You just finished writing your latest marketing email and clicked “Send.” Before congratulating yourself on another to-do checked off your list, consider this: Whether you're a seasoned pro or a newbie at email marketing, chances are, you're likely making one of the following email marketing errors.
Triggering Spam Filters
If you're doing things right, at least 95 percent of your emails should be successfully delivered to their intended recipients. If they’re not, one likely cause is your messages are running afoul of spam filters. At a minimum, follow the guidelines in the CAN-SPAM Act. These include not using false or misleading headers or deceptive subject lines, failing to include your physical address, and not giving recipients a way to easily opt out of future mailings.
You may also trigger filters by doing things that aren't illegal, such as having a single large photo or other image in your email. “Spammers tend to do that, so messages tend to get blocked by filters,” says Mireille Tessier, marketing and communications manager for CakeMail, a Montreal-based email marketing service provider.
Weak Subject Line
Assuming your message hits your recipients' inbox, the subject line of your email is the only thing recipients are guaranteed to see. Yet a weak subject line is a common failing of email marketers. “You may have a ton of value in your email, but if you don’t capture people’s attention in the subject line, you’re never going to get to the value,” says Corey Perlman, an Atlanta-based digital marketing consultant and author.
Your subject line should be clear, informative and provocative. Avoid simply repurposing plain-vanilla descriptions you use internally. “September Newsletter,” for instance, may tell you all you need to know about an email, but it puts potential readers to sleep immediately.
“Tell me in the subject line why I should care,” Perlman suggests. The best subject line promises to deliver something recipients want. For example, “10 End-of-Year Tax Tips” or “Free Art Lesson This Saturday” gets your point across immediately and offers something of value to your prospects.
Selling Rather Than Informing
While the end purpose of a marketing email is to generate sales revenue, it needs to start out by first helping recipients. So instead of telling readers why they should buy from you, show them how well you understand their needs. “It’s all about talking in terms of the readers’ interest,” Perlman explains.
The best marketing emails include content—how-to tips, market information, even humor—that will cause recipients to actually look forward to receiving them in their inboxes. Once you've engaged readers with appealing content, however, don’t neglect to include a call to action. Failing to ask for the sale, appointment, website visit or phone call that's the true purpose of the email is one of the biggest failings email marketing experts cite.
Keep it simple. Emails with text formatted into more than two columns make it hard for readers to actually read the email. Rather than having long blocks of words, break up your text into lists or bulleted points. Also make sure hyperlinks work and words are spelled correctly.
And don’t forget that a large percentage of emails will be read on mobile devices. Use responsive design for the body of your emails to ensure that the email layout automatically transforms to appear properly on any device or screen. Address mobile readers by crafting short subject lines as well.
“Mobile devices only show 25 to 35 characters,” Tessier notes. “The shorter the subject line, the better your odds that it won't get cut off at a really awkward spot.”
“Every single component of a mailing can be improved through testing—from segmentation to subject line, creative, offer type and much more,” says Ivy Shtereva, senior marketing manager for Yesmail Interactive, a Portland, Oregon, email marketing agency.
Businesses can get reams of data from email service providers, including bounce rates, delivery rates, open rates, click-through rates and forwarding rates. These can all be affected by many factors, such as the time of day you sent your email. (Many email experts recommend around mid-day as the time recipients are most likely to be at their desks and opening mail.) Modifying one factor at a time in your next email marketing message and seeing how it affects the key variables can lead to a better understanding of what works and, inevitably, more successful emails.
“See what day of the week and what time of day prove to yield the most opens for your email campaign, what portion of your email is receiving the most clicks, which type of videos are receiving the most plays, etc.,” suggests Emily Tracy, an account coordinator with Schroder PR, an Atlanta-based agency that produces client email newsletters. “If your numbers aren’t where you want them to be, tweak your content.”
Despite the advent of newer marketing tactics, email marketing continues to be a workhorse for digital marketers. But many businesses still don’t know the basics of effective email marketing, and in today’s digital marketing environment, that’s a bigger problem than ever.
“The future will be defined by marketers’ ability to tackle the challenges brought by the increasing volume of email and the decreasing unique click rate,” Shtereva says. “This can only be achieved by offering up truly personalized, relevant and timely content to subscribers.”
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