There is one guaranteed way to get better email marketing results – both in terms of staying out of the spam folder and landing in the inbox as well as in terms of boosting open rates, click rates, and conversion. According to Google, the key is to only send messages people want.
When you send a generic email marketing message to a large list of people, it’s unlikely to be relevant to all of them. As a result, fewer people will open it, click on the links in the message, and engage with it. Not only does that mean your results will be minimal, it also means email service providers (ESPs – i.e., mailbox providers), like Google, Outlook, Apple Mail, and so on, will notice you for the wrong reasons.
ESPs look for historical engagement with your messages to determine whether or not you’re taking the time to understand your audience and send targeted messages to the right people. In other words, they want to see that you’re sending messages people want.
A lack of engagement (ignoring your messages entirely) or negative engagement (e.g., deleting your messages without opening them, marking your messages as spam, and so on) tells ESPs you’re using the outdated “spray and pray” method of email marketing, and they’ll punish you for it by sending your future messages to the spam folder.
You don’t want this to happen to you! If you’re sending email marketing messages via your own domain (e.g., yourcompany.com) rather than a shared domain (i.e., one that many senders share), then you’re 100% in control of your domain reputation and how ESPs deliver your messages. Fail to send messages people engage with (or messages that include specific spam triggers like URL shorteners, embedded videos, etc.), and your domain reputation will tank as will the deliverability of all of your future messages.
The best way to stay out of the spam folder is to send messages people want, and you can do it by creating buyer personas for your B2B target audiences and sending hyper-relevant messages to each segment of your mailing list.
How to Create B2B Buyer Personas for Cannabis and Hemp License Holders
A consumer buyer persona is a written description of a target customer group for your business. It represents key characteristics – demographic, psychographic, and behavioral – that specific niche audiences share in common. If you don’t have buyer personas developed for each of your target audiences, then you won’t know how to communicate with them effectively. In other words, your marketing efforts will amount to little more than throwing darts and hoping something sticks.
When it comes to email marketing, buyer personas are essential to effective list segmentation and matching messages to specific recipients. Just as ESPs don’t want senders to send messages that people don’t want, recipients don’t want to receive them. You shouldn’t want to send them either! Mismatched messages and audiences not only lead to less engagement and a decline in deliverability, but they also lead to negative consumer perceptions about your brand.
The goal of email marketing is to build your brand and nurture consumers through the buying cycle, so they grow to trust your brand and ultimately, make a purchase. If you send them content they don’t want, you’ll lose your chance to build brand trust and convert recipients into buyers.
Keep in mind, according to research by Woodpecker, responses to email marketing messages more than double (from 8% to 18%) when lists are smaller (for lists 1,000 or more recipients vs. lists with 200 or fewer recipients), and that rate goes up even higher when the message is hyper-targeted to the audience receiving it.
Therefore, your first priority should be to understand who your best customer audiences are and what their buyer personas are. When targeting cannabis and hemp license holders in the United States, I recommend doing your research and focusing on the following areas to build your B2B buyer personas:
- Persona Name: Something that describes the target group
- Industry: Cannabis or hemp
- Activity: Type of license (e.g., cultivator, dispensary, delivery, etc.)
- License Status: Active, pending, applied, etc.
- State: The state where the business is licensed
- Decision-Maker Level: 1) Decision-maker, 2) Provides input to the decision-maker, #0 Not involved in decision-making
- Title: Job titles that people in this niche are likely to have
- Responsibilities: The job responsibilities that people in this niche typically have
- Goals/Outcomes: The goals people in this niche typically have as part of their job and the outcomes they want to achieve that your business can help them with
- Challenges/Problems/Pain Points: The obstacles and problems that people in this niche have that your business can solve
- Solutions: The features your business can offer to help solve their problems and the benefits to the person that each feature provides
- Messaging Strategy: The messages the niche is likely to respond positively to based on their goals, problems, etc.
