Reviving B2B Email Marketing: Strategies For The Digital Age


Sean Shea is a philanthropist, TEDx speaker and founder and CEO of ViB, a company that generates quality leads for B2B companies globally.


Email marketing isn’t dead at all, but now more than ever, many marketers struggle to figure out how it fits into an effective marketing strategy.

My company conducted an extensive 2023 B2B marketing trends study into how marketers view email marketing, and you might be surprised at some of the findings and their discrepancies. Let’s take a look at the importance of email marketing, the interesting dilemma it creates and some practical steps toward a resolution.

The Email Marketing Conundrum

First of all, there’s no doubt among B2B marketers that email marketing has its place. In fact, according to the marketing trends research my team conducted, 83% of marketers consider email marketing a crucial part of their strategy. Another recent study from Litmus found similar results, with 87% of marketing leaders reporting that email is critical to their success.

The trouble is with a follow-up statistic—only 33% of marketers in our study view email marketing as very effective in generating leads.

Here we have the same group of B2B marketers saying two seemingly opposing things on the same topic.

Why? Maybe a deeper look into the data will help us find an answer.

The Growing Challenge Of Capturing Attention

In our study, 61% of marketers reported open rates below 20% in 2022. These low click-through rates are alarming, but they make sense in light of the ease with which people can build lists with data providers, recipients’ perceptions of spam and the eventual decay of contact data.

In the eyes of email service providers, low engagement and open rates can also further impact your email deliverability and domain reputation—making it even harder to be effective with emails.

Catching and keeping people’s attention is not what it used to be. And I think this is where we can really work towards better, less intrusive, more effective email marketing.

Two Very Different Kinds Of Email Marketing

Here’s what I know doesn’t work—emails that are more product and brand-centric, instead of user-first. This could be overly promotional email sequences, lack of personalization, excessive self-promotion and heavy technical jargon, or clickbait subject lines.

Unfortunately, a lot of emails look like this, and this happens because that’s what marketers have learned and practiced for years. A 2022 survey found that promotional emails were the second most popular type of email marketing campaign. The result is making a company veer toward being insincere and opportunistic, which can ultimately lead to a decrease in customer conversions, satisfaction and loyalty.

On the flipside, there’s another kind of email that can help improve the numbers and revive email marketing. This other kind of email is dedicated to simply adding value to the reader. It begins with empathizing with your personas’ journeys, with well-paced sequences that focus on connecting, not selling.

I’ll get into practical steps to do this, but I think if you take a close look at your email marketing, you’d have a really good idea which way your emails tend to lean.

Practical Steps Toward Striking The Balance

The overarching theme is to add value to the reader instead of focusing mostly on bombarding them with power keywords, promotions or trends. They have their place when used appropriately, but you should focus on the following steps:

1. Dedicate time to reputation building.

Building a strong brand and domain reputation is something that happens over time. But you can start now by establishing your organization as a thought leader with relevant content and valuable industry insights. This helps you earn the trust of your subscribers while driving long-term engagement.

2. Prioritize quality over quantity.

Prioritizing consumer value also acts to retain better subscribers who are more likely to engage with your brand, which is important because they’re also more likely to convert into customers. So, keep this in mind both as you build out your content strategy and your email lists. Don’t invest in poor-quality email lists when you can build lists of contacts who would benefit and engage with your content and brand.

3. Balance honesty and novelty.

And, of course, it’s always important to keep transparency and honesty in mind while balancing your unique brand. Authenticity is crucial in 2023 and will continue to be highly valued because it’s the foundation of a trustworthy brand and it goes a long way toward showing that your business is not a faceless entity.

Evolving And Adapting

Email marketing has a tremendous amount of potential, but only if it’s good, value-adding email marketing. If quality leads are an important goal for your email marketing, you should focus on building and nurturing relationships, establishing your brand as helpful and knowledgeable and finding that sweet spot where your brand can shine while you remain honest and transparent.

With the right approach and strategy, email marketing can be as effective as everybody believes it can be, and your business could be just the one to kick off its revival.

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