New tools to improve performance
on May 9, 2023 (last modified on April 28, 2023) • 21 minute read
Email is a cornerstone of digital marketing. In Litmus’s 2021 State of Email Report, more than 90% of the marketers surveyed considered email marketing at least somewhat important to their company’s success. A whopping 41% thought it was very critical.
But, if you want to get results from your email marketing, you need an audience to read it in the first place. If you’re in a business-to-business (B2B) industry, it can be tricky to tell if audience benchmarks for businesses as a whole work for your business.
We’re here today to explore the email list sizes B2B marketers have and recommend to make those benchmarks clearer. Let’s dig in.
Looking at our Mailchimp Benchmarks for B2B Companies benchmark group of 28 contributors, the median number of subscribers was 4.81K in March 2023.
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The number of subscribers a company has doesn’t always match the number its marketers aim for. So, we surveyed 43 B2B marketers about their recommended minimum email list counts for B2B businesses. Out of this group, 65.12% work for B2B companies, and 34.88% work for agencies that serve B2B businesses.
About three-quarters of the group have at least one year of experience in B2B email marketing. Only 2.33% don’t use email marketing for their companies.
We didn’t find an overall consensus when looking at everyone’s answers, with suggestions ranging from 1K to 20K. Many respondents acknowledged that your ideal number depends on factors like company size. Some also stressed that you need to focus on quality contacts in your list to get a sufficient return on investment from your list quantity.
Loopex Digital’s Maria Harutyunyan considers 1,000 subscribers a good starting point for reasons related to reach and analytics. Harutyunyan says, “This number is not set in stone and may vary depending on the company’s size and its marketing objectives. However, having at least 1,000 email subscribers gives your company the ability to cast a wide net and reach more customers who may not have otherwise seen your content. Additionally, it will help establish credibility by providing insight into exactly how many people are engaging with your content and interested in what you offer, as well as demonstrating an understanding of best practices for successful digital marketing campaigns.”
Daniel Smith from Spreadsheet Daddy agrees on 1,000 subscribers as a starting point but urges you to aim higher if you want more opportunities. “1,000 email subscribers is a good starting point, but 10K is the number where everything changes. This is considered to be a sizable email list, unlocking a whole bunch of monetization methods,” Smith says.
Mayank Batavia of QuickEmailVerification recommends closer to 10,000 list members for better analytics. “While one answer clearly is ‘It depends’, we believe that 8 to 10k is a great number. The reason is that if you have an open rate of about 20%, you will see about 1500-2000 opens. Which is a good starting point to collect data,” Batavia says.
EaseUS’s Ada Scott suggests a similar subscriber count but focuses more on reach and competition: “I would suggest that a B2B company should aim to have at least 10K email subscribers. Having a larger subscriber base allows you to reach more potential customers, and can help increase your return on investment. Additionally, having more subscribers helps you stay competitive in your industry and gives you more opportunities for customer engagement and growth.”
C Shakhawat Sultan from WPFunnels recommends the largest number in our survey: 20,000 subscribers. Sultan says, “If I go from a perspective of a software firm with tools that sell for an average of $120, and an open rate of 40% with 6% CTR, you would need at least 20k subscribers to get significant results from any future campaigns. This will result in enough ROI to cover all the efforts put into collecting the leads, plus the amount spent in preparing and sending the emails.”
“(But this is not the same for every business. In our case, those are the minimum numbers required to cover our Acquisition Cost and make enough profit to invest in future campaigns.)”
“Obviously, growing the list further will eventually make the campaigns super profitable in the long run.”
Spacelift’s Kate Wojewoda-Celinska doesn’t recommend a specific number for all companies and instead encourages you to think about your email marketing goals. Wojewoda-Celinska says, “The minimum number of email subscribers a B2B company should have depends on many factors, such as their target audience size, their industry sector, and whether they are looking to generate more leads or increase website visits, among other things.”
“For example, if your goal is to reach a large audience, having at least 10K or 15K subscribers can help you get started. It will give you realistic access to emailing new prospects who could later become sales leads.”
