Category Archives: Email

B2B – Back to Basics But Better

In its heyday outbound marketing even in B2B embraced a huge list of media options. In addition to email we had:

  • Direct mail – in regular letter, postcard and dimensional versions
  • Voicemail
  • Online Advertising
  • Newspaper, Business Magazine and even Outdoor Advertising
  • Telemarketing
  • Radio
  • TV

While not everyone could afford all the arrows in the outbound quiver, there was a widely used mix of options.

But, there were some big issues with B2B outbound marketing . Personally, I don’t consider that those issues were either that they were interruptive a.k.a. intrusive ( which used to be considered a good thing) or that they attempted to force the dreaded sales presence on not quite ready to buy prospects.  Rather, the issues were that Outbound was not well targeted and most of the options cost too much. Looking back, its easy to see that in many cases the issue of cost would have been easily addressed if we had done a better job targeting the messages.

But, that was the Heyday.

Right now, B2B Outbound is in a sorry state. In an effort to correct the problems of the past, and because the shiny new automation tools pushed us that way, we’ve thrown too many  eggs into one basket – email.

Let’s face it, email is (relatively speaking) cheap, fast and easy. It’s the darling child of the automation platforms and hence the darling child of social media, which in many areas is manipulated by the staff and content farms selling us inbound marketing and marketing automation software and services.

Oh yes……and it is brutally over used.

Check out this report. “The State of B2B Lead Nurturing” produced by Bizo (about to be aquired by LinkedIn) in association with Oracle Marketing Cloud. Two conclusions drawn in this report are:

1. “Email marketing is widely used, but does not reach a significant proportion of known contacts. On average, 79 percent of marketers say their email open rates don’t exceed 20 percent.”

So, in other words 79% of marketers who are actually measuring their opens know perfectly well that 80% of the people they need to message – aren’t reading their messages. Now, I ask you, “Does this sound like effective, affordable outbound?” Nope – I don’t think so either. So it’s pretty hard to disagree with the second conclusion.

“In order to help fill the sales pipeline, marketing must embrace a truly multi-channel lead nurturing strategy that goes beyond traditional email marketing strategies.”

It would seem like a good time to re-invent B2B outbound marketing and take advantage of the lessons we have learned.

Lesson # 1 – No more blasting out one size fits all messaging. Not only is it wasting your money, even worse, it’s wasting your influence. Even though many of you have databases that are in (kindly) a semi-sorry state, you can at least segment company and contact information to the extent that you can produce messaging that fits the priorities of the people you can talk to.

Lesson # 2 – Embrace a multi-media outbound lead nurturing strategy. You’re missing too many opportunities with email. For lead nurturing opt first for choices where you can target your messages.  Voicemail, live voice, text messaging, direct mail are choices that offer control, cost efficiency, speed of deployment, timeliness of messaging and a degree of automated delivery.




Your Best Voicemail Campaign

Voicemail marketing has evolved since 2001 when I first started  working with clients to help them create successful campaigns. Honestly, I miss the way it used to be when all it took was a reasonably natural sounding message, a half decent offer and a list that wasn’t total garbage. We routinely drove double digit response rates. It was like shooting fish in a barrel. Fun to sell and lots of happy, happy clients with an awesome ROI even when bumped up against a (really pointless) measurement like cost per lead.

It’s not so easy anymore. Changing markets, escalating workloads, too much automated marketing thrown against the wall of poorly discriminated targets and too many supposed lead lists from completely unqualified inbound responses. All these factors have combined to take response rates for email, direct mail, telemarketing and just about every type of lead generation campaign and caused them to basically TANK, compared to what they used to be.

But this is the new reality. Like most other marketing tools that have been around for a while, voicemail does still work, but it works differently than it used to and one of the differences is that it needs to be executed well. With a few rare exceptions, there are 5 MUST HAVE elements for a successful voicemail campaign execution. They are:

