Email marketing should be an integral part of any marketing campaign - by sending your message to an established customer database, you can encourage them back to your site to purchase or use your services. Used correctly, email marketing can contribute to brand awareness, develop customer loyalty and increase traffic and sales.
But how sure are you that your email marketing efforts are reaching your entire list? How do you know enough people are even reading your message? Here are some of the most common email marketing errors.
1. "Address Unknown"
It is possible to maximise your campaign with fewer bounces (the email equivalent of ‘return-to-sender’). You may think there is no harm in sending out emails to a large, but inaccurate, list. After all, if the email address is closed, it just won’t go through - everyone else gets there’s, right?
Clean data is essential. Many Internet Service Providers (ISP's) will block some or all of your email campaigns if your bounce rate is too high.
Get into the routine of regularly removing bounced email addresses from your database. Provide a link for customers to update their details. Whatever you do, do not tolerate bad email data. It can damage your email campaign without you even being aware of it.
On average, research shows that 20% of legitimate emails are mistaken as spam. When added to the average 5% of emails that bounce, you could be losing a quarter of your potential email readership even before the recipients In Box has been opened.
There are a number of factors involved with the identification of spam, but usually they revolve around authentication. Online email hosts, such as Yahoo Mail and Hotmail, use certain tools to authenticate all incoming mail. These include SenderID, SNDS, SPF Records and Domain Keys. For example, by tagging emails with SenderID, the Hotmail servers can clearly identify the source and thereby trusts the email is legitimate. Without a SenderID tag, Hotmail will assume the email is spam and either block it or push it into junk mail folders.
Online email accounts also build feedback on emails to determine reputation through their ’Junk’ or ‘Spam’ buttons in the toolbar. Many online users assume that by using these buttons, they are unsubscribing from the offending email list, but this is not the case. All these buttons do is raise a flag with the email ISP. If enough flags are raised, future emails from that address will become blocked as spam.
This means the onus is on the email marketer to take the reports of spam abuse seriously and remove those addresses from the list promptly. If you continue to send emails to people who identified your previous emails as spam, you are guaranteed to provoke enough red flags to get you blocked by the ISP.
By taking notice of your ISP providers guidelines and recommendations and responding promptly to issues, you can avoid losing large chunks of your readership.
3. The subject line
We all receive a large number of emails every day. If you are like me, you don’t open them all. So what motivates a person to open your email?
The subject line should create curiosity, prompting to read more or immediately be obvious that it is coming from a trusted (subscribed to) source. The best way to approach the curiosity angle is by thinking ‘What’s in it for them?’.
After researching this article and being only too aware that the articles we include in our monthly newsletters are often not read, our subject line now highlights the article in the newsletter in the hope that this will entice our clients to read on!
Remember, the majority of people are not going to be interested taking time to read your marketing message. But they may, if they felt they would learn something useful in the process.
For example; instead of a subject line stating ‘Accommodation special’ and thereby only eliciting the interest of the very small proportion of your readership, you could use a line like ‘Third night free midweek!’
The subject line needs to speak to a particular need or motivation in the reader, not merely state your own need – announcing a special.
4. Promotions and Advertising versus News and Information
When watching TV, do you flick through the channels looking for the commercials? No. So why do some email marketers still assume that when customers go to their inbox, they will open emails that are clearly 100% adverts?
Television advertisers realised this a while ago, which is why so many programmes incorporate marketing into their formats. ‘Wheel of Fortune’ provides plenty of marketing opportunities within the programme content, thereby achieving a higher viewer engagement than a standard commercial, when the audience is putting the jug on.
Many email marketing campaigns rely on simply announcing a product or advertising a promotion. Occasional emails like this may be appropriate, but click through rates are low. A newsletter should contain news – or articles of interest at least. Again, the point is not what you want to tell the reader but what they want to read.
This is why the WWW Design newsletter uses detailed and specifically written articles as well as promotional items. More people open these emails and more people take the advice offered. But articles work in other ways as well. Articles demonstrate that you are knowledgeable within your industry. This can create trust and authority amongst your customer base. You can also gently prompt and educate readers about certain concepts, which may lead them to one of your products or services at a later date.
Monitoring the the effectiveness of your email campaign is important. One way to achieve this is to have a special offer which is unique to each email campaign and then record the response to this offer. Over time this should give an indication of what has the best reaction.
6. Too much or too little?
Nothing encourages readers to hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button faster than too many emails. If you send too many marketing emails, you risk pushing your audience, causing resentment. Over-saturation is very common and causes some readers to perceive this continual intrusion into their time as spam.
Alternatively, if your email campaign is irregular or rare, readers will not know what to expect. An unexpected email can sometimes be just as annoying.
Identify what the optimum regularity would be for your audience. In some industries, the audience may be more responsive to lots of online material. Others may have far less online time and therefore resent lots off unnecessary email.
Once you’ve identified this level (usually weekly or monthly), design a fixed schedule. By planning in advance and ensuring all stakeholders provide their necessary input to this schedule, you can ensure all emails go out on the same day every time.
7. (ROI) Return on Investment
How do you track the return on investment of your email campaign? The physical act of sending out your message may not cost much at all, compared to postal campaigns. But any expense is a waste if there isn’t an appropriate return in business.
Sometimes this return is harder to track. For example, if your email marketing is run more as a brand awareness campaign, providing information and encouraging discussion, it is harder to relate the emails directly to sales on the site. These campaigns build up general business slowly over time, through association and word of mouth.
Alternatively, promotional campaigns have a far more obvious correlation between the email and the sale, tracked through the number of readers who clicked through the email and bought the item.
In these cases, it is important to gauge the item cost on sale against the number of click-throughs. For example; if you are marketing fridge/freezers and the email only prompts two sales, this may still adequately cover all the costs of the campaign. On the other hand, if you are marketing desk stationery and the campaign only results in additional sales of five packs of post-its and a stapler, you may have a problem.
The amount of click-through and conversion your campaign needs to achieve is in relation to the cost and margins of your products. Therefore, one product campaign with a 0.1% response against thousands of recipients can be far more successful than another with a 10% response against the same number.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking a response figure in single digits is a failure. It is all relative to the offer, the original goals of the campaign (branding or sales), and the price point available.
Email marketing is one of the most effective methods of attracting repeat business from your existing customer base, but many businesses still treat email as a more trivial form of online marketing.
By planning your email campaign carefully, you can transform it into a highly effective communication between you and your customers, building your brand and increasing traffic.