Avoid Common Email Marketing Pitfalls

We are starting an email marketing campaign.  What are the common pitfalls we should be aware of prior to beginning our campaign?

Jennifer Manocchio

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.

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 black lists.

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 and JangoMail.

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 your emails.

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.

Want to start or need support with your email marketing campaign?  Contact me at jennifer at sweeneypr.com or 910.772.1688 to discuss how we can increase your ROI.

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