• Steven Johnson

How B2B Businesses Can Use Email Marketing Automation Effectively

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

Email marketing is king, end of story. If you need proof (which you likely don't if you're a marketer), I could link you to hundreds of marketing sites that can provide a long list of statistics.

I'll link you to one with high credibility, HubSpot. A few standout stats from this article are:

  • Email marketing has a 3800% return on investment.

  • 73% of millennials prefer communications from businesses to come via email.

  • 59% of B2C customers surveyed say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions.

  • 80% of business professionals believe that email marketing increases customer retention.

When creating a content marketing strategy, the end goal is to get leads on your email list. That way, you can constantly communicate with them and build trust and loyalty through content, promotions, and news.

No matter what your business does within the food industry, your email list is the proverbial yeast that makes the dough of your business rise.

Nine times out of ten people have signed up for your email list because you have offered them something in return. A free report, discount code, checklist, free webinar are all examples of lead attraction devices (magnets) that you could use to do so. And if you've been wondering why your email list is measly, you likely haven't been doing this.

If you have, there could be other reasons as well. Perhaps the magnet doesn't align with the content. The content itself isn't engaging or in tune with your target audiences' needs. Maybe you're not properly optimizing your content for search engines.

Most B2B companies understand email lists are essential, as well as many B2C companies. However, do businesses in either arena truly understand what they're supposed to do once they've built an email list?

The main thing to understand when managing an email list is that a person has given you some personal information in return for your content. The worst thing a company can do is ignore a lead when they sign up for your list, especially in the rare occurrence that a lead sought out your company specifically and signed up.

It boils down to common courtesy. Imagine walking down the street and seeing someone you think you know, and you wave. But, they look you dead in the eye and don't wave back. How does that make you feel?

Don't have an option to sign up for a list if you don't plan to engage those who sign-up for it.

Fortunately, managing an email list has become simple with the advent of email marketing software and automation, even for the technically challenged. I use and love ConvertKit. I highly recommend it.

If you're a marketer for a larger company, none of this is news to you. However, if you're a small business owner making jars of jam or a local pizzeria, this might be news to you.

So, in the interest of the little guy, I'll go into the essential functions of email marketing software. If you know all of this, feel free to skim along. Or, skip to the list segmentation portion.

Email Marketing Must-Haves


If nothing else, your company needs to have some form of a newsletter, even if the only thing it does is link the prospect back to content on your site. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 81% of B2B marketers say their most used form of content marketing is email newsletters. There are five reasons why having an e-newsletter is essential.

  1. Newsletters create a connection with your prospects through consistency. Whether you send out a newsletter once a month or once a day, it builds trust within your prospects that they can count on you for content at a specific time.

  2. Newsletters provide direct delivery of content and news. No matter how cutting edge or interactive your website may be, never expect people to return without reason. Newsletters do the job of staying in front of your prospects and bringing them back to your site.

  3. Newsletters work hand-in-hand with sales funnels. They can feature promotions, new products, and special offers.

  4. Newsletters are excellent for segmenting your list. This can be done through surveys, quizzes, or simply tracking click-throughs. I'll go into this more a bit later.

  5. Newsletters are a great way to get ideas for new content by tracking prospect engagement. You can also re-purpose older content through "evergreen" nurturing funnels.

Automation Funnels

Unless your food company has e-commerce capability, your sales funnels might take a slightly different form than a traditional sales funnel. Every email automation has a basic structure that involves four different email sequences. An email sequence is a timed release of pre-written emails. These four sequences are:

Welcome Sequence

A welcome sequence is always used immediately when a lead signs up for your email list or directly after they are placed on your email list when the incentive they signed up for is delivered. This sequence can be anywhere from two to several emails long. In this stage, you thank them for signing up, tell them about your company story/values, and tell them what they can expect from your communications.

Bridge Sequence

The bridge sequence comes in between the welcome and the pitch sequence. It's commonly used to tie in the incentive the prospect signed up for with the product or service for sale.

For example, a prospect downloads a white paper written by an oven company featuring a new radiant heat technology in their ovens. The bridge sequence would simply feature the new oven with this technology before entering the pitch sequence.

Pitch sequence

The pitch sequence is where your email marketing software starts doing the hard selling for you. It's where you, your team, or a freelancer put their masterful copywriting skills to the test.

