10 B2B Email Marketing Mistakes To Avoid Part 1

Mark Twain said many years ago…

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

We can say the same about email marketing in the B2B world.

Over the years, many “experts” buried email marketing, blaming lack of interest and the more and more heavy-handed spam laws.

But email marketing is here to stay, and the stats below prove the point…

  1. According to ExactTarget research, 91% of consumers check their emails daily, making it the most consistently used internet marketing channel available.
  2. Epsilon reported that the average clickthrough rate for B2B marketing emails in the second quarter of 2013 was 1.7%.
  3. According to the Direct Marketing Association, 66% of consumers have made a purchase online after reading email promo messages.
  4. A Merkle white paper repots that 74% of consumers prefer to receive commercial communications via email.
  5. According to eConsultancy, the highest B2B email open rate is 27.97%.
  6. According to Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, the average person checks his smartphone 34 times a day. 64% of B2B decision-makers read their emails on their mobile devices.

In his Inc. Magazine article, Web Marketing Pros’ president, Peter Roesler gives five good reasons why email is a winner.

  1. Easy to reach the market
  2. Effective tool for lead nurturing and client education
  3. Easy to offer special deals
  4. Easy to integrate into other marketing tactics
  5. It’s really cost-effective.

According to an Ascend2 study, 45% of marketers report that email marketing is their most effective tactic for lead generation, and 72% find that email marketing is easy to execute.

However, just like everything else, email marketing is also riddled with pitfalls.

So, in today’s article, we dig a bit deeper into some pitfalls and how to avoid them in your next email marketing campaign.

Pitfall #1: No Clear Buyer Persona

In the 2000 movie the Patriot, Mel Gibson’s character, Benjamin Martin teaches his sons to shoot and advises them…

“Aim small, you miss small.”

Translating that phrase into marketing, it means that the more detailed your buyer persona is, the more precise your aim becomes to address your email to that specific persona.

If you are a general personal fitness trainer, what can you write in your emails without sounding too generic?

But if you’re a different personal fitness trainer, offering special training exclusively to female baby boomer powerlifters, then your message will be very clear and crisp.

You can use the special powerlifting jargon and a tone of voice that is perfect for powerlifters, but other women may find it a tad too edgy.

As marketing maven, Dan Kennedy is fond of saying…

“if you’re not ready to repel people, you’re not ready to attract them either.”

You have to polarize your market.

Think of US President Donald Trump, radio DJ Howard Stern, or radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. Some hate them, some love them, but there is no one in between.

So, if you don’t have a very specific character that you address in your emails, then create a persona first before you proceed in your email marketing.

Pitfall #3: Poor List Segmentation

When you receive an email and recognize how well it addresses your concerns, then you know that someone’s done a great job at segmenting that email list which you are on.

For instance imagine a building firm that offers HVAC (Heating, ventilation and air conditioning), plumbing and electrical work in the B2B arena, working mainly with commercial real estate developers and general contractors.

As a result, they have a big email list of people interested in HVAC, plumbing and electrical work. But not the whole list is interested in everything.

HVAC buyers are not interested in news from the world of plumbing.

And if you send 10 emails to HVAC buyers, but only three emails are HVAC-related, they are likely to quit your list because what they receive form you is irrelevant.

This is why it’s vital to slice and dice your list down to the smallest common denominator.

Further, some HVAC buyers are looking for HVAC maintenance for existing systems, while some are seeking new HVAC installations for new buildings.

As you can see, on the HVAC side alone, we have four distinct segments that require four different email messages.

The buyer for “New System => Small Business” is the business owner, an entrepreneur.

The buyer for “New System => Big corporation” is a procurement agent with no entrepreneurial bone in his body.

They require two distinct communication styles.

Yes, it can be a bit fiddly to cater for all these segments, but as you measure your results, you can decide whether or not the segment in question is worth nurturing.

If yes, then continue. If not, then dump the segment.

For instance, there is a good chance that staying in touch with procurement agents is a bit of a waste of time, since most of them only care about low price.

And not because they really care, but because they get rewarded commensurately with the amount they can save on contracts.

If you feel a bit overwhelmed about segmentation, you find a good starting point here.

Pitfall #3: Unclear, Misleading Or Impotent Subject Lines

When you have room for being clever, be clever.

