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B2B Email Prospecting vs B2B Email Marketing

Dec 29, 2021 | Entrepreneurship

What is the difference?

For me, it’s simple. Email Prospecting is a sales activity and Email Marketing is a marketing activity. Ok, so let me elaborate further…

Email Prospecting is a highly targeted and pro-active sales engagement exercise, whereby you aim to personally connect and have a dialogue with a decision maker or an influencer, on a one-to-one level, within a company that you could do business with. Prospecting emails are also regular text-based business emails sent from an individual’s work email address directly to the prospect’s work email address.

Email Marketing is a brand building and a product/service awareness exercise to remind a specific audience that a.) your company exists, b.) what you have to offer and c.) how you can help. It can also be a very effective tactical sales tool to your existing customer base, where you may have a special offer to communicate. Email Marketing isn’t about engaging in direct conversation between two people, although that could be a potential outcome. Marketing emails are typically HTML (or image-based) emails, sent from a generic marketing email address (i.e., marketing@yourcompany.com) direct to a decision maker or influencer.

Should I do both?

In short, absolutely yes!

As a small business, closing sales is your life blood and without sales you will fail quickly. Email Prospecting is the fast-track method to initiating one-to-one sales conversations and should always be your primary strategy. Why? Because as long as you know what type of companies your ideal clients are (i.e. law firms) and the profile of the decision maker that you wish to initiate a sales conversation with (i.e. Marketing Manager), then Email Prospecting is a very quick, affordable and highly targeted way to build up a database, begin engagement and initiate sales conversations.

Important tip to improve your sales: Always remember that Email Prospecting is just the first stage of the sales process, and that you will never (or very rarely) close a sale over email. Once you have built up a database of ideal companies you can sell to and you’ve engaged in email conversation with the ideal profile of decision maker, you need to move the conversation from written to verbal as quickly as possible. Whether that’s through a phone call, video call or a face-to-face meeting, establishing that personal human connection and building rapport with the prospect, is a key success factor of progressing and closing a sale.

Then, once you’ve made that personal connection, Email Marketing is a great way to regularly remind your prospect (or hopefully then a customer) that you still exist and to also communicate tactical offers through attractive eye-catching, brand-building designs. Email Marketing should always be your secondary email strategy; however, you need to be aware of GDPR and understand how you can remain compliant.

How does GDPR play a role in my email strategy?

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was created by the European Union to regulate how companies store and use the personal data of individual EU Citizens that interact with them, ultimately providing greater protection and rights to the individual. Although GDPR is specifically an EU initiative, the general principles of GDPR are now being taken into law by other governments around the world. GDPR also affects any company wherever they are in the world, if they are doing business with EU companies. From a UAE perspective, a recent announcement was made stating that in early 2022, the UAE will be implementing a similar law to GDPR to protect the personal data of its citizens and residents.

Disclaimer: I’m not going to profess to being a GDPR expert, nor should you consider this article as advice. If you require advice on GDPR, then you should contact a lawyer and ask questions about your specific case. You can treat this article as some practical tips and general awareness of the principles of GDPR, which I have learnt and implemented into my own business to ensure we remain fully compliant.

One question I get asked a lot is, “Does GDPR permit me to send a cold email to someone?”. The answer is absolutely yes, because GDPR wasn’t established to govern emails – it was established to protect an individual’s personal data. There are, however, some guidelines for both Email Prospecting and Email Marketing, that you should follow to remain compliant:

Email Prospecting

1. Have legitimacy for contacting the prospect. You should undertake thorough research on the company and the prospect that you are about to reach out to, to ensure it is entirely reasonable that a.) the company the prospect works for could see value in buying your product or service, and b.) the person is the right profile of person that could initiate that discussion. Legitimacy will be the legal basis that you have to send someone a cold email without their prior consent.

2. Only use the prospect’s work email address. There are techniques that some agencies use to scrape people’s social media accounts to find an email address; however, these are typically their personal email addresses, i.e., Gmail, Yahoo, etc. Never use a prospect’s personal email address in your prospecting campaign – this is also more professional.

3. Add a disclaimer at the end of your email, which makes it clear to the recipient that you are processing their personal data. The disclaimer should cover the following:

  • Explain why you are processing it, i.e., explain in the disclaimer that you are reaching out to them as you believe their company could see value in your product or service and you believe that they are the right contact person to speak to about it.
  • Explain what personal data you are processing, i.e., their name, designation and work email address.
  • Explain what they can do to change their data or request you to remove it from your database, i.e., you could say something as simple as “Please feel free to reply to me if you would like to amend your data or request it to be removed.” For a B2B business email, you don’t need to add an unsubscribe option. This is a tool typically used in marketing emails.

4. Lastly, you should not store the personal details of your unresponsive cold prospects for longer than is necessary. GDPR currently doesn’t stipulate a time span for this. However, we choose to not store their data for longer than 30 days. At the end of the day, if they’re unresponsive, then why store it!

Email Marketing

As I explained earlier in this article, in terms of the legal basis, there is a marked difference between sending a business email from one individual to another individual (a prospecting email), where legitimate interest can be determined, to then sending a generic email from a company to an individual (marketing email).

GDPR requires that the consent to send marketing emails has to be freely given by the prospect, be specific, informed, unambiguous and provided by some form of clear affirmative action from their side. In other words, your prospect or customer must’ve opted in to receiving marketing emails from you and done so by some form of affirmative action like ticking an opt-in box. If you send a marketing email to somebody that hasn’t opted in to receiving it, then this contravenes GDPR.

In order to build a valuable B2B database of prospects that is GDPR-compliant, that you can freely market to, you could consider working this into the content of your prospecting emails. Ultimately, Email Prospecting, if articulated well, can help you build trust and begin engaging sales conversations quickly. Once that trust is there, the opportunity to convince a prospect to opt in to receiving further updates from your company would be markedly easier.

Julian Danby
CEO & Founder
Top Up Your Funnel

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