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B2B Email Best Practices

Get More Responses With B2B Emails By Using The Rule of Three

While B2B email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to reach new and existing customers, it only works if they actually read what you send.

Keeping your reader engaged, from the subject line to the call to action, seems like a complicated process.

Actually, you can gain a lot of ground by just following a few simple rules. And since three is a magic number (just ask Schoolhouse Rock!, The Three Little Pigs, or any number of psychological studies), it’s a good idea to approach your content with the correct number of musketeers in mind. Below, we discuss 3 ways to increase response rate for B2B emails.

1. Clear, Concise, and Compelling

Your b2b emails have a purpose. They should get your prospect to take action, and whether or not they do that will depend on your content.

If you want your reader to set up a meeting, purchase a product, or sign up for your service, your email needs to be three things: clear, concise, and compelling. In that order.


Words matter. But your clients shouldn’t need a PhD in linguistics to muddle through your email. It’s the trusty KISS (Keep It Super Simple) strategy. We aren’t suggesting that you talk to your clients like they’re stupid. Just drop the jargon and five-dollar words.

If your writing is clear, your prospect will have no trouble following it from beginning to end. Your goal isn’t to impress anyone with your prose. Your goal is to have the reader understand and take action.


Get to the point. Sure, you want to dive into every nook and cranny of your offering because it’s awesome and will transform their business. But an email isn’t the place to do it. You want to give them just enough information to encourage them to take the next step.

Your writing should be comprehensive but brief. Stay away from filler words, shun excessive adverbs, and avoid the passive voice.

Think haiku, not memoir. Snapchat over full-length feature films. Hemingway over Dickens.


No matter what business you’re in, you have to set yourself apart from your competitors. You won’t get far if your pitch is, “All insurance companies are the same, so why not buy from us?” Ditch your pitch and focus on your “why.”

What do you do that keeps customers coming back over and over? Your service? Your commitment? Your trustworthiness? Whatever it is, it should be apparent in your emails.

Your business may not feel exciting, but there is nothing dull about solving your client’s problems. Certainly not to them. If you’re speaking to the client’s needs, they will want to read all the way to the end.

Compelling doesn’t mean your email should read like it was produced by Michael Bay. But you want to push beyond “Excellent customer service.”

Focus on what actually makes your product or service unique and incorporate it into your content. Be specific and use the words your customers use to describe your company.

2. Hook, Proposition, and Call to Action

If you want your B2B emails to be easy to follow and produce results, it should have three overarching parts: hook, value proposition, and call to action.


The hook draws the readers in. It grabs their attention and holds it. The hook really starts in the subject line, which you should think of as the headline of an article.

A compelling subject line will be specific, urgent, and interesting. It will pique your reader’s curiosity and make it all but inevitable that they click to read more. Then, you have to back up that subject line with stellar content.

Value Proposition:

A great hook doesn’t do you much good if your reader has no idea what your services are. The value proposition is where you explain who you are and what you do. You show the reader why they should choose you over your competitors.

Instead of focusing on features of your product or service, however, you will want to focus on the benefits. For example, promoting a feature, might sound like “We have 24-hour concierge service.”

But the real benefit is that “You save time and stress knowing that an expert is always on hand to guide you. Enjoy your vacation instead of checking your email from the beach every 2 minutes”

Your value proposition should show your prospects that you understand their problems and can deliver the right solutions.

Call to Action:

Don’t leave it up to your reader to guess what to do next. You are the expert here, and you know the best way that you can serve them.

If that means a face-to-face meeting, show them how to set it up. If it means signing up for your service, provide an obvious link.

Your call to action should tell them what the next steps are and eliminate any obstacles that might keep them from taking that action. Remove as much friction as possible so they have a smooth transition to wherever it is you want them to go.

3. Know, Like, and Trust

You’ve likely heard of the know, like, and trust factor, and how it supports business transactions. Your emails are a great way to build up these elements with your potential customers.

While not every email will include all three elements (especially if you stick to the concise suggestion above), you can choose a focus for each email.

A “like” email might be a bit more personal, showing the prospect that you are, in fact, a human and not a robot.

Another email might focus on the “know” element, providing important information about your company’s personality and mission.

And a third email could build your authority and “trust” by showing the prospect how much you understand their current situation.

These elements can be combined, of course, and they are rarely so black and white. But each email should cover at least one of these ideas, even if its purpose is to sell.

Bottom Line

Email is a powerful tool to connect you to your clients, and good ones prevent your prospects from immediately dragging your messages to the trash folder or, even worse, marking them as spam.

By following the above guidelines to increase response rate for B2B emails, you can ensure that your prospects actually look forward to seeing your name pop up in the inbox.

Or, if you want to know everything there is to know about effective email lead generation strategies, download our “Ultimate Guide to Triple Your Sales Meetings” below.

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B2B Leads and the Email Wild West

Lead generation in the B2B space is full of gold mines, quick shots, grifters, fancy tools, and lots of carnage. Ok, maybe it’s more like open rates, click-through percentages, and conversions, but it can be overwhelming trying to make sense of it all.