Don’t be condescending about it, but if the context allows, you can be gently smartass-ish. It can cause a good giggle or two.

But in the subject line, be clear and straight to the point.

Many Internet marketing gurus have succeeded with subject lines like “Hey”, “Dude” or “Open”, but that can be a bit of a problem with B2B buyers.

And when you open those emails, you can often find that there is no relation between the subject line and the email’s main message.

A study by AWeber, one of the oldest email automation providers, reports that emails with clear subject lines get 541% more clicks than emails with clever subject lines.

Emails with clever subject lines are opened by curious people who want to see what’s behind those one-word subject lines but have no intention to buy anything.

By contrast, emails with clear headlines are opened by people with clear intentions. They may not buy today, but at least they have a better than foggy idea about what they’re seeking.

Some winning B2B email subject lines are…

  • Tasteful humour
  • Mild controversy
  • Numbered lists
  • Person’s name in the subject line – test the living daylights out of this baby. It can be very effective, but can also turn into a disaster.
  • Vagueness

Closely related to the subject line is the “From” part of your email. Since this is something you readers see, make sure you keep it consistent. Also, don’t make the mistake of putting [email protected]. This email communicates to readers clearly that you don’t want to hear from them, and if they want to contact you, they should make an extra effort to do so.

Pitfall #4: Missing Call To Action

It’s one thing to get your emails opened and read, but how about that next action you want your reads to take?

One big part of sales funnel design is to create specific calls to action in your marketing, and when people take that specific action, a specific thing happens to them inside your sales funnel.

A millennium ago back in the MS DOS age of computing, if you wanted to move your computer, you had to park your hard drive.

The park command told the hard drive to pull the reading-writing heads from between the storage plates, so the heads couldn’t damage the plates.

The park command was the call to action and heads movement from between the plates to the side was the action.

Your reader, depending whether or not she takes the action called for in the email, whether stays on the current list or automatically migrates to another list and seizes to exist on the current list.

That happens when a subscriber buys something and becomes a customer, not just another subscriber.

Customers and subscribers require different messages.

Some of the most effective calls to action are…

  • For [Name of Product], Click Here
  • Download [Name of Product] Now
  • Request [Name of Program] Now
  • Join [Name of Program] Now
  • Request Your Free Copy Now
  • Get [Product’s name] Now
  • Start your free trial now
  • Join [Name of Program] Now
  • Start [Name of Program] Now

To emphasise your call to action, repeat the download link 2-3-times in the body of the email.

Pitfall #5: Mobile And/Or Responsive Negligence

According to the US Consumer Device Deice Preference Report 2015, on average, 48.3% of people check their emails on their mobile devices, with retail being the highest market (63%).

From the graph and the report, we can conclude that mobile email checking is so prevalent that if you want to be successful with your email campaigns, you must cater for mobile users.

Due to the “community” or “tribe” nature of mobile devices, emails opened on mobile devices are more likely to be shared than desktop emails.

To make your email mobile friendly, consider some key steps, like…

  • Making your text large enough for easy reading.
  • Place buttons and links inside the email such that people can’t hit two links or the wrong link by mistake.
  • The emails are either mobile friendly or responsive, so the email code can tweak itself based on what sort of devices people view their emails on.

You can also read Act-On’s, one of the email automation providers, article on the  10 Best Practices for Mobile-Friendly Emails.

And here, we also have to look at the differences between mobile friendly vs. responsive web design.

Mobile-friendly design can be described by…

  • Unchanging static content
  • Navigation is the desktop website’s simplified version’s
  • Scaled down images
  • Operating system agnostic. It works on any operating system.

By contrast, responsive design can be described by…

  • Dynamic content changing with type of viewing device
  • Compressed navigation
  • Images optimized based on type of device
  • Works with the appropriate mobile operating system

But before you start fiddling with your website, read Hootsuite’s article on creating mobile-friendly websites and then check what you can do with your website.

Since this is a very important topic, tomorrow we’re going to list the last five mistakes, including

  • Broken links
  • Purchased lists
  • Sending email without permission
  • Pushy self-promotion or no promotions at all
  • Forgetting to track campaign results

Since email marketing is one aspect of marketing automation, before we meet for the second part, I’d like to encourage you to read The Top 10 Benefits of Marketing Automation, so you can better see how email marketing is integrated into marketing automation.

Picture of Todd Mumford

Todd Mumford