The Dismal State of B2B Email Creative

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I review B2B email campaigns regularly in this space, and though I’m not one to be sparing in my opinions, I do try to be conscious of the type and size of company responsible for the campaign, with the thought, I suppose, that some marketers just may not know better.

That said, poorly written and poorly designed B2B emails are not difficult to find these days. My inbox overflows daily with emails containing little or no offer, vague calls to action, and a complete absence of anything (apparently) designed to drive engagement. What you might call the Dismal State of B2B Email Creative is, I believe, creditable to two factors:

1. Creative is now an afterthought to marketing technology and data. Marketers have been bludgeoned into the misguided notion that all one needs to be successful is the right software and enough data about your audience. (Don’t get me started about AI.) But creative, clearly, doesn’t matter.

2. Companies would never consider assigning a TV spot, a national print ad, or a new Website, to just any staff member with the time and inclination to produce them. But it’s clear that no such standard applies to email creative. It’s an email. Anyone can write an email, right?

Take, for example, the campaign below, newly arrived from Oath, a “digital content and advertising” subsidiary of Verizon, Inc. that includes Yahoo and AOL and reported quarterly revenues for Q417 of $2.2 billion. Would you expect a $10 Billion digital content and advertising company to be a showcase of stunning online creative? Yes, you would. And yet, we get this:

B2B email creative* A giant header image of the most generic cell phone image imaginable (in black and white, no less), with no visual reference to the offer or anything else that might inspire action or even curiosity

* An opening line that begins with the clichéd: “In the challenging world of app marketing …” (most readers are now already lost for good) and ends with the banal: “… drive success for your efforts”.

* A second paragraph that begins “With our new ebook …” Sorry, who is this again? The reader doesn’t know because we haven’t told him. If you’re a $10 Billion digital advertising company, why not use that fact to sell the value of your content?

* That same paragraph promises “six specific steps to boost your app marketing campaigns, including understanding the complete app marketing lifecycle.” Eureka! By merely understanding the complete app marketing lifecycle, I’m one-sixth of my way to “boosting” my campaigns, whatever that means.

* But wait, there’s more. “With U.S. mobile app store revenues expected to jump dramatically from $16.3 billion in 2017 to $31.2 billion by 2021, there is plenty of opportunity for those that know how to grab it.” There’s money to be made in apps? Who knew? (If you’re making the case for why the information on offer has value, don’t lead with facts of blinding obviousness.)

Boost success. Generate more users. Drive the best ROI. This is the wealth of learning that awaits me. But the terminology and phrasing is so basic that it loses all meaning. Boost success how? By what measure? How will I learn to generate more users? Emails succeed on the strength of specific, unique, tangible and compelling benefits. On language that entices, intrigues, and drives the reader to action. Alas, none of that is in evidence here.

For more tips on email creative, check out our infographic: “10 Commandments of Email Copywriting“.

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