The B2B Email Renaissance: Email’s Comeback

In recent years, the B2B email channel has been waning in priority and popularity – that is until the pandemic hit. In a recent report, the email service provider Epsilon notes that their clients named email as one of the most important marketing communication channels during the pandemic.

This rise in priority and popularity brings a new light to an old channel. This webinar will benefit those responsible for B2B email marketing, strategy, and operations, as well as channel marketing, customer marketing, digital campaign marketing, and marketing leadership.

In this webinar, Tom and Amanda will discuss:
• Creating B2B Email Calendars
• Growing Your Database
• The Anatomy of the Email
• Subject Lines
• Free Resources

There will be a 20-minute interactive Q&A at the end of the panel.

ViB Success Series Webinar: The B2B Email Renaissance

Tom: Hi, everybody. I’m Tom Riddle, director of research at VI, Virtual Intelligence Briefing, or VIB for short. Thank you for joining us today for another edition of the VIB Success Series webinars. Today’s topic is “B2B Email Renaissance.” 

A little bit about us, VIB, just to give you a little bit of context, we’re experts at B2B marketing services, in the areas of awareness, lead generation, and market research. Some of our demand generation solutions are email services. We help you through our community of over 2 million IT and other practice areas professionals, get your compelling calls to action to their inboxes in such a way that they click to open them. We have a very differentiated, refreshing new approach to appointment setting, turnkey webinars, and content syndication. And an exciting new solution that one of our customers has called the most significant advance in virtual engagements since the webinar, our virtual networking forum. We also have a variety of market research solutions as well, including the State of the Industry program, which helps you take thought leadership into your own hands.

Further, our customers range from venture-funded or small startups up to multi-billion dollar companies. One of the keys to our success is our level of customer satisfaction, and you could see some of those metrics here. 

Webinar Agenda

So, the agenda for today, email’s renaissance. Now, why has email made this big, big comeback? I’m gonna talk about that. Very important topic, creating B2B email calendars. How do you grow your database of people in your community, the anatomy of an email? And one of the questions that we get asked, I think more than any other question, is how do I create a compelling email subject line? And lastly, we’re gonna go over some free resources that you can use in these various areas of email marketing.

Speaker Introduction 

With that, I’d like to introduce our speaker today, our very own Amanda McGuckin Hager, our chief marketing and customer experience officer. As a high-tech marketer, Amanda brings 20-plus years of combined experience in marketing, public relations, sales, and finance, to offer strong business acumen and outstanding marketing results. 

Amanda’s areas of expertise include marketing strategy and plan development, metrics analysis and objectives development, and all aspects of lead demand and response generation, for which Amanda has been recognized as an industry expert for top-performing integrated campaigns. Prior to VIB, Amanda was a senior director of corporate marketing in Americas demand generation at DataCore. Amanda has also held senior marketing positions at companies including Rackspace, Infochimps, and Solar Winds. Amanda currently serves on the board of a nonprofit, co.lab, is a mentor for Capital Factory and Tech Stars. Thanks for joining us today, Amanda.

Amanda: Hi, Tom. Thank you. It’s fun to be here.

Why The B2B Email Renaissance?

Tom: And our first topic today is B2B’s email renaissance. Amanda, why this topic?

Amanda: It’s such a great question. So, I think everyone realizes that we are on the heels of a global pandemic. Some might say that we’re still in the global pandemic. And with that, everyone worked from home. The rise of email, the importance of email came when people were no longer in their offices, they couldn’t meet in person, they couldn’t accept phone calls at their desk, and phone systems were often not routed, at least immediately, over to personal lines. 

And so, email became the main mode of communication during that time. At the same time, I read a ton of market research reports. I collect them, I read them. I’m always interested in understanding what companies are asking in these surveys and in these reports, what kind of data they’re producing, and what their perspective on that data is. 

Tom: That sounds great. Now, let’s go through, Amanda, some of those data points.

Industry Reports On The Rise of Email Marketing 

Amanda: Yeah. As I’ve been going through life over the last year, I’ve been reading some of these research reports, and here’s one from Epsilon, their 2020 Email Trends Guide. So, you can see, email, the point I was trying to make earlier, email’s a critical communication channel during the pandemic, just like I said. What I found interesting about this report is that they are speaking to what types of email were really important during this time. Of course, you have change in business operations, like the curbside pickup if you’re an e-commerce, but you also have supply chain issues that were happening last year. You have other…your run-of-the-mill marketing communications and then any messages that you might have outside of COVID. 

So, this was one. This one, I saw just recently. This gentleman just tweeted it, what, five days ago. And I loved it. I fell in love with it. Email is the index fund of marketing. It is unsexy, but it is secure, predictable gains. And that is truly how I feel about email. Over the course of my career, email has been a staple in my marketing mix, and this tweet, I thought just nailed it. It is unsexy. It’s kind of boring, but it does yield secure, predictable gains.

Tom: Yeah. It’s a workhorse.

Amanda: Mm-hmm. And then, this one recently from Claritas, “Ten Steps for Acquisition Email Success,” their report, I thought this was really interesting. They lifted this stat from the source Econsultancy. Seventy-three percent of marketers rank email as an excellent channel when it comes to delivering ROI, ranking it higher than SEO and paid search. From my own experience in businesses, from small startups that are just trying to get off the ground, to large companies like Dell, email does deliver. 

