How to keep your email marketing audience engaged

So, you want to use email marketing to increase revenue and expand your customer base?

Whether you’re looking to send emails to subscribers, cold prospects or existing customers, you’ll also want to look after and nurture that list of recipients.

There’s no point in putting in the work to create campaigns when your hard-earned recipient numbers keep shrinking.

This could be down to several factors, from sending out too many emails over a short time frame, to poor deliverability and high unsubscribe rates.

Below are just a few of the key things to look out for to maintain your B2B email database numbers and avoid high unsubscribe rates.

1) Targeted Audience:

This is simple, if the audience isn’t right for your proposition, then it doesn’t matter how amazing your emails are, they just won’t hit the mark and elicit the positive response you’re looking for.

If you’re targeting cold prospects take into consideration:

  1. The industry – do you specialise in a certain sector, are you offering software just for accountants for example, or do you only recruit for the IT industry.
  2. The company size – do you have a high-value product/service that only corporates would have the budget for, or maybe you want to talk to start-ups and SMEs with a personable 1-2-1 service.
  3. Who to contact in a company – as a priority you want to target the individual that would be most interested. Yes, your email can and often will be forwarded on to that person, but initial traction will improve if you send it to the right person first. For instance, if you’re offering training courses, then you’d ideally look to target the HR or L&D professionals.

If you want to communicate with past or existing clients, then think about their buying preferences – what products/services have they bought before, their demographics, and if there are repurchase timescales to consider.

It doesn’t make any sense to send emails about cat food offers (even if it is cheap or amazing quality) to a dog owner – a simple example, and I’m sure you get the point!

2) Irrelevant and boring content:

Email marketing content needs to be very enticing! Someone will make a split decision to either read, delete or unsubscribe from your email within a few seconds of reading the subject line, and if you’re lucky the first line of the email.

A long, wordy email is not easy to digest, so it’s far more likely to be abandoned. The same goes for content that’s all about you. Yes, you want to ‘sell’ to your audience, but you’re far more likely to get a response if you make it about them – why do they want your product/service, how does it help them, what is their ‘pain’? They don’t want to know you offer great customer service, quality, have been in business for a number of years…so what, everyone says that!

Consider too if the language is right for your audience, your content may need to change if you’re talking to a CEO vs a Finance Director or a HR manager vs an IT manager.

And there’s nothing more damaging for your brand than sending out an email with spelling and grammar mistakes, or with URLs that are broken or land on an unsecure website (make sure your SSL certificate is up to date), one that loads too slowly or doesn’t exist!

You may like to read our recent blog ‘B2B email marketing: plain text or HTML?’ which covers the actual design of your emails.

3) Poor deliverability:

You’re sending emails, but are having issues getting them through, why?

There’s a number of reasons it could be:

  1. The email size is too big – have you checked the KB of the emails you’re sending? If you’re trying to send too many large images or there’s too much background coding, then you’re going to end up in spam. Aim for between 80-110KB.
  2. You’re sending from a generic email address – a lot of security firewalls are now set up to automatically ‘junk’ emails from info@, noreply@, sales@ etc. email addresses.
  3. You haven’t authenticated your sending platform – chances are if you’re sending out bulk emails then you’re using a software platform to do this. The recipient’s server will run a number of checks on the authenticity of your email when it comes through to check how ‘real’ it seems. Are your DNS settings for the sending domain correct? That includes SPF records as a minimum, but could also involve DKIM, CNAME and MX records.
  4. Your email content has too many spam trigger words in it. These are industry recognised keywords that are usually contained in emails that people mark as spam, such as free, giveaway, act now, no cost…there are hundreds! Also, while we’re on the subject of spam, avoid writing everything in caps, or using colourful and different sized fonts, and ensure you have an unsubscribe link – these are all things that spam filters look for.
  5. Reputation – what’s your sending setup, are you on a shared or dedicated IP with your provider? You could have their other client’s poor sending behaviour affecting your deliverability. If you’re mass mailing think about frequency of emails going out per day – slow and continuous is much better than quick spikes in activity. Is your sending domain ‘clean’ i.e. have you checked if it’s blacklisted or not?
  6. Data quality – if you’re sending to old data that hasn’t received regular communication from you, or it’s a list ‘you found lying about’, then quite simply you’ll get a high hard bounce rate. However, the effect this has is to lower your reputation and it will affect your deliverability to quality email addresses.

4) Send frequencies:

We’re often asked, “how often should I send out emails, once or twice a week is fine isn’t it? We want to get as much business as possible”. Generally, more, for example every week, most definitely ISN’T better!

There’s a balance here between over marketing and not enough. You want to stay in front of your customers and prospects, so they remember you and when they’re ready to buy from you it’s your company they come to, but you also don’t want to become that annoyance, the company that just won’t give up.

Too many broadcasts in a short period of time will stop people engaging with your emails, your open and click rates will drop, you won’t get as many leads/purchases, and your unsubscribe rate will go up. We say this with certainty as it’s been tried and tested more times than we’d care to mention!

There’s the other extreme, if you don’t market regularly then you’ll be forgotten!

We’ve personally found the ideal timescale between emails to be around a month, soon enough to be remembered, but not too soon that people don’t engage with the email. It’s worth mentioning too that this is in relation to B2B prospect email marketing. Customers should have an entirely different journey to include behavioural emails to back up general marketing emails.

If any one of the above is failing, it can have a knock-on effect on all the other elements of your campaigns. For example, if you send a great email to someone who doesn’t match your target audience, then they’re likely to unsubscribe. And if you continue to send irrelevant copy to an active audience, but far too often…yes you guessed it, they’ll unsubscribe!

In summary if you’re utilising your entire database and delivering relevant, engaging emails to as many people as possible then you’re making the most out of your potential opportunity.

Also, as much as you might not want them to, make your unsubscribe process painless, don’t make people jump through hoops to remove themselves, and if you have direct responses to be removed, respect this and action it immediately.

One thing to remember is not all unsubscribes are bad. You’re simply removing the people who will never be interested in what you’re offering and leaving yourself with an active ‘pot’ of people who could be as and when they’re ready. The key is to make sure that unsubscribes are for this reason only, and not because the quality of your emails are below par.


Whether you’re thinking about carrying out email marketing, or already do and want to achieve better results then get in touch, we’re always here to have a conversation and share our experience.