“On the other hand, if you want more focus on high-quality contacts who are likely to convert into customers, then 2-3K targeted subscribers might do the trick for you and still be enough when it comes to generating meaningful results with small yet measurable impact in terms of revenue growth through email marketing campaigns.”
With the question of quality versus quantity at the front of many email marketers’ minds, we asked participants about how important they think subscriber counts are to understanding your list performance. The majority — 83.72.% — voted yes. Meanwhile, 13.95% disagree and 2.33% aren’t sure.
This trend also came up in our open-ended answers on the subject. We asked participants to elaborate and mention any metrics they combine with subscriber counts to draw conclusions. Most respondents agreed that subscriber counts offer useful insights, while one disagreed.
Mayank Batavia of QuickEmailVerification explains how subscriber numbers inform other metrics. “We believe that as engagement improves, we will see better data. Click maps, for instance, tell us the kind of things our subscribers like reading. That, in turn, tells us what kind of information they might be hungry for. On the other hand, it also tells us if there are features of our product that some of our subscribers either do not fully understand or are not aware of,” Batavia says.
Janice Wald from Mostly Blogging emphasizes the importance of reach related to subscriber count:
“Marketing is a shotgun effect. The more methods you use, the better your chance of success. Email marketing is a direct line of communication to consumers interested in what you are offering. Those email addresses are yours regardless of whether other sites fold. Capitalize on the connection. Make your list members feel positive about your brand and they will remember you at purchase time.”
Blogger at Mostly Blogging
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VEM Group’s David Reid considers subscriber numbers important to analytics, but only when combined with other metrics. Reid explains, “I agree that an email list’s subscriber count can offer some helpful and practical information, but it’s crucial to take this measure into account in addition to other metrics to get a more comprehensive picture of how well your email marketing efforts are performing. The quantity of subscribers, for instance, can reveal information about the size of your audience and the potential reach of your ads.”
“But, it doesn’t offer any details regarding the caliber or level of involvement of your audience, which are crucial elements in figuring out how effective your efforts are. Combining subscriber count with other metrics like open rates, click-through rates, conversion rates, and unsubscribe rates will help you better determine how effective your email marketing campaign is. These analytics can give you information about how engaged and behaved your audience is as well as how successfully your campaigns are doing at generating clicks, conversions, and money.”
Loopex Digital’s Maria Harutyunyan has a similar take on subscriber counts — they provide some insights on their own, but they truly shine when working with other metrics. Harutyunyan says, “I firmly believe that having a big email list is like having a massive megaphone to blast your message out to the world. It’s an indicator of our brand’s reach and potential customer base.”
“But it’s not just about the numbers! The growth or decline of our email list also gives us some serious intel on how our business is performing. Do our marketing campaigns hit the mark? Is our customer engagement up to scratch? To answer these questions, we can keep an eye on our email list metrics. And let’s not forget about the revenue potential! By digging deep into our subscriber data, we learn all kinds of juicy details about our customer’s behavior and preferences. From there, we tailor our marketing and product development strategies to boost sales and drive revenue.”
“Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that a big email list is a be-all and end-all. Engagement metrics like open rates and click-through rates are equally important. But, when used in conjunction with each other, your email list can be a real game-changer.”
As someone with a smaller mailing list but plenty of revenue, Alex Birkett of Omniscient Digital thinks of subscriber numbers as a less important metric. He says, “We have just over 1,000 email subscribers, and we’ll do nearly $5M in revenue this year. If we had 100,000 email subscribers, our revenue number would barely change.
“The mere number of ‘subscribers’ doesn’t mean anything. It also helps to define what a ‘subscriber’ is, as a newsletter subscription has a different intent than someone who signs up for an interactive demo or product-related content offer. If you don’t have an effective route to monetization, it’s just a vanity metric on a scoreboard. Potential (not yet kinetic) energy.”
Related: How Often Should Companies Send Marketing Emails? Expert Insights from 75 Marketers
While our survey respondents had a wide range of opinions on subscriber count, you can still see one thread among their answers: quality and engagement. Regardless of your email list size, you can always take steps to improve your list quality and make your content more engaging.
