The 7 Deadliest Email Marketing Mistakes
The 7 deadliest email marketing mistakes I'm going to break down in this article will really kill your campaigns before they start. There are many more errors you an I must avoid in our email marketing efforts, but it's perhaps these 7 email marketing mistakes that seem to be breached by business people most of the time. It's not just people new to the business world that make these errors, seasoned marketers fall down here too, so if you can put these issue to right, you'll put your business on the right email marketing path.
So, the other day I got an email from a guy I didn’t recognise. Nothing out of the ordinary there. I get these unsolicited outreach emails all the time. I opened the email and immediately I thought;
I don’t know this guy, why is he emailing me?
Upon briefly scanning the message, I saw that the content was completely irrelevant to me. I scrolled to the bottom of the email to see if the mail was sent from Mailchimp or Aweber (aff) or some other email marketing software.
And there it was – MailChimp. I tried at first to give the bloke the benefit of my doubt. Maybe I signed up a while ago and I've just forgotten. Maybe I gave him permission some other way.
But no. After about 60 seconds I realised I didn't know this bloke and I hadn’t voluntarily signed up for his list.
But there was something familiar about the guy’s name, although I couldn’t immediately tell what it was. So I read the email and low and behold there’s a reference to our connection on LinkedIn.
I shook my head.
I could have got annoyed but I didn’t, I just felt sorry for the guy because either he was completely ignorant of proper email etiquette or didn’t give a shit.
Either way, he was going in the spam bucket.
Needless to say, the conversation didn’t go any further but this most recent unsolicited self-invitation to my inbox prompted me to consider how wrong many businesses are getting the whole email marketing thing.
A Better Way To Email LinkedIn Contacts
There’s a much better, more effective and totally legal way to email message your LinkedIn contacts. Stay tuned to ChimpTutorials for the upcoming article covering exactly how to do it.
It's Simply Bad Form
This wasn’t by any means the first of these. In the last month, I’ve received 5 emails from what appear to be LinkedIn contacts who, in their ignorance, decide to add me (and others too I presume), directly to their email list without permission.
I’m not getting uptight about it, I just delete or mark the emails spam. It simply baffles me that people who should know better have no understanding or no care for email marketing dos and don’ts.
You see email is about the only realm in the online world that remains sacred. We get to choose who we allow inside this private place, so for others to barge in without permission is like someone opening our front door and letting themselves in.
Some might suggest that adding people to their email list and emailing them from there is no different to sending them an email directly from their email clients such as Yahoo, Gmail or Outlook.
Well I’m afraid it’s not the same.
It’s very different in fact.
People know what email marketing is and they know if you’re trying to flog them stuff they don't need like the cheesy car salesman who tries to get one over on you.
Email newsletter software such as MailChimp is marketing automation. Gmail is an email client designed for two-way communication, and international data protection regulations and law recognise the difference.
Here’s some light reading for you on the subject;
The 7 Deadliest Email Marketing Mistakes
So I was considering this and other email marketing schoolboy errors over the last week and I figured I’d put together a hit list of the 7 worst email marketing mistakes and what to do instead. In fact, there’s way more than 7 but I figure these are the worst by far.
I’ve outlined others below which I will dig into in later articles. For now, check these out and make sure you’re not on the wrong side of the email marketing etiquette fence.
So in reverse order, working our way up from #7 through to #1, here‘s 7 Deadliest Email Marketing Mistakes you need to avoid.
Mistake #7: You Don’t Stick To A Sending Schedule
Consistent communication with your email list is essential if you want to build a relationship and turn those people who volunteered to join your list into loyal customers and advocates.
Consistency is achieved by setting a schedule for your newsletter and sticking to it religiously. Too many businesses fall down on this regard, failing to understand the premise behind it.
That is, it’s easier and cheaper to keep a customer than to find a new one. Email list subscribers follow the same rule. Every subscriber you gain costs your business in terms of time and effort and to not follow through on your commitment to deliver you lose credibility.
Do This Instead: Go to your calendar on your phone. Go on, do it now. Open it up and set an appointment for once per week. Friday afternoon might be good. Enter the description “create weekly email newsletter” and pick a time.
Set aside 4 hours where you isolate yourself for the sole purpose of creating your newsletter to publish on Monday morning (or whatever day suits your list). If you haven’t got a newsletter yet, set one here for free.
Mistake #6: You’re Using Lame Email Subject Lines
When you scroll through your timeline on Medium or some other platform, what are you looking for? What grabs your attention first?
