All In The Email Family: B2B Vs. B2C Creative

We loved Loren McDonald's April 8 column, "What B2B and B2C Marketers Can Learn from Each Other," which covered the gamut of strategic differences and similarities for B2B and B2C marketers to consider. After Lisa's B2B vs. B2C "Family Feud" panel session at the Email Insider Summit, we thought it would be fun to offer a follow-up that puts a creative spin on the same topic, with help from our fabulous EIS panelists. Major shout-outs go to Jennifer Davis of IHG (B2C), Amber-Marie Jacquez of CareCredit (B2B) and Kris Zimmerman of Under Armour (B2C) for their awesome insights -- you guys rock!

Differences: Where B2B and B2C Have Their Own Family Traits



Balancing Copy and Imagery

While lots of lovely images and minimal copy can boost click-through and engagement for B2C audiences, B2B subscribers -- who increasingly check their email from mobile devices -- respond to no-frills creative that prioritizes copy over imagery.

Our panelists were kind enough to show us how their brands balance copy and imagery in a few of their emails. Under Armour's B2C email features attention-grabbing photos in the hero, with big product images filling out the grid below. The pictures help make the sell because they invite subscribers to see themselves as the athletes -- wearing Under Armour clothing, of course. In contrast, CareCredit's B2B message is copy-heavy, with simpler imagery meant to add a little interest to the design and to connect with the message's target audience on a realistic level.

While the balance differs between B2B and B2C messages,  both kinds of emails rely on the interaction between graphics and copy to get their message across -- and both approaches look great.

Considering Mobile Rendering

With smartphones becoming popular across the board, B2B marketers need to be especially mindful that many business folks read their email on mobile devices. When working in the B2B space, be sure to include links to easy-to-read text versions, and/or lay out your messages in such a way that readers can get the essential info without clicking through.

With the emergence of more smartphones that can effectively render HTML messages, marketers in both spaces may even consider creating HTML email versions specifically for mobile devices, as Apple does in this B2B email. Sent to a targeted audience of business owners, the message is just 300 pixels wide -- only half the width of a regular promotional email -- which means that it's easier to read on an iPhone.

Similarities: Where The Families Come Together

Building Frameworks for Dynamic Design

Whether you work in the B2B or B2C space, you can build an email creative framework that extends across different messaging types, allowing you to keep your templates consistent and recognizable. Plus, dynamic design adds room for creative  freshness without constant wheel-reinvention.

Think of dynamic, modular emails as bento boxes: you have a primary dish and little secondary dishes. Each one is quite separate visually, and each one could be a good starting point depending on what you feel like for your meal... er, message.

This Salesforce promotional B2B email and this IHG Holiday Inn Express B2C email newsletter bring the bento box philosophy to life, featuring one big message along with submessages that could be removed, added to or rearranged depending on the purpose of the email. As Jennifer from IHG explained, "The nice thing is that these modules are interchangeable. Since they're the same dimensions, we can use our...knowledge of the person with all the data we collect to populate offers that are specific and relevant to them."

 Venturing Beyond "Best Practices"

Email creative best practices are almost always a great starting place for success for B2B and B2C marketers, but it's important to take a look at what creative moves make the most sense for your unique brand. There may be aspects of your entire email program that go against the grain, or there might just be special occasions that give you a chance to try new ideas.

During the EIS panel discussion, Kris Zimmerman offered some insight into ways that Under Armour pushes the limits in terms of copy-image balance best practices when she said, "We are all about showing you who you want to be and who we feel is Under Armour. So regardless of what that balance should be, we're always going to lean a little bit over the edge." This B2C email from Uncommon Goods swings this same idea back the other way, relying on a lot of copy for a B2C message (though with a fun play on words, if you will...).

Another example is the use of horizontal-scrolling messaging that a handful of brands have tried over the past year or so. This past winter, the EEC delivered a fun horizontal-scrolling holiday message for its B2B audience, and the L.A. Times  sent this email to introduce a site redesign. The message -- "See your times in a new way" -- fits the experimental format perfectly.

One Big Happy Family: It's All About the "WIIFM"

Amber Jacquez was right-on when she said, "It's always about the 'WIIFM'- the 'what's in it for me' for the subscriber. I get them for two seconds a day. If they don't feel it's relevant, it's done. They're not going to read my email."  Whether we work in the B2B or the B2C space, we all need to remember that an email exchange should feel like a person-to-person conversation between brand and subscriber. Any time you can make another step toward tailoring your email to your readers' interests, you're going to come out ahead, no matter who your readers are.

In fact, rather than thinking of two separate families, we'd probably be better off thinking of B2B and B2C as two big branches of the same family tree. For all of us, there is no best practice more important than making a connection.

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