    • Natural Sounding Message – While there are a few people who naturally do this well, I’ve found for the most part that too many clients don’t give this consideration the respect it deserves and that’s almost a crime because please, be assured that the instant a busy decision maker realizes that they are listening to a recording- they’re gone. We all get those lousy canned recordings both at work and at home- do YOU listen to them? I don’t. Natural – takes work in both the scripting and the recording.
    • Kick Ass Opening – Have you ever noticed how much testing, is applied to email subject lines? Naturally, you appreciate that weak subject lines mean email messages lost in the clutter. Never Opened. Never read. Ineffective. Take this principle and start applying it to your voicemail messages. I think – in the interest of simple human courtesy you still get a “Hi – sorry I missed you”, but if you follow that up with some irrelevant blather about your company and who you are and what you do and how successful, blah, blah, blah you’ve been – you’ve just squandered a rare opportunity.  Push your punch line to the front of your message.
    • List Quality-Part 1 Cleaning the Data – The B2B marketing community has given lip service to the issue of data quality for years now, so why do we still see such crappy lists? Hmmm, let me think – probably we see crappy lists because not enough people are picking up the phone and verifying that the information is up to date, that titles are accurate, that phone numbers actually relate to where that person can be found and not just the head office number that many computerized search tools default to. I fully concede that software list services have come a very long way, and there are some good ones out there, but without verifying the information, you are investing your efforts and your money against an assumption. Of course, if all you’re doing is slamming out cheap emails, maybe you don’t care.
  • List Quality – Part 2- Stop the Carpet Bombing – Here is how I see this problem. Cheap email and marketing automation controlled by workflows that are written with the analytical discretion of a 5 year old have turned so called sophisticated marketers into carpet bombers. Reacting to declining response rates, our solution has been to reach out more frequently to expanded lists without truly considering who we should we reaching – and then reaching out to everyone with the same vanilla message. Of course, if all you’re doing is slamming out cheap emails, maybe you don’t care. (Deja vu).

Guided voicemail is not bulk email, please target responsibly!

  • Campaign Integration – One Hit Wonders are not marketing campaigns – Use your guided voicemail as one element of an integrated campaign, by which I mean support it with email follow ups, build a coherent message strategy, generate some level of voicemail messaging frequency and measure your success within the overall structure of your campaign. I still talk to too many people who talk about “Sending out a voicemail blast” and think they’ll solve all their problems. This is not where the smart money is. In this instance, the hesitancy of many to engage with sales reps really works against them. No one knows more about putting together a good campaign (in any medium) than someone with loads of experience, success and peer expertise to draw on.

So, of course there is always more, but to very quickly summarize- if you want to create a successful voicemail campaign: Create a natural sounding message, grab attention quickly, clean up your list, Select your contacts carefully and integrate voicemail with everything else you do.

Better Subject Lines for More Opened Emails

As you read this message, sit back and enjoy the knowledge that some of your competitor’s event marketing budgets are simply money flushed down the drain. Why? Because no one is reading their email invitations owing to their complete failure to avoid uninspiring, unmotivating and simply badly written subject lines.

But better subject lines are possible with help from some help from the experts:

Hubspot – Anatomy of a Five Star Subject Line 

Unbounce- Subject Line Strategies that increase your open rates

EConsultancy – 152 Killer Keywords for subject lines and 137 crappy ones – Adestra

Mail Chimp – Best Practices in writing email subject lines

Pardot – 12 Dos and Don’ts

Chiefmarketer – Crafting an Irresistible email subject line




Take the Time to Segment Your Messages

No one doubts the importance of personalization in both consumer and business to business marketing.  In fact, it seems to me that with the use of event triggered emails and entire nurturing programs that are created to provide just the right content for an individual during their B2B buying journey, our ability to customize content is pretty exceptional.

So why do so many companies fail to take even the partial  leap from one-size-fits-all to message segmentation by title or department, when they are doing outbound marketing?

A few years ago I was working with a client and as is often the case, the actual execution of their campaign was delegated to a relatively junior person.

Quick aside – This is something I don’t understand and see all the time. The development of the strategy is hummed and hawed over by Directors and VP’s and the new managers are then stranded with the details. Ideas are a dime a dozen – I have a million of them, just give me a call – but a brilliant execution is solid gold.

As is often the case, this campaign was to promote an event and happily, this client elected to run a total of three messaging waves to their invitation list of 2,000 contacts.  The list was targeted to a single vertical, but covered both managers and directors in Marketing, Sales, IT and Finance.  Both the voicemail and email messages were, as is often the case, a bland mix of easily communicated logistical information (please someone explain to me why registrants care about what you call your event) and a fairly generic attendance benefit.