I know for me it’s the headline. It’s what makes me stop and click. After that, the first paragraph has to grab me to keep me there. After that if I’m still not hooked I’ll have a quick scan, then leave.
If you don’t grab your audience with a compelling subject line then you’re missing out on clicks and customers. After a while, your subscribers get used to crappy emails and before long you’re forgotten about.
Do This Instead: Getting your email subject lines right is a bit of a black art. However, there are some basic rules of thumb you should follow;
- Consider making it personal by using merge tags i.e. *|FNAME|*, have you read the latest paleo food craze? *|FNAME|* will be replaced with the first name of your subscriber. However, it's not always appropriate so consider this carefully.
- Don’t promise something in the headline that’s not in the newsletter. Make sure the content of the email is reflected in the subject line or headline.
- Avoid sensationalism. Keep it real, don't hype things up unless what your talking about is really remarkable. Over sensationalising turns you into a spam head.
- Focus on benefits, not features. People want to know how you'll solve their problem, even though they don't always know what their problem is.
- Keep your subject lines short and sweet. Stay on point and be as clear and concise as possible.
- Use emojis only where suitable and appropriate. Emojis can relay a sense of playfulness and can grab attention for your headline in an inbox of many emails. so consider using where appropriate.
- A/B test your subject lines. When creating a new campaign, choose A/B Test and try different headlines. Later, you'll see what headline performed better.
Discover more about email subject lines from MailChimp, Sumo (aff) and Wordstream;
Mistake #5: You’re Selling In Every Email
This one is a big passion killer.
If you’re selling in every communication then you’re telling your subscribers you are spam head used car salesman. Selling in every email is falling right into the negative idea of the email marketing stereotype.
If you’re already selling your ass off over email then your open rates are likely on the floor. That’s just a guess mind you. You might be doing very well taking this approach.
If you are then you are an exception to the rule. Most of us mortals occupy a niche where our subscribers resent being sold to every time.
So we must take a different approach.
Do This Instead: Use a ratio of 5:1 or 7:1. For every seven (or five) emails where you provide free and valuable information related to your business, provide one email where you make an offer. Make that offer relevant to the contents of the previous seven emails.
For example, you may have a course for sale. Take seven key points from the course and flesh them out in email form for your readers. In the seventh email make them an offer to find out more by buying your course.
The overwhelming importance here is that you position your offer in terms of your subscribers' needs. Focus on benefit not feature.
Including the same store links in every email just creates blindness on the part of your reader. If it’s there all the time they’ll simply ignore it. Go with the 5:1 or 7:1 ratio instead.
Mistake #4: You’re Being Way Too Formal
Technical fact after technical fact brings with it a significant risk of boring the pants off people. Despite your love of technical jargon, I’m afraid your subscribers don’t love it half as much as you.
Now there are exceptions to this. For example, if you are a Java developer and your subscribers are java developers too then happy days, off you go.
However, if you are an accountant and your subscribers are business owners, talking all day about boring accounts related stuff will turn your readers off.
Do This Instead: Make it personal. Make your intro casual and loose. Tell them something about your weekend and ask them about theirs. Remember, you’re communicating with people, not robots and the more they get to know and like you then the better chance you’ll have of doing business with them.
Include a left of field topic from time to time. Try to use the permission your subscribers have granted you to make a personal connection.
Mistake #3: You’re Using The Default Subscription Pages
Meh: The Default MailChimp Signup Form
One of the biggest oversights of many businesses using email marketing is they don’t customise their email sign-up page within their email provider account.
Below is an example of the MailChimp signup page customised for ChimpTutorials.
All these elements can be customised, including;
- Header logo
- Introduction text
- Field names
- Background and foreground colours
- Font and button style and colour
Customising the default sign up page is entry level stuff and even though customising this for your brand is important, you shouldn’t rely on it.
After you customise your default sign-up page, you’ll need to build a specific page on your website for readers to sign-up and place a link in your header too.
There are other pages you need to build/customise in your email marketing process in order to maximise subscription potential and move beyond amateur levels. To begin, here’s what you need to do.
Log into your MailChimp account and go to;
Lists > your list > signup forms > general forms > forms and response emails
Click on the down arrow and the following list of options will open;
This process is a lengthy article in its own right so look out for this one in the coming weeks. Other pages under “unsubscribe” and “update profile” will need to be customised also.
This isn’t too difficult to do once you know how, but if you haven’t done it for your email marketing yet then it’s critical you.
Mistake #2: You’re Always Talking About Yourself
This one is almost as bad as #1 on the list…but not quite.
You love the sound of your own voice. You’re constantly updating your email subscribers (and social profiles) about your company news. Who you hired, why you hired them, who hired you, new business you’ve tendered for and so on.
