Why Isn’t My B2B Email Marketing Strategy Working? 9 Problems and 10 Best Practices

B2B email marketing campaigns are a proven marketing method, especially for strategies such as lead generation. Yet, many companies struggle to achieve success. They are often left wondering why their email marketing strategy isn’t working.

Lack of success often comes down to a few key missteps that lead to issues such as low email open rates, low response rates and a lack of conversions. When you learn how to turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones, though, email content offers a surefire way to turn prospects into customers.

Here are 10 leading reasons why B2B email marketing strategies don’t work — and a checklist on how to fix the problems.

10 Email Marketing Strategy Issues

Problem 1 — No Clear B2B Email Marketing Strategy

Everything in marketing has to be strategic, email marketing programs included. Without a well-defined strategy, you’re wasting time and resources. An effective email marketing strategy includes an action plan that aligns with your campaign’s goals. 

Best Practices:

An effective email marketing strategy includes an action plan that aligns with your campaign’s goals. Start by determining your goals and deciding how you will measure your campaign’s success. Understand your target audience and their pain points and align email marketing to solve their problems and align with your marketing initiatives. Review and revise your messaging on a regular basis. 

Effective email marketing should be used to:

✓  Create Awareness and Loyalty

✓  Fill your sales pipeline

✓  Educate and Create Customer Awareness

✓  Launch & Promote New Products

✓  Promote Events

✓  Test new markets & messaging

✓  Webinar Registration Support

✓  Support channel partners with GTM boost

✓  Support a new rep onboarding

✓  Onboard New Territories

Problem 2 — Lack of Audience Insight

The most successful email marketing strategies begin by targeting specific audiences. Not knowing your target audience, including their geography, demographics and psychographics, presents a major constraint when sending email marketing campaigns

Best Practices:

Before you hit send, first clearly define your target customers — including their occupations, needs, preferences and more. Not every target customer has the same pain point and therefore you may need to segment your database and target with different messaging. 

Common ways to segment a database include:

✓  Location or Territory

✓  Product Line

✓   Job title and role (Buyer or Influencer)

✓   Industry

Problem 3 — Unknown Sender

The sender of every email impacts your open rates. If it’s from an unknown entity or looks sketchy, people will be suspicious. Today, everyone receives so many emails, and many of them are spam. If the receivers don’t recognize and trust your email address it’s likely they’ll delete it or mark it as spam.

Best Practice:

Always send from a real email address and a real person, preferably someone with whom the recipient could reasonably talk to for more information or to discuss a potential deal.

Problem 4 — Bad Subject Lines

The first thing B2B buyers see is your subject line. If it doesn’t resonate, recipients won’t read your email — or even open it. Vague, boring or spammy subject lines will encumber the success of your email campaigns. Often, an email is simply not given attention due a perceived lack of value in the subject line. Subject lines should be clear and compelling enough to catch the recipient’s attention, encouraging them to read what’s inside.

Best Practice:

Make your subject line count! Keep your phrasing efficient, short and sweet, encouraging the recipient to click in and read more.

Problem 5 — Irrelevance

If you’re lucky enough to entice recipients to open your email or email newsletter, you have to deliver on the promise set by your subject line. Successful email campaigns target people with the potential to be interested in what you have to say — and they address the recipients’ challenges, wants and needs. Also, they are clear, succinct and include a simple call to action.

Best Practice:

Leveraging buyer personas or ideal customer profiles, ensure every message sent is targeted and contains value-rich, relevant content that speaks to the reader's pain points.

Problem 6 — No Personalization

If you’re relying on a one-size-fits-all approach to email marketing, any success will be minimal. Personalization is the art and science of engaging with a larger audience in a way that feels individualized and human, with the messaging taking into consideration their specific needs and wants.  

Best Practice:

Segment your lists so that the right message gets to the right person based on your personas or ICPs. Further, if your sending platform supports personalization tokens, utilize as much personalization that makes the message warm and personal (without going overboard!) 

Consider using the following as a baseline:

✓  Name

✓  Company name

✓  Industry

✓  Location/region

Problem 7 — Outdated Email Database

An outdated email database can derail your best intentions. If your emails aren’t reaching the right people, you’ll experience a poor response rate, low conversion rate, low ROI. For best results, make sure your email database is up-to-date, accurate and error-free.

Best Practice:

Ensure sending lists are well-curated, up-to-date and regularly cleaned to uphold strong sending standards and avoid running afoul of sender daemons. Consider working with a reputable agency that has strong criteria for contact database management.

Problem 8 — Sending Spammy Emails

Despite your best efforts in optimizing subject lines, messages and email lists, your emails can still land in the spam folder for a wide variety of reasons. An example of a spam trap is when people responded to your email just to get your free offer. Once they received the freebie, they hit the spam button. To avoid this trap, make it easy for people to opt out of your emails. Also, continue to be vigilant in your targeting and messaging, and consider lengthening the intervals between sending emails to make your campaigns less intrusive — and less susceptible to being labeled as spam.

Best Practice: 

Don't be too aggressive with email sends. Space them out and always make sure message voice and tone is professional, respectful and personable. Don't overpromise or use bait-and-switch techniques.

Problem 9 — Bad Email Behavior

Along with individual recipients blocking your emails, companies and email service providers can also block you if your email behavior seems suspicious. For example, Gmail automatically filters emails and places the ones that appear sketchy in a spam folder. Even worse, companies can put your email address on their blacklist, which means your emails will never get through to your targeted recipients. In this case, even legitimate subscribers won't be able to receive your emails. Avoid waving red flags that can get you blocked by companies and ISPs.

Best Practice:

Always maintain professional email etiquette, provide clear sender identifiers and give the recipient conspicuous options to manage preferences or opt-out.

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Email Marketing Best Practices Checklist

Use this B2B email marketing strategy checklist, based on the information above, to set yourself up for success before sending your next marketing emails.

  1. Start by determining your goals, ensuring your email marketing aligns well with overall marketing strategy and decide how you will measure your campaign’s success.
  2. Ensure your emails are sent to the right people by doing your homework: clearly define your target customers from multiple perspectives: their wants, needs and challenges.
  3. To avoid being perceived as spam, use a trustworthy email address with a real person’s name and company.
  4. Spend time crafting perfect subject lines. They need to be short and sweet and contain a compelling message that will encourage recipients to open the email.
  5. Create messages that appeal to your target audience and are relevant to their unique challenges and needs.
  6. Ensure that your call to action is clear, simple and speaks to the needs of your target audience.
  7. Deliver personalized emails by segmenting your B2B email list into well-defined buckets of prospects who have similar interests, values and preferences. Add personalized elements to the emails, such as using recipients’ names in the salutation or subject line.
  8. Make no compromises when it comes to acquiring quality email databases. Acquire lists that are up-to-date, well-targeted and error-free. Weed out all high-risk contacts before hitting send, or work with an agency that pulls fresh, relevant contact data on a regular basis.
  9. To avoid having your emails labeled as spam, ensure they are professional and always give people an easy way to opt-out or manage preferences.
  10. Your behavior as an email sender is what makes or breaks your reputation with companies and ISPs. So, make sure email behavior is professional and respectful.

Email marketing campaigns can be one of the most powerful forms of marketing when done right. If not done properly, the consequences for your marketing efforts, and even your business, can be catastrophic.  (Ask anyone who had their corporate domain shut down!) 

Running effective B2B email marketing campaigns requires careful planning and execution to get into users’ inboxes, improve open rates and get responses. Make sure your email marketing strategy is on point and the type of email you’re sending is correct. If you do, you’ll avoid these common problems — and start reaping the rewards of generating new leads and business opportunities.