Key Differences Between B2B and B2C Email Marketing You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks

Despite the rise of newer marketing channels, email marketing is far from dead.

In fact, 60% of marketers say they’re producing a positive return for their organization through email marketing, making it a powerful tool for reaching your audience.

However, there’s a world of difference between the kinds of emails and campaign structures you employ at a B2B organization compared to consumer-focused industries.

This is something you quickly realize when you move from one to another.

So, while email marketing can be a very versatile channel in your digital marketing strategy, you need to make sure it’s leveraged the right way!

Here are some of the differences you need to account for when you’re executing email campaigns in a B2B organization versus B2C.

The buying cycles are different

Do you know anyone who’s made the decision to make a big purchase, let’s say an airplane, after opening a promotional email?

Probably not.

That’s because the B2B sales cycle is longer in nature and structure. A long-term nurture email campaign containing multiple workflows can last anywhere from weeks to months, dishing out content that impresses various stakeholders from financially-driven decision makers to solution-focused buyers.

Unlike with consumers, the B2B buying cycle:

  • Can last several weeks
  • Involves several decision makers
  • Exposes buyers to a variety of content types (eBooks, webinars, whitepapers, case studies, etc.)

On the other hand, B2C email campaigns tap into the impulsive decisions of the reader. They usually speak to a broader audience and have a typical sales cycle that’s more like 5 seconds to 24 hours.

In fact, the sales funnel can be as simple as this:

Open email → Click on a link →Visit landing page → Purchase.

Content plays a bigger role in B2B emails

You just paid a hefty CPA to bring a lead into your email marketing funnel. Now what?

Since B2B leads have a much longer buying cycle, it would be beneficial to deliver a mix of non-promotional, educational content like eBooks,  infographics, and blog posts, along with bottom of the funnel content like case studies and whitepapers to create demand for your product over time.

The end goal is to eventually talk to them in-person or over the phone; your email content is just leading up to that.

B2C marketing on the other hand, especially in the eCommerce sector, is all about hitting your recipients with quick, compelling value that provokes them to make a purchase.

This means focusing your email content on the value proposition and call to action buttons.

If the value is not compelling enough, consumers will not be receptive to your call to action. Think about it: When was the last time an eCommerce giant sent you an email without a discount, sale or some kind of promotion?

The type of “value” your emails offer

A B2B nurture campaign doesn’t necessarily have to be visually appealing in order to entice a purchase. These campaigns may even lack the “entertainment factor” of B2C emails in favor of providing informational value.

A good B2B campaign should invoke thought leadership and position the brand as a go-to resource for solutions. Therefore, these emails have to be informative and address the pain points of the business they are targeting.

On the other hand, a B2C email campaign has to tap into the emotions of the buyer. They have to be visually entertaining enough to provoke the emotions of the consumer. They have to contain the right flavors of messaging, call to actions, product displays and features on that single page for the consumer to move onto the next funnel (e.g. a landing page).

Below you can see the different emphasis on design and informational copy in B2C versus B2B marketing.
different emphasis on design

The ideal timing for sending emails will vary

Are Tuesday and Wednesday the best send times for both B2B and B2C markets?The MarketingSherpa 2013 Email Marketing Benchmark Report concluded that they are.

However, we should never treat it as a “one size fits all” measure in these two types of industries.

Testing is key here!

During my tenure at a large eCommerce company, I sent over 65 million emails to recipients. I tested various timings with different segments and saw the greatest lift in open rates between 4pm – 9pm.

But I’ve experienced different results from sending B2B emails.

Some things to consider when testing include:

  • B2B recipients may open their emails at all times of the day, while consumers might open their emails after coming back from work.
  • B2B recipients might be busy during the day, so try testing your email campaigns between 11am-1pm during lunch?
  • Consumers can get home, have their dinner and then check their personal emails. Maybe try testing your email campaigns after 8pm?

One size doesn’t fit all

While it’s important to add a personal touch to the way you communicate in both B2B and B2C emails, there will still be undeniable differences in your approach even within specific categories.

As always, try and test to see what works best for your specific niche. It’s an ongoing process of improvement.

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