How to create B2B Email Campaigns that get results

In this world where customer communications is growing increasingly complex, we are getting more and more requests for our attention. What do you need to do to separate your B2B email campaigns from the rest of the crowd, and to stand out amidst all the sales noise? How do you create B2B email campaigns that actually get results?

Over on MarTech Podcast, SalesNexus CEO Craig Klein (CK) speaks with host Benjamin Shapiro (BS) about crafting B2B email campaigns that actually drive revenue.

How do you make your B2B email campaigns stand out?

You gotta be able to target the right audience and communicate them in a way that's gonna resonate with them.

What we’ve seen over the years, working with thousands of B2B brands, is that typically there’s somebody on the marketing side of the house that’s developing the email marketing campaigns. Then you got your sales guys on the other side of the house who are actually building relationships with customers. 

What works is marrying those things together so that the email isn’t just top of the funnel. But it’s more helping to nurture that relationship and build that relationship. Or if you want to think about it from a funnel perspective, using emails to bring people down through your funnel, in conjunction with what’s happening with the sales person.

BS: Going back to the fundamentals sounds simple, but actually executing it ends up being very challenging. You mentioned a couple different things. One, who’s writing the emails and understanding who they’re writing them for. Two, the different stages of a customer’s life cycle, which dictates how you should be writing your emails. When you’re trying to figure out whether your B2B email campaigns are successful or not, knowing that some of the emails are about relationship building, some of them are about nurture, some of them are about direct response, and some actually getting to the sale.

How do you evaluate the success of your B2B email campaigns or all of your outreach, knowing that the outcome is different for multiple stages in the funnel?

CK: That’s a huge challenge. Fundamentally what most people struggle with is that you have separate tools that you’re doing all these things in. You’ve got your website analytics. Then you’ve got your email marketing services, and it gives you analytics. Next, you’ve got your CRM software where you can track sales results and things like that. And then trying to marry all that together and get an actual realistic analysis – that’s a week long project for somebody.

That’s where our platform is unique in that we’ve combined all that into one place. So that you just don’t have that challenge of integrating data all the time.

But at the end of the day, that’s the name of the game. I don’t just want to know how many people opened or clicked on my email. I want to know how many of the people that clicked on my email ended up talking to a salesperson, not just coming to my website. Or ended up purchasing something. And that’s what you got to measure. 

BS: Not every email is necessarily “book a demo.” Sometimes it’s “Hey, thanks for giving us your business card, just wanted to follow up with a link to our website so you could research the platform.” The success for that email is: Was there a click to the website? As opposed to an email that says, “Hey, thanks for downloading the white paper. If you have questions, we’re happy to walk you through our platform. Click here to schedule a meeting with a salesperson.” 

The goal is obviously different from that second email than the first.

Now, when your B2B email campaigns are intending to do a couple of different things, how are you figuring out success when you have multiple calls to action, or different calls to action for each type of communication?

CK: You have to measure those separately. Right? But the way I think about it is that the funnel has a lot of layers. So that first email that you’re talking about, that’s at the top of the funnel. We’re just trying to get them to the website. And then the second email you’re talking about, that’s more in the middle of the funnel. This is where we’re trying to get them engaged with a sales rep. So we’re going to evaluate that first email with how many people actually went to the website. 

But here’s the tricky detail. We also want to look at those people that did respond to that first email, and came to the website. How many of them ended up receiving that second email and responding to that, too? Because now if we can link those two things together, now we’re getting some really valuable intelligence that tells us maybe at the top of the funnel we are, or possibly are not, even targeting the right people at all. 

Because what I’ve seen happen a lot of times is at a marketing level you can target an audience and you can generate a lot of activity for your sales team on your website or for your sales team, but they don’t close any business. And it’s all because either we chose the wrong audience in the first place, or maybe the messaging is just pulling in the wrong people. So we have to link those two layers together in order to really optimize the whole funnel.

BS: That’s what I call the Glen Gary – Glen Ross phenomenon between sales and marketing.

Where the marketing team creates activity and says, “Here are the sales leads, go close them.” And the sales team says, “These leads aren’t any good. Go find new leads.” And everybody points at each other and says, “You’re not doing your job.” And the answer is probably “We should be working together and all be on the same page in terms of who we’re targeting and how we’re trying to close them.” 

