The 3 Biggest E-mail Marketing Myths

Do you think fewer e-mails means high click-through rates? Think again. Here's how e-mail marketing really works.
Co-founder, KISSmetrics
October 10, 2011

When you’re marketing your business through e-mail, you are very likely to plan your e-mails and campaigns based on what you think you would prefer as a customer. But this has been the cause of many failed businesses, especially in the online world. There are tested and proven methods to increase leads, sales and retention, and this information is what your business plan should be based on.

E-mail marketing is one of the most interesting parts of the online business world because it’s the most counter-intuitive. What works for bringing in the most cash is often what you’d least expect to work in your favor.

That being said, here are the top myths in e-mail marketing.

1.  Don’t send e-mail too frequently

This is the hardest rumor to put to rest. You may think that a customer needs his or her space and wants to be contacted just once a month…or maybe once a week, at most. The truth is that the more frequently you send e-mails to your list, the more likely they are to open the e-mail and click the links inside, according to a HubSpot study. In fact, the more often you mail, the less likely they are to report a spam complaint or even unsubscribe. This is even if you mail every single day.

Now, this is something I often wish wasn’t true because it would be easier to not have to write and send e-mails so frequently—and the truth is I probably don’t e-mail as much as I should. However, one can’t deny that mailing every day pays off. In fact, some marketing gurus like Matt Furey even suggest you mail your list twice a day if you can.  The important thing is that you do this from the first day they subscribe so they’re used to it. If you’re a monthly mailer and you suddenly start pinging them every day, it will be too jarring, so bump up your frequency gradually.

Another mini-myth on this topic is that you should only have one link in an e-mail in order to prevent spam complaints. The truth is that having three or four links in the e-mail actually improves your click-through rates, lowers spam complaints and decreases unsubscribes.

2. If you send with a trusted auto-responder, everything will be fine

Companies like Aweber, iContact and Infusionsoft changed the face of how e-mail marketing is done. There was a while where you had to be apprehensive about giving your e-mail address online because you could be opening the doors to endless spam. Then some major e-mail marketing firms stepped up and took the lead so you would know if you hit “Unsubscribe,” you would be left alone.

While this is great for the customer and end user of the e-mail communications, it put a lot of companies at the mercy of the e-mail marketing firms. When you build a list through an e-mail marketing company, you’re trusting that they’ll send your e-mails on time, notify you of any changes to your account, and let you have full access to your customer base. All of these expectations can be violated, depending on the company you’re working with.

I’ve seen e-mail marketing firms freeze their clients’ e-mailing capabilities during crucial product launch periods, as well as simply shut down at really bad times. I’ve also seen e-mail marketing firms close their client’s accounts without warning and refuse to give them their list of customers.

Because of this, it’s essential that you back up your list on a regular basis. Additionally, if you have a major launch or campaign coming up, have an account with another e-mail marketing firm open in case the first one drops the ball at a crucial time.

3. The way to keep your readers interested and buying is to provide informative content

If there’s one karmic injustice in the e-mail marketing world, it’s that you don’t make sales from informing your readers about the latest tips, tricks and news about your industry. You make sales by keeping your readers entertained and providing the illusion of content.

This is another gem that Matt Furey has talked about with his fitness e-mail list. He found that if he gave detailed instructions on how to diet and work out, he would get lower amounts of people opening his e-mails and buying his products. However, when he gave tips like “Do Avarti push-ups after making a green shake,” his sales increased considerably. The best advice to give in an online newsletter is something that sounds informative but is difficult or impossible to implement.

If there’s one real take-home message you should get from this article, it’s that you can’t trust your own feelings on how an e-mail marketing campaign should be. The phrase “You are not your customer” is often repeated, but easily forgotten when you have to make decisions like this. Keep in mind that some customers or subscribers may complain about you following the ideas above. When this happens, take a look at your click-through rates, sales and subscription data to see if they have a point. It’s worth having a few complainers if it means your revenue goes up 20-30 percent this year.