Tag Archives for " B2B "

Email Checklist – Save Your Sanity and Send with Confidence!

Email Checklist
Email Checklist

Everyone has done it. You send an important email, and something just doesn’t feel right. Now long gone, you instinctively open it to discover a silly typoo in the subject line. Doh! And that’s just one of dozens of things that can go wrong.

When it comes to mass emailing, both your personal and brand reputations are on the line with every click of the send key. That’s why we’ve put together this sanity-saving email checklist. Don’t let an embarrassing or potentially damaging email ruin your day!

We’ll assume you have already gone through the process of thinking through your email. That you know your target audience, the objective, and the key points you want to get across. There are great articles out there outlining best practices for writing an effective email. Here, we address the mechanics of setting up and confidently delivering your message.

Email Checklist Summary

We have designed our process for marketing automation systems, but much of it applies to any email that is important and will be widely distributed, regardless of where it originates. We divided our email checklist into sections that seem to flow well with our standard process, and they should be fairly universal. Also, there may be steps that don't apply depending on what system you use, but most should.


  • Decide what your end goal is and be sure to use the appropriate metrics to track its success.
  • Carefully select your targeted audience based on your desired outcomes. Keep in mind there can be multiple segments based on your desired results.
  • Define the type of email you want to use. Is it a single-use or part of a campaign? If the latter, sketch out your campaign and workflows first.
  • What layout will you select? Engage your audience with an appropriate eye-catching layout, one that will entice click-through. Are your readers compelled?

Content Preparation

  • Create the subject line. Arguably the most important element of your email and it should be thoughtfully written.
  • Create strong preview messages, ones that will compel the reader to open your email.
    Compose email copy that consists of clear and short sentences that are jargon-free. Make your content easily digestible.
  • Compose your email in a word processor first. Editing in MS-Word is far easier than in most email systems.
  • Finalize the layout by making sure all links are clearly identifiable as links, your message is focused, and no unnecessary choices are presented. Lastly is your brand easily recognizable by the from name and email address?
  • Read! Read and re-read your email.  Proof your email content for any errors, such as spelling and grammar, and inaccurate information. As a rule of thumb, proofing your email from the bottom-up, at least once, will help you pinpoint any mistakes that might have been missed. Tools like Grammarly and Hemingway to improve the quality and readability.
  • When proofing your email, make sure the message relates to the target audience, is easy to read and clear, and will engage or persuade.
  • If you want to run a campaign that includes multiple emails, write the variations at the same time.

Email Setup

  • When running a campaign with multiple pieces of content, set that up first.
  • If you are driving readers to a landing page or form, create a unique form for tracking purposes.
  • Set up the appropriate automated workflows and notifications in your system.
  • Create preview text which is a subheading to your subject line that many email clients display.
  • Personalize your email with the recipient’s first name, if possible.
  • Select the “from name” field which can be a company or personal name.
  • Enter the “from” and “reply-to” email addresses.
  • Type the content of your message into the email system template, or copy and paste (text only) from elsewhere.
  • Add images, links, landing page and call-to-action buttons as required.
  • Using the built-in tools and augmenting with HTML where needed, format your email as desired.

Email Enhancements

  • Make it easy for your reader to interact with your email by adding a call-to-action button going to a form, download, or landing page.
  • Add images/graphics that will help support your written content and main email message.
  • Take into consideration subscribers with images turned off – will they be able to make sense of the email and act on it?
  • Compare your email content and selected images so that they both work together to encourage the reader to act. Always ask yourself, do your images support the main message?
  • Use links as needed making sure they are clearly identifiable as links.
  • If applicable, make social sharing and connecting easy by providing the relevant icons.

System Setup

  • At this point, you are now ready to create your email campaign. You can now add your email to a specific campaign (if supported by the platform you will use.)
  • Give your email a name that will help you find it later should you want to resend or clone it.
  • Is your email authentication in place? Be sure this is done prior to launching your email. Automate workflows if applicable.
  • Review each template field and personalize it wherever you can (with fallback for missing fields).
  • Ensure you have a recognizable “from” field. This will add validity to the recipient and reduce the risk of your email being seen as junk mail or even spam.
  • Ensure your “reply-to” field has an email address – again, this will increase the validity of your email.
  • Remember to remember your “text only” email version.  This too must be checked and verified for any errors.
  • You are ready to select your recipient list(s). Make lists based on how contacts have interacted with your organization.  Do you have donors? Volunteers? Employees? Separate lists can keep your messages to them on point.
  • This is also the perfect time to exclude recipients, if applicable, from a particular email list. Remember your message must be applicable to the recipient!


