Content Marketing/Copywriting How Not to Sell to Another Business - A Lesson in B2B Email

Published on March 27th, 2012 | by Kim Stiglitz

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How Not to Sell to Another Business – A Lesson in B2B Email

It was just another Monday and I was hard at work when I checked my email and saw this subject line: Let’s slap the VerticalResponse logo on some stuff.

Well, as a brand lifecycle marketer I keep pretty tight reins on our logo and the thought of “slapping” it on some stuff was a bit of a horror. But, I fell hook, line and sinker because I had to read what this email said inside. And the subject line was just the beginning of the horror that was about to unfold. Here’s what I read as I opened the email:

Hola Kim-
It’s been awhile, so I just wanted to check in and see if you’re working on any projects that need logo’d stuff. I’ve been slaving away extra hard lately looking for super neat-o items to make you appear like a swag ninja. Anything I can shoot you over a few ideas for?

Also, I’ve added a TON of new stuff to the No Minimums and Sassy Hot sections of the website I set up for you. Check ‘em out:

No Minimums: verticalresponse.*****.com/catalog/15137/

Sassy Hot: verticalresponse.*****.com/catalog/15148/

Now hop on there and buy some stuff. Momma needs a new pair of shoes. My precious little demon spawns drew in blue permanent marker all over my favorite pair on Saturday. They wanted to give them to Cookie Monster… Don’t they know mommy works on commission?! No base!!

To set some context, I have never opted into this company’s list. I have also never purchased from them. And, just so you don’t think I am some rigid bore, I appreciate creativity and a good sense of humor. However, I’m not quite sure a B2B email is the place for it. Especially in this case where I am a prospect, not a customer.

To add to the pain of the crazy copy, neither link worked when clicked on in the email. So now this email was 2 for 2 in the #FAIL category. I was really at a loss for words, so I replied with unsubscribe. I had to reply with it in the subject line since there was no place to do it from within the email (might want to look into the CAN-SPAM law there), #FAIL #3.

And here’s where it gets even better (or worse, depending on your point of view). After my unsubscribe, I received an email saying simply this:

:(
I worked really hard on that!!

Really? When someone unsubscribes it means you do not email them! And to reply with the fact that you worked really hard on that and include a sad face emoticon to boot? At this point my head was spinning so I had to take the opportunity to “school” this mailer in a few of the finer points of B2B, and I replied with:

An unsub means do not email me. While some may appreciate your wit, I found it inappropriate. I would not “slap” the VR logo on something. And as another business I am not sure why you want to tell me about your need of shoes.Respectfully,
Kim

And guess what? The emails kept on coming! Ending with this bit:

Wow. Sounds like you’d make a great head of comedy for one of the networks.

Wow is right! So, setting pure entertainment value aside, what can we learn from this email exchange?

1. Keep it Professional – When you are cultivating a relationship with a prospect, keep your communication on the up and up. Your tone can be friendly and conversational while still being professional. Skip the “Hola” and maybe choose “Hi.” Also, any references to your “demon spawn” and Cookie Monster should probably be skipped.

2. An Unsubscribe is an Unsubscribe – When someone unsubs from your email you need to respect it. It’s not personal. It’s business. And, it’s the law.

3. Don’t Insult Your Prospects and Customers – You would think this one would be common sense, and for 99% of us it is. But for the businesses of the world like this one, it’s good to keep in mind that every dissatisfied customer will share their story with at least 10 people. While I’ve chosen to remove the company’s info from this blog post in order to focus on what we can learn from it rather than making it personal, you can bet I won’t be making any purchases from them.

 

Got any of your own B2B horror stories? I’d love to hear them!