As you said, it is the workhorse. It does deliver stronger results than SEO and paid search, in my experience. So, I think it’s an important channel for us to focus on. This one is from a really quite recent report from Salesforce, which is a highly credible…everyone knows Salesforce, right? Highly credible source of data. This is showing year-over-year growth from 2018 to last year, 2020, and you’ll see that email grew 11%. So I don’t know if everyone in the audience can remember, but many years ago, when social media first started, there was this conversation, this narrative that “is this the death of email?” And here we are, years later, and, you know, at least a decade later, and I think we can say, no, actually, it wasn’t the death of email. In fact, email still continues to grow.

And this is also from that Salesforce report. This is really, I think, very, very fascinating. If you look at the top, let me walk you through this. The top is the different stages of the customer buying process, and where email falls in the top five tactics or strategies to get to that. So, in this report, marketers around the globe, of all different size companies, of all different types of companies, together ranked email as the number four way to build brand. 

In fact, that has grown three points since the last time they did this report. They’ve also ranked it in terms of lead generation as the number four way for lead generation, also growing a point. As far as customer acquisition, it’s number five here, and it has fallen a point. And I get that. We can talk about that in a little bit. That makes a lot of sense to me. Upselling, number two, also makes a lot of sense to me. And that arrow shows that it’s been flat year over year. The same with customer retention, also number two, year over year. And then in that last one, customer advocacy, has grown, it’s the number three channel, has grown a point. So, this was really insightful to me. I think this alone tells me why, as marketers, we need to be paying attention to email.

Email: The New Normal During Pandemic And Beyond

Tom: Yep, those are really good points. And I’d say from our own perspective, we deliver over 100 emails from our customers’ compelling calls of action to our community… I should say, over a million a month, and we’ve seen a tremendous resurgence and tremendous growth in that over the last year, and we’re not seeing any abating to that. It seems like, Amanda, would you say what happened in COVID, in terms of email, is a new normal, or not?

Amanda: I think that it is the new normal. I mean, I’m in Austin, Texas, and I know that here, we have some companies, our local city has lifted, I think we’re in stage two. Many of our restrictions are no longer in place. People are returning to the office, but there’s still so many people and so many companies that are making work from home the new normal. In fact, Indeed, indeed.com, which is headquartered here in Austin, recently said that work from home permanently is the new normal for them. And I think a lot of other companies are following suit. So, I think that the challenge of getting a hold of people at their desk will continue. I think that the additional emphasis on email as a main communication channel will continue. So, yeah, I do, to your point, see this coming as the new normal.

Tom: Awesome. Okay. And now, next, email calendars. So, why this topic, Amanda? Why did you choose this out of the five topics to speak to today?

The Importance Of Email Calendars In B2B Demand Generation

Amanda: Well, I’ll speak to my role as a demand generation marketer. So, it’s always been, at least… I’ve spent a lot of time in my career as a demand generation marketer trying to understand what do we do with the budget, what are the boulders that we need to communicate from a company perspective, and what’s our lead goal, and how are we gonna meet it? It’s like a big Tetris game, in my mind, right? Those are a lot of things, a lot of variables that we need to figure out. And so, I’ve used…what I’m about to share with you is the calendar that I have personally used in many companies, multiple companies to date, on how I look at the Tetris game of all these things, and where email fits into that. Tada. It’s not very fancy. It’s an Excel document.

Quarterly Planning Is Key

I’ll tell you that quarterly planning is key. Sitting down and looking at the quarter in full, is key, in my experience, and that omnichannel messaging. So, what you have here is the quarter at the top, you have each month of the quarter. The next row here is the week. I go so far as to put the dates of each week, and I also put how many weeks in the quarter or in the half, depending on how my company looks at their metrics. This is really important, so that we know metrics are driven daily, weekly, in order to hit quarterly goals. 

And so, as you’re looking at progress through the quarter, it’s important to know where you are in that time, and how much time you have left. The next row is out-of-offices. So, let’s not plan major events, major marketing campaigns, to launch when everyone’s out of the office, because that puts the burden on everyone else. And so, when I run this with my teams, I have everyone put their planned vacation or planned time off in there, so that we all know who’s gonna be out when, because, let’s face it, your team is one of your biggest resources. You can’t do much when they’re all gone, so I think that’s really important to note.

Product Launches

Going down the rows, so the next one is product launches. In this example, I have a major product launch, a minor product launch, coordinating with your product team to know when those are, so that you know when and what you need to communicate, is gonna be key. Most of those communications will involve email. And then, the next row is internal communications or internal events. So, at many of the companies I’ve worked with, we have quarterly kickoffs or we have company all-hands. You may have big board meetings. You may have investor presentations. Those are the types of things that I put in that row, so that we can all, again, understand the timing and what we need to do to prepare for those, and sometimes what we need to do as follow up to those. 

Campaigns

The very next row, Campaigns. These are your anchor pieces of content. These are most likely written by your marketing strategy, maybe your executive team, maybe your demand generation team, maybe your comms team, but this is the narrative for which you want to communicate for the next few weeks, maybe even quarter. And then, as things flow down, these are the field of the…what you would do in-field, in-market, how you execute. So, we have events, conferences, meetups.

