Content Marketing and 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, Kim Stiglitz. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Kim Stiglitz

is a contributing author for VerticalResponse.



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