email marketing
Content Marketing

#B2BChannelPanel Round-Up: Email

These days, inboxes overfloweth making it harder and harder to get to your ideal B2B buyers. By 2020, an estimated 300 billion emails will be sent and received worldwide every single day. Stats like these leave a marketer’s head spinning. We live in an info-saturated world which means our audiences’ attention is more fragmented and preoccupied than ever. This can leave lots of question marks when it comes to email marketing strategies.

One thing is for certain: Email will never die.

We lined up a stellar panel to get down and dirty with all things email marketing for The last (but not least) #B2BChannelPanel:

  • Elle Woulfe, VP of Marketing at PathFactory
  • Kim Roman, Senior Principal Consultant at Oracle Marketing Cloud
  • Jen Rios, Senior Manager of Demand Generation at Invoca
  • Justin Keller, VP of Marketing at Sigstr

See the full discussion:

To read more B2B Channel Panel round-ups and watch the recordings click here.

Here are the most memorable takeaways from the hour.

How has your email marketing strategy evolved over the last several years?

Jen: Email has become very saturated and recipients are more desensitized than they used to be so emails that are one-offs or lack relevance won’t get a second look. We ensure our emails are part of larger drip campaigns and nurture strategies. We’re fully leveraging email engagement to further the conversation as well. We use Sigstr banners in employee email signatures that link to microsites with curated Content Tracks we build using PathFactory.

Kellie: We’ve been evolving our growth strategy this past year which involves a lot more top-of-funnel communication and information. So we’re moving email to be more of a nurture process. Instead of being a first touch, it might be a second, third, or even fourth.

Our email strategy has shifted. Now, we start with establishing a relationship and then use that data to welcome them into the conversation at the right time.

Kim: What I’ve been focussing on with a lot of clients is looking at behaviors and who the individual is and then really targeting a personalized message to them at the right time.

Justin: The right time, right person, right content trifecta is key to everything. For us, that looks like sending fewer emails, but we work way harder on each one. We could all be personalizing our emails a lot more than we do, especially will all the data we have about our audiences.

Elle: Ya we’re on the quality over quantity train here at as well. We use Content Tracks to deliver our nurture content so instead of assuming people will click 12 times to consume 12 assets we give them the opportunity to consume as many as they want in-the-moment in a tailored experience with one click. That way, if they decide to self-nurture and move forward, we can skip those touches and accelerate their journey.

What is the most effective way to encourage people to take action from an email? How do you get somebody to engage?

Justin: My golden rule is this: Pics get clicks. That, and instant gratification.

Kellie: Something we’ve learned over the years is to keep it simple. I think a clear call-to-action and having it in multiple places is very valuable.When it comes to email it’s important to have a mobile-first mentality. Most people are consuming email on their phone.

Jen: We’ve also been seeing good results including a CTA in the subject line and closer to the beginning of the email.

Buyer’s attention spans are very limited so if they can’t quickly grasp what they’re being asked to do, they’ll move on.

Kim: One thing I’m always doing, regardless of the industry is test. Test different call to actions, different buttons. Find what works best and then continue to test and optimize.

Elle: I say this all the time: just don’t be boring. That first email is your first impression so it has to be spectacular. If it’s not they won’t open the next one. You have to work really hard to give people a reason to click. We recently did a really cool thing with our GDPR campaign. Everyone is doing their compliance and we knew we’d be competing with a million other emails. So we did a cool Star Wars take on GDPR that was fresh and fun and funny. We got a lot of positive feedback. So people not only read the email they took the time to give us their feedback.

Describe an email campaign that had memorable results or that you learned important lessons from.

Jen: We are in the middle of promoting our annual customer conference. When we launched a reg email to past attendees it had a 49% open rate and 23% click through rate, which is by far the best performing email we’ve ever sent. We think what made it so successful was relevancy plus they’re expecting it around this time of year. We also sent it out on behalf of our Customer Advocacy Manager who has a very active relationship with our customers. So the email was coming from someone they trust.

Justin: We had thrown a massive party in Las Vegas with a lot of photo proof like a hired photographer, photo booth etc. The subject line the next day read: “We are so sorry about what happened in Las Vegas.” and linked to a slideshow. It was super simple but had outrageous engagement, like 90% click rate.

Kim: I worked with a client that wanted to show their audience how lead scoring worked. They actually merged the lead score of the recipients with the email itself. They were like “Hey, you wanna see how lead scoring works? We’re gonna show you. Click on this link. Reply to this email. Open this email. Click here…” and that person could actually watch their lead score change week to week. It performed really well, was fun, and actually showed the power of what their company did really effectively.

Where does nurture fit in your overall marketing mix in how you think about email?

Kellie: We’re pulling folks in more through niche publications in industry verticals.  So they’re coming into nurture not knowing as much about us. We really leverage PathFactory to offer more industry and product specific content with each nurture touch to accelerate them to MQL status.