As we do return to normal, some big industry events are going back in-person. A lot of them have been virtual this last year, but you’ll want to  place those. Those are rocks on your calendar that you don’t really have control over. Those are the dates that you’ll need to work around. Your own webinars if you’re hosting any. And then, your emails. This line here, the email line, you’ll want to know, these…when we’re talking about this line, I tend to look at this as my house email. It may be a portion of my house email, but it is a wide and broad communication, and it’s generally a one-time communication. It’s not an email series, it’s not a nurture, it’s not a sequence.

These are sort of what I call the branded house emails. And I like to place those periodically, usually every week, because, as a marketer, you want to beat a steady drum. I have worked with so many companies that things change, activities drop, you know, small companies, something will happen, nothing happens for a while, and guess what? Leads fall. Well, that makes sense, right? You want to keep a steady drumbeat. Just going down, you have social media, ISR call-outs, if you have someone following up on the leads that you’re driving, and content syndication. What pieces of content are you promoting in your content syndication programs?

Growing Your Database

Tom: Okay. And now let’s talk about growing your database, or, you know, growing your community, as some people refer to it as well. And, Amanda, why this topic? I mean, we’ve only picked five topics for this. How did this one make the cut?

Amanda: When I first start with a company, one of the first things I do is look at the size of their email lists, their email universes. What does their house list look like? I’m working with a company now that I’m trying to understand, like, what is the size of their customer base? What is the size of their prospect base? The size of their communities in the U.S.? What is the size of their communities outside the U.S.? And what is the size of their customers of X product line? What about Y product line? 

Understanding all of that helps me quantify where I want to spend my time, and where we need to prioritize. It also helps me to understand what are those key things the company wants to drive. Let’s say they want to drive customer expansion. Understanding what the list size for each of those customers is is really important, so that we know how, you know, what’s our starting baseline, so that as we continue to grow that message, we continue to grow the database.

Always Be Adding To Your Database 

You know, sales, if you’ve ever worked with a sales team, you’ve heard “always be closing,” ABCs. Always be closing, always be closing. Well, I think marketing ought to consider adopting “always be adding to your database,” right? Always continue to grow. Why? That database is your total addressable market. Those are the people known to you. There are others that are outside your database. Those are unknown to you yet. That database are people that are known to you, that you can address, and that’s a really important thing to understand. As you’re communicating with these people, you are building your brand. Brands don’t just grow overnight. They are, you know, step by step, day by day, activity by activity, they are built. And that email database is one way to really build that brand, to grow awareness, and also deepen the equity with your brand.

Just really quickly, like a river, right? Like water. Stagnant water gets gross, it gets stale. Things start to grow in it that you don’t want. The same thing with your database. You want it to be more like the river. You want flowing water through there, you want names in, names out. It’s okay if people opt-out. That’s okay. As long as you’re adding more at the top of the funnel at a rate the same or greater, then you’re okay. It’s all good. You want people in your database that are the most relevant to you, that are the most likely to respond to your brand offerings. Those are the why’s you want to grow your database.

Tom: That sounds great. We’ve got a lot of good questions coming in, so I look forward to addressing those in about 20 minutes.

Amanda: Good.

Amanda: That’s okay. That’s okay. You know, there’s a lot of different ways to grow your database. We talked about the addressable market that’s known to you, and we talked about that market outside of your database, that is currently unknown to you. Getting into that unknown to you, you know, community or market is really, really critical. So, how do you do that? Well, trading, it’s a tit for tat transaction, right? I would like your contact information, and in exchange, I’m willing to give you X. Well, what is that X? Obviously, you know, at this last bullet point here, free tools.

If your company has any kind of free tools, or can create a free tool for you. Free trials is a great way. It’s a great offering for a contact name. Any high-value content. Tom, you mentioned the state of industry reports. That’s a high-value content that you can gate, and in exchange…you know, I do it all day long with these market research reports. I’m giving them my contact information in exchange for their research report. That’s a great transaction, you know, equitable transaction. Webinars, promoting your webinars, media coverage. Don’t forget PR. PR is a great way to drive people into your website, where they will find something like the free tool or free trial.

Now, that’s attracting people into your database. How do you get outside of your own database? Well, third-party programs are the best way to do that, right? Industry trade shows is the best example I can think of. You know, when you sponsor or exhibit at a trade show, you pay X number of dollars, and you may be able to scan as many people as you can at your booth, or you may actually get the list of everyone who’s registered, depending on how that show is set up. That’s a wonderful way to add names to your database.

The other way are third-party programs, working with other vendors. You know, you have content syndication vendors, which, in full transparency, VIB is a content syndication vendor, right? Third-party webinars. Maybe you go out and work with a vendor to do a hosted webinar, which, in full transparency, VIB offers that service as well. But these are great ways to get names from other people’s database registered into your database.

Anatomy Of An Email

Tom: That sounds great. And so, anatomy of an email. Why this topic?

Amanda: Anatomy of an email is really important, because they’re just some basic things that I look for. I think emails are so critical, and everyone approaches it differently. I have my preferred favorite way to do it, just because I’ve seen that it works, and that’s what I wanted to share today. There are certainly many paths to that destination. What I want to share with you is the path that I generally take to that destination. This is a DataCore email, obviously. I helped design this email when I worked with DataCore. I no longer work with DataCore, but I just got this email recently, and I was reminded about how much I love this outline. So, let’s talk about it.

