Email Entropy – the Science Ludwig Boltmann's take on B2B email

People have a genius for detecting non-operational mail and email. We will not call it junk mail, because it is not always junk. But as humans, we have a unique ability to detect patterns that indicate if paper mail or email is not ‘actionable’; that is, it is not urgent, important nor a response to a request.

One of the purposes of good B2B email marketing is to get past these mental filters and have the reader actually look at the email to see if it is of value to them or not. If the value is too low to the reader, they are invited to unsubscribe in a CAN-SPAM compliant manner.

Low Entropy Email is the enemy of good initial stage B2B marketing. Once we have engaged a new interested party we want to them to recognize email as coming from the right brand, but prior to the first indicated interest, it is normally much more effective to reduce the patterns that cause email to be identified as non-operational, and then filtered out – often at a loss to the recipient. Why would we say “… at a loss …”? Because we have a large body of responders who replied to the 10th (plus) email sent to them saying ” … wish we had this solution sooner.”

Basically, their filtering of emails had caused them to miss a solution that they clearly wish they had at an earlier date.

In a simplistic sense, the word “entropy” means randomness-within-randomness. There is a more precise and rigorous definition shown below, but for the non-mathematically inclined, let’s stick with the above. Essentially, we are trying to remove clues that make our email easy to classify as non-operational in order to get about 5 seconds of attention. If we write the body of a B2B email well, that is all it takes for the reader to decide “Yes” or “No” on further time investment.

The hallmarks of low entropy email (A.K.A. “Worst Practices”)

  • Send email from an organization, not a person
  • Send email with a consistent look and feel – “brand early and often”
  • Email with a prefix in the subject line such as “Free Online Webinar:”
  • Write email content with a marketing tone and point of view
  • Mention your product in the first sentence
  • Introduce the reader to new jargon
  • Confuse your messaging with the reader’s job

A little more rigor …

Entropy related to statistical randomness essentially means that in a data set with η allowed states, there is an equal probability for each next state:

equation: p sub i equals p equals one over omega

where Ω is the total of possible individual sub states. The entropy is

entropy equation: too complex for textual representation

The equation is not obscure or irrelevant – in fact, it is carved on Ludwig Boltzmann’s tombstone. (In a much simplified form shown in the header of this post). It is however, awkward in the application of B2B marketing. S in the equation has maxima where Ω is maximal. In the degenerate case where Ω has a value of 1, then S is 0 and there is no randomness.

The ‘awkward’ part for B2B marketing comes with Marketing Automation Platforms (MAP) that are easiest to implement with an Ω value of 1 or 2. (i.e., build a few pretty emails and send them every time to everyone.)