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Four Deadly Email Marketing Sins to Avoid in 2016

Email Marketing.

Sounds very 2000s, doesn’t it? The fact is, though, dollar for dollar, email marketing is still one of the most effective weapons at your disposal and should be a central plank of your marketing strategy for 2016.  After all, how many people do you know that never check their email every day? Thought so. How many of your online purchases have been the result of email marketing? Chances are the answer adds up to quite a few greenbacks!  Now, with the New Year well and truly underway (however did January disappear so fast?!) we are here to help with four top email marketing “sins” to avoid like the plague if you want to be a marketing success in 2016. Let’s get to it.

One: Overlooking the Email Message Preview Function

You know that “teaser text” that you sometimes see next to the subject line in your inbox? That’s the preview function at work – and all too often, it gets used for a lame few words (such as “Click here to view this email in a browser”) or missed altogether. I even received one the other day that had the default “Use this section to say something interesting about your email” message in there – embarrassing!)

4 Deadly Email Marketing

The pre-header is a very useful function that when used correctly can substantially affect open and (ultimately) click-through rates. Use it to tease readers with a snippet of the email contents, offer strong benefit, provoke curiosity, reinforce the subject line…the possibilities are limited only by your imagination!   Just don’t overlook it altogether – you went to all this trouble to get a message out there, why not take advantage of the preview section to optimize it for the maximum response?

Two: Letting the Company Robot Write the Email Marketing Message

What would you rather read: a dry, corporate, stuffy, buzzword-laden email, or a humorous, upbeat, zany, characterful one? Thought so…So much marketing I receive via email is devoid of character. It seems to all gravitate to one stultifying level of sameness, with companies aping one another until it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between their emails. Perhaps they all work off the same, robot-generated templates.

Here’s the interesting thing: whenever a company brings us on board to help them with their marketing, I meet charming, fascinating people at the helm. I could have been on their mailing lists for years and I would never have had any idea!   Either the messages were written with no personality from the start, or they started off well, then got suffocated by the legal and compliance department. Or maybe they were held back by over-restrictive corporate “brand guidelines”.

Whatever the reason, it should be possible to inject a refreshing touch of personality and character into your email marketing. It’s not too difficult; you simply need to imagine your prospect is sitting across the desk from you. Consider what you would say to him or her, complete with colloquialisms, friendly asides (it doesn’t have to be all about business, you know!) and anecdotes.   People are fascinated by people. Tell stories, cajole, persuade, argue, grandstand, freely acknowledge mistakes, charm, amuse, startle – just don’t ever be boring! There is no need for excessive formality in your email marketing. Stand out from the crowd. Despite increasingly crowded markets, it’s still possible to let your individuality shine through.  You’ll need to lose a few inhibitions along the way, but hey, it’s all part of the fun, and trust us – it gets easier with practice!

Three: Confusion of Intent

Ooh. Very common, this…..email marketing that demonstrates the writer has, multiple, confused, or almost entirely absent intentions.   The email with a dozen different calls-to-action, each vying for the reader’s attention.   Like a rabbit frozen the glare of the spotlight, your poor prospect doesn’t know what way to turn. A multitude of options leaves him or her confused and looking for the way out.

Other emails don’t even have a single clear call to action. Indeed, it’s hard to tell why the writer bothered to put fingers to keyboard in the first place. The message is vague, woolly, and leaves the reader wondering why they should bother and how they became a subscriber to the list!

To avoid these two extremes, it’s worth taking a moment to define a maximum of two desired actions that you want your readers to take as a result of receiving your email – before you start composing your message.   One clear call to action is the best of all, and will result in the greatest response.

Before you send your email to your company list, show it to someone who hasn’t been involved up to this point and ask them to imagine it has just popped into their inbox and tell you what the action is that they feel you wish them to take as a result. You might feel a bit silly asking, but it’s amazing how something that makes perfect sense to you might seem unclear to someone else. Get several different verdicts if possible and refine your message with a clear call to action, leaving the reader in no doubt about what you hope they will do.

Four: Worrying About Unsubscribes – and Making it Difficult to Unsubscribe

I know, I know. We all hate losing subscribers after we send an email out to our list. It feels like a kick in the face – you go to so much effort to educate, entertain, and provide value with your email, click send, and moments later a load of unsubscribes come back in.

It’s perfectly understandable that you would try to hide the “unsubscribe” section (or leave it out altogether), make it difficult to unsubscribe (by asking them to re-enter their email address and the reason for leaving) or going out of your way to avoid offending anyone….but all of these techniques are counter-productive. Here’s why.

  1. It’s usually not about you. It’s about them. They are likely overloaded and unsubscribed purely to try to bring their email volume under control anyway. Don’t take it personally. By sending them more correspondence, they’ll only end up getting annoyed at you.
  2. It is sometimes about what you write. Did you just accidentally include something that got a strong reaction? Email messages that offend no one are also likely to achieve very little. If they are so thin-skinned, they’re better not on your list. Let them go with no regrets. Plenty more fish in the sea….and you can bet that for everyone that unsubscribed, there were probably ten that nodded in appreciation!
  3. You need avoid subscribers marking your emails as “spam.” Reporting them in this way will soon land you with a huge problem as large ISPs take it into their own hands and blacklist your domain. Your email marketing platform may suspend your account. Make it easy – dead easy – for people to unsubscribe if they want to – and remind them why they are getting your emails in the footer of every message you send. Also, make sure your “sender” name is one they will recognize.

There you go – four common pitfalls to avoid falling into. There are many more of course, maybe we will feature some in a future post! Some of the deadly mistakes that almost-but-not-quite made it to the “top four” were:

  • Making emails 100% image-based, so that all those subscribers that don’t download images (e.g. most of them, depending on your reader demographic) will see nothing at all when they open your message
  • Obsessing endlessly about open and click-through rates. While they are very important to measure and test, it’s ultimately the hard results that really matter – usually, how many new sales or enquiries your email generates overall.
  • Emails with obscure or misleading subject lines. Don’t start me off on that topic!
  • Emails that try, and fail, to use personalization (such as “first name”) fields in the body of the message – without checking first to make sure they have all of the needed fields in their database….

I hope you found this article useful. If so, why not share it with someone else that might be grateful for it?