  • Most email systems provide options for SEO. If you are using a landing page, optimize your URL name, keywords, tags, and images.
  • Ensure your email is optimized for mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.
  • Use your system’s render testing feature to see how your email will appear on various email clients.
  • Test your forms, automated workflows, and notifications to make sure they work.

Final Review

  • Prior to launching your email it’s a great idea to send a test email to major email clients. This will allow for the opportunity to make any last-minute corrections.
  • Never assume that your email will be viewed on one device – test your email on multiple devices ensuring the recipient will receive the desired layout.
  • Check one last time for any possible errors such as spelling, grammar or any other glaring mistakes. Thoroughly proof email one last time, this includes any links within your email.
    A second set of eyes can only assist with this process.  Have someone else proof your email.
  • Are your images working? Test image loads and make sure you have included “alt tags.”
    If applicable, test automation.
  • Check one last time that your email is purpose-driven, kind and thoughtful.
  • Exhale and hit “send!”


  • Are you familiar with privacy laws? Now is a good time to familiarize yourself if you are not. Respect CASL and other email legislation.
  • Overuse of anything can easily derail your campaign – be careful with the use of sales buzzwords, unnecessary caps, bolding and exclamation points.
  • Ensure your email system inserts your corporate information, along with unsubscribe and opt-in options. Or, do it manually.
  • Ensure your email system has DKIM and SP records to increase deliverability, which should only be needed one time.
  • Make sure your email is not coming across as spam to junk filters or readers.
  • Set up a text version of your message and an HTML option as well to increase coverage.
  • Build your recipients list from individual contacts or other lists. Take care with this and triple-check your choices.

Finally, the last step!
It’s time to double-check the checklist, hit send, and relax!

There are few things worse for a marketer, or anyone for that matter, than sending a mass email you wish you could take back. Unfortunately, once you hit the enter key, the damage is done. We’ve started using this email checklist ourselves and always find many things to fix or refine during the process. Like anything else, the more you do it, the more habitual it becomes. Hopefully, this can help you send more impactful emails and reduce some anxiety.

Content and Delivery: Build Them Both or Don’t Bother!

Content and Delivery
Content and Delivery

What’s more important – content or delivery? The reality is you can’t have one without the other. It takes content and delivery together to make your efforts pay off.

In this article, we’ll take a look at why content is such an important part of the marketing mix, and the vital role delivery plays in getting it out there. I will also mix in a few points to think about for those starting out.

Why Content is so Important

Content marketing is a strategy used to attract and engage prospects by sharing information they will value. It all starts with at least one clearly defined target audience, and most companies will have more. The materials you create must be relevant to those who receive it. Finally, the production and distribution of your content must be an on-going process.

In a recent article called a Definition of Marketing Even a Child Can Understand, I talked about awareness, attraction, and action. In today’s marketing world, getting people to know you, relate to you and eventually buy from you, relies heavily on content – especially with B2B.

Research by Smart Insights earlier this year estimated that content marketing was the activity having the most commercial impact on business in 2016. Leading with a total of 21% of those surveyed, content marketing was ahead of marketing automation at 15%, and conversion rate optimization at 11%. As you scroll down the list of the other categories such as paid advertising, online PR, and social media – content plays a critical role in these as well.

Content such as blogs, white papers, and infographics, can have a long shelf life. This means people can discover it months or years later and in some cases the same content can be reintroduced. The value of content and its ability to engage and persuade is hard to argue. But, only if it connects with the recipient. Yes, content marketing takes a great deal of investment. But, it continues to prove itself in driving brand awareness, sales leads, and customer satisfaction.

Direct Delivery Challenges

Once you have content worth sharing, it needs to get in front of the right people. This can be just as big a challenge as keeping up with content. Choosing the best vehicles to distribute your message is not as easy as it sounds. Let’s use the example of building out social media networks. This is not trivial, and it takes strategy, time and focus. You can’t build every network at once so it’s wise to pick three or four that best suit your needs and work them hard. To choose between Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all the others will be far easier if you learn the social media preferences of your target audience.