Justin: We are nurturing but we’ve got finite nurture tracks. We market to marketers, but we split those groups into smaller buckets. We don’t do a whole lot of traditional email nurturing because we use our own products for a lot of that. We really do a lot of one-to-one emails and use Sigstr to put the right content at the right time in that person’s cycle. It kind of rides shotgun to an authentic email where someone is trying to develop a relationship and drive engagement that way.

Elle: We don’t do anything wildly complicated with nurture but we do have fun with it. We align our programs to top dating sites. For example, the top-of-funnel one is called Tinder, ‘cause we’re just trying to hook up and keep it casual. Once they MQL they move to the Ok Cupid track. If they get named to an opportunity they move to the eHarmony track, because that’s when we know they’re really trying to find their match. That’s where we get a little more technical and reveal more product-specific content like third party review sites.

Kim: Something interesting I’ve seen people do is let the behaviour of people in their nurture streams determine how they move through the streams. Rather than having someone stay in the same streams for a set amount of time, they can advance stages based on how much they’re engaging.

Put the power back in the prospect’s hands. Let them determine how fast they move along different tracks. Clients that do this are moving MQLs to SQLs much faster.

How are you seeing customers incorporate emails in ABM strategies?

Kim: We see a lot of clients looking at metrics at the company level. They can then decide who should be targeted or have certain emails sent to them at a company level.

Elle: We work really closely with our BDRs–they are the frontline of our revenue engine. We work with them in terms of the emails they send and how customized they are by the different account segments or personas. Even though it’s not a huge  air cover thing, there’s a lot of email that’s being delivered through that channel, so it’s important that there’s a high quality of those touches.

How do you think about measuring email performance?

Justin: Our top-line metric is opens and making sure we’re keeping our audience in place. On the Sigstr side of things, we are running about 400 campaigns at any time. For those, we look at click rates and conversions.

We find animated GIFs are like catnip for people, we see outrageously high click rates on emails with GIFs.

Kellie: We’re lucky in that our database likes to hear from us and our open and click rates are very strong. So our goal is to maintain that and ensure our opt-out rates don’t climb. We’ve been diving deeper into deliverability. We’ve moved to a new instance of Marketo and doing testing there.

Jen: We take into account what the goal of the email is and measure success that way.

Our goal is to educate our prospects and generate MQLs so the primary metric we look at from email is engagement. We leverage PathFactory Content Tracks for this.

Elle: About once a quarter we look at something called Binge Rate. How many people do we drive off an email that actually go on to consume a second or third piece of content? Then we can try to understand why one type of email or nurture gets better binge rate than another.

Kim: We touched on this before, but deliverability is a big question that I get from a lot of clients.

It’s more than just opens and clicks. It’s looking at your soft bounce rates, your hard bounce rates, your unsubscribe rates. It’s not about looking at one email in particular, but looking at a trend.

The 4 letters looming over every marketers head: GDPR. Many feel it’s forced us all to become more targeted, careful, and overall better marketers. How is it impacting what you’re doing as it relates to email strategy?

Kim: One of the biggest things that we’ve been focusing on has been the data. How do you prove that you have prior consent? How do you prove that these people are ones that you can email? A lot of our customers are focussed on making sure that they’re collecting the right data, the consent, and that they’re storing it in the right way.

Jen: Yes, and we also need to ensure we’re taking a second look at our database to ensure it’s segmented properly and that we’re properly opting folks out.

We need a good sense of the volume of emails that we’re sending out per week to make sure we’re not bashing and blasting or spraying and praying. We’re just being more judicious across the board.

Kellie: It’s definitely an operational challenge. We’ve been working hard to make sure we are all interpreting it the same way and tweaking our forms to make sure we’re being clear. As a result, we’ve obviously seen less growth in our database.

Justin: I am definitely pro-GDPR. It forces us to be better marketers and change our focus. Rather than hustling the funnel we now need to develop a relationship.

GDPR is forcing us to focus less on volume and more on quality.

What was the last email you received from a vendor or salesperson that caught your eye? Why was it memorable?

Justin: The ones that catch my attention are the ones that are immediately relevant to me. If you know anything about me at all, I’ll give you the open. Maybe even a click.

Kellie: I’ll open the email taking a bit of a different angle. I’m seeing a lot of emails appear in my inbox that take a negative, passive aggressive tone. Those really turn me off.

Kim: So I’ll share a funny story of a bad one I received. I’ve been working in marketing automation for 10 years now so I’m really big on data. When I worked at Oracle, I got an email from a competitor that said “Hey Kim, we think Oracle and ABC Corp are a great fit”. And it was literally our competitor! Big fail. Especially when you’re talking to marketers since we’re the ones that understand and know the data better than anybody else and the impact of that.