Home Articles 6 email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

6 email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them


While everybody seems to be talking about internet marketing, web 2.0/3.0, social media, Twitter, etc., many people seem to have forgotten about one of our staple marketing opportunities online – email marketing. Email marketing can be very cost-effective and productive when handled correctly.

In fact, the majority of marketing executives say email, search marketing, and display ads are their company’s top performing advertising channels,

It is quick to deploy, offers immediate and highly measurable results, enables advanced customer segmentation and personalisation and delivers a high return on investment.

The fundamental aims of any campaign should be high deliverability, targeted mailing, maximum click-through rates and basic personalisation.

The proper approach to email starts with an ethical, well-thought-out plan and typically requires some time and effort. Do these things and it can bring you a great return.

Here are 6 email marketing mistakes other people make – and how to avoid them.

1. Poor list development

Your email list is crucial for a well-optimised email campaign and can prove the difference between success and failure.

Choosing the right list is not always easy, but there are some techniques you can use to make a list work well for you. Here are three common mistakes when working with email lists:

  1. Using old lists. Think twice before deploying a list that hasn’t been touched in more than 12 months. It could be full of inactive emails.
  2. Renting a dodgy list. You will be at risk of sending to “spam-trap addresses,” email addresses posted to the Web for the specific purpose of catching spammers. This can be very harmful to your online reputation.
  3. Resurrecting dormant house lists. Spam complaints are guaranteed.

The solution:

The solution is straightforward. Make sure your list is up-to-date. If you decide to rent a database, make sure that:

  • All the emails have “opted in”.
  • Your supplier is reliable.
  • You can segment the list in ways that meet your needs. (The more you can segment the better your results.)

2. Poor email design

Don’t design an email as if it were a website. Heavy use of Flash or Java may not render properly in a user’s inbox.

Think about what you are trying to achieve with the email. What are your objectives? For example, if you want to generate traffic to your website, your email should provide multiple places and ‘images’ for click-through.

The solution:

Keep the design simple with clear focus on your objective (e.g. multiple click-through options).

If you decide that the email objective justifies use of Flash, offer a text version as an option.

3. Inadequate management of reply emails

Two simple points.

  1. Does your reply email make sense in the user’s eye? Some marketers make it a habit to enter an inaccessible return email address to avoid having to filter responses. This may be good for them but seems incongruent to the prospect, who may shut the email down if they feel uncomfortable.
  2. Are you able to deal with the replies? Replies can provide valuable information, from problems with the email itself to product enquiries. If you’re concerned about filtering all that data, create a dedicated inbox for these messages.

The solution:

Plan in advance for a successful email marketing campaign. Map out the process and make sure every step is addressed professionally and/or resourced appropriately.

4. Attempting to reach more people than your budget will allow

This is the reach versus frequency issue. Let’s say you are going to buy a list or place an ad in an email newsletter. You can afford to make 100,000 impressions. Do you go for 10 placements in one newsletter that goes out to 10,000 people, or do you opt for one placement that goes out to 100,000 people? Same number of impressions, but the first option exposes fewer viewers to multiple impressions.

The solution:

The correct decision will differ from time to time. The ‘main’ solution is to plan properly and make one good decision at a time.

The stronger your offer, the clearer your message. And the tighter your targeting, the fewer impressions will be needed to get a response. So review these key elements in determining how many impressions you need to make to get the response rate you are after.

5. Assuming that you know best

When it comes to stuff in which you have a huge personal investment (your kids, your homes, your businesses), you risk losing your objectivity. Hey, it’s a human thing.

Similarly, too much knowledge about your company and what you offer leads you to answer questions nobody is asking. And that’s when you risk pushing your own interests at the expense of your customers’ interests.

The solution:

Sometimes it helps to bring in an objective outsider in to review your communication before it goes out. If you ask the right person and then really listen to them they can give you some perspective.

6. Having your email blocked by spam filters

When an email is received by an email program (e.g. Outlook Express), a spam filter uses test algorithms to assign points – positive and negative – to an email that comes in based on the content and coding of the email.

The more comprehensive filters (Spam Assassin is an excellent example) analyse a broad range of elements, such as headlines, fonts used, images, background colours, individual words and times of day and days of week sent.

The score is totalled and if it exceeds a certain level the email is filtered.

The solution:

There are some rules we should follow to avoid Spam Filters. This list is a good beginning but we should never assume we have the perfect list as the spam filters are continually refining the algorithms.

  • Avoid using capital letters excessively in your subject heading or newsletter headline.
  • Don’t send emails on weekends. Distributing your emails on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday is a good rule of thumb.
  • Keep your message code simple (text)
  • Black is the safest choice for fonts.
  • Use normal letter fonts eg. Arial, (or H1-H2 tags)
  • Use a signature
  • Present the email like a newsletter, using information in the subject line, eg:
    • List
    • News
    • In review
    • The date or month
  • Subject line should not include anything from the list below (NB. This is general idea. You should take into consideration your business needs and proper trade vocabulary):
  • The word “free” (example: Free shipping is not as affected as the word Free by itself).
  • Dollar amounts
  • The word “guarantee”
  • The word “hello”
  • The username at beginning of the subject line
  • Exclamation and question marks
  • Lots of white space
  • Lots of capital letters
  • The word “savings”
  • The phrase “lose weight” or similar
  • Viagra, medicine, etc.

Similarly, an empty subject line will also be penalised.

And most important of all, don’t forget to test! That could be the seventh mistake (not testing). However, email testing needs an article by itself. Only testing will tell what is better for your campaign. The more you test, the more profitable (useful) your email campaigns will become.

Lucio Ribeiro, founder of www.theonlinecircle.com and www.internetmarketingacademy.com.au, is one of Australia’s leading social media and SEO professionals, and was recently elected one of top 10 most trusted SEO/SEM professionals in the world by Marketing Today.

Photo: Freezelight (Flickr)