Email remains one of the most effective channels for reaching prospects and customers for B2B marketers. In fact, there is a good chance you’re reading this blog post because you saw it mentioned in what is probably our most effective marketing channel: the Napier Newsletter (sign up to Napier News on our blogs page if you’re not already a subscriber!). Getting the best results from email, however, can be a challenge.

We’ve worked with a wide range of companies in the B2B technology space for many years, and have learnt how to create great emails from our experience. Here are some tips that will help you create emails that deliver results.

Be clear about your goal: it’s critical that you are clear about what action you want to result from your email. Do you want the recipient to click and read a blog post, reply to your email or complete a form to download content? To be effective, emails should have just one goal (OK, newsletters can try to get people to click to read multiple stories, but the click & read goal should be consistent). Thinking about the goal is part of the first step of our four-step process to developing great marketing campaigns.

Design your email to achieve your goal: it’s so tempting, and so wrong, to try to get your email to do multiple things. Don’t: it will just make it less effective. Concentrate on getting your email to achieve the one goal you have set, and don’t offer your recipients too many options.

Consider your audience: different audiences have different levels of knowledge about you and your product, and probably very different perceptions too. They’ll also be at different stages of the customer journey. In general, it’s not a good idea to send the same email to a   customer that you’d send to cold prospects, as they are starting from very different places. So, write the email to meet the needs of your audience, and consider writing different emails for different audience segments.

Be respectful of your audience’s time: be brief and get to the point. You know that when you’re processing email, you want to get through it as quickly as possible, and the same is true for your audience. So don’t waste their time with long, rambling copy.

Consistency is key: yes, staying on brand can be boring, but it’s important that your audience recognises the email as being from you without having to look at the from address or footer. The more consistent you can be, the more effective your email marketing will be in the long term. But don’t feel you need to be dull – you can always have fun within your brand guidelines.

Don’t try to be too clever: I’ve mentioned that you need to understand that your audience is trying to get through their email quickly. An obtuse subject line that needs the recipient to stop and think to work out what it is saying or get some clever joke or pun is unlikely to be successful. Make your copy direct and clear and save clever headlines for the editors of tabloid newspapers.

Personalise when it makes sense: personalisation is great, but it’s really effective when it helps the recipient. The biggest difference can be made when there is something you can do to make the email more valuable through personalisation. This doesn’t have to be hugely complicated: for example, if you have an audience that covers different industries, simply providing case studies, examples or even copy that is personalised to the recipient’s market will almost always improve performance.

Use the technology: your company has almost certainly invested in marketing technology tools, so make use of them. In particular CRMs and marketing automation platforms will help you personalise content and add relevant information.

Be sure you have high-quality data: it’s obviously important to have high-quality data for basic fields like email address and first name. But it’s also important for the fields you use for personalisation. For example, if you have poor-quality industry data for your contacts, attempts to personalise will be less effective, and in the worst case could produce poorer results. Love, nurture and care for your data: it’s just so valuable!

Make your copy sound like it’s from a human: most recipients will be much more likely to engage with content that feels like it’s from a human, rather than an AI employed by the marketing team (or even a marketer writing cookie-cutter copy). So don’t get hung up on being formal and formulaic: write the copy as if you were writing an email to a real person.

Spend time on the subject line: if your email doesn’t get opened, no one is going to take action. As the subject line usually has the biggest impact on whether an email is read or not, really do spend time getting it right. Don’t forget you’re trying to get an overworked recipient who just wants to get through their email to stop and not just delete your email, so make sure they feel there is a real benefit to them to give up the time it will take to read your email.

Ignore the fact that subject lines of x characters are most effective: you’ve almost certainly seen the research that says that having a subject line of a certain length is most effective (or a certain number of words in the body copy, or…). These studies are interesting and should provide some sort of guide, but the impact of an extra character or ten is normally negligible. Great copy will always produce better results than the “optimum” character count.

