|One engaging image entices the reader to click through... but too many can|
overload and overwhelm the reader, and ultimately distort your message.
One of the benefits of having over 19,000 subscribers is that many of our advertisers have the opportunity to promote their companies via our email marketing campaign. When done effectively, an email can reach an audience instantly—reaching people on their smartphones, tablets and computers. More often than not, however, email marketing is a vehicle that many businesses start driving before having bothered to read the owner's manual.
Having designed and distributed hundreds of email advertisements and newsletters, I have become very well-versed on what works in email marketing, and what doesn't. Here are 8 of the most common mistakes made in email marketing.
1. A Spammy, Indirect, or Long Subject LineYour potential customers receive hundreds of emails a week, so don't assume that just because your recipient gets your email they are necessarily going to read it. The first way to prevent getting your email lost en route to your list is by creating a subject line that is both direct, and junk-folder-proof. As imaginative as we want to be in marketing, creating a catchy headline that may work in an ad may be counter-productive when it comes to email marketing. In other words, make your subject line as simple and direct as possible. Avoid vague subject lines like "Don't Miss This Amazing Opportunity." Also, avoid the temptation of being overzealous in your subject line, such as, "Save! Save! Save!!!" This type of subject line guarantees a one-way ticket to your recipient's junk folder.
Instead, use subject lines that "tease" a specific special offer that is direct and to the point. Without getting into the SPAMmy words, make the subject line connect to the body of the email. A sample of this type of subject line would be "Now Offering Discount Rides to Boston."
Even better: "Your VIP Invite: Nab the Best Rates First." This type of subject line clearly articulates the reason for the email and gives the reader an idea of what they will be reading about in the body, as well as a sense of urgency. Don't be misleading in your subject line, either, giving the recipient a reason to "unsubscribe" to any future emails from your company (we will discuss the ethics of "opting in and out" later in this article). People respond to people they trust—so don't be too "sales-y."
Because many of the end users will be viewing your email on their smartphones, keep your subject line short (roughly 5 words or less, if possible). Make use of the "subheader" in the email preview—the subheader is the text that appears in the email preview when you receive an email. Use wording associated with the subject line that is a direct "call-to-action."
2. Unequal Image to Text RatioImages work in email marketing because people like images more than they like reading. However, the most effective email messages utilize the age-old adage that "less is more"—in this case, the less images, the better. Filling up your content with multiple images or one big image is bad for a couple of reasons. Firstly, time is precious, and making the recipient wait for images to "preview" in their email browser is a recipe for tuning out your potential audience. If it takes too long to see what your email is about, the reader will bounce before it loads completely. Also, many email providers don't load images automatically. Giving the reader another button to click for them to read your email ensures that less people will go that extra step to read your email.
The best email marketing has more than 50% text to image ratio, ensuring that the reader will get to read a preview of your email message before it needs to download the images. Too many times, companies send me a full-page print ad and want it sent out as an email "blast." Huge images not are web friendly. Having the entire email body be one big, sliced up image is a sure-fire way for viewers to hit delete before even attempting to engage in your presentation.
Make sure your email is written so that it clearly articulates the reason for the viewer to investigate the new email in their inbox. Remember, you need to have actual content. Don't fill it up with "salesy" pitches. Have some substance. Less is more as long as it is not less than 50% of your body email.
Opt for text headers over graphic headers—this way, you're sure that the recipient gets the message right out of the gate.
3. No "Call-To-Action"Sending out an email with no "call-to-action" is another common mistake made in email marketing. A "call-to-action" in marketing terms means that by promoting your business, you are attracting customers that need to take one simple action to visit your site and view your products and services (in this case, one simple click). If your email body is full of multiple links, it can not only confuse the reader but also make your message less trustworthy. A simple "Click here to save on ....." needs to guide the reader to a good landing page that references the email in some way. Sending the reader to your home page does no good, unless you mention the offer in the body of the website on that particular page.
Sending out a print ad doesn't make a great email. Think about a normal print ad—sometimes there is a call-to-action, but often it is just a friendly reminder of your business and what you do. A person will keep a magazine and refer back to it much more often than they will a saved email.
In fact, repeat the same "call-to-action" multiple times throughout the email if you have to. Whatever you do, make the "call-to-action" stand out from the other verbiage. Using "Limited Time Offer" is another way to attract traffic right away. This compels readers to act before it’s too late.
Make sure to make your "call-to-action" buttons larger and easy to find. Since many of the readers will be using their thumbs, make it easy for them to navigate.
4. Make Sure There is a Browser VersionAnother mistake businesses make is not "hosting" the email somewhere remotely. When a client sends me an email promotion to send, I make sure to create one myself. Email marketing services usually provide a remote version that the reader can view in their browser. It's important to know that you need to have a browser version when you are sending out an email.
5. Set Up a Professional Email Reply-To AddressI can't count the number of times I have received reply emails that have nothing to do with the company they represent. If you work for XYZ Limousine, for example, and your email address is "firstname.lastname@example.org," what does that indicate to the recipient? Number one: you are a small company. Number two: you are in the dark ages when it comes to being cutting edge. As low as $10 per year, setting up a professional email address with your web hosting is beneficial in email marketing campaigns. Even if you know nothing about technology, you should know enough to get a professional email address.
6. Learning From Your AnalyticsDoing an email marketing campaign and not checking your analytics is the equivalent to mailing out postcards to thousands of addresses in different states and not tracking their success. Analytics, for those of you who don't know the definition, is provided by your email marketing service (such as Constant Contact, MailChimp and Critical Impact) where you can view the data of the recipients and the patterns of behavior of both an individual recipient and the group as a whole that you emailed. By tracking the meaningful patterns of behavior, you can better target who is receiving the email, who is opening the email and how they are interacting with the content you are sending them. For example, if the majority of your recipients are clicking through to the landing page that you have set up but leaving the page without going further, you may want to tweak the landing page. Clearly, you have driven them to the page but you didn't close the deal. Or maybe no one is clicking at all. In that case, you may have to recreate your email blast or reconsider your "call-to-action." Test with different subject lines. Believe it or not, some work much better than others.
7. No Social Media linksSo your company has taken the time to set up a Facebook and Twitter account and yet you don't use your email marketing campaign to promote either one? Not a great idea. Use your email marketing campaign as an invitation to get your audience to engage in future social conversations. By providing a way to "share" your special, you are widening your audience if the reader feels others that they are friends with might be interested in seeing.
8. Ethics of Opting In/Opting OutRemember, it is a privilege that you have an abundance of email addresses to promote your company. You should treat it that way. Don't turn off your audience by sending out too many emails in too short of a time. Also, your subscribers should have had, at one point, "opted in" to your E-newsletter. In layman's terms, that means that the reader has voluntarily given your company their email address because they want to receive future emails from your business. Don't abuse that list. Give that list interesting emails that they will want to receive from you in a timely fashion.
By following the above list, you can maximize your efforts and get a really good return on your investment. Email marketing, when executed properly, is a fantastic tool to use to reach your audience. But it should not be done without some careful thought and preparation. Don't make the common mistakes others do, and you will be one step ahead of your competition!
Written by John Crawford