B2B Email Marketing - Reliance Grows

A new survey has highlighted the growing reliance of B2B practitioners on email, with 93 per cent of respondents regarding email as either an 'important' or 'critical' marketing channel. However, whilst 38 per cent regard email as 'critical', understanding of best practice techniques fell short, with only seven per cent of respondents claiming their knowledge of this channel is 'excellent'. It seems the potential of email marketing is not being maximised by many B2B marketers.

According to new research by B2B Marketing in association with Newsweaver.

Mixed objectives for email marketing

'Driving web traffic' is the most popular objective for email amongst B2B marketers, employed by 75 per cent of respondents, closely followed by 'maintaining customer relationships' (73 per cent).

Surprisingly, the third most popular objective was 'brand building', selected by two thirds of respondents. This is at odds with the image of email as primarily a response-orientated medium.

Meanwhile, the survey revealed some very conflicting results regarding the use of email for prospecting – the fourth most popular objective for email marketing amongst B2B clients.

Responses suggest that marketers are increasingly regarding email as a jack-of-all-trades tool, rather than playing to its strengths as a strategic relationship-focused mechanism. As a consequence, they are likely to be undermining email's effectiveness and ultimately its viability.

ROI increasingly in focus

Click-through rates were shown to be both the most commonly used email marketing metric (used by 63 per cent of respondents) and the most important metric (or the 'metric most relied on' – cited by 37 per cent of respondents). 'Open rates' are the second most commonly used metric (59 per cent), although 'conversion rates' were found to be the second most important metric, cited by one in four respondents. This reflects the growing need for marketers to demonstrate ROI on their activity, and the increased need for accountability across the board.

The survey also found that subject lines are the most widely tested variable by marketers seeking to improve the effectiveness of their campaigns. Seventy per cent of marketers claim to have used different subject lines to test campaigns, whilst 60 per cent have tested copy/messaging and 47 per cent have tested time of day. Only a third of respondents have tested for the impact of:

  • email frequency,
  • landing pages,
  • segmentation or
  • use of creative.

This would suggest many B2B brands are still adopting a 'batch and blast' approach to email activity, with little attempt to refine or adapt their communications.

Spam is seen as the chief threat facing email marketing, selected by 28 per cent of respondents, although 'inbox overload' came a close second on 24 per cent.

An evolving medium

Finally, the future for B2B email marketing looks good, although certainly not without its challenges. When asked 'What do you think the future holds?' the joint top responses were 'email will be used more selectively' and 'marketers will find new ways to use email'.

Both responses acknowledge the fact that current levels and patterns of email usage cannot be maintained, and that for this highly effective channel to remain viable, brands must adapt or evolve their usage of it.

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