Everyone is using email marketing these days. Unfortunately, most people are not doing it well. I have my own list of pet peeves. If you read the blog often you have probably seen the things which top my list. So for a different perspective, I reached out on Twitter and asked others to share the most common email marketing mistakes.
As I read the responses from professional marketers and small business owners there were quite a few reoccurring themes. My original plan was to post all the tweets, but the question about email mistakes seemed to touch a nerve and there were way too many responses to list all of them.
Here is a synopsis. With many thanks to all the folks who responded. (See the complete list at the bottom of this post)
Carol Stephen started the conversation with a comment on permission. "The biggest mistake is adding people to an email marketing list without asking them first. Meeting someone once does not equal putting them on your mailing list. "
Effective email is first and foremost permission based. You are kidding yourself if you simply add people to your list and then hope they will buy from you. Most of the time they will unsubscribe and think poorly of you. Even if they have a need down the road they are not likely to call you.
Someone who signed up four years ago may not still be interested today. Maybe they have moved or their needs have changed. You are still sending them emails, but they never open them anymore. Repeatedly sending emails to bad email addresses and people who never open your emails, gives you a distorted perspective on how well your email is doing. Regularly weeding out inactive people to keep your email list clean is key.
Expanding on the theme of permission were lots of comments on the importance of segmenting your list. Depending on the size of your list segmenting by interest, purchase intent, how often they want to hear from you or even time zone gives you an opportunity to send significantly more targeted messages.
Even if you have a small list, creating a segmentation strategy early lets you manage your list as it grows. Otherwise, you will be trapped creating bland and generic messages which are likely to go directly to the Spam folder.
In an age where technology easily supports personalization, people have come to expect it. If Amazon can recommend a book based on what I have read before and CVS can send me a reminder to buy toilet paper, the least you can do is get the name right and figure out that someone signed up for vegetarian, not beef, recipes.
Your email won't be read if it isn't opened. There was strong advice on the importance of a good subject line. Too many companies fail to test headlines and delivery times and then are disappointed with their open and response rates. The advice was clear. Don't assume. Test what works for YOUR audience.
Beyond the headline you need to focus on the content inside your email. If your emails only have introductions to stories, Erik Deckers warns "I won't click if you didn't grab me in the first 100 words." Make every word count and end with a strong call to action.
In the past, I have written numerous posts about the need for relevant content. While everyone agreed content is important there was also a lot of energy around the issues of bad grammar and misspelled words. Nothing blows your credibility faster than demonstrating a lack of attention to details. (Full confession, I know this is a weakness of mine, so I rely heavily on my editor, Rebecca).
Also in the category of ways to destroy your credibility was this comment from Mark Tillison "screwing up dynamic text insertion: "Dear <fname>" makes recipients feel really special." If you aren't sure why this is annoying, go back and read the section on personalization.
There are lots more mistakes you can make, but if you want to avoid them, check out some of these experts. Follow them on Twitter and even ask a question or two.
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Obviously, I am a fan of Constant Contact, but you can't put the entire burden for deliverability on your provider.
Choosing the wrong headlines or a non-permission based list will land you in the spam box no matter who delivers your email.