Liquid Marketer’s Guide to Email Automation for B2B Companies

If you are an SMB, don’t go all in for HubSpot or Salesforce or Eloqua. Chances are, you’ll never fully need their capabilities.

More often than not, your marketing team will not need the extensive (and expensive) capabilities of platforms like Salesforce or HubSpot. Find out if the investment makes sense (we are talking upwards of ~$800 per month).

b2b email automation guide
Email automation guide for b2b companies

Do your need Marketing Automation?

I’ve seen a lot of companies look at marketing automation as a manna from heaven for all their marketing problems. It isn’t. Approach the decision making with the same rigor that you apply to any other large technology investment.

The success of any marketing technology investment is still predicated on how well you do the things that cannot be automated. Automation is efficiency; not effectiveness.

Here are a few questions to consider while discussing marketing automation with your teams. Often, you may discover that:

  • Is a multi-channel marketing effort necessary for your business?
  • How large is your traffic and lead flow – does it warrant full automation?
  • Is your marketing team time-poor or does it have bandwidth to tinker around?
  • Will limited automation for specific situations take care of your most pressing needs?
  • Are there free or cheap alternatives for your immediate needs?
  • Does it make sense to expand your core marketing by outsourcing to freelancers or agencies? They might deliver better RoI.

To summarize, don’t make a dramatic tech commitment till you review everything with a fine-toothed comb. There is a substantial time, training, and cost commitment to selecting a platform, adopting it, becoming familiar with it, and using it well enough that it pays for itself.

Remember the lesson from the Liquid Marketer’s Dragon Scrolls – don’t marry a tool.

Email automation for B2B Marketing

If you’re considering automation for your B2B Marketing, begin with email automation.

For B2B businesses, your biggest currency is trust. Hopefully, you are already cultivating that trust through credible, relevant content. But, what does your email marketing look like?

Do you purchase email lists? Do you have a steady flow of subscriptions through your website? Do you get contacts from events that you attend? Do you use a service like Hoover’s or ZoomInfo?

If any of the above is true, it is worth spending time on email automation (even otherwise, email is an effective—if not the most effective—medium for B2B marketing).

Email automation is immensely powerful and extensible. For instance, you can begin with one automated drip campaign for people who sign up on your website. If you see value in it, you can then create any number of drip campaigns to slice and dice your contact database – geography, interest, persona, and so on.

So, what is a drip campaign? It’s a series of emails that you send to contacts with specific intervals or based on actions that the contact takes.

It’s a great way to do email marketing because you can think about it once, implement it, and let is run as long as your message is still relevant. Quite simply, a drip campaign allows you to experience the value of email automation.

The Liquid Marketer’s advice to clients is to begin with automating the top of the funnel. That’s where you will have the most people and the least understanding of who the people are and what they need.

Here is a step-by-step guide on the different elements that must be in place to set up a drip campaign for new subscribers, also known as a welcome series.

The lead acquisition form

Everything begins when a contact submits their email address. It is quite likely you already have this infrastructure in place. If not, do it now.

In the slow process of building trust in B2B marketing, this is a critical step. This is the contact giving you license to email them information about your business.

So, if it isn’t, list building must be a marketing KPI. The velocity of your email lists reflects the success of your marketing program. If there are no sign-ups, re-evaluate your content marketing.

If your website does not have a subscribe form, create one. If it is hidden away, make it more prominent. And, yes, it can be on the home page also.

If your website runs on a CMS like WordPress, adding a form is as simple as picking a plugin (like WPForms or Contact Form 7). Build a Subscribe form to acquire email addresses.

Include the form in different places on your website. You are more likely to be successful if it is visible on your highest traffic pages.

Here is a tip from B2C marketing: it is okay to have a pop-up form on your website. A lot of B2B business hesitate to use it, but it is worth it, if used conservatively. Avoid garish, full screen pop-ups. Don’t show a pop-up form the moment a visitor lands. Program it to be shown on specific pages, or after the visitor has spent a defined time threshold on you site, or as they exit.

I have recommended JustUno for several clients. It is intuitive and easy to integrate. Their free plan is great (when you get less than 5000 monthly visitors) and allows you to experiment. They have some neat templates that marketers can customize through their visual editor.

The most important step in this entire setup is to ensure all contacts are automatically synced into your email automation program. This may require you to dig in and explore. You may be lucky to have direct integrations or you may need your developers to set up a simple automation. If this is a heavy lift, have a defined time each day to copy new contacts to your email automation program.

The email automation platform

Truly complex email automation across the lifecycle is confined to platforms that combine CRM and marketing automation, like Salesforce, HubSpot, insightly, and a host of others.

But, a welcome series is straightforward. Over the last few years, most email platforms have added basic email automation, which will help you do this.

Popular platforms include mailchimp, SendGrid, and Campaign Monitor. All these platforms offer a limited trial.

Emails, landing pages, and other content for your welcome series

To reiterate, automation alone won’t deliver outcomes. So, put your thinking hats on.

What do you want to say to the person who has just signed up?

Here is a good framework to think about the content for your welcome series:

  • Map the ‘ideal’ journey for new top of the funnel (TOF) contacts.
  • Storyboard the brand or product story that you want to share.
  • Break the overall story into a discrete number of emails (never 1, not more than 6).
  • Ensure that each email has a clear objective and communicates its message.
  • Remember, the goal at the TOF is to ensure they continue being engaged and develop trust with your brand.

We will not be delving into the details of the emails themselves, but here are a few guidelines to begin thinking:

  • What problem do you solve?
  • How do you solve them?
  • Progressively educate the contact about your brand.
  • Share social proof.
  • Use soft Call-to-Actions (CTAs) to encourage them to take the next step (a demo or trial or explore your pricing or compare with a competitor).

If you have great brochures, white papers, or case studies from your content marketing program, use them for your emails appropriately. A download is a sign of active engagement. If you have a lead scoring system, a download will move the needle.

Create a landing page or two to go along with the email campaign. Bespoke landing pages for campaigns work better than a standard page on the website.

Set up the email automation for the welcome series

Login to your email automation platform. Create the emails and landing pages first. You already have the content.

The next step is to set up the email automation. Irrespective of the email platform you are using, you must know the following:

  • What is the trigger?
  • What are the rules?
  • What is the action?

Take a look at this welcome series email automation from Mailchimp:

How to setup a welcome series email drip campaign
A simple welcome series drip campaign

The process is, largely, the same across different email platforms. Some of the available rules and triggers might be different depending on the platform.

In any case, the simplest email automation is the welcome series drip campaign. For most B2B marketing, time delay rules might be sufficient to begin with. All platforms must be able to handle this without too much difficultly.

Here is the documentation from the email automation platforms mentioned in this article: Mailchimp, Campaign Monitor, SendGrid.

What next

Now that your first welcome series drip campaign is live, track engagement and progress. Over time, segment your subscribers based on where they subscribe from. Create a separate welcome series for each segment.

Don’t forget to A/B test your emails and landing pages.

Develop your internal process to know when the lead is warm enough for Sales to attempt to reach out.

Lastly, this is just the beginning. After you get a handle on email automation, you will sense opportunities for new drip campaigns at different points in the customer journey.

Hint: In B2B marketing, no single email or CTA will suddenly deliver outcomes. Think about emails as a series where you progressively cultivate trust, build engagement, and slowly push the contact through your funnel. The more you do this (instead of one-off emails), the more successful your email marketing will be.

What are your drip campaign tips? Do you know a free platform that supports drip campaigns? Let us know in the comments. Do you need help with email automation? Get in touch with us.

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