“Email marketing” is a major industry buzzword, and it’s still a staple in any successful digital and inbound marketing strategy. In fact, the vast majority of B2B marketers practice email marketing, and 79% of them credit email as the most effective distribution channel for their demand gen efforts.
Arguably, “email marketing” often fails to capture the many ways B2B marketers use this communication tool as a successful vehicle for inbound marketing (converting, nurturing, and delighting leads and customers) as well as marketing and sales alignment within their companies (to close more leads). With the advanced power of today’s marketing automation tools and technology, it's illogical to group every single email send into one massive category.
Instead, marketers should categorize the various types of emails to help drive their strategies and messaging. When it comes down to it, there are seven major categories your marketing emails can fall into. Here, I’ll break down the differences between them, their unique functions and some best practices for each.
1. Permission Pass Emails
First things first. Before you start sending emails to a contact list, you’ll need to ask yourself, “Did I get their permission to do that?” The answer to this question serves as the foundation of your email marketing strategy moving forward. This is especially important when first launching an inbound marketing program or implementing a CRM. Not only can an email that requests permission to send future content help clean up your contact list, it’s simply the right thing to do. And, if you have international contacts on your list, it’s even more critical to ensure compliance with General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
When sending your permission pass email, give contacts the option to opt out of future communications, if they so desire. No one likes getting unsolicited emails in their inbox; it’s the written equivalent to getting all those robo-calls on your cell phone even though you signed up for the “do-not-call” list. Or am I the only one? Permission pass emails help your prospective customers know that you value ethical and courteous business practices from the start.
2. Subscriber Notification Emails
Subscriber notifications serve as one of the most basic types of email marketing, but they certainly deserve their spot on the list as they’re important to your content distribution strategy and good UX with your brand. These emails are sent to your list of opted-in subscribers to keep them updated and informed about what's new in your company and your industry.
The most common type of subscriber notification email is your blog subscription. A common best practice, depending on the frequency at which you publish your blogs, is to allow your subscribers to set their preferences for automatic blog notification frequency (immediate, daily, weekly, or even monthly if it applies).
3. Promotional Emails
Take full advantage of your contact database when it comes to promoting new content by sending out promotional emails to the segment(s) of your audience that would find the content helpful and relevant. For example, if you just wrote a tip sheet about “Top 10 Predictive Maintenance KPIs for Industrial Equipment,” you could send it to leads in your CRM with the role of Maintenance Manager.
You can structure your promotional emails however you best see fit, but they should include these key elements:
A clear, carefully thought-out subject line. This is the deciding factor for whether your contact will open your email or skip right over it (Tip: try using personalization with your marketing automation software to give your emails a better chance at standing out in a sea of subject lines)
A brief description showing the distinct value of the content you're promoting. After all, your leads are busy people—let them know that what you're sending is worth their time and how it will impact them
A large, attractive call-to-action (CTA). This is possibly the most important piece of the promotional email, as it will make or break whether that contact will click through to your landing page. Sure, you can include a link to your CTA in the body copy of the email, but you can't deny the visual appeal of a well-designed, well-placed CTA, like this one:
4. Follow-up Emails
After leads provide their contact information in exchange for a gated content piece, consider sending an automated email to thank them and provide a good user experience. Even though they’ve already accessed your resource, include a direct link in the email to “keep on hand” or share with colleagues. Consider also sending a second follow-up email after a few days that provides additional blog posts and content directly related to the resource they already accessed. These types of follow-up emails improve the user experience and provide subsequent conversion opportunities, which leads to the fifth email type...
5. Nurturing Emails
Nurturing emails are possibly the most important type of email marketing you can do in an inbound strategy. Nurturing emails should be set up as part of your workflows within your marketing automation software, and should be strategically planned out to deliver specific messages and offers to your leads as a way to help them along the buyer's journey.
It's up to you to decide how much nurturing you'd like to do, depending in large part on the length of your prospects’ buying cycle, but a good rule of thumb is to provide a new "touch" to a lead every seven days or so. This helps keep your content (and your business) top of mind, whether that lead is still diagnosing a problem, has started considering the options, or is in the process of deciding who their company is going to do business with.
Whenever leads download a piece of your content—from a promotional email, your blog, a post on social media, or directly from your website—they should be placed into a nurturing workflow and receive a welcome email. Your workflows can be as simple or complex as you'd like, but you should always carefully consider the flow of content to ensure your leads are getting logical follow-up pieces that are appropriate for their stages in the buying journey.
6. Event-Based Emails
Many industries, especially manufacturing, still find value in more traditional marketing strategies, such as trade shows, in addition to inbound marketing. We’ve routinely helped organizations meld the best of both worlds. Email campaigns that highlight your company’s presence at such an event can help drive attendees to your booth to learn more about your products or services, and provide personal connections. Combine your trade show efforts with on-site demonstrations, giveaways and other incentives. A strategic email campaign can generate excitement and drive traffic to your booth location. You might even want to encourage attendees to “show this email at our booth to receive a special gift.”
Other event-based emails might include promotion for an upcoming webinar, conference, speaking engagement or community-based event. And don’t forget to include a post-event email to share results, photos and video, and recap the lessons learned.
Related: Improve Your Trade Show & Exhibition Results with These Inbound Tactics
7. Internal Emails
There are some marketing emails that may never leave your organization. Once your email marketing campaigns start generating qualified leads, there’s a host of internal communications that need to take place to ensure those leads are properly followed up on. This requires that sales and marketing be on the same page and align their strategies to reach their business goals...together.
While handing off leads can be done manually, marketing automation software can help ensure no one falls through the cracks and that everyone knows where leads are in the buyer’s journey. There are four basic types of internal email notifications you’ll want to leverage:
1. New leads
2. Contacts who’ve shown specific interest
3. Re-engagement notifications
4. Those waiting for a Sales contact
Workflows and automated emails are a tool that can help align sales and marketing and ensure that critical information is quickly passed from marketing to sales so no opportunities are lost or overlooked. The protocols for these emails (when they’re sent, to whom, what information is included, what happens next, etc.) should be outlined in a Marketing and Sales Service Level Agreement.
Categorize Emails to Better Understand Metrics
When all is said and done and you're evaluating your email marketing metrics, it's important to differentiate the different types of emails to better understand the takeaways from the performance of each. For example, you'll want to place more of an emphasis on the open and click rates of your promotional and nurturing emails than those of your subscriber notification emails.
You can use a resource like MailChimp's Email Marketing Benchmarks to get a feel for what the average open and click rates are for emails in your industry, but keep in mind that these benchmarks don't differentiate the different types of marketing emails. Instead, closely monitor your emails to get a better understanding of what seems to work (and what doesn't). Then, tweak and adjust your emails for maximum success from there!
Want more help? Download our free guide on B2B Email Marketing below.