Email has been around in B2B marketing for a long time. In the last decade, with the arrival of shiny new marketing channels such as social media and the increasing data protection regulation, email has become a little… uncool. That’s not a good thing. While it’s not the trendiest channel, B2B email is still one of the most effective.

Yes, it’s true that we all struggle to keep up to date with incoming email. I’m avoiding working through a bit of an email backlog as I write this blog post. But we spend a lot of time reading our emails, and our experience is that great email campaigns continue to deliver great results. In fact, our monthly email newsletter is one of our best sources of leads. So why do people think email sucks?

Here are a few reasons why I think email under-performs for some companies:

Lack of creativity: email is one of the older channels and for some reason, some organisations think this means that they can’t be creative. While they are posting funky images and witty comments on social media, their emails are formulaic and boring. Failing to engage with your audience is a great way to ensure your email campaigns are disappointing.

Over-formatted HTML: yes, I know the importance of maintaining the brand. However, it’s important to remember that the unformatted plain-text emails from your sales team tend to cut through to customers and prospects far better than over-designed HTML marketing emails. Sometimes it’s good to drop the cute layout that screams “I’m selling something” and opt for a plainer layout.

Lack of persistence: like all marketing channels, consistency produces the best results. But all too often we see organisations start campaigns – for example, an email newsletter – and then stop or deliver the emails inconsistently. Repetition with decent frequency delivers results, so you have to be committed for the long haul.

Unrelated campaigns: of course, you’re going to want to run different campaigns. But all too often we see organisations running campaigns that appear a little random. Although you might ensure consistent branding with the same layout, the recipients are bombarded with different messages about different products that at best feel inconsistent and at worst could confuse or turn them off.

Lack of segmentation: sending all campaigns to the whole database is a bad idea. Email works if you talk about products or services that interest the recipient. It’s obvious, but you must make sure you segment your database to allow targeted and relevant emails to be sent.

Over-segmentation: almost as bad as not segmenting is to focus your campaigns on particular groups. It might be that there is a subset of your database that has more profiling data, or you might hammer on the biggest customers or prospects. Either way, over-mailing one segment of your database while ignoring other segments is a bad idea.

Failure to maintain the database: surely I don’t need to add anything to this! If you don’t maintain the database, so you are mailing contacts that will engage and not bounce, you’ll not get very far with your email campaigns. At the extremes, poor database management can endanger your domain’s reputation with email spam filters.

Failing to grow the database: contacts will move companies, retire and opt-out, so it’s crucial that you have a clear strategy for growing the database. It’s really hard to build databases as prospects are less and less willing to complete forms to access information. Working out how you will get sufficient new contacts to grow the database is crucial, as is understanding what you will need to invest to execute that plan.

Dealing with unengaged contacts properly: some contacts on your database will be opening and clicking on emails and you know they are engaged. Others will appear completely inactive. What does this mean in your industry? Are they just too busy to read email, are your emails going to spam or do they get all they need from your subject line (please be real – you know that is not the case!). Developing a methodology to deal with unengaged contacts, which typically involves a break from email followed by a specific nurture campaign to try to get some engagement so you know they are at least receiving the emails, is vital.

Restrictive policies: some people are not going to like this, but so many companies implement restrictive policies on their marketing departments – for example only sending emails to contacts that have double opted-in. Although this [usually] ensures a high-quality list, it could be that your database reaches a fraction of the contacts that it could. It always frustrates me when an organisation has restrictive privacy rules for marketing while letting sales do what they want: regulations like GDPR don’t discriminate between departments (trust me, I’ve read the GDPR regulations and there is no difference in the rules for emails from sales and marketing).

Hopefully, you’re not making any of those mistakes and are using email to deliver the best possible results for your business. At Napier, we see a very positive future for emails, with the most successful companies aggressively adding large numbers of carefully identified relevant contacts to their database using legitimate interest and opt-out.

If you are interested in making your email marketing deliver better results, contact me, and I’ll put together a team from the agency that can significantly increase your RoI. Email doesn’t suck: in fact it can deliver amazing results.