• David Hardy

Building an Effective, Compliant B2B Email Marketing Strategy...

A high-level summary, rules and ideas to help plan and structure an effective email marketing strategy, in post-GDPR Europe.

Email as a form of communication is most certainly here to stay, since the first email sent by Ray Tomlinson in 1971, the number of email users worldwide is forecast to rise to 3.7 billion people by the end of 2021.

The US alone has around 244 million email users, BIG numbers and large audiences with which to promote businesses, products and services, no doubt about it.

Despite the groundswell of generally more negative opinion about the use of email as an effective form of marketing, statistics and use-cases demonstrate that email remains integral to the way that many businesses conduct successful marketing campaigns and engage with prospects.

Based on data from mail-chimp for example, the average open rates across all industries for email marketing globally is around 21%. The average click-through rate stands at 2.78%.

Alternative UK statistics from GetResponse in 2018, looking specifically at UK SME’s and their email marketing campaigns, the average open rate (across all industries) was more than 24% and a combined average click-through rate of more than 4%. So, email marketing IS still a relevant and useful means of marketing for your business.

This blog deals specifically with business to business email marketing. In this blog, I'm aiming to provide a high-level summary, some rules, and ideas to plan and structure an effective email marketing strategy, in post-GDPR Europe!

GDPR - The Elephant In the room!

Ok, let’s look briefly at GDPR - The General Data Protection Regulation. A term that strikes fear into the heart of many great sales and marketing leaders, and for a good reason. GDPR has seen penalties for breaches of data protection laws rise to €20 million (£17.6 million) or 4% of global annual turnover, whichever is the higher, which would seem enough to render many SME’s extinct!

I regularly speak to UK and EU businesses, who have basically stopped any form of email marketing to their existing customers and prospects since the GDPR came into force during 2018. This blog is not intended to offer any kind of legal advice, and all readers are advised to review the regulation in detail and seek guidance that is directly relevant to their businesses. However, I would also like to address some of the most common misunderstandings around GDPR and B2B email marketing and also recommend that anyone reading this, completes some more research and takes some advice around the following points:

You can still send B2B email marketing under GDPR

Contrary to general belief, its still legal to send business emails. Including the use of targeted emails to specific individuals within prospect companies… But to do this, you will need to complete some planning, preparation work and some regular compliance best practice:

  • Make sure your business has an up to date, GDPR compliant privacy policy and notice published, and that this deals with the data sources and storage of the B2B marketing data you intend to use.

  • Ensure your prospecting is fully targeted and appropriate for the goods or services you are selling.

  • Explain Legitimate Interest within the email you are sending and state exactly why you have contacted them.

  • Make it clear and simple for people and businesses to opt-out.

  • Keep your email database up to data and be able to demonstrate that it’s regularly reviewed and maintained.

  • Complete and retain a Legitimate Interest Assessment form, which is rather like a data-risk assessment format. Like the one HERE.

  • Prepare an Informative Reply for GDPR Complaints and Questions.

Your marketing and prospect lists need to be carefully Targeted and Appropriate

GDPR doesn’t stop companies prospecting or collecting leads data, but it requires more care and accuracy in terms of the data and relevance of the services you market to them. Examples:

  • Under GDPR, the data you collect should be adequate and relevant to the purpose of its processing and minimised.

  • You need to carefully plan how much data you actually need to achieve your sales plans using email or other marketing methods.

  • Also, to consider the relevancy of your data. Is the data you are collecting right for these plans and your purposes?

  • The contacts data needs to be a precise and highly relevant match to the goods or services you are promoting to them.

  • You should prepare all copy and campaigns for those specific prospects and based on their needs and alignment to your specific, relevent goods and services.

The above is a simplified view, for a typical SME and taken from a UK business perspective, mostly intended to dispel myths and as a starting point for your research.

For further reading and advice, UK businesses can access guidance, legal templates, and information via the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) HERE.

Building an effective email marketing strategy

Building an effective email marketing strategy means adding some important pillars into your general marketing toolkit. When you're planning the strategy of content and the relevancy of the content to your audience, it's worthwhile keeping these three points in mind all times. Consider these things as the context, paradigm, or window through which you should view and plan your overall email marketing strategy:

1 - The importance of segmentation

2 - The importance of personalisation

3 - The benefits of data-driven analysis

As we have already reviewed, email remains effective at the heart of a successful B2B marketing strategy. But getting the attention of people to interact with content and copy, or take action based on what you send, has never been more difficult. Also, as we have seen the impact of GDPR, makes it absolutely critical that any campaign is based on good, accurate data, and that the messages you send are highly targeted, and completely relevant (and personalised) to the people and companies you are engaging with. Let’s look at these pillars in more detail:

The importance of segmentation

Beginning with accurate data and market segmentation based on a list of identified prospects, allows you to send the right message, to the right person at the right time. This means focusing as much on the context of the message, as the actual content you are delivering.

The Data and Marketing Association in the US in 2017, found that 77% of email marketing ROI, was driven by segmented, targeted and automatically triggered campaigns. That’s a high percentage and also a clear rule set, which is repeatable as learning for any business.

Bringing context together with great content helps ensure both the needs of GDPR and also will improve your win-rate, due to relevancy. It also means that you don’t waste time on campaigns, sending messages to people who have no interest (or relevancy) in terms of context to the goods or services you are offering. All of a sudden, the rules of GDPR, when applied correctly seem able to actually increase ROI from email marketing… Subject to the right data and the correct tools to drive such targeted, personalised and contextual campaigns.