Here are the six takeaways we got from participants’ responses and advice:
To measure the effectiveness of your email marketing strategy, you can use HubSpot Marketing data to review individual email campaigns and which content is most popular, in order to attract more subscribers and qualified leads. Now you can quickly assess the performance of your email marketing strategy in a single dashboard that monitors fundamental metrics, such as:
Now you can benefit from the experience of our HubSpot Marketing experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template showing the most important KPIs for tracking the overall performance and success of your email marketing strategy. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in marketing reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your HubSpot account with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
One of the most popular tactics that respondents used to engage their email lists was to use double opt-in for new subscribers. VEM Medical’s Derrick Hathaway defines double opt-in like this: “Double opt-in is a process where subscribers confirm their email address by clicking a link in a confirmation email. This ensures that the email address is valid and the subscriber is genuinely interested in receiving my newsletter.”
Email marketing platforms usually have the option to add double opt-in to your email list somewhere in your newsletter options. The exact process varies based on the app you use.
Spacelift’s Kate Wojewoda-Celinska “collect[s] valid emails whenever possible using a double opt-in system. It helps me to ensure that the contact is actively interested in being added to my email list and wants to receive emails from me.”
Kacper Rafalski from Netguru likes to use double opt-in because it raises the quality of subscribers on a list. “We use a double opt-in process to confirm that subscribers really want to receive our emails. This helps us weed out fake or inactive email addresses,” Rafalski says.
“I always make sure to only add people who have opted in to receive emails from me. This way, I know they’re interested in what I have to offer and I can be sure they’ll actually open and read my emails,” says Ada Scott of EaseUS, pointing out the relationship between opted-in emails and engaged emails.
Many respondents also mentioned email segmentation, the practice of tailoring emails to specific groups. You can read more about the technique in our guide to effective segmentation tactics.
Derrick Hathaway of VEM Medical uses segmentation for better audience retention and interest: “Segmenting my email list based on subscriber interests, preferences, and behaviors helped me send targeted messages more likely to resonate with my audience. This helps me to improve engagement and reduce the likelihood of subscribers becoming inactive.”
Netguru’s Kacper Rafalski shares some of the criteria the Netguru team uses to segment their subscribers. “We segment our email list based on various criteria, such as geographic location, industry, and interests. This allows us to send more targeted emails to each group and increase engagement,” Rafalski says.
Two more respondents include segmentation in their email marketing strategies. Kate Wojewoda-Celinska from Spacelift says, “[I] use segmentation strategies when sending out emails to target the most relevant contacts with the content they are interested in.” Ada Scott of EaseUS has a similar experience to share, telling us, “[I] use segmentation and personalization to make sure my emails are relevant to each individual on my list, which helps keep them engaged.”
We asked participants what email marketing formats they use. The most popular format was newsletters, with 81.40% of respondents reporting using it. (In case you were curious about the next most popular formats, 58.14% use lead nurturing emails, 58.14% use re-engaging emails, and 55.81% use dedicated offer emails.)
If you send other types of emails to your list and don’t see the results you want, try starting a newsletter. Newsletters set up a schedule for your audience to expect emails from you and build a connection other email formats can’t due to their more personal nature. We have a list of newsletter examples in various industries to help you get started.
Related: 15 Ways to Get Maximum ROI From Your Newsletter
The most popular email tactic among respondents overall was regular email list cleaning. This technique involves removing subscribers that don’t engage with your content anymore.
Maria Harutyunyan from Loopex Digital shares her process for list organization that includes segmentation and engagement tracking: “My own experience in ensuring that my email list contains quality, engaged, and active contacts has been to employ a multi-pronged approach that is centered around cleaning out old or inactive addresses.”
“First, I start by segmenting my list into different categories based on how recently they have interacted with me. This helps me determine who is the most likely to engage.”