Email is another strong distribution channel. Whether you use a simple email service or sophisticated marketing automation tool – the challenge is always the list! CASL and other privacy laws now force marketers to build lists that only include opt-in subscribers. This again takes a long time and your content has to be stellar to cut through the clutter. Also, once you have a growing list, you need to keep up the good work so people don’t unsubscribe.

Delivery Option Alternatives

If your networks and lists are early-stage, a more immediate way to distribute content is through publishing platforms such as LinkedIn and Medium. These are easy to use, free and can attract a good number of prospects to your brand. There is also a long list of other powerful, but less direct ways to get your message out. Examples include:

  • Advertising on Google AdWords or any of the popular social media networks
  • Advertising in online news outlets or industry publications
  • Remarketing using Google or services such as AdRoll
  • Online press releases through services such as PRweb and Newswire

These options can help you reach large audiences quickly and affordably. Because it’s digital, most systems offer strong analytics so you can see the results. In all these examples, there is high value in terms of brand building and awareness. But, if your goal is to drive people to a piece of content, these options typically require a stop at a web, or landing page first.

So far, we have been referring only to digital marketing. It’s important to note that print, direct mail, and other channels are still widely used and viable. If you re-purpose the same content across a variety of different online and offline channels, the impact is even stronger.

Content and Delivery – You Need Both!

Content and delivery go hand in hand. A car without gas won’t run and gasoline sitting in a can, just smells bad. I’ve run across clients spending tens of thousands of dollars a year on high-end marketing automation platforms and barely using them. I’ve also seen great content, that sadly no one will ever see. Both scenarios are inefficient and wasteful.

Ideally, content and delivery should be in the same, relative state of readiness. At the beginning, it’s great to write blogs and articles. You also need to focus on building up your social media channels and your lists of relevant contacts and prospects. Until then, and even afterwards, self-publishing and paid advertising can bridge the delivery gap. Of course, for both content and delivery, there is always outsourcing as an option. If you keep up the effort and provide consistent value to your target audience over time, you will be rewarded!

Confessions of a B2B Social Media Hold-Out!

Social Media Holdout
Social Media Holdout

I’ve got a secret to share and I just have to get it off my chest! For most of my career, I have been in tech-related sales and marketing roles where communication activities filled up most hours of most days through the years.

Yet for a long time, I must admit, I just didn’t see the connection between B2B social media and real business value. I thought “social” was great for my kids, consumer brands and people with lots of time on their hands.

So why the delay in jumping on the bandwagon? It wasn’t because I’m shy about technology. In fact, I’m a geek when it comes down to it and it’s as much a personal passion as anything else. Some may argue the point, but I consider myself reasonably intelligent and open-minded – after all, I eventually did see the light – right? In hindsight, I think I had the same reservations of many others in the B2B world – “It’s not easy and it seems fluffy and vague.”

Social media can feel like a vortex that’s impossible to navigate and understand at first. Maybe if I had the right help early on, I would have been a convert years sooner. Indeed, it takes constant work and it’s not cheap. But, neither is advertising or any other important part of your marketing mix. To make it work, you also need to deal with some fundamental things that may seem counter-intuitive in traditional B2B marketing. Specifically, It takes a long time to build momentum and ROI – so you have to be committed for the long-haul, you have to be responsively engaged, and you have to operate in the spirit of giving without expectation.

Now that I’ve finally “arrived,” I still see a surprising number of B2B business owners and executives continuing to sit on the fence or doing the bare minimum with social media. For all those stubbornly holding out as I once did, I’m sure you have asked yourselves these questions at some point: will social media help grow my business?; is it here to stay?; are my competitors using it to steal my customers and prospects? The resounding answer is YES, YES, and YES!

What I want to do now is share a few things that have impacted me during the journey I’ve taken so far. I’m not trying to hard-sell here, but I thought this would be relevant coming from someone who resisted for quite some time.

Unacceptable, Lame and Over-Used Excuses!

Assuming the CRM “house” is in order, no salesperson worth the title should have a reason to make any of the following claims. If they are, I suspect it’s part of a larger issue. As you will see, I’m being a bit playful with this. But I know sales managers continue to get these excuses because I occasionally still hear them in my travels.

