The Ultimate Guide to B2B SaaS Email Marketing

Is SaaS email marketing dead?

Most certainly not. In fact, 78% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months, according to this Hubspot Report.

Also, on average, email drives an ROI of $36 for every dollar spent, higher than any other channel, making it a highly important piece of your overall growth strategy. SaaS email marketing is very much here to stay, but what might be on its way out for good, is the “batch and blast” or “spray and pray” email marketing approach.

Think of your favorite tech companies—it's likely they use email to acquire and convert customers. Segment drives 22% of their opportunities from outbound, while Zapier built an 8-figure revenue business, on top of their self-serve, with sales outreach. How do they do it? Both companies send highly segmented, personalized, and relevant emails to convert their prospects into customers.

Sending spam emails disguised as personalized messages no longer works, unless you want to be penalized for breaking a dozen compliance laws. But how do you differentiate between spam email marketing and the real deal? There’s one simple litmus test: adding value. If the email you just sent to your prospect is adding value to their business, it’s not spam. But if you are just blindly pushing your software on to them, without adding any value, then you need to rethink your approach.

What is B2B SaaS email marketing?

The term saas email marketing is made up of two building blocks: inbound emails and outbound emails. The fundamental difference between the two is the audience you send emails to.

In inbound email marketing, your email marketing primarily targets a list of “subscribers” who have opted-in to receive emails from you and expressed interest in learning more about your company or product, hence “inbound”.

Outbound email marketing, on the other hand, typically targets a larger list size of audience that may or may not have explicitly expressed interest in your product. It’s an educated guess from your organization’s marketing team that the recipient of the email fits in well with your company’s target audience—and will have a need for the solution you’re selling. Outbound email marketing gets a bad reputation because it’s often associated with unsolicited spam and sales-ey emails. Let’s face it: Nobody wants those emails.


But, when your outbound email strategy is rooted in a deep understanding of your audience, it can do wonders for your overall lead generation strategy.

There you have it: While inbound email marketing has the advantage of an engaged and interested audience, outbound clearly wins in terms of speed and reach. An ideal B2B SaaS email marketing strategy should include a mix of both inbound and outbound emails. The combination of the two will work together to fuel your overall growth strategy, build relationships with prospects, and make them want to learn more about your company and product.

Here’s an example of how Hubspot employees a mix of both inbound and outbound emails to their advantage:

Hubspot has an inbound drip for partners who sign up for their program (Image A), knowing they'll need information in order to sell HubSpot effectively. Additionally, HubSpot also leverages the same info in outbound emails (image B), to get your organization to adopt HubSpot more broadly within your internal teams. Together, they make up an email strategy spanning multiple business units.

How to create a successful SaaS email marketing strategy?

In today’s era of data privacy, the key to crafting a successful email marketing strategy is all about building trust. Setting up an effective email marketing engine in B2B SaaS takes time, effort, and most importantly, a well-thought-out strategy.

The most important thing to consider is B2B SaaS email marketing strategy should be a part of your overall marketing strategy, and not an isolated lead gen channel. It should be well-integrated with your larger marketing efforts and baked into your content distribution plans.

The 3 steps to SaaS email marketing

1

Operations and data

Start with the list of potential customers

The first step to set up your B2B SaaS email marketing engine is building your audience list. Defining the target audience for email marketing efforts is as crucial as building the list itself, if not more. ue, etc.

If you don’t define your audience correctly, you will end up targeting the wrong people with your emails, and will not see sufficient ROI from the email channel. As we discussed previously, these lists will be different for your inbound email marketing and outbound email marketing efforts.

Inbound emails will go to subscribers who have specifically “opted-in” to receive communications from your company whereas outbound emails will go to “prospects” whom you have deemed to be the right fit for your company. For the purpose of this article, we will talk about building your list for outbound marketing efforts, as that’s more critical to SaaS organizations.

There are numerous ways to legally gather contact information for your outbound email efforts, the most popular one being via contact databases. Popular options like Zoominfo, Data.com, Neverbounce, and Apollo.io supercharge your email marketing efforts by connecting you to your potential buyers. They don’t just stop at providing email addresses—but even clean your email lists, verify contact information, and in some cases, integrate directly with your CRM to import other information such as prospect title, company, industry, company size, company revenue, etc.

