Playing the email dating game

Being smart with B2B email marketing

The idea of marketing being analogous to dating is nothing new. The premise goes something like this: we marketers put our best selves (content and offering) out there in the hope of wooing potential suitors (leads) and converting some of those into actual dates (sales). Ces’t romantique!

But somehow when it comes to B2B email marketing, we seem to forget the rules of the game. We end up either:

1) Treating everyone we meet the same – Where we happily brag about our latest achievements (case studies) or latest big ideas (blogs) to anyone who’ll listen, including those we haven’t introduced ourselves to yet (cold contacts). Not a great way to make a first impression.

2) Shying away from meeting new people – Where we decide it’s too awkward to reach out to new people (cold contacts) and decide instead to focus our energies on just talking to those we already know (warm contacts). A rather limiting approach.

In short, we forget there are two sides to email marketing: cold and warm. And in the world of B2B marketing, there is always room for both.

A breakdown of cold vs warm emails

Cold Emails Warm Emails
Audience Targeted cold contacts – data you have either purchased, sourced or identified yourself Existing subscribers – data provided to you for the specific purpose of receiving added-value content
Format Clean and simple – a plaintext email that looks just like a personal work email Styled up – an eye-catching HTML email with brand and design fully on display
Approach Highly personalised – sent from your email address, personalised with the recipients’ name, with content tailored to their company and role (like a personal work email) Segmented, but not personalised – although content might be tailored to role or industy, these emails come from the brand, not an individual, and aren’t generally considered ‘personal’
Frequency A single sequence of emails – the idea here is to send an introduction email followed by 3-5 ‘chaser’ emails, usually within a 2-week window. Once the contact replies, or the sequence finishes, that’s it. A rhythm of ongoing emails – the idea here is to send emails regularly and, if possible, with a frequent pattern (whether newsletter, product offer, feature, etc). It only stops when a contact unsubscribes.
Volume Low – small, targeted campaigns sent to approx. 100 contacts (to ensure greater personalisation and allow higher degree of testing) High – the bigger, the better! The aim here is to keep growing the subscribers list as you grow your business
Platform Automated cold email platform – created specifically to deliver personalised (non-permission based) emails to cold contacts Email marketing platform – created specifically to deliver HTML permission-based emails to warm contacts
Purpose Start a conversation – it’s ultimately about introducing yourself and explaining that you have something they need Stay front of mind – it’s ultimately about reminding them you’re still here, and showing that you’re still relevant to their lives

What does good look like?
In the B2B email marketing game, it’s important to know what ‘good’ looks like – as it inevitably looks quite different for cold than it does for warm emails.

For example, a warm newsletter-style email sent to 20k existing subscribers would look good if it hit around 25% opens and 5% clicks. That’s pretty decent as a ‘stay front of mind’ email.

In contrast, a recent cold email campaign (sequence of 4 emails) we ran, which went out to just 300 cold contacts, generated an average open rate of 52% with 6.5% replying they were interested in our clients’ services (that’s 18 qualified leads passed to a very happy sales team).

Much like dating (yes, the analogy’s back), it’s possible to win at the email marketing game. You just have to remember to treat your contacts like you’d treat a potential date – with smarts as well as charm.