Don’t feel there is only one day/time to send your email: there are endless studies showing the “best” day or time to send emails. They’re so popular because the data is so easy to get, not necessarily because it matters. These studies don’t just look at your audience and often make a big deal about small differences. Think about your audience and send at a time that will work best for them. Oh, and don’t forget to test different days and times!

Remember it’s an email, not a prize-winning novel: write short sentences, don’t have long paragraphs and use bullets or other techniques to make the text easier to read. You’re not getting paid by the word, so keep it short and in a format that is easy to read.

Don’t be that “sales email”: we’ve all read those emails whose copy is like a pushy salesperson. In B2B, at least the vast majority of B2B, sales are considered and generally involve a buying committee (DMU). So present reasons for choosing your product in a way that your recipients would do in their organisation and avoid tacky sales copy.

Don’t be afraid to create scarcity: making something scarce can work for some products. If you’re trying to get someone to select you for a major building project that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, you’re not going to succeed by offering a “limited time discount”, but a flash sale can be a great way to get an engineer to finally buy that development kit that they have been thinking about for the past six months.

Proof your email: there are a lot of marketing emails that get sent with typos. At best the typo might be distracting, at worst it could negatively impact your brand while making the email completely ineffective. So, make sure you, or even better someone else, proofs the copy.

Make use of preview text: we’re all guilty of judging emails by their preview text, so make use of customised text to sell the email contents in the best light possible.

Think about your “from”: the from address does matter. It’s generally better to send from a person than a generic email (i.e. try to avoid using addresses like

Don’t feel you need fancy HTML layouts: some of our most effective email campaigns have been plain text. No layout, no images and nothing fancy. Just plain text. In fact, if you really want your audience to feel like someone in your company is talking to them personally, then plain text can be one of the most effective ways of making an email feel personal.

Have a clear CTA and repeat it: I mentioned earlier that it’s important to have one goal. This usually means one CTA (newsletters are one exception). Make that CTA clear. And don’t be afraid to repeat it: often emails with a CTA in the body text as a link and then separately as a button are more effective than those with just one CTA.

You don’t always need to gate content, unless…: fortunately it doesn’t happen often, but we do see emails sent through marketing automation platforms that link to content behind forms. You know who has clicked, and often this is enough: you don’t need to put forms in their way. However, there could be good reasons to do this if you want to clean or enhance your data, but consider using progressive profiling and hiding as many fields as you can.

Do a lot of testing: you think you know what will resonate with your audience. You’re probably wrong. It’s amazing how many times we find the copy that our clients – or even our digital experts – thought would work best comes second in an AB test. Use your instincts, but always test and be prepared to be proved wrong!

Consistency really is key!: it’s not just about being consistent with your brand, good email campaigns are not one-offs. If you’re communicating with your audiences frequently, you’ll get better results than if you only send emails when you have time. Don’t forget that the right frequency will almost certainly be different for different audience segments, and this is particularly the case for customers and cold prospects, who will welcome very different volumes of email from you.

Be careful how you use the data: email stats are very unreliable. Whether it’s that anti-track measures (such as those in Apple Mail) generate opens for all emails received, even if they are never read, or phantom clicks caused by malware filters, your email stats do not present anything close to the full story. So always use stats with caution, and try to use real outcomes (e.g. measuring meaningful visits to your website or form-fills rather than opens and clicks). RoI is often the best approach, and you can use our marketing RoI calculator to either forecast or measure the return of your email campaign.

Understand randomness: personally, I loved statistics at school and university. But I’m weird. Most people don’t love nor understand it. This is a problem because randomness can do strange things. Just because “A” produced better results in an AB test, doesn’t necessarily mean that it was better: it could be random. So, try to learn a little about statistics and probability so you can have a better chance of knowing if you are making decisions that are based on real differences or just luck. Alternatively, visit our AB Test Analyser to have the hard work done for you!

If the email isn’t opened, the recipient didn’t read it: this is obvious, but every now and then we hear people talking about changing the body copy to improve open rates. This makes no sense. The from address, the subject and the preview text are the things that affect the open rate.


I hope these tips are useful. If you have any approaches that have helped you generate better results, please post them in the comments or email me at