How do you start? What are some rules of the road? Here are a few ideas on how to navigate this shape-shifting landscape of email lead generation.

Seeing the spectrum

When it comes to marketing to new clients, the different approaches in lead generation are innumerable. But, in general, they fall on a spectrum between two extremes: the handcrafted letter and the automated email.

The handcrafted letter:

Swaths of people romanticize the written letter. They long for a “simpler” time when you made connections by taking out a thick piece of company stationery, pulled out your quill and ink bottle, and set to crafting a long introduction, word by word, letter by letter.

They believe that this personal touch is the only way to truly connect with a client and that b2b sales leads come only through networking and knowing the right people.

There is some truth to this personalized approach, of course, but it isn’t the only way. And it’s certainly not the most efficient.

The automated email:

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the completely automated email, albeit one with tons of bells and whistles.

You open an email and somehow, somewhere, some marketer knew it was your cat’s birthday,  and it looks like Steven Spielberg directed a summer blockbuster about the day you got Mittens. The automated marketing email uses your first name repeatedly in an attempt to sound more human and mentions facts only your mother or your therapist know about you.

But in the end, it all feels sterile–pictures, and motion graphics, and fancy fonts. It’s a lot to digest in your inbox.

The automated approach continues to gain traction because it’s so fast, so convenient. We have access to more and more data, so we have to do something with it, right? Not necessarily.

Navigating through the noise

If you’re at either end of that spectrum, you aren’t reaching clients the way you could with lead generation. Either you’re spending too much time to make a connection with a single lead, or you’re blasting a list of thousands with information that isn’t tailored to their needs, hoping to impress them with animated gifs. Instead, you want to strike a balance.

Use the data; don’t abuse it

We live in the 21st Century. There’s no need to pretend that email doesn’t exist or that marketers don’t have access to reams of data about clients. But there’s a line between using that data to make yourself useful and alienating customers who will find your lead generation approach, well, creepy.

One reason email is still the #1 source for lead generation is because it allows you to tailor the potential client’s journey through awareness and conversion. Your potential client wants to feel like you understand him. He doesn’t want to feel like you’re looking over his shoulder while he’s shopping online.

Be a human

Sometimes, despite all the fancy marketing funnels and automated campaigns, the best option is to pick up the phone or send a truly personalized email. The data can help inform your decisions, but ultimately, you want to make human contact.

Yes, it’s the B2B space. But those businesses are run by real people. And they want to know that you’re a real person too.

Be authentic

Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. At times, it feels like the only way to have clients notice you is to act like you are a giant corporation with everything figured out. But if that isn’t the truth, your clients will find out eventually. And it won’t be good for either of you.

If you aren’t “one of the big guys,” that’s fine. Instead of pretending that you are, embrace your strengths. Take the Jerry Maguire approach and pitch yourself as a nimble agency who dedicates its time to its clients.

If you’re looking for tactical strategies to get more sales meetings for your organization, download our “Ultimate Guide to Triple Sales Meetings” below.

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Best Email Subject Lines for B2B Prospecting

After pouring over metrics, strategizing with your team, and crafting a pitch-perfect copy, your amazing marketing email is almost ready to send. You’ve packed this puppy with emotional content, a smart and engaging CTA, and some fun, interesting photos. It seems perfect. But what about the subject line? Believe it or not, around 50 percent of people choose to read, ignore, or flag emails based solely on the subject line. No matter how perfect your copy is, a single subject line mistake can tank your entire campaign.

So how do you create the perfect subject line? You need something that inspires decision-makers to open, read, and consume your entire email. And you only have a few words to make that happen. Here’s how to win at email marketing with subject lines.

The Surprising Importance of Subject Lines

The average person receives over 120 emails every day. Only 40 of those are business-related. The rest are mostly marketing emails from your competitors. Yeah. That’s a lot of emails. So, it shouldn’t be all-too-surprising that the average open rate for emails (across industries) sits at a meager 16 percent. In other words, the average email gets opened by around 16 out of every 100 prospects you attempt to reach. In the B2C space, this isn’t immediately damaging. But as a B2B company investing in high-quality, highly-vetted leads, reaching less than a quarter of your target audience is a big problem.

You want to engage and nurture every prospect in your pipeline, reaping a tempting 50 percent increase in sales-ready leads along the way. But you can’t nurture someone you can’t reach. Every ignored email is a missed nurturing opportunity. And the moment a prospect categorizes your email as spam, your entire nurturing campaign is on life support.

Here’s the great news: your subject line can prevent leads from marking your email as spam (69 percent of emails are marked spam due to the subject line alone) and tempt them to open your email. Here’s the bad news: most B2B companies struggle to create effective subject lines. They always say don’t judge a book by its cover. Yet over 50 percent of people choose books based on the cover jacket. The same goes for emails. You can write the world’s most conversion-ready email. If no one opens it, it’s the world’s worst email. You have seconds to tempt your prospect to open your email. You need to make them count.

So how do you write a subject line that converts?