- Assumed Interests: The topics you think this niche is likely interested in based on your own knowledge or previous research
- Topics They’ve Engaged With: The topics they’re actually interested in based on your prior email marketing performance data (determine what topics they’ve engaged with based on opens and clicks on previous campaigns you’ve sent to them)
- Engagement Level: Based on how frequently they opened and clicked your previous email marketing messages, rate the audience as 1) None, 2) Low, 3) Moderate, 4) High
- Stage in the Buyer Journey: How close are they to purchasing?
- Not in the market yet: They don’t know they have a problem or need.
- Problem identified: They know they have a problem or need but haven’t started looking for a solution yet.
- Research and evaluation: They started doing research to find solutions to their problem or need, and they’re evaluating many options.
- Preferences established: They’ve narrowed down their options to a few contenders, and they’re doing final research to choose which one to buy.
- Final decision: They’ve chosen the product or service they’ll buy to solve their problem or meet their need, or they’ve decided not to buy anything at all.
Keep in mind, some of the categories listed above may not apply to everyone in a niche. That’s okay. In that case, create sub-segments of the consumer buyer persona as needed so you can send the most relevant messages to them.
For example, you may have a consumer buyer persona that includes people at multiple stages of the consumer buying journey. Rather than sending everyone the same email message, segment your list and send content that is relevant to where they are in that journey. A person who doesn’t even know they have a problem or need and is not in the market for your product or service yet should hear very different things from you than someone who is deep in the research stage or even further along in the decision-making process.
How to Use Your B2B Buyer Personas
Once you create your buyer personas, it’s time to use them to send better email marketing messages that deliver higher ROI. It’s important to point out that using buyer personas to connect with cannabis and hemp license holders does require some knowledge of the marketplace that each person in your audience operates in.
For example, a license holder in a mature market may have different needs than one in a market that just opened while a license holder in a medical and adult-use market will have different needs than one in a market with only medical cannabis. Similarly, hemp markets vary significantly from one state to another.
It’s up to you to do your research, understand the marketplaces where people are doing business, and adjust your email marketing messages to speak to them in relevant ways. If recipients think you don’t understand them or their market, they’ll disengage, which hurts all of your future email marketing investments.
With that said, there are four broad steps to leverage your B2B buyer personas in order to get better email marketing results.
Step 1: Find Your Buyer Persona Audiences
Can you identify the people in each of your buyer personas within your email marketing database? If not, you can’t segment your list and send relevant messages to the right people. Therefore, your first step is taking the time to map your contacts to your buyer personas.
If you’re a Cannabiz Media License Database subscriber, this is easy to do using filters, tags, and lists. For example, you can filter contacts by activity, state, license status, level, role, and more. Once you narrow down the list to the people who match your buyer persona, you can save them as a new list and/or give them all a custom tag so it’s easy to find them and send campaigns to them in the future.
Step 2: Develop an Email Marketing Strategy for Your Buyer Personas
When you know you can find your buyer persona audiences in your email marketing database, you can create an email marketing strategy for each one. This should include goals, a calendar, metrics to be tracked, and plans to test and adjust as needed.
For companies that have many buyer personas, it may make sense to focus on those buyer personas that you have a better chance of converting. When you have a system in place to connect with and nurture those audiences, you can expand to other audiences that may be a harder sell.
Step 3: Track Your Results and Protect Your Domain Reputation
You can’t figure out what went wrong (or right) and fix it (or repeat it) if you don’t track your results. Two of the most important metrics to track are open rate and click rate.
If your open rate is low, it shows your subject line didn’t resonate with recipients. If your click rate is low, it shows either the content of your message and call-to-action (CTA) didn’t resonate with recipients or you didn’t include any clickable links or a clickable CTA in your message and have nothing to track (always include a clickable CTA!).
Your goal should be to learn what’s working and what isn’t from your email performance metrics so you can improve future messages and results. For example, when you see a lot of people in your niche audience clicking on a link or opening a message about a specific topic, update the “Topics They’ve Engaged With” section of your Buyer Persona and send them more useful and relevant messages about this topic in the future to continue nurturing them and building brand trust.
Remember, a single email open or click rarely leads to a sale and is unlikely to warrant a direct follow-up via phone from a sales person. Consider these two statistics:
- It typically takes five email messages for a recipient to consider contacting a sales person according to research by Velocity.
