Up until now B2B marketing and B2C marketing were considered to be on two separate paths, employing completely different tactics, with ultimately two different end-goals. However, things are changing: we expect to see B2B and B2C marketing showing signs of converging as SMBs and companies without a large IT-infrastructure use cloud-based solutions to host their email services.

There are two key drivers behind this trend. The first is the on- going increased adoption of content marketing as a key strategy for B2C and B2B marketing. The second is the trend for businesses to use email platforms such as Gmail that were once considered only of use for consumers, but are now being used as business communication tools.

The impact for email marketers is that deliverability between businesses will start to be controlled more and more by the same reputation rules that once only applied to B2C marketing, meaning they will need to start monitoring subscriber complaints, spam traps and other list hygiene issues.

However, there is more to effective B2B marketing than just traditional features such as a sender’s email reputation. This is still important to ISPs, but email deliverability has evolved.

Until recently, ISPs were focusing all of their efforts on punishing “bad” (spam) email. Now however, ISPs have shifted their approach and are rewarding “good” email. This is determined by engagement data which provides a view of whether subscribers are interacting positively or negatively with emails.

Positive signs of engagement include opening, forwarding, replying or moving an email from the junk folder to the inbox, whereas negative engagement is represented by actions such as deleting your messages before opening or reading them, or moving mail to the junk folder.

Email address lists are organic and like any organism their performance will decline over a period of time if they are not maintained. B2B marketers may have taken their sending reputations for granted in the past because their list sizes are comparatively small, they believe that their messages are clearly informative, and that their enterprises are clearly legitimate.

Now that deliverability is based more on how recipients engage with email, B2B may find that their good intentions aren’t so obvious to mailbox providers. These marketers need to ensure they are regularly examining all address data to guarantee they are updating it with customer preferences and removing old addresses.

By not listening to customer requests or failing to remove execs who no longer work at a certain company, B2B senders’ emails are more likely to look like spam and the danger is a negative impact on both sender reputation metrics and subscriber engagement.

With businesses expanding into more hosted email solutions marketers are faced with new obstacles such as Gmail Tabs. However, early indications suggest that most marketers can stop worrying about Gmail crippling their email response rates. There are two opposing forces that may decide how subscribers ultimately react to these changes: novelty and habit.

For many users this was the first time Tabs were part of the Gmail experience, and some may have searched through their messages to see which brands were rerouted. On the other hand users that want to see at least some of their commercial email on a regular basis must now take an additional step to find it.

That’s a habitual activity that develops over time, and as these users start to check the Promotions Tab as part of their regular email review, 2014 read rates could begin to climb. As more businesses use Gmail this will become increasingly important.

Another trend B2B marketers are adopting is personalisation, creating an individual focus for emails. B2C senders have long used external data such as browsing history, purchase history, and previous responses to personalise and narrow down content that might engage subscribers.

B2B senders can also engage recipients by using existing information to tailor content, tone and sending preferences. This is a common sense approach but one which is often overlooked by B2B marketers.

As more people use their mobile devices to access emails, B2C marketers now design email specifically for these screens. Recipients of B2B email are also consumers and so will be looking for a consistent experience across both work and personal inboxes.

Brands that can’t create email for mobile viewing will see a detrimental effect on engagement as mobile subscribers will increasingly switch off. This isn’t to say every B2B interaction needs to be mobile optimised: Marketers need to know who uses mobile devices and what for.

For example, subscribers may review content of an email, but won’t open attachments on phones, or click into complex web content from tablets. This trend for mobile viewing is only going to continue, so B2B marketers need to start developing mobile email strategies.

As the distinctions blur further there are even more tools and techniques employed in B2C marketing which can be adopted in B2B to improve subscriber engagement.

By implementing traditional consumer-focused email best practices in 2014, B2B marketers will ultimately boost engagement, deliverability, and their own sender reputations enabling them to improve email marketing campaign performance and ultimately to drive more revenue.

Guest Author

Guest Author