B2B vs. B2C email marketing: same same, but different

Email marketers who think that they can use B2C strategies for B2B marketing may need to think again. Why? Marketing strategies in the B2C sector are based on specific assumptions that may not apply to B2B. There are considerable differences between the two that need to be taken into account.

The main goals of B2C and B2B marketing are the same: customer acquisition and sales. However, the paths to achieving these goals can be quite different.

Consider the decision-making processes

B2C purchasing decisions are often highly emotional and are made from the heart rather than the head. Decisions in the B2B area, however, are generally more complex and rational. B2B measures should take into account that numerous decision makers can be involved in this process. Studies have indicated that up to seven decision makers need to be convinced in companies. A successful email approach should therefore include both a rational value proposition and something that is emotionally engaging.

Shift the focus of lead generation content

Content that is tailored to the specific target group is essential for both B2B and B2C lead generation. B2C customer acquisition often uses competitions, trial accounts or product samples. Such measures can also be adapted for deployment in the B2B area. Keep in mind, though, that business customers are usually more focused on facts and knowledge. That is why sharing knowledge is significantly more important with B2B contacts. Added value content such as whitepapers, webinars or case studies is particularly suitable for this purpose. B2B customers also expect to get expert tips and best practice examples providing valuable background information that can be used to help make their work easier. 

Send both HTML and text email formats     

Email content such as distinctive header graphics, call-to-action buttons, highlighted prices and short texts are essential in B2C. For the B2B area, you can also add infographics, certificates, photos and signatures of contact persons. Since a number of years, HTML emails are now standard in B2B too. However, this can cause problems with older email clients or when HTML might be deactivated. Even modern clients might use the text version for previews. For this reason, you should prepare emails in both HTML and text formats.

Use email templates
To ensure consistent brand and product visuals, use predefined content templates. For B2B, using templates for for mobile optimized emails is a very effective way to accelerate content creation. Content templates can also dynamically adjust their mobile layouts to fit the display size and resolution of the individual recipient’s device.

Test the right time to send emails
To ensure optimal opening rates, email marketers must ideally reach each individual contact at the exact time they are checking their inbox. This is important for both B2C and B2B. We recommend timing tests for business customers to get the best results. The proliferation of smartphones, tablets and home office work models means that you can no longer assume that “9 to 5, Monday to Friday” is the best time for sending emails.

Pre-test for deliverability
Correct and continuously updated mailing lists are a prerequisite for successfully delivering emails. While free webmail providers like Outlook or Gmail have long been used by consumers, some companies are turning to the B2B versions of these solutions such as Office 365 and Google’s G Suite. These solutions typically share the same spam mitigation and filtering features, but add a layer of filtering of their own.

Additionally, other companies deploy their own mail servers, that can have very diverse spam filters. These work differently than the common filter systems of the cloud email providers. Depending on the security settings, attachments or specific file formats might be blocked. Pre-tests for deliverability are therefore recommended in the B2B channel, which may be conducted by specialist providers such as Barracuda or Cyren

Keep a close eye on addresses
Most B2B contacts have a limited “lifespan”: they may receive promotions at their place of work, they might change departments or can even leave the company entirely. Therefore, ask for the new contact person when an email bounces – and have it confirmed. At the same time, B2B emails are often directed at address groups such as info@ or purchasing@. Besides not being able to personalize emails, there is a danger that individual members of staff can bring the email contact to a grinding halt through unsubscribing. To ensure that interested contacts remain subscribed in such situations, an unsubscribe confirmation email should be sent to the entire group. This email should include an individual option to re-subscribe.