Pitch sequences are usually between four to six emails.

1. Main Pitch

The main pitch is a sales letter. It is featuring product/service features and benefits. It will explain the product clearly, directly and will also link back to the sales page.

2. Problem/Solution Email

If they haven't bought it by now, you're going to want to re-emphasize the original problem and how your product solves it in the problem/solution email.

3. Social Proof

The social proof email is where you showcase studies, testimonials, reviews, and ratings that restate how excellent your product/service is.

4. Overcoming Resistance/FAQs

Here you will address common concerns and questions a prospect might have with a product. Links to the FAQs page or featuring top FAQs in the email are helpful. Also, links to other content like blogs that squash concerns are a good idea.

5. Scarcity Email

This email reminds the prospect that the offer, promotion, or product itself that they initially showed interest in won't be around forever.

6. Re-engagement Sequence

If the prospect got through your welcome, bridge, and pitch sequences without converting to a customer, then you start the re-engagement sequence. It is usually about two emails a week apart, casually asking if they are still interested. It should be initiated at least a few weeks after the welcome sequence.

Depending on the nature of your business, if the prospect doesn't show any interest, it's advisable to consider taking them off of your list. Keeping an unengaged customer on your list skews your email marketing data and can cause issues with list management down the line.


Remember that once a prospect converts through a purchase, they're removed from these automations through segmentation. Email marketing software can auto-tag subscribers as customers, so they don't continue receiving automated sales emails.

There's no better way to upset a customer than to continue to pitch them after they buy.

After they become a customer, they can be sent through other promotional sales funnels or just remain on the list to receive the newsletter and other broadcasts.

Why Segment?

According to the Hubspot article, marketers who use segmented campaigns note as much as a 760% increase in revenue. When amassing a list of thousands of people to market directly to, there are two things to keep in mind to communicate with them effectively.

1. Not everyone understands things in the same way.

People absorb information in different ways. Some people appreciate a direct approach in all interactions. While some like analogies, wit, and storytelling. No one way is right, so your emails shouldn't all be sent out in one way.

2. Not everyone understands your business in the same way.

Companies constantly make the mistake of assuming that everyone who signs up for their newsletter knows about their company. Companies put a lot of work into their about us, and home pages with the expectation that a lead will research their company before making their way to the list. This isn't always the case.

There are tons of ways a lead can enter a site without context. Social media, ads, and indirect searches are all examples. They might sign up for your list to get the lead magnet you're offering without understanding what your company does.

This is why welcome and bridge sequences within your email automation are crucial. You can begin segmenting your list within either of those sequences to put them on a path towards an optimized pitch sequence. You can do this simply by asking them for a single click.

For example, say you're a B2B refrigeration company that serves more than one industry. You put out a white paper as a lead magnet. When delivering the document, you can say something like:

"Thank you for downloading our white paper. We hope you find it to be informative. So we can better serve your needs, please tell us a little about yourself."

I'm a small business owner.

I'm a purchaser for a hospitality or restaurant group

I work for a wholesale/distribution company

I work in healthcare and scientific research

With that one email, you've done the most critical email list segmentation you can do.

More Cool Things You Can Do With Segmentation

Your company can go into extreme depth regarding the number of things you can do with email segmentation. So much so that there are entire companies dedicated to it.

So, as to not go on for another hundred pages, I will list some of the things your company might be able to achieve through email list segmentation.

  • Group by demographics

  • Group by customer profile

  • Group by engagement level

  • Group by time on the list

  • Group by geographic region

  • Group by repeat purchase or amount spent

  • Group by estimated re-purchase time

  • Group by content consumed

  • Group by website visits

All of these things are just the tip of the iceberg. I'll let trusty Hubspot go into even more depth if you care to know.

The Big Take-Away

This is a lot of information to take in, especially if you're starting out. However, if you're finally learning that content marketing is more than just slapping a few blogs and videos on your site, then I'm doing my job.

The important thing to remember is that it's almost impossible to have an effective content marketing strategy without some level of email marketing automation.

How deep you want to take it depends on the level of time and resources you are looking to put into it. Even the smallest business can benefit from basic levels of email automation and segmentation.

I would say it is very wise to invest at least some money into it. It shouldn't be too hard if you just remember that 3800% ROI statistic from before.

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