It’s 2014, and you know what that means: time to send out a marketing email using setting goals for the New Year as a topical frame. (Hey, isn't that what we’re doing right now?). It’s no wonder you’re going this route, given that consumers are far more responsive to email marketing than on any other platforms — that’s including Facebook and Twitter.
Still, while that email database might provide you with easy access to your customer base, that has little value if the only action those emails are inspiring is “click, delete.” Email marketing is an art like any other, and it’s worth taking a deeper look at just what separates right from wrong on the platform to make sure you’re really making the most of it. To start, we highly recommend taking a browse through this excellent email marketing guide, which has in-depth tips for every level of expertise. For an even quicker look to get you up and running, we've curated our top 5 email marketing mistakes below.
1. Forgetting Who Your Audience Is
...or not knowing in the first place. Look, you may think your product is as relevant to that stay-at-home dad in California as it is to the Fortune 500 exec in New York, but either:
a) It’s not or,
b) It is, but they don’t relate to the world or your product in the same way, nor do they share the style and tone of the content they like to consume.
In short, what gets SAHD going probably isn’t what gets Ms. Biotech CEO going, so there’s no use marketing to them in precisely the same way. What to do about this issue?
- Do a little demographic research. If you haven’t done this already, chances are your salespeople have. Start with the basics, like target gender, income level, geographic area and so forth. From there, try heading out onto social media to do a little in the field research. Search Twitter, Google+ and the web at large for people searching for your kind of product or industry expertise. See what they’re asking for, where their knowledge gaps are, how they speak and who they trust. All of this will go into just how you email market to them going forward.
- Talk like they do. Remember that CEO? Given her industry, she just might engage with an emailed white paper detailing experimental tests of your product in the field. Mr. SAHD, who just needs some info for his lifestyle blog? Maybe not so much. Craft your email approach to fit what you feel your consumers will be most likely to actually consume, crafting your incentives and calls to action accordingly. And don’t worry: you can always test this out in the field, taking a look at your analytics to readjust as you go.
- Segment your mailing list. Once you’ve got a good sense of your audience, split them into categories so that you can easily get the most relevant messages to them. The more specific the categories and the accompanying messages, the higher the click through rates, the more likely your email campaign will be a success.
2. Neglecting Images and Links as Calls to Action
As discussed, any given email campaign can only be considered a success in terms of what it actually gets readers to do. (Caveat: Yes, simply having consumers read your email and take no other action is a success, but only if it creates brand awareness and loyalty that gets you business or referrals in the long term). One of the two best strategies for getting readers engaged and motivated are images and links, yet this is often where small businesses and startups stumble. To get it right:
- Select high quality, relevant images. An image that’s all pixelated won’t get you any new customers, and nor will one that has absolutely nothing to do with the content of your email. Unless you’ve got someone on staff who just so happens to be an excellent photographer, it’s worth paying for a stock photo site membership so you always have an entire library of images ready to match your diverse content.
- Use photos sparingly. That said, it’s important to remember that only about a third of email users have their email set to display images automatically. While images are much more likely to get readers engaged, you’ve still got to plan for a majority of readers not to use them. That means only using a few photos throughout, possibly saving more for an associated blogpost, and also including more than enough text to keep your email nice and fleshy without images to supplement it.
- Make sure your links work. The last thing you want to do is construct the tightest, best marketing copy ever...and then forget to include a link back to the website, deal or product page. Ugh! That’s worse than doing nothing at all. Such a missed opportunity! Make sure yours are there and working before pushing send.
- A/B test your calls to action (CTAs). Even if you’ve got a great email laid out, users often still need enticement to engage with your company any further. That’s where calls to action come into play. Make sure that they’re concise yet create a sense of urgency, and don’t be afraid to test out a few with each campaign to see which ones generate the most clicks. Most email platforms like MailChimp provide easy way to do this right inside the platform, as well as all of the post-test analytics you need.
3. Using Poor Design
I don’t care how good your content is, if your email looks bad, the first thing your readers will think is “hack attack.” One of the biggest areas where this comes into play these days is with mobile. Too often, marketers design their emails to be read either on a desktop or on a single mobile platform, to the neglect of all others. Just like images, this leaves countless mobile users — a growing and impressive force — out of the loop entirely, unable to read your email or simply without the desire to do so. To combat this, it’s important to make your emails responsive, and again to provide a text alternative should images and various other design elements not load. Again, I really suggest using a mail service for this, as most will provide easy to use templates for you.
As a side note, it should go without saying that accompanying website design should be approached in the same way, as you want readers to be as impressed with your site as they are with your email. Of particular importance on your website is having an opt-in page well-placed throughout your site, to ensure you’re getting readers in the first place. It’s important that you gain readers this way rather than buying them if you want to stay in line with current anti-spam laws and on the good side of email clients.
4. Not Proofreading Your Content
No matter how sophisticated they get, there will forever be one surefire way to tell the scammers vs. legit emailers: typos and grammatical errors. Seriously, sometimes I feel so bad for all of those Cialis spammers, I just want to sit them down and say, “This is what a capital letter looks like. It will make you look soooo much more legit.” At the very least, typos and glaring grammatical errors make you look unprofessional and careless. With so many competitors out there, that’s certainly not going to do you any favors.
That said, it’s not any good to sound too formal, either. While this may make you look more professional, it’ll also make you look out of touch. The more it sounds like a (relatively polished but still relatable) version of you and/or your company, the more down to earth you’ll sound, the more action you’re likely to get out of that email.
5. Not Having a Strategy
Hands down one of the worst mistakes any email marketer can make is not having any kind of plan in place. There’s no use doing all of that demographic research, for example, if you don’t have a strategy for targeted different markets differently anyway.
To really get things right, it’s best to use an editorial calendar to help you keep track of just who you’re targeting and when you’re doing so. It will also help you keep your production process in line, encouraging you to brainstorm, write and edit emails at a regular rate. What’s more, if you add important sales, industry or just cultural dates, you can also specifically craft your topics and incentives to be hyper-relevant to the moment.
Lastly, a calendar will also help you set a proper frequency for your emails, so you’re not sending them too often or not enough. In general, once a week tends to be a good amount, though you can always do more than that if you vary the content (i.e. do a how-to content email one day, an incentive two days later). It’s best to pick a consistent day for sending, so readers always know when to expect your missives.
As both an intensely personal and a very business-focused medium, email can be a highly effective mode for interaction with your customers. But, like all things, you’ve got to put some effort into mastering it to really get it right. Good luck, and see you in our inboxes soon.
Beverley is a Digital Content Strategist at Distilled, an online marketing company with offices in London, Seattle, and New York. A huge lover of writing and travel, she's worked her way round the world, runs the travel blog Pack Your Passport and now lives in London where she also does freelance writing and social media. Find her on Twitter @B_Reinemann