Email Warmup

If your organization is new to B2B email marketing, especially cold outreach and outbound emails, we suggest starting with an exercise called “warming up” your email account. Email warm up is a term used to describe the exercise of establishing trust and reputation for a new sender email account before engaging in cold outreach.

Verkada, a Series C security startup, is one company that’s taking this to heart. The email below came from their domain “verkadasecurity.io” and redirects to their homepage “verkada.com” where the sender (Monica) is a member of their sales team.

If you marked this email as spam, you might affect deliverability for that Verkada domain (and the sales accounts associated with it, i.e. verkadasecurity.io), but their core domain won’t be affected. This prevents emails to customers, investors, or even internal team members from going to spam.

If you skip the email warmup step, it affects your email deliverability rates and causes the majority of the emails sent through this account to end up in the recipient’s spam folder, thanks to Google’s spam update. The email warmup process is fairly straightforward—you have to start by sending a few emails each day—we suggest no more than 20-30 to begin with, and then gradually increase this number after a few days. Approximately, it takes about 8-12 weeks for your email account to reach its maximum deliverability potential so we suggest taking it slow in the first few weeks.

How to segment your email lists

Once you have built your email list, it’s time to move on to segmenting the master list into smaller ones.

If you too are plagued with the question how to personalize b2b emails—segmentation is your answer. Segmentation makes it easier for you to personalize your outreach at scale. This is a really crucial step in B2B SaaS email marketing as it categorizes and groups your audience based on commonalities they share. In fact, 72% of tech companies are segmenting emails, according to  Kiwi Creative’s 2021 Tech Marketing Survey.

There is no one way of segmenting your audience. Some companies do it by job title, some do it by demographics, others may do it by pain points or average revenue or company size. It depends on your message and what’s the goal of your campaign. The more data you have on your prospects, the more filters you can create when segmenting your lists and the more targeted you can get with your outreach.

2

Content and creative: What makes a high-converting B2B email

Writing a B2B email is more of a science than art. If you stick to this formula, you will consistently be able to generate high converting sales emails:

THE Subject Line

Subject lines are like the gift wrapping of your email—for recipients to get excited about what’s inside and open the email, your wrapping needs to pique their interest.

According to Devin Reed, the sales email pro from Gong, there are two approaches you can take to nail the subject lines of your sales emails. They are:

tactical

According to Devin Reed, the sales email pro from Gong, there are two approaches you can take to nail the subject lines of your sales emails. They are:

Mystery

The mystery approach aims to create curiosity in the mind of the reader that motivates them to open the email. Example: Could admin tasks be any simpler?

Of course, as Devin rightly says, for both these approaches to work, you need to know your prospects really well. If they don’t care about the value proposition you mention in the tactical subject line or the topic you tried to invoke curiosity around in the mystery subject line, they won’t make any difference.

The trigger or the hook

A typical B2B email structure should start with an intro sentence that immediately explains why you reached out and answer the question “what’s in it for you”.

We also call this the “hook” of the email, something that captures the reader’s attention right away by mentioning the value that you're adding. The opening should be personalized, very specific to the reader and should create trust.

example

“I know administrative work is the last thing you want to be spending time on, especially when you have a file full of company financials to go through.”

Assuming your prospects care about the hours wasted on admin work, they will immediately relate to your opening and will want to keep reading further.


Still need more examples to help make the concept of the “trigger” clear? Let’s take a look at this email from ecommerce helpdesk Gorgias:

As you can see, the Gorgias team has done their homework about the prospect as the email drives straight into the pain point of the reader, i.e. getting repetitive support requests. This not just helps in establishing relevance but also makes the sender look like a trusted party, someone who understands the problems of the reader. The best hooks are the ones that invoke the feeling of “they know who I am and what I deal with” in the mind of the prospect, and this email from Gorgias does just that.

The Bridge

Once your opening sentence has done its job and hooked the reader, the next part of your email should build on top of the pain point and connect it to your company. This creates space for naturally introducing your offering into the conversation, without making the transition look forced or sales-heavy.