Responses were very poor. They had under 10 registrations for the event.

Taking another look at the list, we talked about the differences in the contacts they were reaching out to. Although the event featured sessions that specifically addressed issues of importance to Marketing/Sales, IT and Finance/Management, our vanilla messaging wasn’t honing in on what really mattered to any one group.  The client was not convinced that unique messaging was required since the briefing from which she was working did not specify that as one of the deliverables.  And so, the second wave of messaging went by and 10 more (I’m guessing rather reluctant) registrants signed up.

With failure looming on the not-at-all distant horizon, the manager took the briefing back to her boss, with a suggestion that responses might improve if they highlighted technical value to IT, profit implications to Finance and workload oriented benefits to their Marketing peers.

Long story short (too late for that you say?) The final wave of messaging was delayed for a few days while the list was split by departments and three recordings replaced the original one.  When the final wave of messaging ran, the value of this extra bit of work and expense was clear.  Registrations climbed from 20 to 81 for a total of almost 6% from the deliverable names on the list. they even had the opportunity to start to measure the relative appeal of the event against each of their target audiences.

The point is, people with different levels of responsibility respond to different benefits. No business challenge looks the same from every department and each has a unique perspective. Business people will only respond best to benefits (or pain points) that are meaningful to them as individuals. A single homogenous message is milk toast to everyone.

It might have worked in the past where the novelty of voicemail and email messaging alone could help to drive responses, but homogenized messages don’t cut it anymore.  Segmenting your lists into departmental and seniority clusters is not all that difficult or time-consuming to do.  But it is necessary if you want to give anyone a good enough reason to respond to your offer.

Step Away From That Spam Button!

Just looking over an article at b2bonline and finally I have crossed the line –


 ” I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

 OK. What did it this time?  The report is about a study that says something that anyone who has ever sent a marketing email to businesses or consumers is brutally aware of – that legitimate marketing emails are routinely marked as SPAM by contacts who are simply too lazy to bother to unsubscribe or either unaware or unconcerned with how a “spam”label affects the senders.  Or even worse – they might be people who have gone to some sites on spam like Spam Abuse and been told – point blank – not to bother with removal requests.

 The “Email Intelligence Report” conducted by Return Path, found that 70% of emails given the dreaded “This is Spam” were legitimate emails meaning the sender had the necessary permission to send them.  But that permission makes no difference when businesses get their email accounts suspended or get blacklisted for crossing what is actually a very small % of allowable spam complaints – about 1 in 1000 emails.

 Sure, the regulations were put in place to protect consumers and businesses from irritating, unwanted and often fraudulent email senders – true spammers – the kind who scrape lists and routinely blast out hundreds of thousands of unwanted messages.  But wait a minute Mrs and Mrs “let’s protect the public”regulators.  The REAL spammers DON’T CARE.


 I know how frustrating it is to get a ton of junk mail, but I also know how difficult it can be when legitimate business emails get labeled as spam. And so, since labelling a message as spam doesn’t do anything to hurt the worst offenders, I believe that the only reasonable option is to REMOVE the option to label a message as spam and replace it with an unsubscribe request.

Unfortunately, politically, this would be about as popular as health care, increased taxes or more deadly boring coverage of fiscal cliff, so I think that at this time, the only thing you can really do about it is to become a loud and annoying person whenever you hear friends, family, relatives, business associates and perhaps even total strangers talk about how they identify emails as spam and let them know that they’re being IDIOTS!



Declining Response Rates – Stop Shooting the Messenger

The most visible and important measure of success delivered to any company by any B2B marketing campaign is the direct response.  It blows awareness out of the water.  A direct response is more valuable than any measure of brand preference or image because it opens a dialogue for more marketing, it opens a door to sales revenue (heck- it might even be a sale) and it’s the only sure way to ever directly evaluate ROI.  You put out a message and a selection of your contacts put up their hands and ask for more.   Marketers love responses and responders…..almost as much as their colleagues in sales. And that’s why the media that can deliver the most direct responses is always the “darling du jour” of B2B marketers.

The challenge that is vexing so many of us now is that real responses are hard to come by…and getting harder. It seems that many people feel this is happening  because the tools we use to drive responses – direct mail, email, voicemail, telemarketing – are losing their effectiveness.  And so, the rush to social media marketing is fueled by the hope that it will somehow fill the void and drive a host of new responders into our waiting (hungry) arms (jaws).

