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How to write a human B2B marketing email (with template)
Author : Stephanie Joy Hubbard
Posted : 21 / 07 / 22
We are constantly bombarded with emails, messages, notifications and information every second of our waking lives – in our personal lives and at work.
But what if it’s your job to pique someone’s interest enough at work that they’ll carve out a little piece of attention for you and your message? It’s no easy task.
This article explores everything I’ve learned about business-to-business (B2B) marketing emails after five years of writing (and many more of receiving) them. Spoiler alert: the good ones are more human-to-human than business-to-business.
A B2B company’s marketing efforts will naturally be aimed at engaging their prospective customers – the companies that are likely to be a good fit for their products and services.
A key part of that strategy will be the marketing emails they send to subscribers and contacts at those potential client companies. These emails may also be to re-engage current or previous customers.
Your B2B marketing emails can have different purposes and take different forms. For example, some will be functional and sales related, like announcing a new product, an offer or discount. Others will be less related to sales and more editorial – sending company updates, the latest blog posts and newsletters to keep people engaged.
Whatever kind of B2B marketing email you’re writing and whatever its purpose, there are some key things you can do to get it opened, read and acted on.
How you structure and order the information in any email is critical for its success.
When you start creating your email, think about the messaging hierarchy – what should come first, second and third. Assume that people won’t read the page in order. Generally, people scan titles, headings, images and button or link copy to find the content they care about.
A simple copywriting format for writing in a marketing and sales context is this:
Headline → hook → body copy → offer → call to action
This format might be all you need for a short email: for example, if you’re sending a time-sensitive offer or discount.
But for something editorial that’s longer and more detailed, there’s a journalistic format you can use to help guide your reader and keep them interested.
The ‘inverted pyramid’ model in writing is a framework journalists use in newspapers and magazines to capture a reader’s interest. It looks like this:
Click image to enlarge in new tab
This model is useful for writing emails for the same reason it works in news stories: you have mere moments to persuade a reader to read on.
Here are eight tips on using the inverted pyramid method as a basis for your B2B marketing emails:
[Use our free B2B marketing email template for an easy and actionable way to put this model into practice and structure your next marketing email.]
Let’s go through best practice for every stage and section of a B2B marketing email, from planning to sign-off.
By its nature, email is a ‘push’ format. If you have a person’s email address, you can push whatever message you want to them rather than waiting for them to ‘pull’ your content in. But this can lead to emails feeling cold and impersonal – it’s more about what you want to say than what the recipient wants or needs to hear.
A helpful way to combat this is simply to move the mindset away from ‘pushing out’ emails. Think about creating something genuinely worth people’s time.
Taking an editorial approach, similar to how a magazine might write, will help you to make more valuable emails. Think of topics and themes related to your business that your audience will find useful, entertaining or informative. This will also help with your engagement.
Two things you need to have clear in your mind before you start writing are your marketing goal and audience for this email. Identifying the goal you’re hoping to achieve will help you craft an irresistible CTA for the email too. More on that later.
Whatever your marketing goal – whether it’s leads, sales, engagement, sign-ups or simply starting a conversation – think about your audience when you write. If you only think about what you want to say, you won’t write something compelling.
It’s a good idea to write your marketing goal and a synopsis of your audience at the top of your copywriting document. If you’re briefing someone else, write these two things in the brief, so the purpose and audience are top of mind at all times.
Based on what you know about the audience, consider where they’ll be when they receive the email. Think about the likely shape of their day and how they’ll be feeling when they see your email in their inbox. Decide when you’ll send the email based on this.
For example, Monday is generally a busy day for most working people – certainly for those with a traditional working week. So avoid sending on a Monday to make sure your message doesn’t get lost in a sea of other emails.
In a crowded inbox, the subject line has a vital job to do. It’s the reason someone will either open or ignore your email. In many ways, the subject line is the most important part of your B2B email. So don’t make it easy to overlook.
Here’s how to optimise yours:
As well as making the subject line compelling and clickable, make sure it’s also readable. If someone is checking their inbox on a mobile phone, what they see of the subject line may be cut short. So keep it as short as you can.
The number of words a reader will see depends on the device they’re using and other factors like how zoomed in they are and what email provider they use. Try to stay under 40 characters, or around 6–8 words.
If you’ve seen a verb a thousand times before, so has your reader. Try swapping out any ‘doing’ words that are dull and overused for something more evocative and unusual.
Read our latest blog on how AI is changing copywriting → Discover how AI is transforming copywriting
Watch the recording of the latest webinar → Relive the latest webinar
Book a chat with one of our experts → Explore what’s possible with [product/service]
Try replacing literal words with a more metaphorical approach to bring your copy to life.
