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Published on April 25th, 2012 | by Kim Stiglitz

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9 Mistakes We Make with Our Email Marketing

At the end of the day, we’re all using email marketing to accomplish business goals. From growing our subscriber list to generating more sales, email marketing is the workhorse of our marketing plans. So, why is it that we keep making the same mistakes over and over? Perhaps it’s because we don’t even know we’re making them. I’ve compiled a list of 9 mistakes we make with our email marketing and quick tips to fix them. Read on.

1. Buying or renting an email list.

At VerticalResponse you can’t use our system to mail to a rented or purchased list. We do this because we know from more than 11 years in the email business, the best results come from lists that are grown the right way. When a customer or prospect opts in to hear from you, it’s their own choice to receive communication from you. Think about your own inbox and how you manage it. It’s likely that you look at the From Line and see if you know the sender. If not, chances are the message ends up in your trash or reported as SPAM.

2. Frequency – mailing too little or too much.

When a customer or prospect opts in to your mailing list you should have a statement about how often you plan to send email.

For example:

Get The VR Buzz Newsletter

Stay current with email tips and best practices delivered once a week.

If you do this you’ll manage your subscribers’ expectations about how often they’ll hear from you. Now your end of the bargain is to keep that up. If you mail too infrequently, your subscribers will forget about you. If you mail too frequently, you may become annoying. The key is to deliver on what you promised. And, if for some reason that changes, communicate it to your subscribers so they know. Remember, being on your list is their choice and they can unsubscribe at anytime.

3. Having a lame subject line.

Your subject line is one of the single most important components of your email. Did you know that more than 50% of subscribers base their decision to open your message based on the subject line alone? So, you gotta deliver the goods in your subject line. Think of it as the headline of your email. We have countless resources for creating effective subject lines in case you need some inspiration. Check out our short guide, Savvy Subject Line Writing for Success and our under-30-minute recorded webinar, Subject Line Savvy 

4. Not following best practices.

Being in the email marketing business, I get a lot of email. And, I’m a picky reader/subscriber because of it. There are a few things I immediately scan an email for once I open it.

Is there preheader text? The preheader serves as a secondary subject line to give your reader more context and more reason to open the email in the first place.

Next, do the images have alt text? I can’t tell you how many times I get an email and the alt text says something like dog.jpg. Ack! Because many email browsers have images turned off by default, most readers will initially see your message this way. So, don’t use the default file name. Instead, replace it with something more compelling related to your content like “25% off personalized dog name plates through Sunday.” See the difference? The second example provides relevant information. Every component of your email should be working toward your goal. Waste no space.

Also, is your email optimized to render on mobile devices? Sounds complicated but it’s not that hard, and of course we’ve got some easy to follow tips. Watch our 30-minute Email for Mobile Phones and learn. We also found some great tips from our friends at Email on Acid to ensure your entire email renders by default on the iPhone and iPad.

Lastly, proofread your email from beginning to end. That includes the subject line. Read one word at a time so any mistakes will jump out at you. Recruit a diligent coworker or friend to be a fresh set of eyes for a final edit. Ask them to check for typos and grammar, and to click on every link. Use this handy checklist to make sure all your bases are covered before you hit launch.

5. No call-to-action.

You take the time to build an engaged list of subscribers and then you create an email. But is it crystal clear to your readers what you want them to do with it? Is there a clear call-to- action? What is a call-to-action you might ask? In simple terms, it’s what you want the people who get your emails, visit your site or see your ads, to do. Your call-to-action can be as simple as a “buy now” graphic on a web page or in an email, a “Visit our website to get your 20% discount at www …” in a direct mail piece, or “Call 800…for your free…” Any way you display it, it needs to drive people to act, and act now!

You can communicate your call to action through your copy, your images, and even with web buttons that tell your reader what to do, like Read More, Buy Now, Learn More, Get the Deal. We’ve put buttons to the test and they got us 26% more clicks than when we used text link calls to action. To learn more read this quick post on 5 Ways to Get More Action from Your Call to Action.