How Not to Create an Email Subject Line

For a moment, let’s pretend we’re on a path of self-destruction and loathing. We want to destroy our business, annoy our leads, and fulfill our deepest and darkest fantasies of living in the chilly, icy mountains of remote Canada without a penny to our names. So, how do we write an email subject line so utterly terrible that it eradicates all hope and takes a sledgehammer to our end-of-year revenue?

1. Use A Ton of Words and Unnecessary Prose

Who doesn’t love reading an entire book’s worth of words before they open an email? Research suggests you should keep your subject line under 41 characters and 9 words. Remember, prospects have hundreds of emails to sift through. And the average attention span is around 8 seconds. So, let’s make a 31-word email line stuffed with a bunch of trigger words like URGENT, AMAZING, and BUY NOW. That should do it.

We’re well on our way to digging the remnants of our filing cabinets out of the rubble that used to be our business.


How can we possibly make our email stand out? Wait! What if we used caps lock to capitalize every word? It would be like we were right next to our customers, screaming sweet nothing’s gently into their ears. In fact, a single capped word drops response rates by over 15 percent. So, if we cap the entire subject line, virtually no one will read our email. Better yet, they’ll probably flag it as spam — forever dooming our emails to life in the dusty, rotting corners of the never-read spam folder.

3. Bringing out the Buzzwords

Every industry is dripping with buzzwords and acronyms, so let’s shove those in our subject line. “Are you ready to boost your ROI with IoT and ML tech stack point solutions?”

Wait… what is ML again? And what’s the difference between a point solution and a normal solution? Who knows! Who cares! Email subject lines’ sole purpose is to showcase our niche knowledge of the industry we’re in — not to inform and grab attention.

4. Abuse Trigger Words

Did you know that emails with the word “free” are opened 10% more often? Makes sense. Who doesn’t love free stuff? So, let’s shove the word free in the subject line without actually giving the user any free stuff. I’m sure our customers will absolutely love it when we game the system. Who wouldn’t be downright thrilled to read an email that has nothing to do with the subject line?

How to Write Winning Subject Lines

Jokes aside, writing an email subject line is challenging. There are terrible strategies like the ones above, but most companies simply fail to secure open rates because their subject lines are boring, lengthy, and emotionally void. Here are 4 tips for creating world-class subject lines.

1. Personalize Based on Existing Data and Lead Behavior

Personalization is one of the single most powerful tools in the marketing arsenal, and emails are no different. 74 percent of marketers say personalization increases email engagement rates, and personalized emails increase transactional rates by 600 percent. In fact, personalized emails generate an average ROI of 122 percent. So, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that emails with personalized subject lines see 26 percent higher open rates.

You should use existing customer data to perform baseline personalization. This can be something as simple as adding a name or as complicated as using past behavior to craft the line. For example, you could trigger a personalized email when a user downloads your whitepaper. A few weeks later, you can send an email with a subject line reminding them of that action.


  • Hey John. How have you been?
  • Ready to learn more about personalized email marketing? Hint: this is based on a content consumption trigger

2. Use Click-worthy Keywords When They Make Sense

There are plenty of high-value keywords that boost open rates. Some examples include: Welcome, First Name, Urgent, Weekend Only, Sale, Special

Some of these keywords invoke FOMO, some build personalization-centric trust, and trigger savings-based instincts. But you should only use them if they make sense in the context of your email. Never use the word Sale in your subject line if there isn’t a sale. And definitely don’t use urgent unless the email is urgent (in the context of your business).

Every niche has different click-worthy keywords, and you may need to do some A/B testing to discover which words work best for your prospects.


  • Urgent! Our 5-day sale ends tomorrow
  • Welcome to the future of marketing

3. Keep It Short

In a world where marketers are constantly battling to find the next catchy phrase, luring subject line, and emotional trigger, going back to the basics can be a refreshing change of pace for prospects. Remember, most prospects are used to opening work emails with very basic subject lines. So, many associate these short subject lines with importance. In other words, most marketing emails are clever. In turn, many customers associate clever and catchy phrases with marketing content. Short and simple can make your content seem more important and less “salesy.” This is backed up by some lengthy research. Mailchimp found short and sweet subject lines to be the single most effective at garnering opens.


  • Thanks!
  • Enjoy the content
  • We’ve just updated

4. Be Emotional

It’s a common misconception that B2B marketing should be bland and business-centric. Between finding decision-makers, dealing with purchasing committees, and navigating the world of third-party consultants, B2B marketing can feel very suit-and-tie. But it’s not. According to Google, B2B buyers are 50 percent more likely to buy a product/service if they see the personal value, and they’re 8x more likely to pay a premium.

Your subject line is the perfect place to invoke emotions. Happiness, fear (of missing out), and excitement are all perfect subject line emotions.


  • Don’t miss this new deal!
  • We loved hearing from you John
  • You have a problem John

Want to Build World-class Email Campaigns?

Email marketing is hard. You have hundreds of competitors flooding your high-value decision-makers with content. You need to stand out. At Sapper, we help companies build intelligent marketing campaigns using automation, sales enablement, and industry-leading email strategies. Contact us to learn more.

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