Increase your leads in 5 easy steps → Grow your leads in 5 easy steps
A year in review → Looking back, looking forward
The new place to keep your files safe → The new home to keep your files safe
You should know enough about your audience to be able to echo their pain points or queries back at them in a subject line. Using this technique will also help you preemptively answer any questions customers may have about your product or offering.
Using a person’s first name in a subject line is a common personalisation technique. But it often seems disingenuous.
People know that you only have their name because they filled in a data-capture form at some point, so it doesn’t make your email seem any more personal. Even more important: think about emails you send people you actually know in real life. Do you ever use their first name in the subject line? No. You just write a subject line to introduce the topic like a human.
So instead, write subject lines that seem like a follow-on of a conversation to make them feel personal.
Rather than sending sporadic and unconnected mailouts, you can give your email a higher purpose by making it part of a series. For example, if you regularly publish content on your blog, you could do a monthly or quarterly newsletter rounding up the posts and give it a snappy title.
Pro tip: Don’t use the word ‘newsletter’ in your subject line. People don’t want newsletters, they want inspiration, entertainment and ideas.
Here are three subject line examples from consumer-intelligence company Brandwatch. They publish their serialised Brandwatch Bulletin weekly. They use it to demonstrate how their social-listening platform can show data about relevant and interesting topics:
If you don’t publish your own content regularly, you could think of a theme relevant to your industry and customers and curate a newsletter of other people’s content.
For example, if you’re an HR training provider, you could collect news stories about wellness at work, inspiring case studies from different workplaces and updates about what’s happening around the world. Package it up as a monthly newsletter for current and potential customers to keep them engaged and show your company is at the cutting edge and engaged with the industry at large.
While including first names in the subject line can seem disingenuous, including first names in the greeting is good.
Your email provider or customer relationship management tool (CRM) will give you options to automatically add a customer’s name into the text: this often looks like ‘Hello [First name]’. But it pays to think about your brand tone of voice and switch it up from email to email so your greetings don’t get stale over time.
Here are some ideas for keeping your greetings fresh:
Try sending time-related greetings, but be sure you’re scheduling your sends according to the recipients’ time zones.
These greetings echo the kind you’d send to a personal contact.
Writing like a human – not a B2B robot – means really thinking about the reader. Consider how you can make it easier and more enjoyable for them to read. Here are a few tips to help you do that. The bonus? They’ll make your emails more successful too.
Use more full stops. And use fewer commas. More full stops means shorter sentences that are easy to absorb. Using lots of commas means long, complicated, difficult sentences that can go on and on without really saying much, losing the reader along the way.
Saying less gives what you write more meaning. As marketing pioneer Maurice Saatchi said, ‘If you can’t reduce your argument to a few crisp words and phrases, there’s something wrong with your argument.’
People read left to right (in the vast majority of languages). Align your text to the left so your copy is positioned to match. This allows you to pull the reader’s eye down the page, so they’re more likely to read more of your email.
Have confidence in your offering so your reader does too. Here are a few techniques to show this in your writing:
1. Swap ‘help’ for ‘how’.
‘We can help you optimise your SEO’ → ‘This is how you optimise your SEO’
2. Swap ‘a’ for ‘the’.
‘We are a training provider for ambitious marketers’ → ‘We are THE training provider for ambitious marketers’
3. Swap ‘we believe’ for ‘should’.
‘We believe in a sustainable future for all’ → ‘A sustainable future should be accessible for all’
The best B2B marketing emails feel more human-to-human than business-to-business. Here’s how to create them, via @EmphasisWriting Click To Tweet
Repetition creates rhythm. Rhythm creates memory. You should have one key point to make in each email. Make sure you make it early, clearly and concisely. It should be obvious in your subject line, your headline or intro and throughout your body copy.
Consistency is also key to getting your brand tone of voice across. Your tone of voice is how you sound in the customer’s mind, so make sure you keep it consistent across all emails you send. Your recipients should always be able to recognise the tone of voice as your brand’s.
For more on creating a brand tone of voice, check out this article.
People want to save themselves time. They don’t care if the software you’re selling has your ‘most efficient programming functionality yet’. Focus on what the features mean for customers rather than simply what the features are.
This quick and concise reframe is good for getting to the value each product or service feature has:
What it does → What benefit does this deliver for customers? Think about how it will make them feel or what positive impact it will have on their lives.
Connecting you with your peers → Get inspired by like-minded people
Increase your page 1 keywords → Attract high-quality and relevant leads
Faster and more powerful API → Save time and effort / Quickly achieve XYZ
A good hook in an email does exactly what it sounds like it will: gets hold of your reader and reels them in. Get to your hook as swiftly as you can. And when it comes to a really effective email hook, nothing beats a good data point or piece of social proof.