6. Your links stink.

How frustrating is it when you click on a link in an email and it’s broken? C’mon folks, we’re better than that. You want your subscribers to have a flawless experience so they can help you meet that goal. So test every link, every time you send an email. Also, go ahead, get bold and link your images. People want to click them, so allow them to and have them link somewhere relevant.

7. Target your list

Does every person on your email list need to receive every message you send? Or can you get more strategic and target different offers or messages to different segments, or portions of your list based on location, prior purchases, etc. For example, we recently wanted to invite customers to a special conference that was taking place in Austin, TX. Instead of sending it to every customer, we targeted those that lived in the closest proximity to where the conference was and would have the greatest propensity to attend. You can use our list segmentation tool to build different lists based on fields you have in your list. Learn more.

8. You’re not social.

Adding social to your email mix can do a ton of good. You can expand the reach of your message to your social networks and possibly the people in your readers’ social networks when they share or like your message. We know none of our emails get a 100% open rate, so posting your messages to your Facebook Timeline, LinkedIn, or Twitter allows people to interact with your message in different ways. Providing many channels for your message to be interacted with greatly increases your chances of people reading it and following the call to action. In fact, a recent VerticalResponse study showed that customers that used email and social marketing together achieved a 28% higher open rate on their messages!

9. Your content isn’t great.

Content is king for a reason. Because no matter what else, from your subject line to pretty pictures and perfect links, if your content isn’t great, no one is going to continue to read, let alone take your intended action. The best messages tell a story and tell it in a compelling way. One of my favorite examples is a winery that shot a video of a day in the life at the winery to link to from their email. The hook? The video was shot from the point of view of the winery’s dog! Content marketing is so important we recently dedicated an entire post to it.

There you go! 9 Mistakes We Make with Our Email Marketing. I’m sure now your emails will have a newfound sense of purpose and deliver great results.

© 2012 – 2013, VerticalResponse Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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About the Author

Kim Stiglitz

is the Director of Content Marketing & Organic Customer Acquisition at VerticalResponse



9 Responses to 9 Mistakes We Make with Our Email Marketing

  1. Don’t you think with the current boom in social media, people rarely go for email-marketing to advertise their business? I personally think it has become a retro type of marketing and people generalize it as spam or junk.

  2. Another amazing piece of information and wow, I’m ashamed I fail miserably at:
    3. Landing Page Horror
    Mine is boring, dull and has absolutely NO “personality”.
    Going to change that ASAP.

  3. One more thing i like to add is you don’t have a good and economic email service provider.

  4. Megan Jones says:

    I am not a marketer, but I am on a lot of mailing lists that I just end up deleting before I even skim it. I didn’t have exact reasons to why I delete the emails, but this list really describes why I do not consume the messages I have opted to receive. I think it will make an mailing list much more efficient if you follow these tips!

  5. EL says:

    Hi Shelah,
    Thanks for your feedback. The way that particular link path worked is because of the way our guides section on the website is set up. Unfortunately we can’t link directly to the guide without just linking you to the pdf itself, which is something that many people don’t prefer because it triggers a download in most cases. That said, we have been working on a new delivery mechanism for our guides that will fix this problem and soon we will be able to directly link you to the content being referenced. This new design will be coming to the site very soon. I think you’ll like the changes!
    Cheers,
    Ellery

  6. shelah says:

    Hint: When referencing a link in an article, it is helpful to link to the EXACT reference. Dumping people into a bucket frustrates readers.
    Example:
    #3 has a link to “the short guide, Savvy Subject Line Writing for Success”, which dumps the reader into a bucket of mostly unrelated topics.
    The reader, in this case me, has to now hunt for the referenced topic, eventually getting frustrated which leads to writing a note, then makes quick exit off your site.
    Dumping readers through broad links is nothing short of lazy.
    Other than that, you may have some valuable info, but I don’t have time to plow through it to see what is relevant to my situation.
    Cheers!

  7. Appreciate this post. Let me try it out.

  8. Bill Brill says:

    Great Article! I learned so much and the tools to reference will be very helpful.
    Thank you!
    Bill

  9. Gina says:

    I have just started sending out email from my web site… thanks for the tips!

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