When it comes to email marketing strategies, plenty of very shrewd marketers make mistakes. Even, shockingly, MarTech providers.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of picking the wrong strategy in the first place. Other times, the mistake lies in sticking by a strategy that’s been successful in the past, and may still be generating results. But they’re paltry results when compared with the ROI of smarter, more up-to-date approaches.

And if your competitors are pulling ahead while you’re standing pat, those “proven” practices are doing you more harm than good.

Here, then, are five email marketing strategies that MarTech companies need to scrap, eighty-six, pink-slip, kick to the curb, or otherwise get out from under ASAP.

#1: Emailing the unengaged

To extract the most from your lists, you need to monitor engagement at a granular level. You may be sending out high-quality emails, but you’re seeing declining CTRs and open rates. What’s the problem? You’re sending to unengaged recipients – listees who haven’t interacted with any of your emails over an extended period.

“What’s the harm?” you might ask; so long as your messages aren’t being shunted to spam, you might not think it’s a cause for concern. Some senders just re-double their efforts, or re-calibrate and re-re-calibrate their messaging in an attempt to rouse some reaction.

What you’re doing, though, is simply increasing the amount of graymail you’re putting out – email that doesn’t fit the definition of spam. But over time, recipients lose interest in these mailings, and actually become more likely to flag you as spam. In fact, it’s estimated by some that up to 75% of what gets flagged are actually legitimate newsletters, notifications, or other emails recipients were once interested in getting. Now, though, they’re happy to just send them to spam, rather than go through the hassle of unsubscribing (this is another reason to have a very visible “unsubscribe” option in every email).

How to combat this? Simple: Track engagement, and exclude anyone from your active list who’s failed to engage with the last 10, 15, or number-of-your-choice emails you’ve sent. Some platforms even allow you to set this number as an automated function.

#2: Buying lists

The advent of the GDPR and CCPA may put a lot of list brokers out of business anyway since it’ll be harder for them to compile quality lists. Not to mention that just using one of their lists will mean you’re breaking the law.

In the old batch-and-blast days, though, marketers would try to stock up with “leads” generated through pretty indiscriminate mass emailings. Even today, when ABM and precise targeting is supposedly the order of the day, data vendors still shill “quality” lists of “contact” that, all things considered, are still as cold as a baked Alaska.

If you’re prospecting, the secret to identifying the right email targets is to collect and analyze the right data. What’s that entail? Capturing data from people who are specifically interested in your company or products (by tracking interactions with your website and content, for starters), then applying analytics tools (including AI/machine learning platforms) that can help give you far more accurate and predictive insights about which of them are likely to be true prospects…and what messages will succeed in engaging them.

Here’s how HubSpot does it, with a very personalized email with a smiling human face and details drawn from the prospect’s behaviors:

#3: Putting product before solution

In flighting your email messages, an important thing to remember? Always put the customer’s needs ahead of your desire to pitch the product.

We know it’s hard to resist showing off all the shiny bits, like the upgrades or new features your customer should embrace, or the really cool case study jammed full of praise-you-to-the-sky testimonials a prospect really owes it to him/herself to peruse.

But building a relationship means knowing that what they probably want, first and foremost, is answers or insights pertinent to their real “need state” – which is to find solutions to current problems or requirements. Provide relevant content and you’re on the way to a deeper relationship since this instance of content engagement gives you important data about them or their company.

Zapier does exactly that in the example below. A user has begun using one of their connectivity “Zaps,” so it’s a prime moment to offer them tutorials on how to expand their skills.  And it’s from Wade, a co-founder – talk about service!

#4: Focusing on the title, not the role

Targeting strategies rely on segmentation to succeed, and taking that a step further, on building actionable marketing/sales personas of everyone you need to engage who’s part of the decision-making process at a prospective or current MarTech customer account.

Too often, marketers fall into the trap of relying on outdated segmentations that don’t accurately reflect how their target audience has evolved, in general, or within specific accounts. But even when segmentation is up-to-date, they make another mistake: Targeting their email messages on the basis of a person’s job title, rather than their actual role.

The responsibilities of an individual with the title “Marketing Technology Manager” may seem roughly similar company-to-company. The actual variations between what’s involved in their real jobs, and their role in the purchase or decision-making chain, though, can be significant. Company A may have a different market, different IT architecture and digital footprint, and different MarTech goals from Company B, with a different internal procurement hierarchy.

So the seemingly tailored emails you send to MarTech Manager A, who does have a deciding influence over purchases and implementation strategies within the organization, won’t necessarily resonate with MarTech Manager B, who may not.

The solution here? To do the hard work of understanding each target’s real role within the context of their organizations. Sometimes, that information can be easy to come by: Just ask them. Tell them you can service them and their company better by having a clear idea of their relationship with your product.

#5: Providing only superficial personalization

Back in 2014 (I know, it seems like a decade or two ago!), FastCompany sent out 1,000 cold emails to see what the “best practices” should be for effective cold prospecting campaigns.

The results are applicable today. Even when it comes to how you communicate with existing customers as part of your retention efforts. The big takeaway, then and now? Personalization always wins.

But “personalization” is a continuum. Merging a person’s name into an otherwise stock message is one end of it…the low end. It’s cheaper and easier, but it also fails at exploiting a golden opportunity.

Leveraging data-driven insights about their product use, behaviors and interests, the context they’re considering or using your product within, and offering up information or solutions fine-tuned to their potential needs or preferences? That’s where personalization rises to its fullest potential for driving a customer’s loyalty and expanding their lifetime value.

For MarTech providers, there’s also the buff it gives to your reputation. Delivering that level of personalization verifies you in the eyes of each customer as actually practicing what you preach.

Here’s an example of how Grammarly gets it done, using weekly email updates to give users an idea of just how much keyboard-pounding they’re up to, and ranking them against other users. It’s a pat on the back and a useful productivity digest.

~ Craig