How Email and Brussels Sprouts Can Make You a Better Marketer


Tom Ruwitch is an Internet marketing pro who runs MarketVolt, a St Louis company that specializes in email marketing.

Before starting MarketVolt, Tom helped plan and market the first online versions of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He also co-founded, an internet startup that transformed how newspapers publish and market amateur sports statistics online and offline.1115 Olivette Executive Parkway Saint Louis, MO 63132 314.994.9990

More than that, Tom is a great friend and one of the savviest marketers and businessmen I know. In this interview we talk about why email marketing is still such a powerful tool, and he shares some great strategies on how to make the most of it.


Why does email deserve a spot in a business’ B2B sales and marketing strategy?

Email is among the most effective tools for engaging prospects, converting sales, and maximizing the lifetime value of customer relationships.

In B2B sales, demonstrating expertise and establishing trust are essential to move prospects. Smart B2B marketers use email to do both.

Email enables businesses to deliver educational, informative, and entertaining content—with very little cost and effort—to engage prospects so they are more likely to buy. By using an email marketing service, businesses can track who opens the emails and clicks on links. This helps businesses identify their most interested prospects. By following up with their best prospects, businesses close more sales more quickly.

Finally, email is a quick, affordable way to launch an effective keep-in-touch program with existing clients. By delivering engaging content to existing clients, businesses improve retention, generate more upsells and cross-sells, and drive more referrals.

I’ve heard you say, “Email works even if email doesn’t close the sale.” What do you mean by that?

Many business people—especially in B2B industries—object to email by saying, “No one in my industry makes a purchase from an email.”

That’s true, especially for businesses selling higher-priced products and services. But email still has an important place in the sales cycle. For example, a business might send an email newsletter that includes an item about a new product.

By tracking who clicks the link to “read more” about the product, sales representatives identify interested prospects. To close a sale, sales representatives need to meet with a prospect. So the next step might be a follow-up telephone call to invite the prospect to a meeting.

Who should the sales representative call first? The people who clicked the link in the email! Using this approach, the sales representative greatly improves the success rate of the follow-up calls, gets more meetings more quickly, and closes more sales in less time.

Email did not close the sale, but it was essential in the sales process.

What are some of the common mistakes that B2B email marketers make? 

The most common mistake is sending everything to everybody every time, regardless of a recipient’s interest.

Let’s build on the previous example to demonstrate. The business has sent an email newsletter that includes an item about a new product. Fifty people click the link to read more. Many businesses will send a follow-up email pitching that new product to everyone on the list, rather than focusing the follow-up only on those who show interest.

Sure, you may miss a few prospects if you focus only on those who clicked. But when you send everything to everyone every time, you fill people’s inboxes with content that they consider irrelevant. Over time, they stop opening your emails, opt out of your list, or click the “spam” button even though they opted in to your list.

Another common mistake is using purchased lists. Email is great for engaging and converting prospects who want to hear from you. But sending unsolicited commercial email to people who have never heard of you is SPAM. There are usually more effective ways to get leads into the sales funnel.

When you talk about following up with prospects based on what they click in an email, we’re getting into the very important issue of segmentation. Can you talk a little about the importance of segmentation in email marketing and your “Brussel Sprout Marketing” theory?

My mom loved Brussels Sprouts. My brother and I hated them. My brother and I were fine with other vegetables—green beans, spinach, asparagus, anything but Brussels sprouts.

Nonetheless, my mom continued to dish out those Brussesl sprouts, month after month, year after year.

Marketers do the same thing. They dish out content that people don’t want to consume. They send everything to everybody every time, regardless of people’s interests. I call this Brussels sprouts marketing.

The better approach is to pay attention to people’s preferences. If you’re the vegetable vendor, send a newsletter that has items about many things—green beans, spinach, asparagus and Brussels sprouts.

Track who clicks through to read more about the various vegetables. Send targeted follow-ups about asparagus to people who clicked through to read about asparagus. Send targeted follow-ups about Brussels sprouts to people who clicked through to read about Brussels sprouts.

If you try to shove everything down everybody’s throat, you’ll drive annoy people—just as my mother and her Brussels sprouts annoyed me.

By the way, I love my mother, but I still hate Brussels sprouts.

Don’t miss this

Tom is offering a free ebook to Daily Egg readers called High-Voltage Marketing: Powerful strategies and tactics to attract leads, engage prospects, convert sales, and maximize the lifetime value of customer relationships—productively and profitably. You can download it here.

Then check out other Crazy Egg articles by Adam Kreitman.

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