Let’s talk about email. For many businesses, it’s either a love it or hate it approach to marketing. At this point, many of us are already familiar with the claim that email produces a $38 ROI for every dollar spent but ask around a little bit and individual answers to the ROI question range from enthusiastic to a sigh and an eyeroll. With so many mixed emotions, how is an agency supposed to know if investing in email marketing is really worth it?

This brings us directly to the doorstep of the current state of email marketing. While some agencies find email to be ineffective, the fact is that email still remains an incredible marketing tool, especially for B2B agencies where email is the third most influential source for delivering information and has a 47% higher CTR rate than for B2C businesses.

To help new and growing agencies get more in touch with the effectiveness and benefits of email marketing, we’ve reached out to a few of our agency partners to learn how they optimize their email campaigns for success.

Why Agencies Should Use Email Marketing

You already know that marketing is all about engagement and getting the customer to “click” is the first step to moving them through the sales funnel. But, as a B2B operation, your agency is appealing to customers who are also on the business side of things, and this means some of the traditional tactics of marketing might as well be tossed out the window.

Email marketing helps agencies engage with clients on a more personal level and can put your services in their line of sight right when they need them. This sounds easy enough, but it’s not at all uncommon for agencies to face challenges in their own email marketing attempts. When asked if their agency has invested in email marketing, some of our partners expressed their pain points:

“We try to do as much as we can to have prospective customers find us on their own. We’ve found that the sales process goes much more smoothly when we don’t do what most agencies do to attain new customers.” – Benjamin Enriquez, Founder of Odd Duck Media

“[We’re not currently investing in email marketing] but working to include this. We don’t have enough fresh content to warrant email marketing.” – Sagan Medvec, Co-founder and Creative Director of Brand Llama

For agencies, it’s all about finding the strategy that illustrates your value to current and prospective clients while using care to not cross over into “sales territory”. When you’re dealing with business professionals as clients, it’s important to recognize the value of their time by providing them with an opportunity to engage and discover more through personalized email correspondence.

“Three29 uses email as a way to keep our clients informed and educated on changes within the industry. We send out fairly regular reminders about major updates that might affect their websites or marketing channels. One of the things we value most as an agency is being transparent and keeping clients up to speed on the latest marketing strategies and technologies.” – Tyler Tassinari, Digital Marketing Strategist at Three29

“Email is the best way to connect directly with our audience and build trust relationships with them. It allows us to continue conversations with potential clients once they’ve contacted us, share new and relevant content with them, and answer any questions they may have. We also glean insights from what people click (or don’t click) on through analytics and adapt our content strategy accordingly.” – Joelle Irvine, Director of Marketing & Growth at Bookmark Content and Communications

“Email marketing is certainly a primary channel for us. Email can often be overlooked by companies, but we see email as one of the best converting channels for online businesses. Our email marketing solutions are designed to engage the audience, drive conversions, and nurture leads.” – Ken Wisnefski, CEO & Founder at WebiMax

The Value of an Email List for Agencies

As exciting as the potential rewards of email marketing sound, a poorly planned campaign with no clear strategy can tank potential new business relationships quickly. For all the benefits that email marketing can provide, it only works when the emails that are sent out are purposeful. To achieve this, you need one very important tool: an email list.

Different agencies keep email lists for different reasons. Some use them only to communicate with existing clients or provide information on updates. Others use lists to provide the right type of value that moves a lead further to the point of conversion. Regardless of the purpose, effective email lists all have one thing in common: segmentation.

“We have several email lists. Our main email list provides general company information and news. Other email lists are more specific such as people who have signed up to receive a digital eBook.” Simon Carr, Owner and Creative Director at DesignUps

The fact is that nobody likes to be bombarded with useless emails and doing so is a surefire way to encourage the reader to click “unsubscribe”. Segmentation is the key to making sure that the content and message you’re delivering is targeted enough to stir interest and encourage engagement with the recipient.

Nothing stirs up interest more than subtly reminding clients and leads about why you’re the best at what you do. Some of our agency partners have mastered the art of remaining visible through successful email campaigns:

“We do have a newsletter that goes out occasionally. It is a great way to keep our knowledge of our industry present, let them connect with the team with company news, and possibly upsell new products and campaigns as they roll out. “- Ryan Klein, Owner of Market My Market

“We use [our newsletter] to stay in front of potential, current, and past clients. There’s no better way to remind people you exist, and what they’re missing out on by not working with you.” – Andi Graham, CMO & Managing Partner at Big Sea

Automation Tools Make Email Easy

Managing an email campaign can be costly in terms of the time invested. Time is money and an incredibly valuable resource for agencies that are building from the ground up. So, how do successful agencies manage to make email work for them without draining their resources? They use the top automation tools.

Tools for email list building and campaign management have come a long way in recent years. Today, the top tools automate practically the entire process. While there is an incredible variety of email tools available, we found some consistencies in the ones our agency partners successfully work with. Some of the top email marketing automation tools used by our partners include MailChimp, Hubspot, Constant Contact, Drift, Campaign Monitor, and Zoho.

“We currently use Mailchimp to maintain our email lists. The basic Mailchimp subscription is free if you send messages to less than two thousand email addresses. It also provides the ability to section mailing lists into groups (like “Clients” and “Leads”) and send emails to those specific groups. Their email campaign interface is very user-friendly, which allows a business to create professional-looking emails with ease.” -John Vuong, Owner at Local SEO Search Inc.