One of the first things in the top corner, that top arrow there on the left, is the logo. It seems simple. I’ve seen companies that include a logo. And remember, going back to that brand-building, you know, that logo, your logo is so critical. Don’t put your mark, don’t put your colors. Put your logo, put your name, so that people can build that association, and build that brand awareness and brand equity. The other thing I love about this is the top right? You have a persistent “Try It Now.” That is this company’s main call to action, and they have that front and center. So, even if you don’t scroll down to the bottom, it’s right up there. And if interested, your reader can push it and click through that button to your main call to action. So, I love that.

You have the hero image and the content, the body content. It’s one message. I think the singular message does really well. I learned many years ago, about 20 years ago, I learned, in email, if you have more than one link, it creates a sort of analysis paralysis, and people just don’t know where to click, so they don’t click. Having a singular message, with a singular call to action or a singular focus is really great, in my opinion. 

Now, we can argue, we do have the webinar call to action here, and we have two. We have the recording and the presentation. I think in this example, that’s okay. It’s still pointing to that singular webinar. We could also say, well, you have the webinar, and then you have this persistent “Try It Now” at the top, and then again at the bottom. I think that’s okay too. As a demand generation marketer, if “Try It Now” is my main call to action, I put that thing everywhere. I want it everywhere. I want it as many places as I can put it, so that if and when somebody is ready, they can click. It’s that simple. You don’t want them to hunt or make it hard. 

The other thing at the bottom here that I really like is this short paragraph about what this company does, and the value proposition of this company. Again, from a branding perspective, that’s so critical. Yeah. So, this is just a really good example, I think of the anatomy. 

Subject Lines

Tom: Okay. Now, subject lines. As I mentioned earlier, this is one of the most often asked questions of us. Thoughts on, just at a high level, the subject line topic, why chose that, Amanda?

Amanda: Subject lines… I think, you know, in order to get to the body of your email, someone has to open your email. The subject line is the preview to what they’ll find there, and if your subject line is not very good, they won’t open it. It’s that simple. It’s the path, I suppose, to the body content. So, it does carry a lot of weight. It’s very important. And there’s some best practices that I think everyone may be familiar with already, but if not, I’d like to go over them, just to make sure that we, you know, everyone knows how to do a good subject line.

Best Practices For Writing A High Converting Subject Line

So, this is that same email that we just looked at. And not to pick on DataCore, because I love the company. I love the team. But I did want to call out here, this is that email. You’ll see that the reason I wanted to share it with you is to say, when you’re building these emails, look at your “From:” name, and look at your subject line together, side by side, because that is how your reader will see it. In this particular example, you have the “From:” name as “DataCore Software.” You have a branded company name in the “From:” name. They went ahead and put DataCore again in the subject line, which is not bad, but those are eight characters that they could have used towards something else. The date, a call to action, “register now,” “link inside,” you know, something else. 

It is somewhat redundant. I have seen other companies that use a “From:” name, so, from Amanda McGuckin Hager, DataCore webinar. That is a good thing, because no one knows who I am, Amanda McGuckin Hager. Who is that? I don’t know. But the brand, the company name, is in the subject line there, and would be branded together, so when you’re building these out, it’s important to consider what is the “From:” name, and how does that look with the subject line?

I also want to call out, this is my inbox. And the reason I screenshotted it here for you is to share with you that your competition is all these other emails above and all these other emails below. It’s really important that you’re not just trying to stand out with the competition in your market space, but really in the inbox. I don’t know about you, but my inbox, at least my personal inbox, has information from my children’s school, from my bank, from my friends, from my family, from all the e-commerce sites I’ve ever shopped on. And you can see that’s just a lot of different competition for my attention. So, just keep that context in mind when you’re writing these subject lines.

Things To Avoid In Email Subject Lines

Tom: So, that’s a very good point. Your competition is not just your competition, but your competition is their attention in general, in terms of everything that they get into their email box. So, curious, are there just, like, major don’ts, would you say, other major don’ts, in terms of subject lines? You’ve brought up a few good ones here. Anything else that you could think of, or, you know, even examples of great subject lines that you’ve seen?

Amanda: Well, I have used a tool. It’s in our free resources section. We’ll get to it, but I will share with you now. It’s subjectline.com. It’s a grading tool for subject lines. I love it. I put all my subject lines through it, at least for my corporate emails. I’m looking to see what… It’s a great tool because it tells you why they’ve taken points away, and why they’ve given you points. 

You know, I’m not sure that there’s really a… The one thing I will say is don’t make your subject line so incredibly long, so many characters that it just keeps going. There’s a lot of to-dos. Do experiment. Try A/B testing. Do consider merge fields, the personalization fields. Do consider emojis, right? I think studies have shown if there’s an emoji in the subject line, it’s more likely to be opened.

And also, with that, consider if that’s in your brand. Emojis are not really in the DataCore brand, in that example, so I might be surprised if they did that. If it works with your brand, and you can get away with it, then do consider that. Having symbols and/or brackets or parentheses are really good things in your subject line. Those tend to open. So, I’m not really sure about don’ts, but, except other than being really, really long. There are a lot of things to try.

Tom: Okay. That sounds great. And of course, there’s the… Well, actually, I’ll ask this question when we get to the free resources section. I think it’ll be relevant there.

