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6 reasons email marketing for manufacturers fail, and how to fix it

Jack Harris
Written by: Jack Harris
Length: 7 min read
Date: 30 Apr 2024

Are you struggling to get email marketing working for your manufacturing business? 

Well, you’re not alone. There’s no data to say how many manufacturing firms struggle to get their email efforts off the ground, but my gut says it's a lot. I suspect the number of leaders who think email marketing doesn’t work, would be somewhere in the 80-90% mark.

The reality is, for most it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The most common reason email marketing doesn't work is inconsistency. Sending one or two marketing emails a year, hoping to generate a slew of new business.

It’s an unrealistic expectation.

It doesn’t always work – If it did, my job would be easy! – but there’s always a good reason for marketing emails to fail.

So let’s take a look at some of the main reasons email marketing doesn’t work in manufacturing, and how you can fix it.



CHARACTERISTICS: Opens and clicks are low, and bounce rate/unsubscribes are high.

THE PROBLEM: Your database is out of date and unengaged.

One of the biggest reasons email marketing fails before you get to the emails is issues with the database. 

I often hear of people sending marketing emails to lists of decades-old contacts. A database brimming with forgotten customers or old leads. People who haven't had contact from the company for years.

In other cases, it's lists of purchased, “verified legitimate high-quality leads”. People who have no history, and no idea which business is emailing them. 

The tactic: Buy a list or dredge up old contacts > Write an email > Make sales!

I'm sorry to say, that’s not how it works! 

Please remember these two very important points:

  • Your vintage database is not overflowing with people who want to hear about your latest news. 
  • You will never buy a list of people that are so interested in you that they'll be willing to buy, without a lot of work.

Unfortunately, these tactics are rife in the engineering and manufacturing sector. 

Of course, I get it. A disproportionate amount of business has always come from previous customers. An old database filled with people who used to want your products is an attractive thing. 

Those relationships are still key, but they need maintaining much more than they used to. Because whether you like it or not, the industry has become digital.

It’s now easier than ever for business leaders to find new vendors, or buy new machinery. They aren’t running to their address books to do it; they are jumping on Google.

Instead of digging up old, tired leads who may or may not still exist, build a new database. Create an email list by offering regular, valuable content you send to their inbox.

With 70% of a buyer’s journey completed before they reach out to sales, value is key. The businesses that thrive will  be those delivering constant value upfront. The brands that help leads overcome problems before they even need their services.

We've all heard businesses profess to “going the extra mile” for their customers. The truth is, those who win will be going the extra mile for their leads with great, valuable content.



CHARACTERISTICS: Your open rate is lower than the industry benchmark.

THE PROBLEM: Your subject line is boring and uninspired.

Your open rate is one of the most important metrics when it comes to your email marketing.

It's true that it has become more difficult to get accurate data, due to software privacy updates. But if your email's are failing, knowing if they are being opened is key to figuring out where you can improve them.

If open rate is the issue, it’s because your subject line, preview text, and sender details (your “From” name) are no good.

Improving your subject line is one of the easiest things you can do to boost your open rate. I also suggest keeping a constant eye on it, as “what works” is always shifting.

Here are a few suggestions from Worldata’s Jay Schwedelson, on how to boost the power of your subject line:



Comparison subject lines can increase B2B open rate by 21%. Try something like “product A vs. product B. Who will win?”


2) …

Using ellipses at the end of a sentence creates…suspense and intrigue! 

It suggests there is more to come, and people are curious beings. When it comes to open rates, ending with “...” can increase open rates by 31%.



Believe it or not, starting and ending your subject line with emojis can increase open rate by 31%.



It's no secret list content is clickable. It has been for a while! Using lists in your subject line can increase open rates by 34%. Just make sure your email does actually contain said list!



We all love an exclusive, a countdown, or a flash sale. Perceived scarcity in a subject line can increase open rates by 31%.



CHARACTERISTICS: Send one or two emails a year that rarely delivers any results.

THE PROBLEM: Your email list doesn’t expect to hear from you.

When it comes to your email marketing, consistency is paramount. If you only send a couple of marketing emails each year — in which you say something like “buy my products” — your contacts are unlikely to engage with them.

Why would they? What are they getting out of it? 

People are selfish. Unless your proposition is mind-blowing and compelling  — we’re talking 50% flash sale compelling — what's in it for them.

Delivering consistent, actionable, valuable content on a regular basis helps you build trust. Answer questions, offer advice, and give away assets that will help their business. 

Your emails can put your brand front of mind as a leader and expert. In doing so, you increase the likelihood that when you go in for that sales pitch, you won’t get laughed out of their inbox.



CHARACTERISTICS: Send multiple emails each week but get mixed results.

THE PROBLEM: You’re saturating your lead’s inbox with irrelevant content.

Sending regular, valuable emails is crucial, but it is also a balancing act. Sending too many marketing emails in a short period of time can mean your leads tune out your brand.

That means when your email hits their inbox, they see your “from” name, and ignore the email. 

I'm sorry to say, there's no hard and fast rule when it comes to quantity, but I’d suggest using your intuition. If it feels like you’re sending too many emails, you probably are.



CHARACTERISTICS: You do the same thing over and over again, and get the same poor results.

THE PROBLEM: Using the same tactic is unlikely to have different results.

When email marketing fails to deliver, a common mistake is to try again. Sending on a different day, or at a different time. Using the same type of email tactic, and expecting the result to change.

It won’t! At least, not in a meaningful way...

Of course there are better days and times to send emails. That's without question. But what we’re talking about here is repetition. Firing out poor email, after poor email, after poor email. Using the same tactics time and again, and expecting the outcome to be in any way different. It won’t be.

If you want to change the outcome, you need to change your tactics. Again, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to finding the right email layout, content, or tone of voice. Every brand will be different. 

So experiment!

Try new things, and record your tests. Compare what performs well with what doesn’t, and try to find connections. Vary the copy length, use personalisation, add video, or share downloadable assets. 

Find what works for you, and then double-down on it. Tweak and refine your tactic until you get to a place where you’re happy with the results.


In Summary:

There are many reasons why email marketing might not be working for your manufacturing business. The key to remember is that email marketing can work for any business…even in manufacturing and engineering!

If email marketing isn’t working for you:

  • Make sure your database is up to date with engaged contacts.
  • Make your subject lines inspiring and engaging.
  • Be consistent and send emails with real, actionable, valuable content regularly.
  • But don’t oversaturate your contact’s inbox.
  • And finally, switch it up and experiment with your email content to keep your contacts engaged.


Why not connect with me on LinkedIn where I post about email marketing, automation, and all things inbound, and share valuable tips in our weekly email called The Engine Room (returning in January 2022).

Also, be sure to follow the #FinallyEngineRoom hashtag on LinkedIn, or get in touch with us here at FINALLY; we’re happy to help!

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Millie Collier Marketing Manager