As much as I’d love to tell you that you can persuade your audience to part with their cash through your beautiful words alone, it’s unlikely. People like cold, hard data points and they want to know other people have made the same decision before them. So, to make sure your hook is perfectly baited, find some data points that are directly relevant to your audience and make it the first thing you say in your email.
You can find interesting data points about a company’s web traffic using SEO tools like Google Analytics, SEMrush and Ahrefs.
‘I noticed your website ranks #5 for [keyword]. Would you like to get it to #1?’
Focus on data points that are relevant to your business and that you believe you can deliver for the customer.
‘You could grow 25% with a referral programme.’
‘You could cut your outgoings by £X with [product/service name].’
‘We match you to high-profile clients in seconds.’
Social proof is another powerful tool for creating a hook.
‘So far, we’ve taught 2,000 businesses how to grow their audience on social media.’
Or you could include a pithy client testimonial:
‘Lucinda Shaw, Head of Marketing for EasiLogic, said working with us is “like driving with a sat nav – you know you’ll get to where you want to be”.’
Your call to action (or CTA) should be the climax of your email – the very purpose for it to exist in the first place.
To make sure your CTA is ultra-clickable, follow these pointers:
For more on writing the perfect CTA for your marketing goal, this article has it all.
A good way to sign off your email without closing the door on the conversation is to ask a question at the end to prompt a response. People love to give opinions, so asking for their thoughts on your offering is a good way to encourage interaction, without asking for commitment:
So, instead of ‘Let me know if this is something you’d be interested in,’ try ‘Thoughts?’
If your goal is to set up a one-to-one chat, rather than being passive, ask a specific question that requires a response:
For example, not ‘Looking forward to speaking soon’, but ‘Are you free on Tuesday at 10am for a 15-minute chat?’
After you’ve included a question, sign off in a way that’s appropriate for the tone of the email. For example, if it’s a cold email, take the opportunity to introduce yourself on a personal level again by including your full name, job title and perhaps the handle of your LinkedIn profile.
These sign-offs are good for a B2B setting, before adding your name:
Again, choose the tone that best suits your email and your business’s voice.
In a B2B context, the email’s design should always help, not hinder, communication. Any graphics, photography or visuals should only be there to illustrate your point better. Images are great. But they should be used sparingly so you don’t slow down the download speed. As the saying goes, a picture should be worth a thousand words. If it isn’t, ditch it.
Here are a few B2B email design best practice tips:
More from Storythings now, to illustrate an example of a great B2B email.
Storythings is a content agency that sells creative content ideas and executions to brands. Their newsletter is excellent because the focus is on creating something truly valuable for the reader during their working day.
Here are three things we can learn from them:
Here is an email subject line from Storythings:
This particular email marks a milestone – they’re celebrating ten years of being an agency. This is already an important thing to share with current and potential customers, showing themselves to be an established, experienced partner. But they also use the milestone creatively, as a theme for commissioning global writers to come up with stories imagining a future in 2031.
This is a wonderfully rich and powerful way to celebrate their achievement, as well as communicating to customers the kind of creativity they both value and provide.
Here’s the body of Storythings’ email:
A header image might be all you need to keep your email dynamic yet simple, so you can focus on communicating in a clear and concise way.
Note the short sentences in the intro text of the newsletter and the simple language throughout. This helps readers scan the text quickly and easily.
Here is Storythings’ sign-off CTA:
When it comes to signing off, Storythings have it down. They use an approachable tone to list their services and reasons you might need them. And they use text-link CTAs to weave in their ‘get in touch’ messaging. This creates a natural and low-pressure conversational style.
Finally, here’s an example to show you what not to do.
Don’t use false friendliness as a tactic to make people open your email. If you don’t know the person, don’t pretend you do. No surprise: I didn’t open this email. I have literally never spoken to this person in my life.
I hope this article will help guide you the next time you have a marketing email to write. My final piece of advice is this: always lean into a natural and human style as much as you can.
The temptation with any B2B writing is to err on the side of formality because you’re in a professional environment. But sometimes this can mean our writing sounds cold and distant at best, and robotic at worst. When you’re selling to a person, talk to them like a human being – without the ‘business’ cloak. Ultimately, people (yes, even business people!) buy things from people they like.
Remember to grab your template for structuring effective and human B2B emails. And if you’re looking for training to help your team write the emails themselves, get in touch with our team for a chat.
Image credit: fizkes / Shutterstock
Stephanie is a senior content consultant who advises clients on all areas of their digital content – from social media and influencers to big creative campaigns. Her background is in social media and marketing, having previously been head of marketing for fashion brand American Apparel, as well as working for start-up social media app HeyHub.
Stephanie shares her expertise in making an impact online as a guest author on the Emphasis blog.
Posted by: Stephanie Joy Hubbard
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