Tools To Build A Better Email

Amanda: Yeah. This is the last part of our presentation today. And so, the subject line free tool…I’m sorry, subjectline.com free tool is great. If you haven’t used it, go check it out. I love it. These are some vendor resources that I really enjoy and frequently reference. They put out high-quality content and best practices. 

HubSpot is a content machine. They have an entire library and universe… I would just say, university of best practices pertaining to email. Marketo as well. They are an email service provider. Pardot from Salesforce, ActiveCampaign, all these vendors have great resources sections that you can reference for free, and get some great tips and tricks. That Salesforce state of marketing report was, I thought, excellent. High quality, excellent content, you know, really a wonderful research report. I think it’s free to you in exchange for your contact information and, you know, something to check out. Other vendors as well, I really like MarketingCharts. Is it Martech Council? They put out some great emails as well. CMO puts out some great content. So check out the market research put out by different publications and vendors there.

Outreach is a sales tool. They have a wonderful resource for one-to-one emails from sales. If you’re writing any sequences as a marketer, if you’re supporting your sales team by writing sequences on their behalf, Outreach has some great tips and best practices to look up. And then I have found a lot of value in the marketing automation user groups. I don’t know if you have time, if you can go virtually, if you can go in person, if they’re hosting those, but your local region, your local area may have a Marketo user group. They may have a HubSpot user group. Be a part of that community. Those people will have some great tips and tricks on what works in email.

Audience Questions

Tom: That sounds great. So, a question that came up from the audience here is that if everybody is using these tools, are people sort of converging on the same subject lines in one way or another, such that they’re not differentiated, they have less of ability in order to stand out, you know, and compete for that attention of somebody receiving tons of emails every day?

Standing Out From The Competition 

Amanda: You know, we do tend to operate like a school of fish, right? We start, we kind of all go, like, group together. So it’s a good observation, a really astute observation. Again, it’s possible. However, remember what I was saying about your competition is every other email in the inbox. The likelihood of being stacked up against others using these same tactics, you know, is unlikely. Most likely, you will be from other, you know…coworkers, you’ll have calendar invitations. Those will most likely be what’s around your email when you send it in B2B. So, good question.

Tom: That sounds great. So, it sounds like creativity, serendipity, experimentation is still extremely critical to coming up with new subject lines. And if I’m getting this right, if I’m hearing right, these tools help you stay within those guard rails of best practices and optimize the results. So, got a bunch of questions here coming in, in Q&A. And it’s interesting, we’ve had four questions around the spam topic. So, let’s discuss that. One of them is, “Is landing in the spam folder inevitable? What can be done about this?”

Landing In The Spam Folder, Is It Inevitable?

Amanda: That’s a great question. It’s possible to land in the spam folder. I don’t think it’s inevitable. There’s a lot that goes on on the whitelisting and sort of the deliverability that I am not an expert in. And I feel like I would fail you if I offered you any advice on that. However, there are good resources out there, and if you are in this audience and you have resources for deliverability, you know, I encourage you to share them with the group in the chat or the QA. The other thing, I know, you know, VIB, as you said, Tom, we send out over a million emails. We would have worked very, very hard and we, not me, but the operations team, working with the deliverability and the white label. 

So that’s something that I know that we offer for our clients, is the ability to bypass the spam folder by being, you know, working with our vendors on the deliverability, the technicalities of the deliverability. You know, there are some things that I do know, like don’t send attachments, because that’s a flag. Don’t buy lists, because inevitably, there’ll be a spam trap in there, which will get your IP blacklisted. And by buy lists, I don’t know if you get those emails that are like, “Hey, I’ve got a list of all these users,” or, “I’ve got a list of all these people that went to this trade show. Do you want to buy it?” Those are all spam. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.

Tom: So, here’s a couple of kind of really interesting, maybe more tactical questions, kind of that nitty-gritty that’s important to understand. What is a good email open rate in your opinion?

What Is A Good Email Open Rate?

Amanda: That’s a good question.

Tom: I guess that would vary, right? Depending on what you’re looking to accomplish.

Amanda: Yeah. And I saw this in one of the research reports yesterday I was looking at, and I thought, “I should grab that for the presentation.” And I didn’t, and I’m sorry. What I know to be true is around 17% is an industry average. That’s what I look for. Anything above that is a high-quality open rate. Anything below that means that something might be going on. I also know that, you know, open rates are somewhat relative to list size. So, if you’re sending it to 10 people and you have a 50% open rate, well, it’s still only 5 people. If you’re sending it to a million people and you have a 12% open rate, that’s probably pretty good, because, given the volume of the send. So, there’s that to keep in mind. 

There’s also to keep in mind, are you a B2B company? Are you a B2C company? Are you sending it on, you know, Monday morning? Wednesday afternoon? There’s all those different variables which can affect the open rate. But my gut and go-to, sort of, benchmark internally is 17%. That’s what I look at as the target.

Tom: That’s great. And it sounds like targeting is really important as well. If you’re sending these emails to the wrong people, you’re gonna have a much lower open rate from that. And, of course, it sounds like, again, your subject line is, of course, critical to that.

Amanda: [crosstalk 00:35:08]

Tom: So, let’s see. Here’s another interesting question that I wouldn’t be able to answer myself. Do you have any recommendations for cold emails?