Taking the same pain point example as the previous section, let’s look at how a SaaS company selling a product to help customers reduce time spent on admin work can create a bridge between the trigger and their company.

The bridge could look something like this:

“You should be spending more time creating quarterly performance reports and less time tracking down bills and filing expenses. Proactive Software can help you do just that. We help organizations like yours manage their administrative tasks of expense tracking, invoicing, and filing bills so that you can spend time doing what you do best: creating financial reports.”

When your bridge takes a problem-focused approach, you ensure that your email remains about “them” and doesn’t become about “you”.

The Ask

Every email should end with a CTA and should ideally be focused on inciting only one action. Call-to-Action or a CTA is the “ask” you have from the reader who is reading your email.

It can also be described as the action you want the recipient to take. “Book a demo” or “Start your free trial” or “Book some time to chat” are all examples of CTAs for outbound emails.

The most effective CTAs are “yes-or-no” questions. That’s because the reader should not have to think too much or face resistance when acting on your email, otherwise they will lose interest and stop reading.

3

Reporting and analytics: 
After you hit the send button

You built a killer email campaign, wrote a high-converting email, and sent it to your segmented list. That’s awesome! But that’s only half the story—what happens after you hit the send button is where most B2B Saas companies drop the ball.

Reply Management

If nobody is monitoring the responses your email got, is there even a point to sending out those emails?

Reply management is a critical part of the B2B SaaS email marketing strategy, especially when sending outbound emails, as it has an immediate impact on your speed-to-lead.

Here are some practical tips for becoming better at reply management:

Connect

Connect email responses to a dedicated Slack channel with your sales/marketing teams to help monitor responses across multiple inboxes and campaigns.

Update

Regularly update your contact database with unsubscribers, duplicate contacts, and those who have explicitly expressed their disinterest. This will help filter out the unhelpful responses from the actionable ones.

Automate

Set up reply-mail-management with configured match-action rules that help you automate responses to specific types of replies—such as an out-of-office reply, auto-reply, or unsubscribe/do-not-contact requests. This is especially helpful for filtering out messages from your warming tool, which typically contain a token (see below).

Analyzing and Reporting on Performance

Email is a highly measurable channel if you use the right email marketing platform and especially, if you integrate CRM with email marketing.

Of course, as Devin rightly says, for both these approaches to work, you need to know your prospects really well. If they don’t care about the value proposition you mention in the tactical subject line or the topic you tried to invoke curiosity around in the mystery subject line, they won’t make any difference.

Primary metrics are open rates, click rates, reply rates, and unsubscribes. They help you understand how the recipients of the email are reacting to the content shared in the email.

For example:

Your open rates are an indicator of how effective your subject line was and if the recipients trust you as a sender.

Your click rates show the message you shared in the email resonated with them and they were interested in learning more about your company.

Your reply rates indicate what percentage of the list was interested in having a conversation with you while your unsubscribe rate shows what part of the list did not find your email helpful and decided they don’t want to hear from your company again.

Tracking all these primary metrics will help you understand how well your email is being received by the audience and make tweaks to future campaigns.

Primary metrics are open rates, click rates, reply rates, and unsubscribes. They help you understand how the recipients of the email are reacting to the content shared in the email.

This can be meetings booked, opps created, early bird sign-ups, demos scheduled, or free trial sign-ups. The secondary metric is the true measure of the success of your campaigns.

Different types of B2B email campaigns and when to use them:

Newsletters

The most common type of inbound marketing email campaign is a newsletter. Newsletters are email roundups B2B SaaS companies regularly send their subscribers to share the latest news about your company and product.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 31% of B2B marketers say email newsletters are the best way to nurture leads. The goal of an e-newsletter is to get the prospects to click on the links shared in the newsletter and visit your website. Looking for ideas on what to include in your prospect newsletter?
Check out this post from Hubspot for inspiration.

Value-add emails

Also popularly known as content promo emails, value-add emails are a way for the company to share useful content with prospects to build trust and nurture relationships.

These emails are one-off email sends that share content in the form of blogs, tips, announcements, updates, or feature launches. The goal of these emails is to get the readers interested in the content you are producing. This is typically a top-of-funnel email marketing strategy and is not usually sent with the end goal of booking demos or conversions.

