journey
How many e-mail pushes make sense is one of the most common questions in e-mail marketing. Should several pushes over a short period convince readers to make the desired conversion? Or do monthly e-mails over a longer period serve the cause more?
There is no single answer to this question, but the intended storyline usually sets the tone. Is it about promoting a new product? Should you first tease the product (awareness), then advertise the advantages in detail (attraction), and finally call to action (conversion)?
Webrepublic followed precisely this three-step approach and guided users step by step to the desired conversion – registration for the webinar – by means of three to four push e-mails within a month before the launch of the webinar series.
Step 4: Develop content
With e-mail, you can transport a wide variety of content directly to users' personal inboxes. The possibilities range from classic text content (including quotes and testimonials) to supplementary images, animations, infographics, checklists, videocontent and other formats. When choosing the content, the focus should always be on the added value for the recipients.
Setting concrete incentives, such as free downloads, can significantly increase campaign performance. In the collaboration between Webrepublic and Nobel Biocare, for example, we achieved excellent results by sending a webinar certificate. Incentives in campaign e-mails should always be clearly communicated and easily accessible.
But beware: Less is often more for newsletter content. Only choose content that is specifically tailored to the defined target. If the content is too often the same, recipients will quickly lose sight of the added value and, in the worst case, your e-mails will end up in the trash or are even canceled.
Step 5: Layout and design
As with a good website, the user experience (UX) and the display on mobile devices are absolutely crucial to e-mail marketing. Adhere to your company's existing CI/CD guidelines and to an appealing visual language. The content should always be structured in such a way that the user's main focus is on the call-to-action. Besides images, in our example for Nobel Biocare, icons and stickers also helped prepare the content for the user in an accessible form.
We designed each newsletter module to guide the recipient as seamlessly as possible toward conversion, besides the goal of ensuring a natural reading flow. Webrepublic consistently took current UX best practices into account when designing the campaign.
Example of an email campaign for Nobel Biocare on desktop (left) and mobile (right) according to best practice.
Step 6: Mailing
You designed your campaign and are ready for it to travel to the inboxes of your recipients? Then it's time to send it efficiently – with the help of a suitable e-mail marketing tool. Depending on the size of the company and its needs, various tools are available for this purpose: Mailchimp, Hubspot, and Drip are popular tools for the efficient sending of e-mail campaigns. Whichever provider you choose, for good performance consider a few points when sending:
- Formulate a gripping subject line: It should contain the most important message of the e-mail. To stand out from other subject lines, the subject may also be informal. Direct addresses, teasers, or unconventional formulations are suitable for this purpose. You can play alternative subject lines against each other with A/B testing. Ideally, the subject lines should differ by a specific characteristic, such as tone: formal vs. informal.
- The timing of the mailing is also key, with different recommendations depending on the content and target audience. In our example for Nobel Biocare, we saw above average open rates over lunchtime. Some e-mail software offers the possibility to adapt the sending to the recipient's time zone, which we recommend.
Step 7: Analysis and reporting
We recommend evaluating the performance of each individual e-mail push not only after it has been sent, but also during the ongoing campaign. In this way, you generate insights you can implement for the next push in the short term. Insights from the evaluation can relate to the following areas:
- If you see highbounce rates or lowdelivery rates, this indicates poor quality address data. The address data needs to be cleaned up. In addition, try to obtain new high-quality data, for example, through targeted lead campaigns.
- Performance differences of varioussubject lines: Infer criteria that are particularly relevant to your recipients.
- Which mailingperiod works particularly well for your recipients?
- Which CTA generated the most clicks?
- Which clickableelements generated the most clicks?
- Which content is most interesting and performs well with your target group?
Results: Open and click-through rates far above the benchmark
Thanks to the consistent application of the approach described here, we recorded above-average open and click rates in e-mail campaigns for Nobel Biocare. Over the entire campaign duration, we achieved a very high average open rate of 40% (industry benchmark: 20%), a click rate of 15% (industry benchmark: 3%), and a conversion rate (webinar registrations) of 5%.
If you want to be successful at e-mail marketing, you have to put in the effort of careful segmentation and preparation – especially companies that haven't used an organized strategy before. The results clearly show: The effort is worth it. With structured e-mail marketing, you can give your marketing activities a measurable boost. Once you define the basics with the right strategy, a suitable tool, and reliable performance measurement, there's nothing standing in the way of a consistently high ROI.