Recommendations For Cold Emails

Amanda: Cold emails. Trial and error, I think, is a big component. You know, we talked about the “From:” name. In cold emails, it’s probably worth trying a “From:” name from a person, and then a “From:” name from a company, and see if your company has any brand equity in the market already. Then, you know, you’re a step ahead. If not, then it might be worth, you know, double-checking between those two.

I think your subject line as well, always trying to write your subject line as “what’s in it for me.” It’s an adage that I know our founders, Sean, uses. I learned it 20 years ago as a radio station, back when FM radio was a thing. WIIFM is how I know those acronym, as if it was a radio station. It stands for “What’s In It For Me?” And so, writing your subject line to have that in there, so that your cold reader, your cold outreach…in your cold outreach, your reader will be able to quickly assess, “should I open this or not?”

Tom: Great. And here’s another question from our audience today, Amanda. What day of the week and time of day is best to send emails to customers? I imagine there’s no one answer to that, but are there some guidelines?

The Best Time To Send An Email?

Amanda: You’re right. There is no one real answer to that. Studies have shown over and over again, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are some of the highest responding days. I personally like to send first thing in the morning. I like to set my sends for 6:00 a.m. because I feel that so many people, like myself, wake up and grab our coffee and then start to go through our inbox. That’s really one of the times of day where we don’t have meetings, we don’t have, you know, other activities going on, coworkers asking us for our deliverables, projects to execute, tasks to execute. So that morning time is one of the quiet times of the day, where people can sit down and actually go through the inbox and read. That’s my personal preference.

Tom: Okay. That sounds great. Another question here is the use of a tracking pixel. What are your thoughts on that, Amanda?

Tracking Pixels in Emails

Amanda: Well, in most HTML emails today, I think there’s a tracking pixel on there that when someone opens it, the tracking pixel recognizes that and then sends it back to the email service provider, and that becomes your open rate. Apple Mail recently announced that they are going to give their users the ability to turn that pixel off. So, we may, as an industry, see some impact to open rates. I’m not exactly sure what may happen if everyone who uses Apple Mail will, you know, if we just see the whole tide of open rates fall, or if we see a certain drop-off in universes where more people are using Apple Mail than other email clients. I think it remains to be seen, but it is something that will impact, you know, our email programs, and something that we should all be watching for. Definitely.

Tom: So, that’s interesting. We’ll have to see how that unfolds. That seems like a major inflection point, potentially. So we’ll have to see how that unfolds. Here’s another interesting question. There are differing opinions about sending full content within the email outreach versus summaries with links to that full content. What are your thoughts on that? I guess there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that, but sending the full content with an email versus having your email just have a series of links, and a small explanation?

Sending Full Content or Summaries In Email?

Amanda: I don’t necessarily like a series of links. If you’re sending one case study or if you’re sending one PDF, one datasheet, it makes sense to link something. Definitely makes sense to link it, over a PDF attachment. How you put all of that in the body of the email, I think that could be interesting. Definitely worth testing.

I know my personal reaction to it would be when I open an email and I see a wall of content like that, I think, “Oh, my gosh, that’s work. That’s gonna take mental energy, mental attention. I’m gonna have to work my way through that.” And so, I generally tend to skip it and say, “I’ll come back to it.” And the odds of me coming back to it are, I don’t know, iffy. That’s my preference, but, you know, I think it’s worth everybody testing on their own to see what works best for them and their audience, for sure.

Tom: Great. Okay. Here’s another good question. Here’s an individual marketer that’s thinking of email invitation for virtual roadshows for the financial industry. How often do you think it’s a good idea to email his database at a level, you know, where it’s effective, but they’re not getting tired of our emails?

Email Frequency

Amanda: It’s a really good, good, good question. I’d like to applaud whoever asked that question. I feel your pain. I feel your empathy. You know, I have all this empathy with you. I feel your pain because, as a marketer, your goal is to drive as many seats to that event. At the same time, you don’t want to ruin your brand or ruin, you know, put your audience off by emailing them so heavily that you have become a pest. You know, I can’t say to you, like, you should do it three times over three weeks, because I don’t know the ins and outs of your program or the ins and outs of your audience or what has been communicated previously.

But I will say that it would be my sort of intention to look at any kind of cross-channel communications that you can do. Can you go to your audience on LinkedIn? Can you also go through them through email? Find them on Twitter? Can you do call-outs with your ISR team or any other phone team? Do you have text messages? What are the different ways that you can hit them so that you are not necessarily a pest?

You certainly do not want to be a stalker, but sometimes email isn’t, you know, doesn’t get through. You know, I would say, depending on what else is going on in your email, if they’re receiving emails from other parts of your business. If not, then I would say, you know, once a week is probably fair and safe, maybe twice a week as you get very close to that registration line timeframe.

Tom: Great. So, here’s another one that’s actually a very simple, very important question. I know, as a seller, I’ve asked myself this quite a few times. What’s a good amount of time to send a follow-up email after an initial call or email is sent?

When To Send A Follow Up Email?

Amanda: I would say…I like to do call and email same day, followed by two days later, two to three days later. You know, depending on what you’re trying to get them to do, I think after that, you know, let’s just say day zero is your call and email touchpoint. You call, follow up with an email, “I just left you a voicemail, etc.” Two days later, you’re sending a follow-up, “Hey, just wanted to check in on my voicemail,” whatever. “I have this great offering for you.” And then maybe three days after that.

