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Five Email Mistakes Even the Experts Make

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Even the most experienced email marketers make mistakes—sometimes time and again. This article discusses five such mistakes and offers tips so you don't sacrifice your emails to the junk folder.

1. Leaving the Subject Line for Last

You spend all that time perfecting the creative, the message, the positioning, copy, offer, content, disclaimer, targeting of the audience, and you're getting ready to launch. Wait... that's right, you still need a subject line! Hurry, just use the email header! This mistake happens more than you would think. Suddenly, the subject line becomes an afterthought.

Remember, if the subject line does not catch your subscribers' eye, the rest of the email will be irrelevant, regardless of how awesome it is, because it won't be opened; that's why the subject line is often referred to as the gatekeeper.

Tip: Begin your subject line strategy from the start so that you have time to research past performance; also, email it to your inbox and your co-workers' for input, to help further tweak it and perfect it. Take the time to create a subject line that YOU would open based on those previous steps and on subject line best-practices. Then, continually test to see what resonates with your specific audience.


2. Mailing Irrelevant Content

Emailing content that serves the agenda of the company but doesn't take into account what the recipient would find valuable seems like an obvious hazard. However, with immediate goals looming and marketing initiatives that need supporting, this mistake can easily become reality.

If you want to keep subscribers engaged, you need to create a consistently positive experience for them, and a big part of that is tailoring the content to meet their needs and interests. Otherwise, you will eventually have an inactive audience on your hands. And keep in mind that re-engagement campaigns require more resources—and, though essential, they are generally not as effective as a strong retention strategy to begin with.

Tip: You can achieve content relevance by sending tailored content to strategically segmented audiences, created based on actions taken by the recipient. For example: opens, clicks, purchases, and sign-ups are a few common actions that are used to create segments. Creative (including copy) can be further positioned to speak to these delineated audiences. Out of all the optimization available in email marketing, segmentation, if done correctly, provides the notable metric lifts companies are looking for.

3. Expecting New Creative to Immediately Lift Metrics

Although changes in creative (including template updates) can improve user experience and strengthen your brand, do not expect an immediate lift in metrics. In fact, you might even prepare for an initial drop.

Humans are creatures of habit, and new creative, although greatly improved, does not always translate to increased response, at least not initially. Do not let that fact dissuade you from updating your creative, but do keep in mind key features of the creative that can provide an improvement to metrics, such as the placement of the CTA and number of products offered, to name a couple.

Tip: A/B-test your creative updates to make minor tweaks and optimizations—before deciding to embark on a complete overhaul. If you do decide you go the more daring route, keep in mind that metrics may dip, but then eventually return to normal, if not eventually lift down the road after subscribers become accustomed to and anticipate your breathtaking emails. If they don't, try something new, or consider returning to the original template and optimizing it.

4. Focusing Only on ROI

One of email marketing's strengths is its ridiculous(ly good) ROI. However, don't let ROI become the sole focus of your email marketing program. Email marketing is relationship marketing. Yes, even in B2B lead generation with a purchased list (but please do not purchase your list). It is up to you to create positive experiences that over time will build the strength of your brand image, which will translate to more revenue generated.

Sure, you can blast out emails left and right, and squeeze every ounce of engagement out of the audience. After all, if 10 mailings a week are good, 20 must be even better, right? Unfortunately, even your best friends can get on your nerves if they start showing up at your house every day, at odd hours of the morning and on weekends, because you happened to answer his/her call on Friday night.

Tip: Balance is the key, so carefully monitor open rate and click rate to find the right balance. Use a weekly/monthly email calendar, planned in advance, to set a frequency strategy and keep track of how often you are mailing your audience, including various segments.

5. Thinking Email Exists in a Silo

Though often characterized as an autonomous channel, email produces the best results when used as part of a multichannel approach. Email is powerful, but it should not stand on its own.

Teams within Marketing will benefit tremendously by sharing information about the performance metrics and takeaways of the channels they're responsible for. Email performance can be directly related to the quality of product or offer, for instance, or it can be boosted with relevant display ads or the awesome efforts of your creative department.

For example, when the product team finds that offering a set of merchandise increases the average order value by 50% over offering a single item, it would benefit you to utilize (or better yet test) this information in your email promotions.

Tip: Set up reporting meetings with players responsible for various channels to discuss email performance and optimization plans.

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Just as there are lot of things you should do in email, there are clearly a few things that you should not do. This list was created based on witnessing, first hand, the mistakes that come up time and time again. Any more you think should be added to the list?


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Amanda Kiviaho is an email marketing consultant based in the Greater NYC area.

LinkedIn: Amanda Kiviaho

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Comments

  • by Elizabeth Scott Mon Oct 27, 2014 via web

    Great tips for Email marketing campaign! These would also help me to send out the survey invitations to my list of respondents. I recently signed up with SoGoSurvey and they have this feature of maintaining a list of contacts so that we can easily send out survey invitations.

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