© 2012, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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About the Author

Kim Stiglitz

Kim Stiglitz is the Director of Content Marketing & Organic Customer Acquisition at VerticalResponse



5 Responses to How Not to Sell to Another Business – A Lesson in B2B Email

  1. Jessica Miller says:

    Communication is very important in any business not just with your employees but especially to your clients. For you to know their interest and feedback for improvement and to continue what you are doing.
    Jessica Miller
    Gmail fax

  2. Kim says:

    Gina,
    We have some terrific social media resources available to you via the resources section of our site. We have about half a dozen free social media guides that are short and to the point. We also have some upcoming social media webinars that will have have you posting like a pro in less than 60 minutes. Check them out here: http://www.verticalresponse.com/resources/webinars

  3. Gina Cunningham says:

    Great info Kim! I would love some suggestions on who I can get to be my mentor in Social Media on more of a local level. I’m a one on one type of gal and like building personal relationships. I’m in San Jose, CA. Entrepreneur at heart. Autodidactic in my education, Passionate about sales.

  4. Bea says:

    I’m glad I found VR because I love your content along with your social responsibility. This blog post was a great lesson in what not to do and how to do it better. Thanks!

  5. James Riley says:

    As a designer and fellow marketer, your post about this experience irked me.
    Out of curiosity, I tracked down the website for the firm that sent you this email (gotta love Google) hoping to discover that this was just a one-off example of poor judgement on the part of an individual, commissioned employee.
    Going directly to their site, everything looks as one would expect for a promo material provider. Their site looks clean and ascetically pleasing too, with the usual complement of promo products available.
    Unfortunately, when I reentered their site appending the “verticalresponse” subdomain to the front of their url, their #FAIL count started climbing.(screenshot: http://bitly.com/HPIiIk)
    screenshot of website
    THE GOOD:
    The VR logo automatically appeared on various products — not a bad idea as it gives a sample of what the VR logo looks like on the various promo items they offer. I’ll give this a #THUMBSUP as it is a handy feature.
    THE BAD:
    First #FAIL: Site-wide, THEIR SITE BRANDING IS REPLACED BY A VR LOGO when you enter by the url they gave you — you don’t even know who’s site you’re on as branding wise it appears to be VR’s site! This is certainly NOT the place to be ‘slapping’ a customer’s logo!!
    Second #FAIL: They have an online chat tab that appears at the bottom of the screen. Good! Customer service! Whoo hoo! But wait… the tab reads “We’re lonely. Chat with us. +” The attempt at humor does not work. In my mind, that does not relay a sense of professional confidence and pride to the customer. I’m also left to wonder why they’re ‘lonely’ and needy… a company capable of turning you into the ultimate ‘swag ninja’ should be bold and busy!
    Third #FAIL: The page’s ‘title’ reads “VERTICALRESPONSE ONLINE STORE – xxxxxx” (xxxxxx = site’s page (eg. home or the category) or product name.) Again, their name/branding is completely obliterated and replaced by yours. Also, bookmarking their page for further reference would drop a confusingly named link into your bookmarks list.
    SUMMARY:
    A company needs to stand behind THEIR name and branding. In B2B — or any other kind of relationship building — I don’t think that customers are interested in building relationships with companies that cloak themselves in the customers’ clothes in order to try and appeal to the customer. Providing a ‘changing room’ so that the customer will see how they look in the seller’s offerings is great (which this firm does). But changing your store’s name to that of the customer makes me feel kinda creeped-out and stalked!
    Overall, between the email and site, the firm certainly did not make me say “this is someone I want to develop a relationship” with — which of course is an essential part of building and maintaining a good customer base. If this wasn’t a private, custom url they sent out, I would start to question if it was bordering on logo trademark infringement.
    What lesson can I draw from your experience with this email and my browsing their site? Be proud of who you are! Present yourself confidently and as being able to fill the customer’s needs impeccably. Let them feel that they need you (not the other way around)and need what you can offer. Don’t hide your face or try to solicit your customer’s pity as a means of gaining their business — it won’t work. These are lessons that I can take back to my own site & marketing.
    I work in a Catholic non-profit organization where building solid relationships with our ‘customers’ (students, program participants and donors) is perhaps even more challenging than for other ‘businesses’ as we have to establishing trust with our ‘customers’ at a far more personal & intimate level than most stores or service providers do. An email like the one you quoted would be crippling for us!
    Kim, thanks for posting this example so that the rest of us can benefit by not making similar mistakes ourselves!!

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