Even as effective as each of these tools are, many times successfully managing an email campaign involves leveraging multiple tools for filling in the gaps. For example, one tool might be more effective at targeting customers while another takes the guesswork out of scheduling and general campaign management.

“We utilize HubSpot (and love it), but we are also big fans of Campaign Monitor for smaller clients/budgets.” – Andi Graham, CMO & Managing Partner at Big Sea

“We integrate Gravity Forms with Drip to add subscribers to our list and auto schedule emails, so we can take some of the leg work out of connecting with our followers.” – Dylan Wagner, Founder & Sr. WordPress Developer at TXCAP Studio

“Mailchimp integrated with our WordPress site. We are also starting to use Drift so we can more intelligently target the right customers with the right messages.” – Jeannine Richard, Director of Digital Services at Wakefly

Finding the Right Balance with Frequency

The key to email marketing success is all about balance. You want to send out emails at a frequency that keeps you on the mind of your clients while walking the fine line between just right and oversaturation. A big part of determining the right frequency depends on the purpose of your email campaign and the audiences you’re sending it out to.

For example, a new lead might receive a welcome email followed up in a few days by another message while an existing client might receive a monthly newsletter and other emails only when they’re relevant to the services they’re receiving.

This all circles back to segmentation. By segmenting email marketing lists you can provide leads and clients with the exact frequency that keeps them engaged and interested. Let’s take a look at how our agency partner’s answers varied depending on how they found the frequency balance in their own email marketing strategies:

“We send emails daily. We have an automation where anytime someone is entered into our lead funnel, they start receiving messages. A new lead won’t receive more than 1-2 messages per month but there are emails being sent out daily.” Jason Parks, Owner at The Media Captain

“We send out emails once or twice a month. We’ve found too often can lead to unsubscribes. Especially when our following is made up of smaller businesses who are DIYers and not too technical. Developers & agencies love getting every update about the latest tech, but business owners don’t have time to read all of that if it isn’t relevant.” – Dylan Wagner, Founder & Sr. WordPress Developer at TXCAP Studio

“We send out communication at least quarterly but nurturing campaigns for prospective clients may be more frequent.” – Jeannine Richard, Director of Digital Services at Wakefly

What Type of Content to Distribute Via Email

The beauty of email marketing is that it allows agencies to put their best foot forward by providing the recipient with incredible value that seems as if it was tailormade to fit their needs. There are several approaches that an agency can take to achieve this. For example, a monthly or bi-weekly email containing a newsletter with relevant industry information or content created specifically for a targeted list of clients based on recent updates to the services or tools that they’re currently using.

“Most of the content we provide helps potential clients get to know us and our expertise. We highlight company news, blog posts and industry specific information. We also provide custom eBooks for targeted interests.” – Simon Carr, Owner and Creative Director at DesignUps

“We like to include information that corresponds to the most frequent questions we are getting from our clients. This way, we are certain to be providing content they will appreciate. We also include company updates, industry news, blog posts, and case studies. Our followers love images!” – Ivan Reed, Founder & CEO at SunCity Advertising

“We know that our clients are busy, so we try to keep our updates fairly brief and contained within the body of emails. At the end of each message, we offer more in-depth content in the form of blogs that exist on our website.” – Tyler Tassinari, Digital Marketing Strategist at Three29

Leveraging Email for Upsell Opportunities

And now for the golden question of email marketing – should you use email as a tool for upselling services to your clients? Each agency you speak with will have a different opinion on selling through email, but here’s the thing: nobody really wants to be “sold” to and when that’s obviously the point of an email it becomes an instant turn-off.

Still, email is a great tool for bringing clients further into your funnel and that includes elevating the products or services that they receive. The key is in being subtle. Content that expresses the value of your agency can easily serve to encourage clients to inquire about the other services you provide.

“We don’t exclusively send email to upsell clients, but sometimes an existing client will realize they are missing out on certain services or techniques we are talking about. So, in a roundabout way clients do reach out for new or additional work as a result of our emails.” -Simon Carr, Owner and Creative Director at DesignUps

“As Black Flag looks to offer new services, we take the opportunity to make our valuable clients aware of our skills and capabilities. This works also to remind our clients of our full capabilities and that we are looking for more opportunities to provide them creative solutions.” – Corey Lewis, Captain & CEO at Black Flag Creative

So, is it possible to successfully upsell via email? One of our agency partners sums it up perfectly:

“Hell yeah! A healthy recipe of amazing case studies, delicious ROI, and a pinch of testimonials – and your upsell soup is ready!” – Dmitrii Kustov, Internet Marketing Director at Regex SEO

Making Connections Through Email Marketing

As a digital agency, developing and implementing your own email strategy can be tough. We know that email can be a highly effective marketing tactic, but only if you have the time and tools that it takes to make it successful. We’d love to hear about your personal experiences with email marketing, and if you’re looking for an agency to help you develop a strategy of your own, contact one of UpCity’s agency partners today.

Jordan Stella
Customer Success Manager at | More Posts

Jordan J Stella is a digital marketing professional whose passion is to help brands find their voice, tell their story, and connect with real people. As Customer Success Manager for UpCity, Jordan helps clients integrate our Agency Growth Engine into their existing workflows and processes.