You think this makes you look good don’t you? Well, it doesn’t.
Bottom line is your email subscribers don’t give a shit. They care about their problems. They care about reaching their goals and making their dreams come through. They don’t care about your business news.
You might argue there’s some value in telling your subscribers about these things. Well, I say there is not. All this practice does is serve to lubricate your own sense of self-importance and will never get you a sale.
Do This Instead: Get to the heart of the matter. What is it that your subscribers crave most? What’s their biggest itch? Is it making sales? Then tell them how they can increase their bottom line.
Are they facilities managers? Then talk about how they can lower the costs of running a commercial building by 15% with a simple tweak in operations.
Give your readers value. Talk about the things that they can use to reach their business goals and they will hold you in high regard. Talk about yourself and you’ll get tumbleweed.
Mistake #1: Adding Someone To Your List Without Permission
Here we are, the #1 email marketing mistake you could ever make (IMHO)…and unbelievably, many are still making it.
Email marketing can sometimes get a bit of a bad rap. Many see it as a less than honourable means to market goods and services, and to a certain degree, they’d be right…
Certainly where it comes to this email marketing mistake.
Email marketing has in large part been misused and continues to be misused by businesses who simply don’t care, or don’t know how to communicate with their audience. As such, the mere mention of email marketing makes the average person’s skin crawl.
Adding someone to your email list without their permission is perhaps the greatest email marketing faux pas you could possibly commit so that’s why it’s number 1 on the list.
Bottom line; It’s not allowed. It is poor business practice and demonstrates a poor understanding of how to market using email. It also shows no respect for people’s privacy.
Here’s what the EU Directive states:
The directive establishes an ‘opt-in’ regime: no direct marketing electronic mail can be legally sent without the express consent of the receiver, unless a pre-existing business or commercial relationship exists.
As a point of clarity, connecting with someone on social media (like LinkedIn) doesn’t constitute an existing business or commercial relationship. Whatever opportunity exists through connecting on social media, you kill it when you overstep the mark.
Do This Instead: Only add people to your list with their explicit permission. If someone hands you their business card that is not an invitation to add them to your list. Instead, ask them.
Tell them what you do and directly ask them if it’s ok to add them if they’d like to hear from you. To do otherwise is bang out of order and downright unprofessional.
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Other Email Marketing Mistakes
Here’s a few other pretty major email marketing errors that many small and big businesses are making. I’ll be covering these in future articles so make sure you get on board so you don’t miss that.
- You’re not using software with automation functionality such as MailChimp.
- You send email campaigns at the wrong time of day for your list.
- You send email campaigns on the wrong day for your list.
- You’re not capturing leads on your site with Sumo.
- You let your list go stale.
- You use RSS on every email campaign.
- You aren’t sending a final welcome email.
- You’re not using a survey to get to know your audience.
- You have no thank you for subscribing page set up.
- Your emails are not optimised for mobile.
- You’ve no content strategy in place.
- Your emails are too long or too short.
- You freak out when people unsubscribe.
- You’ve not authorised your domain with your provider.
- You bought an email list.
- You fail to include a single call to action in your emails.
- You don’t test and spell check your email before hitting send.
- You make unsubscribing hard or impossible.
- You're using recognised spam trigger words like “free”.
- You’re ignoring open rates and other stats.
It really doesn’t take too much to get these things right. But you run a small business, you’re tight on time and resources, I get it. Even if you are on a small budget you can implement the necessary fixes over the course of a couple of weeks.
If you do have the resources of a marketing department and a reasonable budget there is simply no reason why you should be making these schoolboy email marketing errors.
Create Strong Relationships Over Email
Email communication shouldn’t be considered a cold transactional thing. Decide to embrace it as the powerful channel that it is. Email is a consistently better marketing channel for b2b and b2c over social media (for example), so as a business owner, you’ve simply got to know how to use it correctly.
Use email marketing correctly = make more money.
It’s really that simple.
Email outperforms all other online marketing channels for ROI. for some recent numbers on this, check out these 2017 email marketing stats from Larry Kim over at Wordstream;
Email Marketing is Permission Marketing.
Receiving permission from readers to stay in touch is probably the strongest indicators of intent to do business that we can possibly receive so ignoring that permission is crazy.
In the words of perhaps the greatest modern marketing mind, Seth Godin;
“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to receive them” — Seth Godin, Permission Marketing.
That’s it from me for now.
Next week I’ll be back with another extensive article to help you do better email marketing. Get on board below to make sure you get it.