Email marketing is a very cost effective and measurable marketing strategy that
can immediately boost web site traffic and sales. According to the DMA, email
marketing generates an ROI of $43 for every dollar spent, but you must avoid
the common email marketing pitfalls to achieve that type of return.
Avoid Common Email Marketing Pitfalls
There are three major challenges to email marketing that must be met in order to achieve
a desired level of success:
1. Getting your email into your audience’s inbox
2. Getting the recipient to open your email
3. Getting the recipient to act on your email
In the process of overcoming each of these challenges, you must be aware of potential
hazards… and avoid the inevitable pitfalls.
Purchasing Email Lists: Because of spam laws, most reputable sources – including magazines
and trade associations – do not sell their lists; instead, they “rent” them. This is a common
arrangement in which you produce your own emails and submit them to the list owner for
distribution from its server. You will never actually see the names on the list, but you will be able
to track open rates and click through rates.
Of course, you can also buy a list, but we suggest extreme caution. There is no way to know for
certain how a purchased list was generated and whether or not the people on the list voluntarily
opted-in. Yet, you are liable for potentially spamming the contacts on that list. And should email
recipients mark the email as spam – or worse, call and complain – your IT department will spend
hours getting your IP address off black lists. Also, the email distribution service you are using
(e.g., iContact, Constant Contact, JangoMail) will freeze distributions.
The ideal approach is to build your own email list internally. You can do this in many ways. For
example, develop a sign-up form on your web site, create advertising campaign landing pages,
gather contact information at trade shows, hold contests and add an opt-in for email
communication in your checkout process.
In the meantime, “rent” lists from reputable sources. Ensure they are quality lists and that the
supplier is following the CAN-SPAM Act. Ask the supplier how the list is developed, if all the
recipients have opted-in, how often the list is updated and how often the list receives email
messages. Also, ask if it is possible to test the list with a small group of contacts before
committing to renting the entire list. This will help you gauge the expected response rate.
Distributing From Your Company Email: Unless you know virtually everyone on your email
list (e.g. outside sales reps, customers, associates) and the list is fairly small, do not use your own
company’s email system to distribute emails. If recipients start marking the email as spam or call
and complain, your IT department will spend hours – if not days – getting your IP address off
Instead, invest in a professional email distribution service. There are many reputable email
distribution companies to choose from depending on your needs and budgets. If you are looking
for a simple, easy to use system there are many affordable options like Constant Contact, iContact
Junk Mail: Depending on each recipient’s email settings, there are numerous reasons an email
message can appear in a junk mail folder. The first one is the subject line. Don’t use all capital
letters and avoid characters like explanation points. You can use “free” in the subject line, just
ensure it isn’t the first word, in all caps or followed by explanation points.
A second and very common mistake is designing the email as one big image. Spam filters look
for a balance of text and images. If you have too many images and not enough text, your
message can end up in the junk folder.
To be sure your email hasn’t crossed over into the junk category, run it through a spam test. Most
of the email distribution services have a program available that will evaluate your email. If not,
there are a few free programs available online, including ContentChecker by Lyris that will score
Erratic Frequency: There is a fine line between “just enough” and “too much” email. Once you
find the perfect balance for your target audiences – whether it is once a week or once a month –
maintain a consistent delivery schedule.
Subject Line: Write enticing subject lines that will get your recipients to open the email. The
right few words can make the difference between your email getting opened or trashed.
Provocative can be good, but do not include a subject line that is misleading. You will lose
credibility with the recipient and risk being reported as spam.
Link Errors: Double and triple check your emails prior to hitting “send”. A broken link can
equal a loss in potential conversions.
Call to Action: Every email communication needs to include a very clear call to action. If it
doesn’t exist or it is buried too far in the email, you will lose out on potential conversions. People
tend to scan emails; you need to ensure your call to action is clear and prominent.
Link to the Right Page: Unless you are driving recipients to specific content on the home page,
avoid sending them there at all. Instead direct recipients to a page that coincides with the email.
This does not mean you have to create a new landing page. For example, if you are promoting a
product, send them to that product information page. However, if it is within your budget, create
a page that is specific to the email content; this will help increase the conversion rate.
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