CK: So you want to be able to run a sales report for instance, closed rate that started with this campaign versus that campaign. 

BS: And this gets into the conversation about lead scoring. Where when you’re evaluating a prospect, you have to understand what data points they’ve touched. How many emails have they touched? What were the activities they had taken? And that helps figure out whether the sales team should be engaging with them.

I understand how lead scoring is a mechanism to evaluate whether sales should be engaging with a specific sales lead. But do you recommend, or do you advise people to actually take those lead scores and then look back and see which emails help drive the activity that raised the lead score? Can you look at that data and then go back and figure out how effective your communications are?

CK: For sure. And the other thing that you want to add in there is the frequency and quality of the engagement. In other words, especially in B2B, a lot of things are timing. If you’re a sales lead, we might have a great conversation and you might really be interested in what I’m selling you, but it’s just not time for your company to buy that right now. So your lead score might jump up because you’ve checked off all the right boxes. But you’re not really a hot lead. Because of timing that doesn’t have anything to do with me, it has to do with you.

So one of the things that we did a long time ago in our platform is built the ability to archive email correspondence.

And just kind of track the history of all interactions with the customer – phone call, email, text messages. So that, that score can also be a function of the fact that I’ve talked to them 10 times in the last two weeks versus once this month.

And what are those conversations about? Are they clicking on my holiday emails? Or did they click on the link to download the white paper? Those are all different signals that should affect that lead score better. But at the end of the day, it all just has to come down to dollars and cents.  What do they end up buying? And how long do they stay as a customer? What’s their lifetime value? Those kinds of things.

When you’re rolling out B2B email campaigns, how do you figure out which ones are effective?

BS: You run the B2B email campaigns, you get some data you’re looking at open rates. Click rates. You’re going to see how many of those emails were opened and interacted with by people that ended up being your customers. What’s the way to look back at some point and figure out what to modify, and what’s been successful that you need to amplify when it comes to your email outreach?

CK: First of all, the email itself has to get adequate engagement. Was it opened? Is your title good? Did it drive engagement? Did the people click on the CTA? Then the question is, did that become a good customer? I can end up with salespeople on the phone with people that have engaged with my email all day. But if they don’t close a lot of those leads, then that B2B email campaign was not successful, even though it had a great click rate. That’s what ultimately you have to tie it back to. 

It is complex. If the click rate and the close rate are in two different systems and you’ve got to figure out how to reconcile those things. Most people just are never gonna do that. 

BS: Most people say, all right, I’m not marrying my email data to my CRM data because those are in two separate systems. So I’m just going to look at email data to figure out if my emails are successful. Well, people opened and people clicked. So this must be a great email. It must be helping contribute to revenue. And that’s not necessarily the case. The question is tying it to what actually drove the best possible customers.

What’s the right cadence to go back and start thinking about trying to tie your revenue data, your conversion data, back to the original emails to evaluate if they were successful?

CK: That’s really a function of your sales cycle, right? So if you’re in a business where you start a relationship and close the deal, typically in 30 days, then give it 45 days and go and perform that analysis. You want to do it as often as you can, depending on how difficult it is for you. If you’re in a business that you’re selling half a million dollar deals, it takes six months or a year. Then trying to measure that kind of thing every month might not be that meaningful. It’s a waste of effort. Basically, what I would say is: Whatever your sales cycle is, do it that often. 

BS: I think that’s a great tip is as you’re thinking about evaluating your B2B email marketing campaigns. You need to try to marry your revenue data and understand what emails not only are getting good email performance, but are also impacting what drives the bottom line. And the cadence for doing that is dependent on what your sales cycle is. 

CK: What’s exciting is it almost always illuminates really counterintuitive insights. Like we were talking about before either the sales team or the marketing team. One of them’s going to be sitting there looking at that kind of analysis going really, is that actually right?

And that’s the kind of insight that you want because that’s going to help you make things better next time.

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The MarTech Podcast tells the stories of world-class marketers who use technology to generate growth and achieve business and career success. 

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You can also check out this episode on the MarTech Podcast website: https://martechpod.com/episode/Creating-B2B-Email-Campaigns-That-Get-Results-Craig%20Klein-SalesNexus/