Good luck with that plan.

If you’re serious about improving response rates, the first step is to accept responsibility for your messages and stop blaming the messengers, even though its true that when, for example – email, voicemail, direct mail were the shiny new toys on the block, generating responses was like shooting fish in a barrel.

In the early days, your messages were automatically novel, unexpected and an original approach. The response rates were terrific. But as messages like yours proliferated and dulled those shiny new communications channels, they all moved down the continuum from unique and special, to fairly common but frequently useful, to more of the same old junk.

But, the solution will not necessarily be found with a new messenger. I think what we need to do is take a good look at our messages and figure out why no one can be bothered to answer them.  So, because we all love lists, here are my

Top Seven Reasons Why I Didn’t Get Enough Responses….In No Particular Order

  1. The message was never received.  (Bad data)  If you fail to invest in your data,  you will throw money away on every campaign you execute in every medium with messages that can’t be delivered to people with missing, incomplete or incorrect contact information.  In some ways, this is the worst possible mistake because you’re making the same mistake over and over.  It messes up all your metrics. An undelivered message is like a golf putt that doesn’t make it to the hole. Each has a 100% chance of failure.
  2. The message was unclear. (Bad writing)In order to grab a persons attention you must be direct and crystal clear.  Messages that are filled with jargon, that use a senders “company speak”, that ramble and are simply jumbled and poorly organized don’t drive a response.
  3. The message was not compelling.  (Weak Offer) Was there anything that said “read and act, now?” Don’t list a bunch of features that your engineers think are cool, highlight a benefit that your reader needs (preferably desperately) and if can’t communicate a sense of urgency, why will someone interupt an already busy day and respond?
  4. The message was not relevant. (Bad Targeting)  You sent your message to the wrong person. Either you were completely off base and your product/service and offer were of no interest to the individual or company you sent it to, or you matched the wrong benefit to the title.  As a rule of thumb, you’ll get better responses offering Executives benefits that are relevant to their responsibilities, so why are so many campaigns structured with a single benefit statement offered to all job titles in a company?
  5. The message didn’t speak to current priorities. (Wrong time)  Unless your campaigns are themselves in response to specific triggers, timing can be a matter of luck.  There is only one solution when everything else looks right and that is to keep on trying.
  6. Your message was lost or forgotten before action was taken. (No follow up) You can’t rely on a one time message to communicate any campaign because while rare, it is possible that you’ll strike the right chord, with the right person and they’ll be interrupted before they can take action.  Events can quickly overtake even the most interested potential response, even one that could easily turn into a sale.  So, it’s imperative to make more than one attempt to get an action executed.
  7. The campaign parameters never defined “enough”. (Weak objectives) It’s entirely possible that if you don’t run through the numbers and work with a realistic expectation of what you’re responses should be, you can spend your money without a hope of driving a positive ROI.  For example, I can’t think of a universe where a list of 1000 CEO’s will deliver 100 attendees to anything but the most exceptional business event.

To deal with your declining response rates is a challenge that will require your skill, your hard work, your resourcefulness and a careful but adequate allocation of your budget.  I admit that this doesn’t sound all that encouraging, because it isn’t easy.  But unlike pinning your hopes on the next marketing discovery, if you focus on a brilliant message and stop expecting the messenger to do the work for you, (like in the good old days) you will have a shot at improvement.

Design Your Messages to Work Together

To get the best results from your combined voicemail and email campaign, there are a few simple ideas you might want to consider:

1- Use the same voice in both messages.  If you want to use a series of messages to build a story or create a particular impression with your audience, make it easy by using the same voice- which in this case means the same style, main message and point of view.  For example, one of the most frequent areas we see for improvement in campaigns which combine voicemail and email is a lack of credible connection between the senders.  There is a personal and natural message from an individual, like the local sales rep which is clearly meant to create a one to one connection, and the email – supposedly from that same rep – is obviously a mass market communication that didn’t come from that person at all- or ANY individual for that matter.  While the mass email is usually a pretty slick production, I think that the client gives up that impression of an individual connection with a person within their organization which is part of the high ground of a good voicemail campaign.  Even more frustrating, don’t create a supposedly personal follow up email which doesn’t enable a simple reply to the person who left them the voicemail in the first place.

