The difference between B2B and B2C email marketing

As B2B marketers we tend to look at others for inspiration. To innovate we often take what other marketing organizations have done and built on those ideas to improve and make them more interesting. When it comes to using email marketing to develop leads, though, there is one tricky part of the equation. There are B2B emails and there are B2C emails and they are not identical twins.

In this post, we’ll look at the differences between B2B email marketing and B2C email marketing. You’ll want to pay attention because while some of the methodologies are the same the differences are important because the outreach strategy for one might not work for the other.

B2B Email Marketing

B2B opportunities tend to be large. There are exceptions on both sides of the fence. There are small purchases in B2B and large purchases in B2C, but in general, the large purchases lean toward the business-to-business world.

Because the purchases are larger there should be more marketing in B2B email marketing than sales. There are many different reasons why people subscribe, not all tied directly to sales but rest assured people don’t sign up just because they are in the mood to be sold to.

What does this mean?

By now, all B2B companies know that from the time a new prospect is initially reached, the emails should work to guide, educate and qualify the prospect – like a salesperson might do. Nobody ever bought a house based on one email. In B2B email marketing, you have to respect the buying stage that the prospect is in and that it will take many more contact moments before a sale is made.

The first email might include a high-level overview of the features and, client-focused, benefits, but it can largely be a follow up of your content incentives used for lead generation. Subsequent emails will often provide additional insight into the industry, and eventually, additional products and services offered by the company.

The entire process,  one that works in concert with your CRM system, web analytics, and sales team, is about presenting the problems that exist and taking the prospective client down the path of solving that issue. Remember, that being persistent is often what will drive success.

B2C Email Marketing

A common scenario is to see an email that puts the pressure on your to purchase. Email marketing and urgency go hand in hand in B2C email marketing. You’ll see a sale that is ending soon and you have to act now otherwise you’ll miss the promotion. Urgency is actually one of the areas where B2C and B2B are similar. B2Bs do try to get urgency attached to their offer too but at the risk of it being less believable than it is in the B2C arena.

Of course, that is a grand generalization, but B2C companies tend to be more aggressive in tone. B2C email marketing is the fact that many acquisition-focused campaigns are directly sales-focused. This means that the email is about getting to a sale, quickly. Purchase price tends to be on the small side for B2C products so the sales process is more impulsive and quick. Just have a look at the call-to-actions like “Buy now”, “Pre-order”, “Shop”, etc.

You might see an email that introduces a new product. The expectation is that you immediately become interested in the item and make the purchase. Email is an ideal medium for impulse buys. Sometimes even without showing you the actual product yet. It might work, but if you think of it is pretty bizarre.  Here is an example of that in an email from Neiman Marcus.

Nieman-Marcus Email
(Image courtesy of Notablist.com)

Although there are still there are some differences here in adoption rate for the B2C and B2B audiences, you can expect all of your emails nowadays to be read on mobile. Do we need to go mobile first? At least make sure your email all incorporate best practices for responsive email design.

Finally, B2C emails tend to not follow along welcome series, once the prospect becomes a customer or opts-in. It is usually not longer than one or two emails until the program flips back to “standard newsletter”- mode. This is in contrast to some advanced B2B email marketing campaigns who well know client cultivation.

Final Thoughts B2B vs. B2C Email Marketing

These differences in B2B and B2C email marketing are important to note. If you understand the differences you can really focus in on what will work best for your company.

On some occasions, you can use inspiration from one for the other. It might be a way to get a little edge on the competition.

Are Curated Email Newsletters Right for You?

curated email newsletters

No one can possibly sort through let alone digest all of the information that comes our way each day. But it is the Information Age and we need to keep up with the latest news and developments. That’s why we subscribe to blogs and newsletters or in the first place, right?

So if we need all that information yet we don’t have time for all of that information, what is the answer? The answer is, the curated email newsletter—a newsletter not of original content, but of content you deem worthy of putting in front subscribers.

For the recipient, the curated newsletter can be a blessing, saving them from sorting through all kinds of emails and searches to find up-to-date information. Plus a well-curated newsletter will include information they might not have come across on our own! It’s like news you can use in a nutshell. Curated newsletters can keep us informed and save us time, all at the same time. What’s not to like about that?

As for the curator of such an email newsletter, what’s not to like about pulling together content rather than creating it? Again and again, studies show that B2B businesses struggle with content creation.

With a curated newsletter, on the other hand, you’re seeking out content that’s shareworthy, which can certainly be a lot more efficient than creating content from scratch. Not only is that a huge time saver for your team, but think about the brand impression you make when you go to that kind of trouble for your audience (assuming your curating only the best stuff). That’s the kind of goodwill marketing any brand can benefit from, but especially in the B2B world where people are so challenged to keep up with news.

There are obvious benefits of a curated newsletter but, truth is, I’ve always been a huge fan. One of my all-time favorites is Hacker Newsletter, which we’ve featured before. Simply read the testimonials to see how much people appreciate the time saved by it. Another favorite, which is not tech or marketing related, is Next Draft. Where else can you find an article on turkey bowling alongside an article on the Supreme Court’s pending hearing on free speech online?

Is your business producing a curated email newsletter? If so, let me know in the comments section. I want to check it out and perhaps feature it. And if you have any suggestions for others on how to get started with this kind of newsletter approach, post those comments too.

About the Author: Scott Hardigree is Founder of Email Industries (the folks behind IndiemarkBlackBox, FormSwell and Email Critic). Connect him everywhere, here.

Into B2B Email Marketing?

Join us for the Progressive B2B Marketing Summit

Thursday, 12/02/10 — 11 to 6 ET (8 to 3 PT)

How you adapt to and harness the opportunities in the changing B2B marketing environment could make all the difference between success and failure. Join Indiemark (at booth #4) and other Focus Experts in this half-day event to make sure you’re ahead of the curve.

It will cover everything from the importance of branding to implementing lead-management strategies and improving sales/marketing alignment. Pre-register here.

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Is email still the shiznit?

In my time as the CMO of a direct marketing list company our email prospect list was the single most effective demand generation tool in our arsenal. We literally had to make sure that our sales team was at the ready we a new campaign dropped.

Believe me when I tell you that we were prolific marketers. E-zines, print ads, list research tools, tradeshows, paid search, and strong search engines positioning, you name it we did it. Some were effective, other less so, but nothing made the phones ring like “the list.”

Does the same hold true for your marketing company? Share your thoughts!