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Email solicitations, when done well, I love them. I could wax poetic for hours on the best campaigns I’ve seen, how I love when the email is well targeted, the company’s messaging is clear throughout the content and there’s a clear call to action.

On the other hand, unfortunately, the vast majority of emails I receive are just plain bad.

So, this Valentine’s Day, I’m going to share 11 recent examples and practices (culled from hundreds) of email solicitations that I just hate. Some are executed poorly; some border on rude; most are completely misguided. In all cases, these examples are guaranteed to not get a response. So if you are doing any of these, please stop. Now.

Of course, there are always lessons to learn from bad examples, so my four commandments for effective B2B email marketing follows, but first … 11 things I hate about poorly executed email campaigns.

I loathe:

  1. When the spammer gets angry that I haven’t responded. I got one the other day that said, “It’s frustrating to me that you have not yet responded.” News flash: It’s not about how my lack of response makes you feel; it’s about whether or not I’m interested in what you have to offer. If I am, I’ll respond. If not, move on.
  2. When the emailer doesn’t provide a simple way to opt-out of future emails. That violates the basic tenants of the Can-Spam act. Or when they do provide a link and it asks you to enter your email address to opt out. Which is bound to get you on more email lists because now they know they have a live one. Use anyone of the dozens of third-party email marketing programs out there that provide one click opt out. Please.
  3. When the emailing sales reps pastes each of the previous eight emails they’ve sent me in-line and start with, “Sorry for the bother.” You’re not, really, so don’t try to hook a lead by lying. That never goes over very well.
  4. Poor attempts at customizing the email. This one recently came into my in-box: “We came across (agency name). We read great things about you guys.” Fill-in-the blank left blank? “You guys?” Really?
  5. When solicitors use the line “I’d love to learn more about your plans.” I share plans with partners, customers, suppliers – people with whom I’ve built trust. Not with complete strangers who have either bought my email or scraped it off the Internet somewhere.
  6. When the sales rep (or list broker) doesn’t take the time to get names right. “Hi Dan, My name is Scott. We provide (services) to organizations like Altitude Website Marketing.” Two strikes. 1) My name isn’t Dan. 2) That’s not the name of my company. If you can’t get that right, why would I entrust you with the running critical aspects of my business, like my IT infrastructure? Delete.
  7. When the emailer unknowingly insults me, my team and my business. I fished this one out of my spam folder. “I built my business in response to inconsistent marketing and lead generation vendors.” Uh, did you bother to check what Altitude does for its clients? Read any of the case studies or testimonials? Do you understand what I do for a living?
  8. When the spammer clearly doesn’t know his audience. “Hi Andrew, You’re leading a fast-growing startup so I’ll keep this brief.” Altitude started in 2004. Not a startup. End of discussion.
  9. “Here are some common questions I have received lately and thought you’d be interested.” I’m super busy. Why should I care about questions you’ve been asked when I have no clue who you are and haven’t opted in to hear your insight? If this was coming from someone famous in business (e.g. Richard Branson, Mark Cuban, Bill Gates) or someone I think is uber cool (Lenny Kravitz or Slash, perhaps) maybe it would pique my interest. But I have no idea who you are. And you don’t know me. Or my needs. How do you know what I’d be interested in? Hint: I’m interested in getting work done, bringing success to my clients and nurturing qualified leads not reading spammy emails.
  10. When the emailer offers services we offer our clients. “Why outsource your SEO to us? Since 75% of users click on the first page of Google, no business wants to miss that opportunity.” This one is a double whammy since we manage SEO as part of an integrated marketing strategy for dozens of companies from Silicon Valley to Switzerland. And, be real leery of any company that leads with a promise to get you on the first page of Google. Good SEO is about building an authority site and high trust flow.
  11. Overuse of cliché (and typos) and when attempts at scaring you makes the emailer look just plain silly. “What makes our SEO the best? Our SEO experts constantly have their ear to ground watching trends. Penguin, Panda and the most recent one Hummingbird.” Hummingbird was in 2013. Email address blocked!
  12. Here’s a bonus one, only because it really made me laugh: “Hi Andrew, I’ve reached out a couple times and have not heard back, which tells me one of three things: 1. You don’t need any engineering help (We don’t); 2. You’re interested, but haven’t had the time to respond (I’m not). 3. You are being chased by a hippo and need me to call for help. Please let me know, as I am beginning to worry…” (I really appreciate your concern!)

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So, the takeaways? My Four Commandments for Effective B2B Email Marketing Communications:

  1. Earn your prospects. Buying lists will result in poor conversion. Period. Drive website traffic through social posts, win eyeballs through thought leadership, generate referrals by delivering a great product or service, selectively ask for qualified LinkedIn introductions, effectively use content marketing and conduct good old fashion research.
  2. Respect your prospects. Your goal needs to turn someone who fits your target profile into a qualified lead. Get them to opt in. Once you’ve captured a lead legitimately, cap the number of times you hit someone up through email at three. You can stay top-of-mind through retargeting – which is far less intrusive – and far more effective.
  3. Know your prospects. Do your homework on the prospects. You are better off having 100 prospects you really know need your service and getting to know their business than 10,000 who aren’t interested in what you have to offer. Quality not quantity.
  4. Nurture your prospects. Don’t hound them. Especially for B2B, where there is a long lead cycle (not a buy-now decision). Through a carefully architected lead-nurturing and marketing automation strategy – one that involved providing content that is of value, at the right place at the right time – and gently nudging the prospect over a series of weeks towards conversion (a conversation) and reinforcing the message through retargeting, you will get far more qualified leads.

What are some of your favorite email examples you love to hate? Feel free to share them with us on Twitter or Facebook.