2- Count on multiple messages for both the voicemail and email.  It’s pretty well established by now that it takes more attempts to make a real live connection with contacts and even if your campaign isn’t designed to lead immediately to a live dialogue, a big part of the problem is message clutter and timing. One voicemail and one email are not going to move your mountain.  Plan on at least two voicemail passes and at least three emails.  If budgets are an issue – and for the vast majority of us they will ALWAYS be an issue, work with your account manager to get the best balance between premium first wave passes and their highly efficient follow up waves. For example on a list of 4,000 contacts you might be better off to trim that list back to 3,000 names and for the same budget you might be able to make two messages passes to the confirmed contacts.  Much depends on your list, of course.

3- Create a good voicemail that takes maximum advantages of the opportunity.  Voicemail is not a radio commercial and while it can deliver “mass announcements” it works best when you use it to create personable, natural messages that  sound like a person really called.  We’ve run thousands of successful programs that still sounded pretty corporate and never tried to capture that personal feel, but I’ve always wondered just how much better they could have been if it had been possible to create that real human touch.

4- Keep the voicemail and the email short.  Plan your voicemail for 30 seconds and if it’s decided that a Senior VP or President is going to voice the message and you’re only going to get one take at getting the recording right because you’ll never get back on their schedule, make every effort you can to communicate that they can’t ramble on for a minute and a half.  Even if the campaign can run with a message that long it will push you over budget.  Worse, it will wear out the patience of your contacts.  The same challenge of brevity  applies to the email.  You left them a voicemail, they opened your email. Now, don’t blow it by making your contacts read the same message you already left them.  Give them something new and use the email to communicate the information that voicemail is not ideally suited for.  Give them details and listed points.  Point them to links for more information and let them REPLY.

Combining Voicemail and Email

One of the very best ways to boost the response rate to either an email or a voicemail program is to use them together and we have consistently seen response improvements of 25-40% when the two message types are combined.

Voicemail provides the emotion and the human connection.  Take your time to craft a short, punchy, relevant message and deliver it with feeling and conviction and a natural style.

Email provides the logic and the detail.  With its ‘click the link’ reply capability, it’s still the easiest and least intrusive reply mechanism going.

The voicemail-email combination offers one of the best marketing synergies going. Not only does each have it’s own set of unique strengths, they are both admirably suited to offset the weakness of the other.

Voicemail is not a great place to list information like dates, places or numbers and while it can produce solid results in generating responses, not many contacts choose to respond to a voicemail with a phone call, although the ones that do are usually among the best possible prospects for your offer.  But, voicemail can pack enough marketing punch to drive your message home in spite of a hugely cluttered environment.

That clutter is deadly to email and made even worse because the email inbox is probably the most cluttered segment of the whole environment.  Filters and deliverability are also a big problem for email. It’s hard to know for sure if your message ever truly reached its intended audience.

So which comes first, the email or the voicemail?

First, let me say I definitely prefer a multi-hit approach for both email and voicemail. Because email is super fast and the cheaper of the two, send your email first,  just in case you can quickly pick up some low hanging fruit.  If you get a really good response, send it again.

We used to recommend sending a voicemail either before or after your email but now, with the deep discounting available on your second and subsequent voicemail campaign waves,  it’s best to send voicemails both before and after an email.  Here’s why:

You send a voicemail ahead of your email to help overcome the clutter issue.  A voicemail that talks about your offer and highlights the arrival of more follow up detail makes your email stand out.  Your contacts know before clicking on your message; who you are, what you’re writing about and what they have to gain by reading your message. If you think you’re losing responses because your emails aren’t getting read in the first place, a voicemail- up front- is one way to address the problem.

A voicemail follow up can boost responses when your contacts have read and are interested in what you have to say, but for some reason decided to follow up on this later. You know what happens then. In spite of the best intentions your message and your offer are out of sight, out of mind and out of luck.  That follow up message, again bringing the emotion and human impact of a fully engaged voice to bear, might just be the push they need to grab your interesting email and take action.

The voicemail + email combination has a long history of success for many different marketing applications – demo offers, download opportunities and event invitations among them and is still the most productive way for sales cold callers to maximize their prospecting and lead follow up efforts.