The Killer B’s

These Killer Bs are a nasty swarm of words used by marketers who haven’t caught on that marketing by email has evolved from its earliest days.

Whenever I hear someone toss a Killer B around in conversation, I know I’m talking to someone who still sees email marketing as a one-way channel, pushing a single message out to as many people as possible. Permission, segmentation, targeting and relevance don’t matter to them. We can’t completely change marketing until we change the words we use to describe it, raising some to prominence and mothballing others.

Three examples of Killer Bs: blast, broadcast and bulk. They all speak to the age-old practice of marketing a uniform message to a mass audience. They don’t get that email marketing has evolved away from other channels and needs a different language, or that email marketing is set apar t from other channels because it comes as close to one-to-one marketing as you can in a mass medium.

I cringe when these words are tossed around casually in conversation, but it also represents an opportunity for me to bring the gospel of targeted, relevant, permission-based marketing to those who haven’t heard the message yet.

These are my three Killer Bs:

  1. Blast: Intelligent marketers refer to “sending out an email blast” — as if email marketing required no strategy or thinking. Just “get the blast out.” A blast has a lot of power behind it, and the message goes far and wide, but the target is vague and undefined. Thus, the results will be hard to quantify. Alternatives to blast: message, distribution and campaign.
  2. Broadcast: Narrowcasting is the way to think now. It’s no longer enough to launch a single message to your entire mailing list. The modern email campaign is a series of narrowcasts, using demographic data, buying history, list age and other factors to craft a collection of related messages. Sometimes they’re launched simultaneously; others go out as the customer moves through the buying cycle.
    That’s another reason why blast has to be excised from the marketer’s lexicon. A blast is a one-time event; narrowcasts can happen anytime. Alternatives to “broadcast”: narrowcast, send, distribution, campaign.
  3. Bulk: A horrific marketing term, but use a search-keyword suggestion tool and you’ll see people use “bulk email marketing” frequently to search for email marketing topics. In direct marketing, bulk mail is the cheapest way to send postal mail, but it doesn’t allow for special services like delivery tracking, forwarding or targeting messages by address or ZIP code. If you think of your mailing list as bulk mail and not as individual names and faces, you’re overlooking the opportunity to dig down into your data and find subgroups of common needs or interests. These subgroups can help you sharpen your focus, adjust your message and reap the higher ROI that comes from relevant messages. Alternatives to “bulk”: None! Just say “email marketing” and leave it at that.

Sure, these are just words, but their continued usage means we need to work harder to eradicate them. Got your own Killer Bs? I’d love to hear about them and any alternatives for the Killer Bs.

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