B2B Email Marketing Rules
Sometimes, it seems like everything in the world
has turned upside down and few immutable rules
are left standing. But that's not so in the
world of business-to-business (B2B) email marketing
as far as I'm concerned. So to help draw some
order from the chaos, I'll share my 10 commandments
of B2B email marketing.
Rule 1: Nobody cares. No one is sitting at
his or her desk anxiously awaiting your B2B
email. Yes, I know you have a carefully crafted
messaging platform and that you're extolling
key product features. But those are irrelevant.
All that matters is that your email, on some
level, connects with the recipient. Now ask
yourself, what do you know about the people
receiving your message?
Rule 2: Inform and link. I have never ignored
an email that contained a citation from an
analyst group or a link to an article about
my industry. Yet, I seldom receive such email.
Most business professionals are information
junkies. Feed their habit. Help them do their
jobs better. Become an authoritative source
of information about your industry or profession.
Rule 3: Email newsletters work. Not the way
you do them, though. Sorry, friend, but your
idea of an email newsletter is some kind of
"house organ" that is all inside
talk, not outside talk. Guess what. I'm on
the outside. The content of your email newsletter
should be 80 percent about industry trends,
analyst reports, and white papers and just
20 percent about you, such as a press release
about a new customer you have signed or a
new product you are offering.
Rule 4: Words over images. Trust me on this.
B2B marketing is still dominated by copywriting.
Of course, businesspeople are people, too.
They might find an HTML email to be pleasing
to the eye. Ultimately, though, you make your
connection with readers, not viewers. You
make that connection through the art of gentle
surprise, candor, intelligence, and self-effacing
humor. (Business brands so seldom "speak"
in this way. In other words, there's a real
Rule 5: Email for a person must come from
a person. Use a personal address for your
email marketing communications. If you're
trying to reach an executive audience, it
is imperative that the email comes from your
CEO or, at the very least, from someone who
might be viewed as a peer.
Rule 6: Don't ignore the world. Too often,
it seems that email marketing messages exist
in a vacuum. And in that vacuum one can use
the equivalent of a phrase like "end-to-end
enterprise antigravity and pro-levity platform"
with a straight face. Remember, there is a
world out there: current events, rumors, fads,
and so on. It might be wise to selectively
reference current events.
Plus, 2001 is quite different from 2000.
A certain cynicism has gripped many enterprise
decision makers who feel that they were scammed
by the new economy's pitch people. Then along
comes September 11, the Pearl Harbor of the
New World Disorder. And it's safe to say that
business folks are in a sober, cautious frame
of mind. You might want to give that some
thought before you push "send" on
your next campaign.
Rule 7: When all else fails, try being truthful.
Let's say that yours is small start-up firm
specializing in electronic logistics. Is it
really necessary to portray yourself as a
"leading" anything? How much more
powerful might it be to speak in a personal
way about how your firm can save transportation
costs, even admitting to the fact that you've
got a staff of just 15?
Rule 8: Get a free Aberdeen Group e-sourcing
white paper. That is to say, don't ignore
the obvious. Put the obvious in the subject
line of your email. White papers attract attention.
Don't be impolite to your market by making
them root around for the good stuff.
Rule 9: Tell them what you're telling them.
We've had great success with putting an executive
summary -- usually with a dollop of humor
-- at the top of an email message. That way,
the market knows what it's getting and can
choose to dive in or race away. It's not bad
when they race away. You had nothing for them,
so why waste their time?
Rule 10: It's OK to be long-winded. I know,
this violates email marketing gospel. But
if you have something valuable to comment
about -- such as a myth you've uncovered that
needs debunking -- we've found that even time-constrained
executives will stay to the end of your message.
The real problem is that email is, more often
than not, crafted by advertising agency folks
who don't really understand your industry.
And no matter how times you revise, something
almost always rings false. In that case, keep
the email short. And strongly emphasize the
free white paper.