B2B marketers, wondering the right email strategy?

Last week at the B2B marketing forum, Jay Xie, General Manager of Webpower China shared insights on engaging Chinese audience through email in the B2B sector. B2B email strategy in China is unique. For international players, it’s critical to embrace the difference in consumer psychology & technical setup, so as to make the most out of your B2B email marketing.

While the general challenges (e.g. conversion and content personalization) in B2B email marketing are affecting China, we are also worried by more issues. In China, maintain a hygienic mailing list can be difficult, in that people often subscribe with a generic address (info@…/contact@…). Also, besides global corporate ESPs (Email Service Provider) such as Gmail, B2B marketers are dealing with many different local ESPs (e.g. QQ and 163.com). Such ESPs have their own email rules, and you need to fully understand the local rules in order to get your mailings delivered. Lastly, people tend to overlook the design of B2B emails. It’s common for B2B mailings to bear a ‘spammy’ design, increasing the chance of ending up in one’s junk box.

So, how should B2B marketers in China conquer the obstacles and create the right email message for China?

The List

Before sending out anything, make sure that your mailing list is well organized. Sending out bulk emails or to non-existing mailbox could harm your email reputation tremendously.

Healthy & updated database

On average, Chinese employees change their jobs every 2 years. Of course their business emails also change accordingly. Therefore, you have to update your mailing list regularly and validate all contact information. Additionally, make sure that you are collecting business email addresses ONLY. In this way, your mailings would be checked during working hours, and it’s easy for the reader to forward to his/her colleagues.

Database segmentation for B2B

Email without segmentation is equivalent to spamming. Particularly for B2B, it’s helpful to group recipients by job function (finance, marketing, IT etc.); job position (whether you’re talking to an executer or decision-maker); and status (prospect or client). And then you are able to personalize communication to each person in your list.

The design

Bad email design not only jeopardizes your brand image, but also causes issues with deliverability.

Avoid ‘spammy’ design

Unfortunately, lots of B2B emails in our mailbox bear rather unappealing design. There are 2 common pitfalls: either a single picture composes the entire mailing; or there’s excessive text. In fact, the best image: text ratio is 4:6.

Formal design & informative copy

When it comes to B2B email design in China, recipients prefer formal and business-style design. Meanwhile, images should only be used for branding/visual purposes. Text in B2B emails is always the king — keep it clear, informative and explanatory.

The message

B2B emails are not always about selling, there are so much to include in to content so as to boost engagement.

Knowledge sharing

When you rolled out a new product/feature, use email to inform your clients about the good news. You can also include videos or manuals in the email to explain how to play with the new functions. Similarly, you can also include the latest industry updates (regulations, reports etc.) in your newsletter. It is a good way to demonstrate your expertise and strengthen the customer engagement.

Don’t miss the personal touch!

Personal touch and B2B are not contradictory. In exhibition industry, for example, an email about visa & travel information is triggered if the recipient is tagged with a location outside China. Moreover, you can also trigger an email to give out more information about a specific topic, based on one’s previous email behavior.

The delivery

Now that your list and message are ready, it’s time to get it out! In China, chances of soft bounce is high with B2B emails — since corporate mailboxes are normally equipped with stronger firewall. Therefore, it’s always good to ask your readers to whitelist your sender address. At the same time, make sure that you are sending emails via a local server. Email sent from a foreign server a likely to be blocked/spam-marked.

In conclusion, B2B email should not be ‘cold’ or impersonal. Even though it’s ‘to Business’, it’s a person who is reading your email. The key is to adapt your email strategy to consumer mentality and the Chinese market.