B2B SMBs Gain Competitive Advantage With More Intimate, Intent-Driven Email Campaigns

Published: December 2, 2020

Email has long been a top channel for engaging prospects and buyers — and it has become even more critical in 2020. According to Demand Gen Report’s 2020 Demand Generation Benchmark Study, email is responsible for 49% of early-stage buyer engagement, with 48% also leveraging email to boost conversion rates in the later stages. Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have taken notice, as well.

However, SMBs looking to leverage email in their marketing campaigns may encounter issues with their size, struggling to remain relevant in a market dominated by larger corporations and veteran marketers. What they may not know is that they have an advantage over the competition if they play their cards right.

SMBs looking to get ahead of the larger players can leverage email marketing to get the most out of their data, deliver authentic email campaigns that wow audiences and increase their response and open rates. Steffen Schebesta, CEO of Sendinblue, a provider of digital marketing tools, explained that SMB marketing and sales teams can improve their campaign performance and ROI by using various email marketing tools and data to stand out.

“Everything is, or has already, transitioned into the digital landscape this year,” said Schebesta. “This means a lot more competition whenever you want to promote yourself. Everybody has to send their promotional emails, and it’s going to be a lot more competitive in email marketing and all digital channels this year. So SMBs need to ask: ‘how can we stand out this year during the holiday season, and still be successful in online marketing?’”

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Leveraging Intent For Improved Lead Capturing

The 2020 Demand Generation Benchmark Study shows that 51% of marketers are using intent data to assess prospects who are actively showing buying intent, acting in their marketing campaigns based on that data. In email marketing, marketers are leveraging intent data for tailored buyer outreach, appealing to their leads’ needs and interests for more effective engagement.

“Knowing buyers’ intent can make your email marketing more effective,” said Rachel Gianfredi, Editor for Channel Marketing at Bombora, in a blog post. “For instance, a startup that sells accounting software might try to reconnect with its cold leads by emailing them a new E-book about the latest accounting trends. Intent data might reveal, for example, that many of these leads are in fact actively researching cloud-based accounting software. Targeting them with an E-book that covers this topic is bound to result in higher open rates.”

According to Schebesta, SMBs can also use intent data to make their personalized marketing tactics more effective, identifying active leads and determining when the best time to interact with them is. Sendinblue helps its SMB users get their timing right with its Send Time Optimization tool, which allows marketers to automate the email send to the buyer at the most convenient time.

“The feature helps our users determine the best time to send their emails,” Schebesta explained. “We automatically detect when the recipient is most likely to open the email, and then we send it out at that time. Users can personalize and optimize open rates, or send simple emails saying thank you, or reminder emails.”

Other lead management solutions such as Keap allow SMBs to create emails with custom sign-up forms, helping marketers to segment their recipients into categories and prioritize interactions based on their intent. SMBs can use this for effective outreach during an email campaign, increasing conversion rates while reducing the number of resources spent on false leads.

A/B Testing Tools Improve Response & Click-Through Rates

It’s important for SMBs to experiment with different subject lines, copy language and landing page links to test the best ways of engagement. According to Schebesta, effective email marketing requires plenty of A/B testing to find the right types of content to engage buyers/prospects.

SMBs can A/B test their email content to reach their level of personalized engagement with their more intimate knowledge of their buyers, but they still need to experiment with different content to ensure their email campaign’s success.

Email marketing software such as Constant Contact help SMBs test multiple subject lines and email copy, allowing them to resend emails with improved content that is more tailored to the individual’s interests. SMBs can find the most effective wording to reach their target buyers, while also increasing the response rates to their emails.

Ontraport optimized their solution for driving email campaigns, A/B testing its SMB emails to help them determine what email content and calls to action work best for driving buyers to landing pages. Those that tested their emails’ linked content were able to drive higher click-through rates and conversions while standing out from their competitors.

“It’s really challenging to know beforehand which subject line falls better,” Schebesta explained. “Tools make it very easy to test subject lines from addresses and content, and email marketing allows for impactful A/B testing.”

Maintaining Intimacy In Email Messages With Conversational Tone

One of the biggest challenges facing SMBs in any industry is the competition from large and enterprise counterparts. But email marketing is the perfect opportunity for SMBs to target, reach and engage their niche corner of the market.

According to Schebesta, SMBs rely on the intimate knowledge and relationships they have with their buyers, which can translate into their email composition. SMBs know their buyers best because of their smaller size, so buying intent is easier to track and take action on. SMBs can compose emails that are more personalized to the individual buyer, allowing their email campaigns to generate higher click-through rates, response rates and conversions than their competition.

“What we’ve seen that works really well for small businesses is staying personal,” said Schebesta. “There are multiple competitors who use personalization tactics, but SMBs make it work well. They remain in contact with and thank them, showing buyers that they’re sticking with them and supporting them during these times.”

Another advantage of personalization for SMBs is their ability to have more human conversations within their emails. They can implement emojis into their email subject lines or GIFs into their email copy because they have a greater understanding of what their buyers resonate with. This allows for more personal conversation via email instead of generic sales pitches.

“Small and medium-sized businesses have an advantage, as they know their customers on a different level,” Schebesta added. “A big player, who usually is very data-driven, versus on an SMB level, where you can really interact with your customers. And this is where conversational email marketing, having a chat and so on, is really useful.”

For additional insights into creating effective email marketing, check out our previous coverage on email marketing.

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