Stop sending, and re-sending, automated emails that don’t work



Subject: RE: Getting back

”Perhaps you’ve missed my previous emails…”

No. No, I did not. I marked it as junk mail and deleted it. 

”Did you perhaps get the chance to take a look at the email I sent to you last week?”

Did I get a chance to eat breakfast this morning? No. So, on a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 are my top priorities (such as breakfast), I would rank your email to about -27. 

”I’ve been trying to reach you a couple of times now to see if we could talk about MyAmazingCompany and why I think we could help you. I realize that you must receive hundreds of emails like this each day, so I will do you a favor and stop filling up your inbox.”

Oh – thank you! Your empathy is deeply moving. Really. 

And this one is my favorite:

“This is a reminder of the email I sent you last week, which requires an answer regarding a short discussion about your current needs.”

Maybe, just maybe, the reason why I’m not answering you is that you have absolutely no idea of what my needs are. So, unless you’re not knocking on my office door this very minute, bringing me a smoking hot cappuccino made from hand-picked, fair-trade beans from Blue Mountains in Jamaica, I most certainly do not need any reminders about answering your email. 

I’m a partner and the sales director. I understand, 100 percent, that it’s hard work separating one email from another, and distributing them. But the constant flow of “marketing automation emails” in the recent past shows that companies use strategies that quite frankly repulse me. To be specific:

1. The use of “RE:” in the subject line – as if the sender is continuing a conversation that in fact never was. You just don’t construct a relationship that hasn’t existed.

2. Vague subject lines. As with the “RE:” example: If you are trying to trick the recipient in order to increase the email opening frequency, you are treading on thin ice. 

3. The disturbed tone. In a normal email conversation between two people who know one another, it’s considered bad form not to reply – especially when an answer is being requested. However, when an email conversation is constructed (see first example), implying that I have in some way dropped the ball, it is upsetting; especially if I am already in a bad mood for some other reason. 
All put together, these types of emails created by people but used in automated systems, don’t just make me want to press the delete button (and mark them as junk mail). They also leave a permanent and not very pleasant aftertaste with regards to those different brands which the sender is representing. 

Ok, so how should companies market themselves then? Isn’t email marketing still the most effective way to reach customers? Yes, it is. In fact, I subscribe to a ridiculous amount of newsletters and I actually read most of them. But cold contacts just because I downloaded something from your website? Well, if you must – keep this in mind:

Do not presuppose that any relationship between you and the recipient exists. I don’t know you; you don’t know me. Try a subject line that acknowledges this fact, or even better – find a real person who knows you and who also knows me, and get that person to introduce you to me.

Don’t assume that I have time for a conversation with you. I don’t want talk to you. It’s nothing personal: I barely have enough time to talk to people at the office I actually need to talk to. I want to receive potentially relevant and interesting information. And if that information seems interesting, is urgent and addressing any of my needs – I want a link so I can research it further. 

Understand that guilt is a horrible sales tool. I’m immune to invented guilt trips. If I haven’t answered your first two emails, my company probably has an excellent spam filter. Or I’m just not interested. 

Realize that the Internet has fundamentally changed the buying journey. It generally follows this course: 1) I ask a close friend about information regarding you and whether or not you have previously solved problems similar to mine. 2) If I don’t know someone personally, I will check with my professional network if anyone has any experience of working with you. 3) If I still don’t have a clue about you (this rarely happens), I go to Google. 

In fact, a lot of research has focused on this shift in purchasing behavior that nowadays tends to be based more on research. I’ve found three strategies particularly interesting and relevant. 

1. Finding my watering holes. I join discussions in which other people like me are faced with the same challenges and problems as I am. I urge you to take part in the conversation in a meaningful way. This is, for example, a much better forum for bringing up those examples of experienced customer situations you keep filling my inbox with (despite me not having asked for them). Take the time to find the right opening. 

2. Give up on the idea of volume/quantity. It’s up to you if you want to send the same “automated” email, in which the system puts my name in between commas or in capital letters – but know that I will press delete. Just like most people think that they are pretty great, each recipient is convinced of their own individuality. Do some deeper research to understand who I am and where I go to get tips and advice; LinkedIn and other social media sites make that easy. In a utopian future you might be able to combine quantity and personalization – but we’re just not there yet. 

3. Get your satisfied customers to speak well of you. This is a strategy that has not changed much since the dawn of time. If someone is achieving great things by using your products or services, chances are I will find out – especially if I’m in the same business as that client of yours (and especially if you help them talk about it). Is it a slower way to work than your automated email? Yes. Is it less satisfying than to say: “I sent out 300 emails today to potential customers”? Oh yes. But if you value quality over quantity, please let go of your love of automated emails. You might think that they will solve your sales and marketing problems, but they don’t. So stop sending, and re-sending, emails that don’t work. 

Erik Annerberg, Head of Sales at Freya News
Send me an email at to discuss effective B2B marketing

Download: Are you a dying salesman?

What to read next

B2B? Then don’t measure like B2C!

Read next: B2B? Then don’t measure like B2C!