The Failure of B2B Email Personalization: How To Get It Right 


B2B email personalization helps prospective customers get relevant information while establishing brand trust. However, personalization strategies are poorly implemented today. Using an example, Christine Crandell, president, New Business Strategies, explains how marketers can improve personalization and a few best practices to follow.

In the B2B world, buying decisions are complex and involve multiple stakeholders. Personalization can help build trust and differentiate your brand from competitors. B2B personalization aims to help marketers improve the relevance and impact of their email campaigns, as well as increase engagement and brand preference by delivering highly customized messages based on a buyer’s unique preferences, behaviors, and past interactions.  

Instead of a daily inbox filled with noise, buyers receive communications relevant and perceived as valuable to their industry, role, journey stage, search intent, and goals. It is a win/win. The buyer gets relevant information they can use today to achieve their goals, and the brand gains credibility, mindshare, and trustworthiness.

Who is not for that?

The Reality of B2B Personalization

Unfortunately, that is not what is happening. Poor implementation of personalization strategies leads to more of the same — “junk” emails and outreach. As a result, the buyer loses trust in the brand, and the vendor is blocked, blacklisted, and unsubscribed.

It is estimated that 25-50% of marketing emails are deleted or marked as spam without ever being opened. Managing unwanted emails can take up to 30 minutes every day. A common joke is about ‘sorting and bulk deleting’ one’s inbox over morning coffee before starting the work day. Inefficient use of time, more and more people are resorting to automation tools that screen, block, and divert unwanted emails.

See More: Conversational ABM: A Solution to the Personalization at Scale Challenge

Sharing this frustration, I started using at the recommendation of a client. This article is not a promo for Gated. Instead, I am using them to highlight the failure of personalization. 

Tools like Gated divert unexpected emails into separate folders where you can decide whether to allow future emails from the sender’s domain or not. The sender receives a reply email saying the recipient does not ‘recognize’ the sender and that they need to take action to reach you. 

Senders can either claim they have a legitimate reason for contacting you or, in the case of Gated, donate to a charity of your choice. In my case, that is the Wounded Warrior Project. 

I was curious to see how many senders would respond to an automated response requesting action. And how many would donate to reach me? Here is a typical example:

About 98% of the filtered personalized vendor emails that were sent a Gated ‘action’ reply went unanswered even though many vendors repeatedly sent ‘follow-up’ emails per a typical cadence.

Why bother sending outbound emails if no one is monitoring the response? Why keep a recipient in a drip campaign when it is clear they are not receiving the emails? 

See More: Setting a Strong Foundation for Personalized User Experience

For all the whining about the delivery, open, and conversion rates, it seems a no-brainer that a path to improving TOFU is first to scrub the database, then more narrowly segment and target campaigns. If an automated response is received, either respond to it or take the recipient out of the campaign. 

B2B Personalization Best Practices

Best practices in B2B personalization campaigns include:

1. Data-driven targeting: Use data and analytics to understand the target audience and their preferences, behaviors, and needs.

2. Smaller Segments:
Segment the email list into smaller, more specific groups based on shared characteristics and interests.

3. Relevant messaging: Personalize each email’s messaging and content to address each segment’s specific needs and interests.

4. Dynamic content: Use dynamic content to create a personalized experience for each recipient based on their data and behaviors.

5. Use customer data: Utilize customer data, such as purchase history and demographic information, to further personalize the email experience.

6. Consistent branding: Ensure consistent branding across all emails, regardless of the level of personalization, to maintain a professional image and build trust.

7. Strong call-to-action: Include a strong, action-oriented call-to-action that motivates the recipient to take the desired action, such as downloading a whitepaper or scheduling a demo.

I recommend adding a best practice — for an initial first cold touch, have a human being review and respond to automated filtering responses. Most tools, such as Gated, offer the sender a few ways to deliver their email. Do not bypass the donation if you really do not know or have an existing relationship with the email recipient.  

Why? Because the recipient gets notified, you have significantly increased your odds of being permanently blocked. Your credibility is then in the toilet. The automation tool vendor also tracks the times you violated the permission. 

It is costly and damaging to a brand’s reputation to run campaigns that do not reach target buyers. No amount of additional personalization or touching will incentivize the recipient to call the vendor or click on a link to schedule a demo because they do not see the emails. 

A better path is to donate. It can be $1 or more. The highest donation I have received was $20 from a PR agency. I appreciated the donation, and while I did not write about their client, it was an excellent start to a collaborative relationship. It set a tone of respect and genuine openness.

By regularly analyzing and optimizing campaign metrics, brands can improve the effectiveness of email marketing investments and increase the chances of having their emails acted upon positively. By following best practices, B2B marketers can improve the relevance and impact of their personalization campaigns, resulting in higher engagement, conversions, and brand preference.

What steps have you taken to improve B2B email personalization? Let us know on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .


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