  • Social media for business absolutely works if done well! I’m not going to quote the thousands of statistics about how it has changed buying and selling. But, here’s some great data from HubSpot. Just Google “B2B social media statistics,” or better yet, invest 10 minutes on any social media network and you will find an avalanche of supporting data and use-cases about this new reality of marketing.
  • How does it work exactly? It helps strengthen bonds with your customers. It offers real and tangible benefits for other areas of your business such as Customer Service, Product Development, and Human Resources. And, it will help you create awareness and relationships with a potentially massive and relevant target audience. These virtual introductions will eventually produce leads, opportunities, and closed deals.
  • At the heart of it, social media is really about content. For a business, there are invaluable learning opportunities in the areas of industry and market research, competitive analysis, and sourcing potential suppliers or solutions that can help significantly improve your operation. The point is, with social media you have the aggregation of huge amounts of highly valuable content at your fingertips.
  • On a more personal note, I like the connectedness of it all. It’s incredibly fluid and exciting and it’s helped me realize how big (and small) the world really is. As I scan through the unending sea of blogs, videos, podcasts and other content, I always pick up something new I didn’t know before. I’ve also come to appreciate the engagement aspect and while there’s always the odd bad apple, the vast majority of people I’ve met in this “world beyond the keyboard” have been interesting, kind and helpful.

Although now a devout practitioner and evangelist for B2B social media and digital marketing in general, I’m still a novice and perpetual student, so don’t look for my best-selling book anytime soon. I’m sure like many others, I wish I had embraced social media for business from the very beginning – but, it wasn’t too late for me and if you haven’t started yet, it’s certainly not too late for you!

I hope you have enjoyed this article and would love to hear your thoughts about social media in B2B and any experiences you can share. Please follow us on your favorite social feed and Contact us if we can help in any way.

B2B Lead Generation: 7 Proven Steps for More Sales with eMail

B2B Lead Generation
B2B Lead Generation

​There is no denying the power of social media, SEO, and other inbound marketing programs to attract and engage prospects.

​However, direct B2B lead generation still has it’s rightful place in the mix if aimed at the right people, with the right messages, and in the right way. With the addition of tightly-focused outbound campaigns, you can greatly enhance your marketing effectiveness and increase sales.

The following framework outlines a 7-step process that offers a practical way to create new leads and opportunities. It’s best to think of these steps as an on-going cycle of multiple activities that form a series of campaigns over time. The fact is, you need to repeatedly reach out if you want to create interest and engagement. If you connect with prospects during the buying cycle with a strong call-to-action, your odds significantly improve.

B2B Lead Generation

​Key Success Factors for B2B Lead Generation

As with most marketing programs, B2B lead generation is a complex system with many moving parts. In order to make it work, you must flawlessly execute, or risk creating a bad impression and perhaps lost opportunity. Your chances of success will dramatically rise based on a combination of the following factors:

  • ​How well your target audience is defined and the quality of your lists.
  • How valuable and relevant your offering is to the people you are reaching out to.
  • How well your messages resonate with those receiving it.
  • How differentiated your company and offering appears to be.
  • The number of “touch-points” over time, consistently reinforcing your value proposition.
  • The timeliness and quality of your sales follow-up.

​By using the following steps, you will increase conversion rates and also build a solid foundation for on-going activity. As with most things, the more thoughtful and creative you are, the better the results!

​1. Create Strategy

  • ​Define the objectives and key metrics of your campaign. Leverage your historic data and be realistic.
  • Decide on the campaign duration and the number of distinct activities that will be part of it.
  • Select the vehicles you will use (email, direct mail, webinars, events, telesales, etc.)
  • If the campaign is complex enough, create a project plan and build an execution calendar defining the task owners, due dates and dependencies.

​2. Define Target Audience

  • ​Create “ideal prospect profiles” grouped by attributes such as geography, company size, industry challenges, etc. Clear market segmentation helps ensure you are talking with the right people. The shot-gun approach is far more time-consuming and ultimately more expensive.
  • Identify the titles in the organization you believe are important to connect with – those who will benefit most from your offering.
  • Define what problems your products or services will address for the people in those roles.

