Email marketing a high priority? Really?

There was a day when I thought I was a progressive, internet-savvy industrial marketer.  Still today, among B2B marketers willing to fill out an online survey, I’d like to think I’m ahead of the curve.

But apparently the rest of the industrial/B2B marketers have moved on and decided that email marketing is the most important type of marketing they’ll be doing in 2011.

I was stunned to see blogger Chris Rand’s BMON’s response from 183 marketers “Where are you advertising next year?” survey:

What do we find? Firstly, there’s a clear winner. Email marketing is going to be the most important area of investment for industrial and scientific companies next year. Over 80% said it was going to be “high” or “medium” priority, and only 3% said they wouldn’t be using it at all.

I’ve got one niche mailing list I use a couple times a year, and email blasts culled from my CRM for the few shows we do. I don’t even count those as enough to get me out of the lowly 3%, let alone the bottom 20%.

I’ve always put us scientific/industrial/capital-equipment types as ‘demand driven’ marketing. Email should be a lower priority, while optimizing being ‘found’ would be the top goal.

All I’m going to do with email marketing is annoy the very same engineers who will sooner or later be shopping for our type of equipment. They remember what salespeople and companies annoy them. Trust me on this!

Both extremes:

I’ve seen the rise of ‘marketing automation’, and been confused by it all. But for certain marketers (technology/software marketers especially) where nurturing, educating, and creating demand are key tasks, I’m sure it makes sense. Slickly done, with a dedicated staffer running the program, it has to easily show value.

Then there are the really lame email blasts I get from companies that are going to try email marketing about once, half-heartedly. The messages are so bad, no one responds, and email marketing is declared a waste.

Somehow, I suspect there are a lot more than 3% of marketers who fall in the ‘really lame’ category. They certainly aren’t thoughtful enough to read a blog or respond to a survey, though.

Note: I hate surveys because benchmarks don’t always apply to what is right for me. This is certainly the case. But I’m just surprised to be so far in the minority!

5 Replies to “Email marketing a high priority? Really?”

  1. I completely agree – I would have expected social media or company blogs to make it to the top of the list. As you point out, a well-written, nicely laid out email blast in the right market can be a great tool, but how often do these three factors come together? Rarely, in my experience.

    It seems to me that email marketing is becoming the new direct mail – it can generate positive ROI if the copy is amazing and it hits the right demographic, but otherwise it’s pretty much a waste of everyone’s time (and a big turn-off to the wrong demographic). If you’re going to invest in a marketing campaign, at least invest in something that provides some kind of peripheral benefit – like the SEO boost a site gets from social media and blogging.

    As always, thanks for your insight!

  2. Thanks for the mention, Dave. I wasn’t as surprised as you, although I totally agree with your observations! My experience is that the mindset of the average marketing manager in industry is not “is there anything new I can do which will get me better results?” but “how can I get better results by improving what I already do?” Show some progress, but keep your head down. So marketing techniques which are well past their sell-by date linger on, as every last ounce of potential is wrung from them.

  3. For my company, e-mail has been one of the most productive things we do. We are disciplined and have a concept we stick to, that is more about being helpful and informative than pushing product. For the reasons you mention, I don’t believe in pushing product in email marketing. We have a diverse product mix, but matching any single aspect of it to a relevant customer at the right time is a shot in the dark. When we send out information how to do something, how to protect your warehouse from something, etc., people respond.

  4. Dave,
    From my perspective, I think the decision to focus on email marketing more than other channels is simply a matter of cost. I try to get my technology clients to use direct mail as part of their mix and many don’t want anything to do with it because of the up-front costs, regardless of whether it’s cost-effective or not.

  5. I have had this feeling of being ahead of the pack and falling behind quickly on three occasions in my career. The good news is, is that we can always pull back ahead with hard work and creativity.

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