- Email campaigns with four to seven messages in a sequence get three-times more responses (27% average) than campaigns with only one to three messages in a sequence (9% average) according to research by Woodpecker.
The data shows nurturing leads via email marketing is the key to getting the best results.
Step 4: Test, Test, and Keep Testing
Email marketers test everything. If you don’t have an email marketing team to manage testing every element of every message, don’t worry. Testing subject lines is a great way to get started. Other easy elements to test that can help your results are CTAs and message format (e.g., bullets and lists rather than paragraphs, more images vs. fewer images, etc.), among others.
The key is to test just one element at a time. For example, create a message with your first subject line and send it to a sub-segment of people on your list. Send a message with your second subject line to a separate sub-segment of people on your list. Wait one or two days, evaluate the results, and send the better performing message to the rest of your list.
This is an easy way to ensure the largest number of people receive the message that is likely to generate better results. If neither subject line performs well, you’ll know that you need to use a different subject line entirely to generate engagement and positive results.
Sample B2B Buyer Persona for a Cannabis License Holder
To give you an idea of how a buyer persona might look, below is a simple example for an event ticketing company that wants cannabis companies that hold events to use its website and software to sell tickets.
- Persona Name: California Event License Holders
- Industry: Cannabis
- Activity: Event license
- License Status: Active
- State: California
- Decision-Maker Level: Decision-maker, Provides input to the decision-maker
- Title: Owner, Founder, CEO, Managing Member
- Responsibilities: Organizing cannabis industry events, selecting venues, selecting ticketing providers
- Goals/Outcomes: To hold quality events at the lowest costs
- Challenges/Problems/Pain Points: Finding reliable vendors/partners, not paying exorbitant fees to vendors, managing clients’ expectations
- Solutions: Reliable ticketing software, no extra fees per ticket, web-based, in-person or virtual events
- Messaging Strategy: Ticketing provider with a track record of success and reliability (peace-of-mind, lower risk). Able to pivot to meet changing needs (peace-of-mind). Affordable with no hidden fees (save money, stay within budget). Easy to work with (ease stress, boost productivity). Automated features (save time, fewer manual mistakes).
- Assumed Interests: Event management, cannabis industry news and laws, local news, technology (that supports the business)
- Topics They’ve Engaged With: California cannabis law updates, event management advice, software automation
- Engagement Level: Moderate
- Stage in the Buyer Journey: Varies so create sub-segments as needed.
Note this is not a real buyer persona, but it gives you an idea of what a simple buyer persona might look like. As you develop your personas and track your contacts’ behaviors, your personas will get more detailed and increasingly useful.
Final Thoughts about B2B Buyer Personas for Cannabis and Hemp License Holders
With your buyer personas and email marketing strategies in hand, it’s time to start creating targeted messages, sending them to the right audiences, and tracking the results. At the same time, you should be tracking your domain reputation to make sure your messages continue to get delivered to recipients’ inboxes.
Importantly, don’t get caught in the trap of creating buyer personas and segmenting your audience once and thinking you’re done. Segmentation and updating buyer personas is an ongoing process because the market changes and people change. What works today may not work tomorrow.
Similarly, don’t focus on the wrong buyer personas. Just because a lot of people are in a buyer persona category doesn’t mean it’s the most profitable for you. Calculate out the value of a new or repeat customer and evaluate each buyer persona to determine the potential value it holds for your business. It’s not uncommon for a smaller target audience to deliver much higher ROI than a larger one.
Bottom-line, prioritize your efforts by focusing on sending the best, more relevant messages you can to the right audiences. Remember, email service providers and recipients expect you to take the time to understand them and only send messages people want. Don’t disappoint them because it will do more harm to your business than good.
Finally, before you send any email marketing message, ask yourself, “Does every person I’m sending this message to want it?” If the answer is no, you haven’t segmented your list effectively.
Susan Gunelius, Director of Email Marketing Strategy for Cannabiz Media, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her nearly 30-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.