B2B Email How-To’s: From Planning to Creative, Part 2

In part one, we described the planning process for any B2B email campaign. In these busy times, it’s easy to get swept up in the rush and just start sending out emails frantically. By taking time in the beginning of each campaign to plan ahead, you’ll not only get better results, you’ll also avoid the frustration of shifting goals, mixed messages, and duplicate efforts.

Build In-House Prospect Lists

We recommend working diligently to build your in-house prospect list. It sounds obvious, but request email addresses at every opportunity: at trade shows; on your Web site; and in all your mailings, print ads, billing statements, bounce-back cards, phone messages, and on-site registrations. Don’t forget to ask for permission to send “periodic promotional offers.” Then, confirm by sending an email that requires a response. As you know, unwanted email is a huge issue for some people. You don’t want to offend a potential customer.

Another way to capture names is during telemarketing campaigns. When prospects ask for additional information (and they always do), say, “I have a PDF of the brochure. If you give me your email address, I’ll send it right away.” This works particularly well when speaking to administrative assistants. Again, ask permission to contact them later.

Define the Message for Each Audience

Once you’ve identified and segmented your lists (whew!), you want to define what motivates each group to buy or influences the buying decision. Although there are probably a few universal key benefits, their importance may vary by segment. It’s all about emphasis and positioning. Tone, manner, and even your call to action will vary by segment.

When trying to reach C-level executives, we’ve gotten amazing results by appealing directly to administrative assistants. Rather than try to slide past gatekeepers, enlist their help. After all, they’re the ones who control the flow of information to the top.

Also, as we mentioned last time, always acknowledge existing and former customers to inspire loyalty and boost response rates. We all enjoy being greeted by name when we return to our favorite hotel or restaurant. We’re particularly pleased when they remember our preferences. The concept is the same. Use a simple spreadsheet to layout each segment, key drivers, offer, tone, manner, and benefits.

Hint: This type of versioning can be as simple as modifying the first paragraph to as complex as creating an entirely different message for each segment. That’s one of the greatest benefits of email — you can version to your heart’s content without breaking the bank.


An offer simply defines what your customer will receive and at what price. A clear understanding of what your audience values will determine the success of the offer. To figure that out, do your research: Review past successful efforts, read industry publications, attend trade shows and conferences, ask your sales force, and periodically poll clients.

Some people are motivated by price. Others, value. Still others, a combination thereof. Using the conference model for an example, a “Team Discount” or an “Early Bird Special” may tempt a middle manager, whereas special introductions to key people may intrigue a C-level executive.

The Creative Brief

Once you’ve segmented your lists, determined key messages for each segment, outlined your offers, and gotten buy-in from management, it’s time to draft a creative brief. As we mentioned, a creative brief is a tool advertising agencies and Fortune 500 firms use to convey project information to creative teams. It lays out all the details of the campaign, including everything needed to develop and produce the creative. Key points to include are: background, target audiences, customer profile, details of the product (features, benefits), offer, call to action, specific goals, criteria for success, budgets, timelines, and creative considerations.

Present it to your creative team in person. Email it to everyone in advance of the meeting — but don’t expect everyone to read it. Your goal at the meeting is to give people whatever they need to do their jobs. If you can’t answer their questions on the spot, do the research and get back to them quickly. Be clear with your schedule and budget. Then, step back and watch them work their magic.

Join us at ClickZ E-Mail Strategies in Chicago on Thursday, August 8.

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