Email marketing sins are not unlike the deadly sins of face to face networking. Which reminds me of an old and slightly tired networking joke.

It’s about the man who turns up to his first meeting, tries desperately to sell his offer to everyone in sight, fails – and never comes back. When asked why, he says ‘Well, I tried networking and it doesn’t work .’

Many people probably say the same about email marketing. Because one email is never (usually) enough.

That’s not to say you can’t get good results with a single email.. Recently we sent out a first newsletter for a valued client and his new colleague. It delivered a nominal opening rate well over 50% and resulted in two valuable orders. (And, in fairness, it was billed as the first of a series…)

Luckily my client is wise enough to realise it won’t happen every time. But working together we had managed to avoid most of the deadly email marketing sins. Which are, alas, all too common.

So what did we do right, and how can you do the same?

Email marketing sins – and how to avoid them

1 Lists – bigger is not better

Exciting as it may be to create a list with thousands of potential contacts, quality is more important than quantity (see Unsubscribes – and how I learned to love them). Your goal is to persuade people who are genuinely interested in your offer to learn more about it – and you. And then to show them precisely why you are the right person to deal with, offering the exact solution they need.

2 Get that permission

Anyone can buy a list. Very few people can make a bought-in list really work for them. (Not unless you’ve spent a fair whack of your hard-earned cash on an accurate, up to date, verified and carefully targeted list, anyway.) It’s a royal pain getting people to opt in to your mailing list, but it’s the way marketing works best. And it’s well on the way to becoming the norm.

We’ve discussed this topic at length in an earlier blog: Lists? My secretary can buy those for me…

3 Hard sell doesn’t sell

Hard selling is dead. Seriously. All it does is hack potential clients off and send them rapidly on their way to someone else who doesn’t do it. Admittedly I’ve reached an age when I have no patience with it (and anyone who tries it is shown rapidly to the door). But I’m not alone. And it’s not just an age thing.

There’s more about this in a blog post called Sell? No, I’d rather talk about myself…

4 Good things come in small packages

I’ve noticed that some (less enlightened) professionals like to send me their idea of a newsletter. Some are mile-long emails full of technical stuff, little of which is relevant to me. Others are short emails with whopping PDF attachments – also full of technical stuff that has little relevance to me.

Neither of these will get read, and both will rapidly get trashed. That’s if I even see the PDF, given that spam filters are pretty merciless with big attachments. And quite right, too. I don’t want 4 Mb of irrelevance cluttering up my bandwidth, thank you all the same.

More enlightened professionals carefully avoid these email marketing sins. They send me a short, punchy email with three or four short ‘teasers’ inviting me to look at different pieces of content on their website. Each of those pieces is carefully written to show why it’s important to me (and others like me) and what, if anything, I should do about it. For the sender, there are several bonuses to this approach.

  • They’ll drive traffic to their website.
  • They’ll be able to see which of those articles is most popular with their contact base.
  • And they may well trigger an enquiry from a reader who realises that, yes, the Universal Widget Adapter is precisely what they need…

5 Any fool can write – can’t they?

Indeed they can. But do you really want any fool writing the material by which you and your offering will be judged? You wouldn’t ask any fool to replace your windows, repair your roof, or service your car. Would you? Yet it’s amazing how many otherwise intelligent people think they can dispense with a professional copywriter.

Why is it so important?

Well, think for a minute what you do when you’re searching for something on the web.

If you click a Google link to a website that doesn’t load, you probably won’t wait – you’ll go back and click on the next one down. And if, when you get there, you’re not engaged within about 7 seconds, you’ll move on yet again.

So. Could you write a piece of copy that would engage a reader within seven seconds? Try doing it, and ask someone who’s not a friend or colleague for a completely honest opinion.

Or save yourself some time (and some pride) and call in a pro.

6 Have a goal – and measure it

Why are you sending people a newsletter?

If your answer is anything like ‘to fly the flag’, forget it. You’re wasting time, money and effort. And if you’re looking for an immediate and staggering increase in sales, then you may still be wasting time, money and effort.

But perhaps you’re looking to raise your profile. To increase your online credibility. To drive traffic to your website. Or just to get an idea of which subjects most interest your target audience.

All those are realistic goals – and the last two have the extra benefit that they’re easy to measure.

7 The fortune’s in the follow-up

And finally, talking of measures, do you ever look at your delivery data after you’ve sent out an email? I’m amazed how few people do – yet a simple glance down the list of people who’ve opened your email will show you precisely who was most interested in it, and which links they opened.

And – because you’ve taken our advice, and they’re a genuine contact – you can now pick up the phone and find a sensible excuse for a chat. After all, they’ve just demonstrated that they’re a warm prospect!

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