A couple weeks ago we took four restaurant owners out of the kitchen (sort of); right into our first ever customer group-discussion.

This week we’re doing the same, but with a much different clientele.

Our guests this week are B2B companies that specialize in manufacturing, distribution, and of course… marketing a specific product or line of products.

The products are different, as are the customers they sell to—but the means for marketing those products to those customers is the same: email marketing.

Here is the transcript and key takeaways from our quasi-group discussion with executives from three different product-based B2B companies.

How did you get started with email marketing?

Daria Moore, Guernsey Office ProductsWe wanted to have a solution that provided everything we needed: the software to maintain lists, the opt-out tracking, the click-throughs and opens. We also wanted to send out e-blasts for our individual reps, which meant we needed to have software that could manage all the lists individually as well as have the capability to send out one large generic email.

Guernsey Office Products uses email marketing to allow sales reps to stay connected with their clients.

Tom Jordan, Automation Control Products: We actually started email marketing with Constant Contact several years ago. The free trial allowed us to test our messaging in electronic format. Our goal was to replace direct mail marketing techniques that were becoming less effective in the new digital age of communication. The ability to see measurable results of marketing campaigns added a tremendous value over previous efforts.

Robert Palmquist, Speechgear: We’ve been doing email marketing since the 1980s. We use email campaigns to support new customers and provide them with product information. It’s important to us to be able to manage our lists and take care of opt-ins and opt-outs.But our end-goal was always brand awareness and providing knowledge to new customers and current customers.

How were you doing this before email marketing?

Daria: Our contact with our customers was solely based on our reps ability to reach them.

Tom: Mostly direct mail and phone calls before email marketing. I doubt anything will ever replace a well-timed personal phone call, but email marketing outshines almost every other form of marketing that we currently employ.

Robert: Email marketing has always been an important part of our marketing efforts.

Emailing marketing is an important tool for connecting businesses with ACP’s webinars and live events.

What have been the results of your email campaigns?

Daria: We’ve done very well engaging our customers. Our email marketing system has proven to be exactly what we needed. The data is calculated for us and we can gather all the valuable results with a few clicks.

Tom: It has been favorable. Some are better than others and it’s important to remember that the message still counts, but you have to learn how to be more engaging. That will improve your open rate and click-through rate.

Robert: Any time we send out a campaign, there’s an uptick in inquiries with a definite correlation—it drives people to the website with the action items we provide. It’s common to get a significant increase of 500% in inquiries with people directly responding to our email address. The emails that seem to work out best are those driving people to sign up for a short webinar.

How have you been able to grow your list?

Daria: We gave our sales reps the option to participate in the e-blast system. They individually gave me their customer lists and I continue to manage them on their behalf. They send me regular updates before every blast.

Tom: We get opt-in signups at tradeshows and from webinar registrations. We also capture web visitor data from forms that give access to written content important to our potential customer base.

Robert: Mostly through word-of-mouth and trade show events. We’ve been collecting contacts for a long time. Way back in 1985, people were filling out slips of paper or typing up a little address; now, 80% of our contacts are collected through QR code scanning.

Would you say that B2Bs should have a different approach to email marketing than B2Cs?

Speechgear has been using email marketing to connect with customers since the 1980s.

Daria: It really depends on the type of B2B customer we’re working with.  Some are driven by promotions like the typical “at home consumer.”  But many want email contact from their vendor to focus on their business needs and not simply be a routine or frivolous “touch.”  Thus, we purposely try to err toward the side of meaningful, substantive messages that are likely to have value to all B2B customers and send them with a frequency that is mindful of their time and not annoying.

Tom: The messaging is certainly different, but the techniques of writing good subject lines, creating interesting layouts, and providing relevant content apply to both B2B and B2C companies.

Robert: For B2Bs, especially product B2Bs, the sales cycle is much longer. For us, much of what we do is education-based as it is important for us to be able to educate customers and potential customers how to use our products.  

What’s the most important function of email marketing for your business?

Daria: The most important function is the proven and measurable ROI.

Tom: Combining email marketing with a built in registration tool helps us to manage customer events. That and being able to measure the success of a particular campaign keep us on target with our messaging.

Robert: Absolutely, brand awareness. It starts with someone finding us and then deciding to forward our emails to a decision maker.

What advice do you have for B2Bs looking to get started with email marketing?

Daria: Develop a short-term strategy in terms of content and account coverage, realizing you’ll want to make adjustments with a few months feedback.  Appoint a “champion” to the effort and get started!

Tom: Pick a tool that is easy to use and one that does more than just send emails. Constant Contact is always improving the usability and expanding the toolset modern marketers need to communicate and manage effective campaigns and events.

Robert: Keep your messages short, to the point, and make sure they have very few graphics, and make sure there’s an action item so people can easily respond.

The Takeaway

Each of these companies has a very different story. Whether it’s talking about their goals, their accomplishments, or even their challenges—they all provide unique takeaways that can help any business become a better email marketer.

What industry would you like to see us reach out to for our next customer discussion? Let us know in the comments!