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The ultimate B2B email marketing checklist

Create email campaigns that engage

5 min read

Marketing Strategy



When it comes to digital marketing, email remains king. According to WordStream, 59% of B2B marketers say email is their most effective channel for revenue generation, and 93% of B2B marketers surveyed by the Content Marketing Institute anticipate using email as their primary vehicle for content and information distribution this year. A Campaign Monitor study also found that every $1 spent on email marketing makes $44 in return.

In 2017, SmartBrief launched nearly 1,500 dedicated emails, resulting in more than 17 million opens and nearly 600,000 clicks. The sends addressed a wide range of topics and assets – from traditional branding to lead generation, event promotion and product launches.

If you only have one shot to get your message across, then take a look at the top B2B email marketing strategies with the greatest impact on engagement.

Win with content

In B2B marketing, content is at the heart of a top-performing dedicated email message. What can you offer that can provide the greatest resource to busy industry professionals?

  • Define your goal. If your goal is lead generation, then realize that the most successful sends utilize white papers and case studies to stay on top of industry trends. For brand awareness, what valuable content and educational resources are available on your website?
  • Make it timely. Top-performing sends also offer solutions to timely, hot-button issues or focus on key holidays.
  • What unique solution can you provide? The space is crowded. Who else is writing about this topic and how does the solution you’re offering help you stand out from the rest?

Tip:  Use industry news as a way to pull unique insights from the issues and challenges facing your target audience. 

Write an enticing subject line

If your subject line is not interesting, your audience will never click through to see the message.

Make it educational. It might come as a surprise, but when you’re writing for B2B, striking an informative and educational tone always offers the best engagement. Avoid being overly promotional and using these trigger words: new, free or special.

  • Include pre-header text. Pre-headers are optional in most email platforms, but these 30-50 additional characters, appearing directly below your subject line within the inbox, can add more context and intrigue and can positively influence your open rate.

Design to stand out

Once your email is opened, strong creative keeps them reading.  

  • Maximize your creative. The most dramatic dedicated e-blasts stand out. Don’t shy away from colorful graphics that will pique a reader’s interest. You want to get them to your end goal, but a strong design will keep them engaged.  
  • Make it dynamic. If you have the opportunity, include videos, infographics, blog posts or other interesting content to engage your audience. According to Campaign Monitor, video in an email can increase open rates by 19% and increase click-through rates by nearly 50%.
  • Stay above the fold. Keep your main points clear and concise early on to avoid making your readers scroll.

Include a clear call to action

Don’t leave it a mystery. Your readers want to know where they’re going before they click.

  • Ensure your CTA is clear. We’ve said this before about landing pages, but people won’t click if it’s unclear what they’re clicking to and what’s in it for them.
  • Base your links on your goals. There are varying data on whether adding more links will increase your CTR. Instead, focus on ensuring your links are matching your end goal. In SmartBrief’s look at top-performing sends of 2017, brands such as Kikkoman and Harvard Business School link to multiple resources within one email, but ultimately, these brand-awareness sends are driving highly engaged professionals back to valuable resources within their websites. For lead generation, keep your creative and your links focused on the action you want them to take.
  • Test your buttons. Attractive buttons do matter. While SmartBrief hasn’t seen a dramatic increase based on a specific color, bright buttons can drive higher click rates by up to 30%.

Go the extra mile

If you have a little more time, here are a few additional things to consider.

  • Test whenever possible. Optimize your sends by A/B testing one or two important variables, including subject lines and calls to action.
  • Use stylized alt-tags. Alt-tags can help engage readers across various email platforms.
  • Day of the week. Although Mondays and Tuesdays are common days for dedicated email sends, content is ultimately what drives email performance, and the open and click rates are generally consistent throughout the week. In a  look at open-rate averages from Monday through Friday, Friday actually shows the highest returns.

If you have a one-shot opportunity to reach a B2B audience, use this checklist to maximize your opportunity and build the greatest engagement possible.


Gillian Bayer, Emily Brooks, Liz Corrigan, and Melissa Fass work on the Advertising Operations team at SmartBrief. They execute campaigns across SmartBrief’s 14 industries with the goal of a smooth and successful campaign for each advertiser.