Buyer Personas: If you haven’t already. I also recommend generating a series of detailed, fictional “buyer personas” for the key types of people who buy your products and services, within the general segments of businesses you are planning to sell to as these personas can be a great help in assigning personal context to segments of buyers. In short, a buyer persona taps into a typical set of circumstances, pain, challenges and needs for a sample group of customers. What they typically want and need. This, in turn, enables you to not only segment the companies into types and which products are fully relevant. But to ensure there is context and personalisation available within your data-segmentation, to send an email that directly resonates (and is fully relevant!) with the target/prospect. These personas are added to your data sets, CRM or email lists so that you have groups of people based on personas as well as company types.

In summary, B2B segmentation is about thinking of your customers, targets, and prospects as groups, based on detail and data and also semi-fictional information about the people within those groups. Then, representing this with data that can be used to drive effective marketing campaigns.

If you are a company, within any industry selling business to business, and you would like some direct assistance with preparing this type of fully-segmented data, this is one of the main services that CCS offers. So please contact us, and we will be pleased to provide an initial consultation, free of charge and provide some ideas and advice.

The importance of personalisation

Many new sales and marketing software platforms make it possible to harness content and present information that is targeted and relevant to large audiences, in a personal way — using the type of segmentation already discussed. In addition, some of these platforms provide a wide range of additional automation, which if planned correctly, are indecipherable from a single email sent by one person to another.

HubSpot is a leading all-in-one sales and marketing platform solution that makes this achievable with relatively little learning time. Other platforms such as MailChimp and click-funnels offer a range of personalisation options and different solutions for mass-audiences.

On the basis of having completed a detailed segmentation on your B2B prospects and customer data. You will have the information needed to have a personalised and relevant conversation with each group of contacts. To build trust with the people receiving your emails, you need to create messages and content that is personal to them as a group and which they are interested in.

Personalisation is a lot more than simply adding the first name of the person you are contacting. It’s about leveraging great data and segmentation to create a contextual experience and message for the groups of people you are engaging with. While a lot of channels exist in the digital world today to do this, email gives you a lot of room for content and experimentation that will engage potential buyers. It also allows you to drive engagement with some regularity around themes, which most directly appeal to the target groups identified.

By linking prospects into a CRM or database, that is linked to the chosen email software platform; it’s possible to further personalise emails based on the behaviours of those individuals and their engagement with your email. Once again, HubSpot does this natively, and is able to monitor and track all of the different channels that a prospect may be engaging with across your business (email, website, blog, landing pages, social media.etc) This is one of the reasons many people consider this a good choice and in reality the only fully all-in-one solution on the market currently. It’s also possible to achieve similar results across a range of different platforms, using some effort and reporting.

The benefits of data-driven analysis

In a B2B and digital world that is constantly changing, data-driven analysis allows you to evolve marketing messages and not be left behind.

Regardless of the industry, most customers want a frictionless sales experience. By analysing emails consistently, you will give customers what they want and need to continue engagement and buy from you. Some suggestions in order to do this effectively:

  • Track metrics that matter

  • Learn what metrics indicate about success

  • Apply what has been learnt into email improvements

Deciding what is most important for an email strategy

When it comes to implementing an effective email marketing strategy, all companies have different priorities in terms of the target market, segmentation and engagement messages to groups. But there are some things that all companies should have in common within the planning of an effective email marketing strategy:

Implementing the right software platform to run campaigns

Understanding what is needed from a software platform and what each available platform is capable of (and costs) is a very important part of an overall email marketing strategy. Many companies are embedded with one solution, simply due to historical usage. The tools available and what they can do, have changed radically over the past five years, so if you haven’t recently done this. It’s time to fully review options, functions, and pricing, based on your specific needs and goals.

You will need a solution as an Email service provider that provides one-to-many emails. Whilst this blog is not looking at the range of available options or making recommendations. There are certain functions that your email software should offer to enable you to send fully effective email campaigns:

  • Should be connected to a contacts database and able to track the actions and behaviours of your contacts. If these two are connected (CRM and ESP), you will have all the information integrated, to allow personalisation of email and segmentation to groups which will greatly improve the results of any campaign, as we have already seen.

  • Software should be able to analyse the campaigns, see what works and report on campaign success in terms of deliverability and click-through engagement.

Understanding and tracking engagement and conversions

It’s unlikely that contacts and prospects are engaging solely with emails sent to them (on the basis they are engaging with them) in many cases these same prospects will be viewing your website, blogs and possibly following your posts on social media, or speaking to sales reps by telephone.

Understanding all the ways that you are engaging with your contacts will help guide an effective email strategy. It’s a case of being able to then target sales efforts to the prospect, based on the ways that they are engaging with your business and their personal preferences.

Defining and setting campaign goals

Without goals behind an email campaign strategy, you will have no way to measure the effectiveness or ROI for your business.

Another way to put this, is that if you and your company, do not know the goal of each email you are sending, bulk or otherwise. Your audience probably won’t understand either… This, in turn, will lead to unsubscribes and lost potential clients. It is also important as we have already discussed to ensure relevance under GDPR…

Define what your email campaign is for, clearly and simply so that you have a clear purpose and goal in mind. Not just in terms of numbers or results. Goal setting is about WHY and ensuring relevancy, as well as measuring the results of each campaign.


Email is continuing to grow as a form of communication. And it’s still in 2019, an effective, relevant and legal way for businesses to market products and services to other businesses.

It may not be a new solution. But it remains a great way to get a message across and connect with defined, targeted and relevant audiences. When you have a targeted and highly relevant service or product to help an organisation.

In the end the goal of any effective B2B email marketing campaign, is about engaging with people in a way that is personal, relevant and interesting to them — and presenting services that are targeted to the right audience, based on great, accurate data and customer segmentation, in some of the ways we have explored in this blog.

If anyone reading would like help or advice with preparing GREAT, highly targeted and compliant prospect lists. Please contact me directly (contact details below), or arrange a meeting with a member of the CCS team HERE.

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