“Secondly – and this is probably the most important part – I use an automated email-sending tool such as MailChimp or SendGrid to track user engagement levels. Each time someone clicks or opens an email sent from my account, it adds a point toward their engagement score, which then moves them up in priority for receiving new messages. Those with lower engagement scores will slowly get moved down in priority until, eventually, not receiving any more emails from me unless their activity increases again. This guarantees that my list always contains actively engaged people who are actually interested in hearing from me instead of those just taking up space on the mailing list.”
“Thirdly, I also frequently go through the list manually and remove anyone who hasn’t engaged with me for some time (usually 3-4 months). Keeping a neat and clean mailing list ensures better deliverability of emails over time as well!”
Daniel Smith of Spreadsheet Daddy suggests cleaning your email list before trying any other tactics. “First, you need to regularly prune your email list. You check whether the emails you collected are still valid. A lot of folks don’t know that you can actually automate the process [by] leveraging B2B data providers. Some of them are pretty affordable even for small businesses, allowing you to prevent data decay on autopilot,” Smith says.
Other respondents also use list cleaning as part of their email engagement tactics. “I regularly review my email list and remove any contacts who are inactive or no longer engaged with my emails,” says Kate Wojewoda-Celinska of Spacelift. Kacper Rafalski from Netguru adds, “We clean our email list regularly to remove inactive or bouncing email addresses. This ensures that we’re not wasting our time and resources sending emails to people who aren’t interested.”
List cleaning is clearly a favorite tactic among our respondents. But, how often should you perform it?
At Kinsta, Tom Zsomborgi performs list cleaning every six months:
“[E]very six months or so you have to clean up your email list. [W]e do this regularly. I’m not scared of removing 30% or even 50% of the subscribers if they are not opening our emails and we just keep sending them and paying Hubspot big money after each contact. Having a smaller but more engaged email audience is much better.”
Chief Business Officer at Kinsta
Ada Scott follows a similar schedule for EaseUS’s email lists. Scott says, “[I] regularly clean out my list of contacts who haven’t opened my emails or clicked on any links in the last six months. This helps keep my list full of engaged and active contacts.”
Rakshit Panchal cleans Sydney Digital Agency’s email list every month. “We usually nurture contacts monthly. We filter out inactive contacts [so] that we can maintain quality,” Panchal says.
Related: 19 Email Marketing Statistics That Will Help Marketers Maximize Their ROI in 2023
Your list size and quality can’t power your email marketing performance on their own. You also need email content your audience enjoys reading. Among our survey respondents, 74.42% answered that providing very relevant content helped increase the size of their email lists. For comparison, 55.81% use the next-most-popular tactic, gating exclusive content.
Netguru’s Kacper Rafalski named this strategy as a top engagement tactic. “We make sure that our email content is valuable and relevant to our subscribers’ needs and interests. This not only keeps them engaged but also encourages them to share our content with others,” Rafalski says.
But what goes into email quality? You can find some factors that contribute to a must-read email in our guide to email engagement, such as:
Email platforms come with personalization features that you shouldn’t leave on the table. They make each of your emails feel more relevant to the reader (which goes back to our original statistic shared in the previous section).
Kacper Rafalski explains how the Netguru team personalizes emails. “We use personalization to make our emails feel more personal and relevant to each subscriber. This includes using their name in the subject line or tailoring the content to their interests,” Rafalski says.
You can use personalization tactics in additional ways such as inserting personalized sections by hand or inserting personalization tokens that automatically personalize elements of your emails. Marketers with smaller email lists actually have an advantage with some personalization tactics because they can manually personalize emails for a larger percentage of their lists. We share all sorts of strategies in our email personalization guide that apply to various list sizes.
Data benchmarks spark questions that enable growth. Take our statistic on B2B email list sizes, for example — it fueled the questions we asked in this blog post.
If you want 24/7 access to statistics like these that challenge you to grow your business, sign up for Databox Benchmark Groups. You’ll get regularly updated data on businesses like yours related to the apps and marketing tactics you use. In exchange for anonymously sharing your performance data, you’ll discover how your entire group is doing.
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