​3. Build Account / Contact List

  • ​Leverage your CRM and other data, or consider buying new lists based on one or more of the attributes defined in Step 2. You should end up with multiple key contacts for each account.
  • Validate key contacts leveraging LinkedIn, web searches, or subscription services such as Data.com or ZoomInfo. This is great part-time work for a student or intern. You can rely on what you have, but it’s often outdated and this step will improve the quality of your list for follow-up initiatives.
  • Merge any new data with your existing CRM records and ensure a field is tagged in CRM at the account, contact and campaign levels in order to isolate these records for reporting.
  • If you are using an automation tool, ensure it’s synchronized with your CRM.

​4. Create Theme / Messages

  • ​Decide on the central theme of the campaign. What is the single most important idea you want to convey? What will the “feel and tone” of the campaign be?
  • Create high-impact messages to support your theme for each functional target contact. For example, the message for a VP of Marketing will be different than a CFO’s. Focus on benefits, not features!
  • As a backdrop to your thinking, consider the client pain-points, your competition and why the receiver should care. Your perspective should always be from their point of view.
  • If possible, include a call-to-action and / or value offering (promotion, whitepaper, research report, etc.) Give people a reason to engage.

​5. Develop Content

  • ​Create your copy using the theme and key messages for each group of potential buyers and influencers. Your copy should be concise, differentiated and compelling.
  • Decide on the appropriate graphics to create or buy, and ensure they effectively support your copy. As a rule, images have far more impact than words.
  • Optimize your final layout to deliver a crisp and professional appearance. Make it stand out as you only have a few seconds to grab attention.
  • Personalize and customize your content as much as possible. Talk to the recipient in their industry terms for a stronger connection.
  • If you have the resources, consider A|B testing different variations of your content to find out what works best. If you go this route, early results monitoring will be important.
  • Leverage unique landing pages for web-based content as this provides an easy way to isolate and measure the progress.

​6. Execute Campaign

  • ​If you are sending email to Canadian prospects, you must understand and comply with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). If you haven’t already, do the homework.
  • Send a communication internally to make sure your sales and marketing teams are aware and prepared once the campaign starts to run.
  • Deliver your communications as planned in Step 1. Consider the optimal timing to get the highest response. An event on Friday afternoon before a long weekend is bad timing!
  • As responses start to build, update your CRM. Be sure to “score” or “weight” your responses so you can prioritize accordingly. Marketing automation tools such as SharpSpring  provides strong capabilities for managing the lead nurturing process following initial contact. These companies are also great sources of marketing and content information.
  • As leads and opportunities become qualified, pass them immediately to inside or direct sales for follow-up, and make sure this happens in a timely manner.
  • Immediately unsubscribe contacts who request it and confirm back once you have.

​7. Measure / Follow-up

  • ​At regular checkpoints during the campaign, monitor the results to see how you are tracking.
  • When the campaign ends, report the results achieved compared to the projected metrics. You may want to do this a week or two after completion as well in case late responses come in.
  • Document and analyze the final results and review the insights and lessons learned. This is an important step for continuous improvement.

​With the barrage of emails and advertising people receive daily, it’s extremely difficult to get noticed, never mind have someone engage. However, delivering the right messages, to the right people, the right way – will produce results. There is no “silver bullet” though and it takes commitment, investment, and a structured approach over time to be effective. If you are focused and patient, however, you will undoubtedly find more than enough new business to make it well-worth the effort. This process has worked extremely well for me and hopefully you found some of this helpful.

If you are so inclined, please share any ideas, thoughts or experiences you may have with this topic. Contact us if we can help with your B2B lead generation, or simply answer a question.

Effective B2B Marketing -  6 Things you Absolutely Need!

Effective B2B Marketing
Effective B2B Marketing

Building an effective B2B marketing program can be a long, tough road. But, when investments are made the returns on your effort and patience will be generously rewarded.

How much thought do you put into your marketing plan – is it enough? Do you have clear, realistic goals? Do you have everything you need to execute properly?

My experience has been that many companies miss on one or more of these essential elements and end up being underwhelmed by the outcome. Getting great results from marketing is not an accident, and although there are many success factors, I believe six are most critical.

