Want to drive more sales?
If you’re a B2B business owner, you know that’s more easily said than done.
After all, your sales cycles aren’t like those of your B2C peers. You can’t show someone a Facebook ad, retarget them for a few days and have your customer buy a $10,000 piece of equipment.
So, how do you manage the customer relationship for what might be a 6- or 12-month customer buying process?
The answer is email.
Email marketing is still the number one strategy for B2B companies to build rapport and credibility—without stealing precious hours away from your sales and marketing staff.
Here’s how to create incredible B2B marketing that not only boosts sales but does so without taxing your overworked team members.
Understand What Users Want
Before anything else, you need to have a crystal-clear picture of who’s actually buying your product.
This is more complex than it might sound. Sometimes, your target user isn’t your customer and vise-versa. Such is the nature of B2B sales.
For example, United Rentals sells large and expensive used industrial equipment, like $50,000+ boom lifts, cranes, and forklifts.
They need to sell products that forklift drivers and construction workers appreciate—but they need to market to project managers and contractors.
Depending on your business, this might even involve different people. You’ll need to target everyone in the sales cycle, not just the CEO or purchasing manager.
Finally, understand that every business has its own unique sales cycle. We’ll show you lots of examples here, but no two industries are the same.
Learn from these examples, and adapt them to your own needs.
How to Propel the Sales Cycle Forward with Email Marketing
Now that you have a solid grasp of your sales cycle and customers, it’s time to start with an email marketing program that works.
There are three main areas where email marketing shines: bringing on new customers, developing those relationships, and establishing credibility.
Bring on New Customers
As we mentioned earlier, every industry’s sales cycle is different. But perhaps more relevant, there are different sales cycles within each industry.
You’ll probably be attracting different types of customers for different actions.
A staggering 58% of companies don’t use a tailored approach to the sales cycle, which means creating a unique sequence for each will set you apart from the sea of similar companies.
When welcoming a new user to its Business Ride program, Lyft sends a welcome email introducing the program.
But the email doesn’t focus on selling at all. Instead, it teaches the customer the basic layout and features they can expect with the business plan.
If you’re running a software business, you know that converting a free trial signup depends largely on the value they see in what you have to offer.
So instead of a hard (or soft) sell for an upgraded subscription, consider getting that user to his or her first win.
That’s how infographic design app Venngage spends their first email.
After a day of user inaction, they even send a follow-up email, again encouraging the user to their first win.
This leads us to the next way to get new customers excited about your product: reach out to stagnant leads.
While most companies give up on their prospects after a few days or weeks, monday.com continues even after a free trial has expired.
Weeks after a user has been inactive, they offer a trial renewal.
This can be a powerful way to rebuild trust with people who haven’t been hyper-engaged with your offering yet.
But of course, you can’t just pitch the product all the time. You need to build rapport and develop positive interactions with customers before they make a final purchase.
Developing goodwill with customers isn’t that hard if you know how to go about it.
The first, and perhaps most important strategy is to personalize your approach.
As many as 54% of buyers want B2B sellers to include personalization, but few B2B companies know how to go about it effectively.
Yes, you can send out emails with |*FNAME*| greetings, but effective personalization goes far beyond that. Instead, customize your content itself based on its place in the customer journey.
Here’s how some of the biggest brands do that.
Time tracking software Toggl goes above and beyond with location-based offers to their email subscribers. They offer consultants in the local area to help business owners get set up.
True, they don’t specify the area I live in—which might be a little creepy, since I haven’t given them that information.
But they make a compelling offer to have consultants come to me, instead of helping out remotely with everything.
Team messaging app Slack introduces a key feature (notifications) in their email sequence.
This serves two goals. First, it adds value to the product, since the user will be able to respond to messages faster.
And second, it further integrates Slack into the user’s workflow, making it easier for the user to visit Slack more often (and perhaps upgrade).
But where Slack excels is by including a custom link to sign into my personal workspace. It shows that this was a specific email to me.
Plus, it makes the call to action much simpler, since all I need to do is click the link and try out their suggestions in my company’s workspace.
But not every feature needs to be introductory, like Slack’s notifications.
Leads that have been using the product for a while will appreciate learning more advanced features. This helps build a sense of community around experienced users and grow the relationship with the product.
