illustration of a laptop with many emails coming in used as featured image for article on email marketing b2b lead generation

61% of B2B marketers consider lead generation their number one challenge and 19% of them have made it their priority in 2023. In this context, the plethora of marketing channels available on the Internet can have a twofold effect. While they open up new opportunities, casting too large of a net can make lead generation campaigns confusing. Especially in the B2B space, where leads need to be carefully nurtured at every stage of the sales funnel, approaching your target audience on the right platform is paramount. And in B2B, email is where you’re most likely to engage your potential customers. Even so, in today’s multi-channel environment, many are left wondering…

Is B2B email marketing dead?

The answer is a resounding “NO”

Even with B2Cs generally outpacing B2Bs in their marketing efforts, B2B emails still have a 3.2% CTR, compared to 2.1% in B2C. Let’s examine why.

Consider this: people working for businesses are bound to have email addresses they check daily. They are more likely to be enticed with valuable content from the get-go. Emails also directly address the receiver, allowing for a more personable connection if done right.

Indeed, many B2B digital marketers have been taking advantage of these factors, with 75% of them using email content to generate qualified leads. To put this into perspective, the average ROI of email marketing for B2B lead generation is a whooping £35.41 for every £1 spent, according to the Data & Marketing Association.

While all these numbers sound promising, don’t put on your rose-tinted glasses just yet! Like any other platform, successfully engaging your audience via email relies on an effective strategy. In this article, we’ll show you how to plan a solid strategy for your lead generation campaigns. Keep an eye out for a future article revealing best practices with examples from leading companies in the email game.

What is B2B email lead generation?

Not every email campaign is created equal. That’s because, in the grand scheme of your digital marketing, each email campaign fulfils specific goals. Lead generation is one such goal. Through this type of campaign, you can identify and attract potential buyers (leads) based on those who have shown interest in your products or services. This might sound trivial, yet the question remains…

How do you generate B2B leads through email marketing?

As for any marketing initiative, strategy is key. A survey by Influencer Marketing Hub reveals that 60% of B2B marketers don’t have one in place for their email marketing. So, by adopting one, you will already gain a competitive advantage. Here are the 5 steps we recommend for an effective strategy to attract qualified leads.

1. Develop a lead magnet

An email campaign will take you nowhere if you lack contacts. So, your first step should be capturing qualified leads through an irresistible offer. In marketing terms, this is called a lead magnet, which usually takes the form of gated content, like e-books, guides, webinars or reports, that one can access through a form requiring their email address.

Here are some lead magnet insights:

  • 51% of B2B buyers are willing to share their data to access webinars, making it the most effective lead magnet.
  • Opt-in forms with less than 4 fields have a higher conversion rate (10%). However, forms with only one field have a 7% conversion rate. The sweet spot thus seems to be 2-3 fields.
  • Landing pages have a 160% higher conversion rate than other types of sign-up options like pop-ups or banners

Keeping these facts in mind, you need to develop valuable lead magnets to attract potential subscribers. Once you have their contact info, it’s time to plan how to effectively lead them through your email marketing sales funnel.

2. Define your objectives

While lead generation is your long-term goal, you need to set measurable objectives to keep your strategy on track and ensure its success. These objectives need to be specific to your business needs if you want quantifiable results. So, you must state precisely what you want to achieve. For example, rather than saying, “Generate leads,” specify, “Generate 200 new leads per month.”

For lead generation, you’ll want to keep an eye on your conversion rate. This is the percentage of recipients taking your email’s desired action, like accessing a link or downloading a resource. Depending on the platform you use, this metric should appear in your insights.

3. Segment your email list

To ensure high conversion rates, you need to provide relevant content to your target audience through segmentation. This is a powerful tool which allows you to define the exact segment of your list that will receive your campaign based on a system of tags and categories.