Let’s take a look at some examples of value-add emails. Remote.com uses value-add email to share promotions with existing users who are either not paying, or have room to increase their subscription:

The marketing team at Metadata.io use value-add emails to promote their weekly podcast episodes and drive more traffic to their website:

User Research

The third type of emails sent out as a part of a B2B SaaS email marketing strategy are user research emails. They are usually sent with the specific objective to collect feedback from the audience.

They can be coupled with an incentive to fill out the survey, such as discounts or gift cards, or can be sent as a standalone email. A user research email helps with data collection and enrichment, and helps make your marketing strategy stronger.

Sales emails

The last and the most popular type of emails sent by B2B SaaS companies are sales emails.

They are usually sent after the prospect has sufficiently warmed up to the product or demonstrated high purchase intent or has been identified as a potential buyer according to your outbound email marketing strategy.  These emails usually end with a CTA to book a demo, book time to chat, or asking for a reply and play a critical role in your company’s lead generation strategy.

Optimizing the performance of your
Email marketing for B2B lead generation

These tips will help you get better at email marketing, both inbound and outbound.

1. Always A/B test your emails to fully understand how different variables affect the performance of your email marketing campaigns

A/B testing can be used to optimize several parameters such as open rates and click rates. To increase open rates, test different subject lines for the same email or different sender names for the same email. To optimize click rates, try testing CTAs. To see which emails get more replies, try testing one pain point vs another in the opening.

Once you start running these A/B tests regularly, you will get a better understanding of what prospects respond better to what type of emails and you will eventually be able to use this data to do persona-based targeting. A/B testing is a low-lift way to improve the performance of your email campaigns and brands that always include an A/B test in their emails generate an ROI of 48:1, according to this Litmus study.

2. Stick to the 90/10 rule

Give value 90% of the time, ask for something in return only 10% of the time. If you ask for a demo or meeting in the first email, without adding any value to the reader, they will likely never open any of your emails again.

3. Do not bombard low-intent content downloads with sales follow-ups

The only thing you will achieve by sending “ready to book a demo?” emails to someone who downloaded your ebook or checklist is to scare them away. Keep nurturing the relationship, add value through your emails, and when adequate interest has been built, then ask for some time.

4. Keep it simple; don’t try to say too much in the same email

This is a classic mistake all B2B email marketers make—trying to make multiple points in the same email, and causing decision fatigue aka confusion for the reader. Instead, keep the email focused on only one and one pain point or offer or goal.

5. Sender name is as important as the subject line, perhaps even more important

Recent studies have shown people will open emails from a source they trust, regardless of what the subject line says. So focus on building trust with your recipients and watch your open rates go up.

6. Treat your emails like a conversation

Be intentional about what you say and ensure every sentence has a purpose—to either entice them to keep reading or take action.

7. Personalization doesn’t mean just including the recipient's first name in your email

It means getting really specific about the reader’s pain points in your copy and making them feel like you understand them.

8. Keep your email short and to-the-point

Break down the copy into 1-2 sentence paragraphs so that the info shared is easier to digest.

9. Segment future campaigns - Segmentation doesn’t just mean based on initial information

It’s good practice to keep enriching your database with new information about the contact and segmenting lists further based on the actions they take. For example, if someone opens your email, clicks on the link you shared in the email and doesn't unsubscribe, you should leverage that in your follow-ups. Instead of sending them the same email meant for the rest of the list, add them to a separate list of recipients who performed the same actions and showed an interest in your company by reading your emails. That’s one way to make your outreach more effective and personalized.

10. Best time for B2B email marketing

Highest click-to-open rates: Wednesday and Tuesday (10.8%)

Conclusion

Like any other channel, relationship-building through email marketing takes time and patience. Where most email marketers go wrong is expecting immediate ROI from the channel and giving up on email marketing when one email doesn’t work.

How Divisional can help

SaaS Email Marketing is always part of a larger growth strategy. If you’re curious about how you can incorporate email into your company’s growth, and other areas that you can invest into, get in touch with us! We’ll find you the marketer who is the perfect fit for your business, including Heads of Growth who are currently scaling Seed - Series B startups themselves.

Need help building your B2B email marketing plan? Divisional can help.

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