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How to Lose Friends and Alienate People with Email

6 Sure-Fire Steps to an Email Campaign Disaster

I've worked in ad agencies for many years, and seen many mistakes made, especially in regard to email campaigns. I'm not sure why e-mail marketing remains so challenging -- after all, the rules are well-established, and email has been with us for more than 20 years.

But six basic email marketing mistakes keep cropping up again and again. Here they are:

1. My subscribers are all opted-in (well… almost)
Are you sure that the targets of your email messages have fully consented to the blast you're about to send them? If you send marketing messages to customers (or prospects) who did not agree to be subscribed in a direct and verifiable way, you are sending SPAM. And if one of those "subscribers" complains to your ESP (Email Service Provider), you run the risk of being labeled a spammer, negatively impact your reputation and possibly lose your e-mail account. Getting opt-in from people isn't just a nice thing to do -- it's a legal requirement dicated by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003.

2. My list is growing (and bouncing) faster than yours
Once a list is uploaded to an ESP's servers, one needs a certain amount of time for the list to "cleanse" itself. This means several e-mails are needed to weed out bounces and unsubscribes before you start adding more people to your list. The mistake that I've seen clients make is to add new names too quickly to an "unclean list." The result is that the bounce rate becomes high enough to arouse suspicion from the ESP that you are spamming. Adding that new pile of prospects to a new list can cause other issues, including being charged for the size of all combined lists, rather than being charged on the basis of how many e-mails you send out. Maintaining duplicate e-mail addresses increases the chances of being charged for them, even if the recipient only receives a single e-mail.

email marketing strategy

3. Sell, sell, sell!
Even a subscriber who's interested in your business doesn't want to read a sales pitch from you each week. Not only is this boring to the reader; people aren't going to want to read it again and will simply unsubscribe at a faster rate. When you write your emails, you want to provide value to your readers. That means great, shareable content that people look forward to seeing about your industry or expertise. Email is about circulating content that's useful and relevant. But to many clients, it's just "sell, sell, sell."

4. What's the Frequency, Kenneth?
Marketers are often excited about starting new e-mail campaigns, but after one or two email newsletters that don't deliver stellar results, they'll slow down or even stop sending newsletters. A related mistake is to send out "canned" e-mails three times a week without regard to how often a subscriber wants to read them. Both mistakes are a sure fire way to increase your unsubscribes. The best approach is to be consistent with your list over a long period of time, so your subscibers expect an email from you and aren't surprised when it shows up in their inboxes.

5. Blurred (subject) Lines
The subject line is the first impression you give to each e-mail recipient. It needs to be enticing enough to not give away the whole email, short enough that it fits on the screen of all devices (phones & tablets), and clear enough that people know why you’re sending an email. Plus, the subject line is very sensitive to spam rules (like adding the word "FREE"). The problem is that the subject line of e-mails is often an afterthought, not the starting point, of the e-mail composition process. Too many clients don't put enough time into the subject line, an item which can make or break any email campaign.

6. Testing? We don't need no stinkin' testing!
Just because your e-mail looks great in the preview window doesn't mean it will look good in your subscribers' computers (or mobile devices). Today there's a plethora of browser types and e-mail clients out there. Some of them will play nice and others won't; it's crucial to take the time to make sure everything loads correctly, links work and there are no spelling or grammar errors. A service like Email on Acid is invaluable for external testing and ensuring that your email will look good on your recipients' devices.

With these guidelines, check to see if your last email campaigns had any of these goofs. And if you'd rather we did your e-mail marketing for you, you know where to reach me.

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