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December 29, 2014

Stop it already with the bad marketing! Part 3: Email

149-bad-email-ettiqueteSo far, in this series about the bad marketing taking place in our industry, we’ve discussed websites and advertising and made numerous suggestions on some things you can do to enhance the effectiveness of those marketing tactics for your firm.

This week, we’ll take a look at EMAIL MARKETING.

By all accounts, email is still the #1 marketing tactic used by B2B businesses today. Done right, it can help you achieve four very important goals:

  • Nurture sales leads
  • Maintain top-of-mind awareness among your existing clients
  • Position your firm in the markets your serve
  • Inform and educate your readers

Sadly, far too many firms are doing their email marketing badly, which keeps them from achieving those goals…

  1. CONTENT: to be an effective marketing tool, your emails MUST be a delivery vehicle for content that provides value to your readers. Anything else just detracts from the usefulness of the tactic.
    • Too salesy. This is perhaps the most egregious of the transgressions. People love to buy, but they hate to be sold… and yet, many business use a ‘hard sell’ in their emails – focusing on what they do, rather than what might benefit the reader. It’s this strategy that puts a bad taste in the mouths of your prospects and has them “opting out.”
    • No useful content. We work in a knowledge industry. To help position your firm and “prove” that you can do what you say you can do, share helpful content (articles, blog posts, white papers, etc.) through your email.
    • Too much internal focus. Yes, your clients and prospects want to get to know you and your firm a bit, but no one really wants to see the pictures from your Christmas party. Go easy on this kind of thing.
  1. STRUCTURE: As we used to tell our children when they were growing up, “It’s not just what you say (the Content), but how you say it, that’s important.”
    • Ugly emails. ‘Ugly’ reflects badly on your brand, so stop it already with homemade emails. Spend a few bucks and get some professional help or use the templates that come with your email platform. And if it’s been a few years since you assessed the look of your email… it might be time to modernize it a bit.
    • Inconsistent look. The overall look and feel (colors, fonts, imagery) of your email should be very consistent with your other marketing tactics (website, ads, exhibit booth). If the emails have a different look, the awareness-building opportunity of email is mitigated.
    • WAY too long. I saw a study recently that said the average business person receives 180 emails every day! I don’t have time to read an email that keeps scrolling and scrolling… and scrolling. Instead, include a short snippet of each article… and link it back to your website – and I’ll go read the entire article if I’m interested.
    • NOT linking back to website. Related to the issue immediately above… one of the real values of email marketing is that it provides the opportunity for you to drive people back to your website for more information… which also exposes them to everything else about your firm highlighted on your site.
    • No ‘sharing’ buttons. Because you’ve committed to providing something of value in your email, make it easy for your readers to share it with their colleagues. The most common tools are a “forward to a friend” button, as well as links to social media sites if they want to post it.
  1. MEASUREMENT: Email is one of the most measureable marketing tactics being used to day. And if you’re using a commercial platform (like Constant Contact, MailChimp or EMMA), the ability to do the measuring is built right in.
    • Not measuring results. With the tools available today, you can measure ‘opens,’ ‘click-thrus,’ what was clicked on, what was shared and even WHO did each of those things. Why would you not spend a little time measuring? And then track it over time to uncover trends.
    • Not testing subject lines. The thing that impacts the opening of your email the most is the Subject Line. Better subject lines get better open rates. Conducting simple A/B tests with each mailing can improve the open rate of that mailing, and over time, teach you what kinds of Subject Lines work best.
  1. PROCESS: Everything in business is a process… and email marketing is no different. Here are a few process-oriented items that can keep you from being successful…
    • Being inconsistent. If you’re going to start a regular email marketing program… commit to a consistent schedule. Most firms blast monthly, though there are a few emails I receive weekly and even daily (and I don’t mind – because the content is so beneficial). But being inconsistent on something as simple as an email will not reflect well on your ability to deliver on something more complex… like the work you do.
    • Improper list creation. There are two phases to the names on your list – getting them… and managing them. Your list should only contain names of people you’ve done business with or connected with in the past (or who opt-in to your newsletter). Stop scraping names from online directories and putting them in it. On the flip side… if someone requests to opt out… make it easy and quick to do (which most commercial platforms do) – then honor it.
    • A “dirty” list. People move around a lot in our little industry. Keep an eye out for those announcements (LinkedIn can help with this) and make sure to update your list when it happens. Further, consider segmenting your list (by type of firm, by industry, etc.) to be able to send targeted emails if you so choose.

Bottom line: Email marketing can – and should – be a fundamental part of your on-going marketing & sales program. But it’s easy to get sloppy with it… which not only lessens its effectiveness, but can negatively impact the perception of your firm in the marketplace. Follow the simple guidelines above to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Free Download: To help with management of your email marketing, we have created an easy-to-use email tracking sheet that will help you monitor the key metrics associated with email campaigns. To download your free copy, Click Here. No email required.

Next week… we’ll take a look at bad EXHIBITING.

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