This is the exact strategy project management tool Asana uses to build rapport with users, by showing additional features to make their lives easier.
You can use this to encourage company-wide buy-in as well, especially for team features. The more members of a team using the tool, the more value the decision-makers in the buying process will see in your product.
But there’s a key piece that often determines whether a B2B sale goes through or not: credibility.
There are a few ways to build your authority in the space and instill trust in users, and email can help with each of them.
First, you can announce new features. This shows you’re dedicated to improvement and will keep updating the product. No B2B buyer wants to invest in something that’s stale and outdated.
Influencer outreach tool BuzzSumo does this masterfully. They send out an email to leads throughout the sales cycle announcing (and showing off) new features.
(If you roll out multiple features in a short timeframe, it’s a good idea to follow BuzzSumo’s lead and send one roundup email covering them all.)
Not only do they announce new features, like finding Instagram influencers and searching users by domain name, they give step-by-step instructions for trying out each.
Actionable emails are always better than generic announcements.
Plus, BuzzSumo hits another credibility indicator at the bottom of their email: they show the face behind the company.
Instead of writing as the “BuzzSumo team” or worse—nobody at all—co-founder James Blackwell puts his name at the end of the email.
Yes, it’s a company-wide announcement. But it’s written by James, includes his picture, and even comes from his email address.
Despite the name, B2B sales aren’t really made business-to-business. They’re transactions between people, and showing the face behind a company adds the human touch every sale needs.
But nothing adds to the human touch more than providing value.
There are as many ways to provide value as there are companies. And every good product provides value itself.
But why stop there? Your email marketing sequence can add value, even if someone doesn’t pay to use your product.
FreeeUp is a freelancer hiring platform that differentiates itself by using a rigorous selection process. They provide value with action-packed emails explaining how to outsource work to freelancers.
They also promote step-by-step blog posts and resource guides to their email subscribers.
The important thing about these is that they aren’t only useful to business owners who use FreeeUp—they’re practical tips for anyone running a business, providing value upfront before a sale.
Finally, you can educate existing users. Customer retention will make or break your B2B company’s success, and credibility is key to keeping customers around for the long term.
Influencer marketing tool BuzzStream does this well with constant educational strategies for existing customers.
They offer these in the form of webinars and other multimedia. This has a few advantages.
First, it shows that BuzzStream understands and relates to the needs of their existing customers.
Second, it shows that they are experts in the space who can solve those problems and needs (or connect users to experts who can).
And finally, it creates an image of BuzzStream not only as a tool, but as a resource hub with new ways to grow your business.
(And notice that the email comes from Gracelyn—not the team as a whole, adding a personal touch as we mentioned earlier.)
So now you know the basics of onboarding new customers, building relationships, and establishing credibility.
But it takes testing and improvement, to skyrocket your results.
Measure Success and Improve
The final step in the process is to test and improve.
Decide which emails you’ll use, and structure them into a logical automation sequence.
You’ll want to set this up to run automatically for different types of prospects in your sales and marketing funnel.
Personalization is key, of course, but this can be automated so you don’t need to input variables each time.
The beauty of setting up an automation sequence means you can track where customers are in the stages of the buying cycle, and which emails are effective.
You’ll then want to gradually test and improve different types of emails to see which perform better. By measuring touchpoints and open and click rates, you can get a good idea of how your sequence is performing.
These tiny differences add up. Credit card company American Express wanted to improve the client experience for those companies that used their card.
They studied every detail of the client experience for 30 days, measuring every touchpoint, email, and phone call. The team then used that information to craft a better customer journey.
A year after they implemented the project, American Express boosted existing client revenue by 67% and new client acquisition by 46%.
It all started with tiny changes to their sales sequence that led to outsized results months later.
If you want to grow your B2B business, you must study the sales cycle obsessively.
So, what’s the mystery behind B2B email marketing that sells?
There is no single secret. Start by deeply understanding your sales process, customers, and cycle.
Craft personalized emails to target the three critical areas of the customer journey—bringing on new customers, strengthening relationships, and establishing credibility with existing users.
Next, measure each email and make continual improvements. Keep the sales process first in mind and don’t be afraid to test and experiment.
Implement the changes you need, and you’ll see a dramatic increase in sales. Sales are directly tied to the customer journey.
Improve how you shape the customer journey, and you’ll see results on the bottom line.