You have to remember, if someone’s on vacation for the week, especially now as we’re in the summer months, you may call them on, you know, call, email them on a Tuesday and follow up on a Thursday, Friday, they might not get back to the office till Monday. By the time they wade through all their inbox for the last week, it may be Tuesday, Wednesday before they have bandwidth again. So definitely try and space your interactions across, you know, at least two weeks, maybe even three, periodically throughout that time.

Tom: Great. Let’s hit this topic. We have seven questions essentially around the same topic, which are email compliance, email regulations. Thoughts on that? I know in Europe, of course, GDPR is an issue, but that’s not the only place. Thoughts about how do you bake in a compliance in campaigns, especially when there’s an international component?

How To Achieve Compliance In Email Campaigns?

Amanda: That’s a really good point. You need to make sure that you are using your house list as opt-in, first and foremost. If not, then using third-party vendors or programs that have an opt-in to their database, you know, in full transparency, like VIB. The email preferences, so, at the bottom of every email, it used to just say” unsubscribe.” You’ll now see things that say “update your preferences.” That allows the audience to go in and get and choose what types of emails they want to receive. Maybe they want to receive product emails only, maybe they want to receive event emails only, maybe they want to subscribe to your blog, maybe all of the above.

I’ll tell you, as a marketer, setting those up is challenging, and there’s a whole slew of subject matter experts on just that piece. Because you do want to be able to give people preferences and options other than just “you’re in,” and opted in, or you’re out and you’re opted out, right? That subscription center or preference center allows that middle ground to be very specific about what the audience and the reader might want to receive from you, and therefore staying in touch. So…

Tom: Great. Okay. So, here’s one that’s not a question. It’s really a statement. It’s a nice nugget of information from Brian M. He says he likes to say…when it’s sending out an email, “If I’ve not heard from you in the next week, I’ll reach out again or give you a call.” So, I thought that was an interesting input from our audience, and that gets me to remind everybody that, you know, Amanda is doing a great job sharing her experience and answering your questions, but also, feel free to chat if you’ve had things that have worked for you specifically, and if we have a couple minutes left at the end, we’d like to pollinate your best thoughts to the rest of the audience here today as well. So, feel comfortable with that.

Just a little bit of housekeeping. One individual has asked, “Will the recording be made available to all attendees?” And that’s the case. The recording will be made available to everyone, as well. So, let’s see. We’ve got a bunch more questions here. Let’s go through and try to pick a couple. Here, let me just look through the list here. And I guess we’ve got another one here on the best frequency of emails. Maybe, like, a variant on that. With a cadence, for instance, like a multichannel campaign, I mean, how many emails would you typically have in that overall campaign, regardless of how they’re spaced across? Any rules or thoughts on that?

Integrated Email Campaigns

Amanda: Yeah. When I’m looking at an integrated campaign, I’m looking at the anchor piece. We talked about that in that calendar. I’m looking at the anchor piece to say…let’s say that it’s a research report, for example. I’m then looking at how many ways can we share the information in that research report? You know, so many people learn so differently. Some are visual learners, some are audio learners, some need to read it, some need to see it three or four times. In fact, I think many humans need to see it repeatedly in order for it to kind of sink in.

When I’m looking at an anchor piece of content, I’m thinking about, can we make this into an infographic and send an infographic? Can we pull out certain sections of this report and send that? One of the things I think companies often overlook, and it’s low-hanging fruit, really, is when it comes to research reports, here’s the data, but what’s our perspective on that data? How do we interpret that data? What does that mean to us, and what do we think it means to our readers?

And so, if there’s different things to pull out of that, and that way, you can stretch one piece of content into a campaign that can last you all quarter, if not, you know, half a year, if not a full year, depending on the campaign and how you sort of bring that overarching umbrella messaging down into the market, into the different email sends. So, I don’t have a quantity answer for you of, “I think 10 is a great number,” for example. I don’t. It really depends on what that overarching campaign messaging is, and how many ways that you and your team can pull that campaign messaging down in various ways into each email send. I hope that makes sense.

Tom: That sounds good. And, you know, there’s a bunch of questions around opt-out and unsubscribe. There’s a variety of them. One individual has asked, “Is there anything you learn from an opt-out?” Another individual says, “Should you ask a question of somebody who’s opting out, you know, and how do you make sure that you handle opt-outs correctly?” Any thoughts in general around opt-outs, Amanda?

How To Learn From Opt-Outs

Amanda: I think, you know, I will say I have… Opt-outs are a marketer’s best friend, in that we, if you’re… Excuse me. If our content is no longer relevant to you, we certainly don’t want to waste your time, and we don’t want to waste our time either. So, some people get really worried about opt-outs. I tend not to. It’s okay. We can part ways and it will be okay.

Is it good to ask a question? I think if you are interested in understanding why they’re opting out, it is good. I’m sure you all have opted out of things where they say “too many emails,” “this is no longer relevant,” “I never asked for email,” etc. I think there’s a good standard set of questions there that we could leverage and lift if you wanted to. To me, it’s six and a half, one dozen of the other. I don’t necessarily concern myself with why they’re opting out, but some others do. It is relevant in some other markets and some other places. So, I think that’s important. There was a second part of the question that I don’t fully remember. Did I answer that question completely?