6 Key Ingredients of Effective B2B Marketing

#1 Strategic Planning

This is one of the most crucial components and the starting point of effective B2B marketing. When not enough time, focus or thought are invested in creating the plan, the rest won’t matter. The main aspects of good planning include:

  • A reliable process and a standard framework for mapping out your plan.
  • Research and analysis of the key inputs that should be used.
    • Internally-focused information including the value proposition; business objectives; budget; available resources; and historical results.
    • Externally-focused information including marketing segmentation and competitive analysis.
  • In-house planning expertise and skills – if you don’t have these, consider getting help.

#2 Realistic Goals

The budget has to be substantial enough to align with your goals. Determining this number can be difficult, but you have to do it. Looking at past results can help. Also, the objectives themselves need to be achievable in the timeframe you’re working with. Important considerations are:

  • The time-to-impact must be understood. What you do now will not bear fruit until some point in the future. This is particularly the case when sales cycles are long and/or complex.
  • Don’t underestimate the time it takes to develop ideas and execute. It takes longer than people think. When you’re involved in the more creative parts of marketing, inspiration isn’t something you can turn on like a switch.
  • Don’t forget about “foundational” work that still needs to get done such as administration, training, implementing tools, managerial duties, and sales support. These activities need to be accounted for.
  • Build at least a small buffer into your plan for unexpected requests and opportunities that may arise during a given period.

#3 Effective Prioritization

It all comes down to choice. Knowing what to focus on is a constant battle, but when research, data, and past results are used as guides, you increase the odds of better decision-making. Here are some other ideas that may help:

  • Determine what percentages of effort, time, and money you want to allocate to each major initiative. For most organizations, between 3-5 large-scale activities in a quarter makes sense.
  • Don’t focus on activities for the wrong reasons. Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should. Develop sound rationale when picking your mix. Know exactly why you should do what you’re planning.
  • Rank your top priorities and weight them accordingly. For example, in a given quarter you may decide to invest 40% of your marketing resources into building a new website because yours is outdated or your bounce rate is too high.
  • Don’t succumb to knee-jerk reactions and change your plan mid-stream. it’s easy to get side-tracked by “shiny objects,” but you must resist. Unless something new comes along that’s a sure winner – stick with the plan!

#4 Execution Excellence

It all comes down to choice. Knowing what to focus on is a constant battle, but when research, data, and past results are used as guides, you increase the odds of better decision-making. Here are some other ideas that may help:

  • Pay attention to detail in everything you do. Missed steps and sloppiness lead to poor results.
  • Don’t spread your team too thin – this approach usually leads to mistakes and frustration.
  • Build room in your campaigns for experimentation. Today’s technologies help us explore options before making larger investments. Pay attention to the data – if the first wave of a campaign fails but you believe you’re on the right track, you can still adjust.
  • Capture and nurture sales leads and be sure your follow-up process is iron-clad. Don’t waste potential opportunities you worked so hard to create!
  • Leverage everything as much as possible – this includes automation technology, your CRM, content re-use, etc.

#5 Continuous Improvement

Well-run marketing departments pay attention to the numbers. They use data to refine their approach, messaging, promotions and other tactics. Be sure to track, measure and analyze everything relevant to your program and focus the following:

  • Don’t waste time tracking metrics that don’t matter – this is a common trap for some.
  • Stop doing things that don’t work. I’ve seen marketers do things year after year that add no discernible value. Sure, you need to give things time. But, know when to cut your losses.
  • On the flip side, press the gas pedal harder when you find things that work. Keep track of your trending, though – with some activities, you reach a point of diminishing returns and may decide it’s time to re-adjust.
  • Keep learning and growing. It’s a fast-paced, competitive world. You need to keep up with the trends and technologies that impact your marketing. Always look for better ways to do things.
  • Understand that what really counts is how your marketing program helps create leads and opportunities. Marketing KPIs showing progress are important, but always remember that the ultimate goal of marketing is to help increase sales.

#6 Determination and Consistency

Finally, creating an effective B2B marketing program is not a one-shot deal. It’s cumulative and must be sustained over time to work. This is particularly the case with social media. If you are not looking at marketing as a long-term investment, save the money and do something else because you will be disappointed otherwise. The good news is that with solid planning, execution, and continuous improvement – marketing will pay for itself many times over once you create the momentum.