In B2B, segmentation can be a daunting task, as you are not targeting people based on their personal wants and needs. Rather, you’re approaching people acting on behalf of their company’s wants and needs. Together, they form a company’s buying centre. You need to convince all of them to take decisive actions through personalised content. These are the groups you need to cater your emails to:

Who they are Their role Content preference
Initiators They recognise the need for a product or service. Case studies, reports, surveys
Users They will actually use the product or service once it’s acquired. Their input is thus essential because they can provide insights into specific requirements and preferences. Case studies, how-to guides, product demos
Influencers They have the power to influence purchase decisions but may not have final say. Newsletters, gated content, reports
Champions They are strong advocates for a particular vendor or solution and may work to sway others in favor of that option. Case studies, report summaries, round-ups
Gatekeepers They control access to decision-makers and the flow of information within the organisation. Report takeaways, case studies, testimonials
Deciders They are the final decision-makers. Testimonials, surveys, reports, cost analysis
Buyers They are responsible for the actual procurement process, including negotiating with suppliers, obtaining quotes, and issuing purchase orders. Testimonials, surveys, reports, cost analysis

Segmenting your email list based on these groups might be more efficient than segmenting them based on organisation or exact job role. However, the way you curate your list is completely down to your specific needs.

4. Plan compelling email content

It goes without saying that your campaign’s success hinges on how compelling your content is.

As discussed, the first step towards guaranteeing your contacts actually care about your emails is by delivering personalised content. Tailoring it to your segment and addressing your subscribers by name are the foundation blocks of personalisation, but you can take it a step further.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Celebrate milestones, anniversaries and special occasions. These can be “Happy birthday”, “Happy holidays”, and everything in between emails.
  • Create a drip campaign based on the user’s action. These can be welcome emails after subscribing or follow-up emails after an event. You can set up these automations using the customer journey tool, which is offered by most email marketing platforms.
  • Offer dynamic content based on the user’s preferences. This is a more intricate process that first requires you to gather data on your audience. Based on this, you need to carefully segment it based on these shared characteristics or behaviours. Finally, by establishing rules and logic, you can determine which version of the dynamic content should be displayed to each recipient. Again, this can be achieved through tools offered by most email marketing platforms.

When it comes to your audience, you know them best. Make sure to use this knowledge to your advantage and nurture your leads through email marketing campaigns that speak their language.

5. Monitor, analyse, iterate

The best thing about your campaigns over time is that they offer valuable insights into your user base. You thus can improve performance by continuously monitoring and analysing email data. This way, with some extra effort, you can navigate changes in market dynamics and customer expectations.

Here are some data points, what they reveal, and how to improve them:

Data points What they reveal How to improve them
Open rate The percentage of recipients who opened your email. Improve your subject lines, send emails at optimal times, and maintain a clean and engaged email likely to open your emails.
Click-through rate (CTR) The percentage of recipients who clicked on one or more links in your email. Use compelling and relevant content, clear calls to action (CTAs), A/B test to optimise CTA buttons, and segment your list for more personalised content.
Conversion rate The percentage of recipients who completed the desired action, such as signing up for an event or downloading a resource. Optimise landing pages, create targeted and persuasive content, simplify the conversion process, and use urgency or incentives when appropriate.
Bounce rate The percentage of emails that were not delivered to the recipient’s inbox for various reasons. Regularly clean your email list, remove invalid or inactive addresses, use double opt-in processes, and choose an email platform with good email deliverability.
Unsubscribe rate The percentage of recipients who chose to unsubscribe from your email list. Offer a clear and easy unsubscribe process, segment your list to send more relevant content, and avoid excessive email frequency.
Spam complaint rate The percentage of recipients who marked your email as spam. Maintain a clean email list, provide clear opt-in and opt-out options, and ensure your email content complies with anti-spam regulations.
Forward rate The percentage of recipients who forwarded your email to others. Create shareable and valuable content, include a “Forward to a Friend” option in your emails, and encourage subscribers to share interesting content through compelling calls to action.

Continuously iterating your campaigns allows you to adapt and refine your strategies for more effective lead generation and customer acquisition.

Key takeaways

B2B email marketing, far from being dead, remains a powerful tool for B2B lead generation, boasting a 3.2% click-through rate and substantial ROI. To harness the potential of email for lead generation, a well-crafted strategy is essential. By focusing on fundamentals we presented in this article, you can navigate the complexities of B2B lead generation and engage your target audience effectively.

Other resources

As a specialist in brand activation and digital marketing, Dusted offers a plethora of resources to help you hone your strategies. If you want to dive deeper into digital marketing, make sure to also check out these articles:

If you require expert help and guidance tailored to your business’s specific needs, don’t hesitate to reach out. Get in touch now to book a call.