Tom: I think you did. Yeah. No. That covered the subject of opt-outs pretty well. So, a question that I’d have, and, you know, we do this, so it’s somewhat self-serving, but I think it’s educational for the audience. Amanda, in your experiences, when do you work with a third party email provider who reaches out from their own list? When do you not, and how do you know whether it’s a good provider to work with, or to not work with?

Working With Third Party Email Providers

Amanda: I think references, referrals, word of mouth, asking other marketers what have worked for them. Have they used someone in the past? Would they use them again? Those are really critical questions. You know, you can ask the vendor for references as well. I think that is fair and just. If it concerns you, I think it’s a reasonable question to ask your vendor, especially if you’re considering working with them. Yeah, those are two things that I would employ right off the bat. You can also ask the vendor for, you know, their metrics. Do they have any metrics they can share on their success?

Tom: Right. And where are some cases where you’d personally use third-party providers, you know, and why? I’d imagine to, you know, expand beyond your own community, but any thoughts on that?

Amanda: Yeah. When your list is small, when you’re just starting out, you may have a list of, you know, 5,000 or 10,000 people, that, getting that momentum rolling on your list… You remember, momentum builds upon itself. And so, when you’re first starting out, that momentum can be very challenging. That is a great time to be working with third-party vendors, either conferences, trade shows, events, whatever you can do to get more names in your database.

Also, if you’re a large company and you have a huge database, and it’s really hard to slice and dice and cut, or you’re offering a new product line that opens up new personas, or you are entering into new geographies, or you’re doing some sort of territory piece, or you’re doing some sort of account-based marketing. Those are all really good and compelling reasons, one, to, you know, why and when to work with a third-party vendor to help augment your own database.

Tom: Great. And another question here is how about including videos in an email, you know, where a salesperson will introduce themselves? Is that kind of hokey, or is that…is that effective in any way?

Using Videos In Email

Amanda: Do you remember seeing a lot of those a few years ago, where they would hold up a sign that says, “Hi, I’m Amanda and I have a question for you.” And I think, as a receiver, we were somewhat obligated. I’ll tell you that I don’t see much of those anymore, which tells me that maybe that tactic either grew stale, or wasn’t, you know, wasn’t as successful as some had hoped.

I will say yesterday I got an email from a vendor that was, like, a Loom video. It showed the product, and it had this guy talking, and he was telling me about the product and asking me some questions about it. And I have to say, I really appreciated it. It was a really good email, so much that I responded, like, “This was great. Thank you.” So, I do think that there are ways and places. I don’t know about embedded videos. I don’t think embedded, like, YouTube videos are very strong. GIFs. People love GIFs. You know, that little bit of movement is very attractive to the eye, so I think GIFs probably do better than videos. But if you are considering a video, consider something like a Loom video, where you have a screenshot and a little speaking, you know, talking head in the corner.

In Conclusion

Tom: That sounds great. And we’ve got about one minute left here, and I want to thank everybody for joining us today. And I want to remind everybody that you will receive that gift card within seven days. I also want to mention that we have guest speakers on our webinars all the time. If there’s a topic that you’re passionate about, that you have some level of expertise about, and feel that it would benefit our community to share that, please email me, or reply to the email that you received, tom@virtualintelligencebriefing.com.

We’re always interested in getting fresh perspectives delivered to our audience from practitioners in the marketplace. So please do that. And I guess the last thing I’d want to state at is, again, thank you for joining us today. And, Amanda, thank you. You know, you and I have worked together very closely, and I feel like I’ve learned some interesting things here today from you as well.

And last thing I want to say is, you know, we, of course, are experts at demand generation, helping our customers augment what they do. It really comes down to a couple of simple things. I think, from a customer satisfaction, I think our founder and CEO, Sean Shea, puts it best. This is not some elaborate, you know, kind of fake, artificial mission statement. It’s really simple, It’s hard to fail in business if your customers are happy, and why are our customers happy? It’s about results, for one.

At the bottom line, that’s what it is. And how we do it is we have this very large, engaged community, that respects our brand, of over 2 million members across virtually every domain that’s represented of individuals that are on this call today, and we understand that science of deliverability, how to get those emails into their inbox, as we have over 10 years of experience with that.

So, if you have a need, please reach out to us in terms of any demand gen service that you’re looking for, you know, a good use case. It’s a couple of weeks from a webinar, and you have that sinking feeling that you’re not getting enough registrants. That’s something that we can help you with. We can also help you beyond webinar, you know, have a direct-to-bottom-of-funnel strategy, in terms of our email, I should say, our appointment program. And then, our state of the industry program, we talked about a little bit earlier, helps you take thought leadership into your own hands through the most trusted forms of content, which are end-user third-party research-based content. And that’s another thing that we can help with as well.

So, thank you again for taking your time out of your day to spend an hour with us. We hope you’ve learned something from this. I sure have. And again, if you have something you’re passionate about, where you feel you can pollinate or share that information with the community, please contact me, and we’d be happy to talk to you about potentially being a speaker on a future session. So, thanks again.

Amanda: Thank you, Tom. This was great. Thank you, audience. Thank you for the questions.

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