There are plenty of articles about the "dos" of e-mail marketing. Here's a look at the flip side: The things you don't want to do in your e-mail campaign.
1. Don't load the copy, push "send" and move on
We've all got a lot on our plates, and it's easy to be trigger-happy with the send button. Have you received
e-mails with misspellings or odd formatting? It makes you think twice about the marketer.
Take time to proof your e-mails before they go out. Run a spell-checker, and make sure the format looks the way you expected it to in the top e-mail clients (e.g., AOL, Outlook, Eudora). Also, review list selection, and verify any personalization rules.
2. Don't include lots of broken links
Broken links are too common—a major cause of reduced response. A study by e-mail marketing software and services firm Silverpop found nearly half of all e-mails contain errors such as broken graphics or raw HTML code. Even when earlier versions of AOL and Lotus Notes (which has always been problematic) are eliminated from results, more than 18 percent of HTML e-mails had some rendering problem.
Set up test accounts with the major online services, and see for yourself how your campaigns display.
3. Don't ignore spam filters
The deliverability maze can be so overwhelming that it's tempting to just ignore the topic. If your messages don't get through, they can't drive revenue. Use a content checker to scan your subject line and body copy to improve the odds that your mail won't be filtered out. Most e-mail service bureaus offer built-in content checkers. Plus, there also are free online resources to test your message before it goes out.
Here are two that offer content checkers:
Submit test versions of your e-mail, and these services will provide a free evaluation of your campaign and indicate what might trigger a filter.
4. Don't ignore your bounces
Today's Internet service providers (ISPs) are demanding, and one area of focus is undeliverable e-mail coming from individual marketers. If you exceed their standards for undeliverable, or bounced, messages, they may flag you as a spammer, and your mail may be blocked. There's some good news on this front. E-mail marketing and online advertising firm DoubleClick has done an excellent job at monitoring quarterly trends and publishing the results on its site. The firm's latest report shows bounce rates across its client base have declined to 11.5 percent. But that's still high!
Establish thresholds for re-mailing both hard and soft bounces, and retire e-mail addresses after threshold limits are exceeded.
5. Don't capture several pages of data during registration
Direct marketers are data junkies, and it's tempting to want to know everything possible about online registrants. Have you ever been intrigued by an offer, yet abandoned the sign-up process when you were asked too many questions?
Short registration forms work, and you can still ask qualifying questions. Make it easy to complete, and don't ask for information you're not going to use. An important metric to examine is the abandonment rate for your sign-up forms.
6. Don't design an e-mail program without looking at the Web site.
In many companies, the responsibility for e-mail marketing resides in one department and Web site design in another. An e-mail recipient may click on a beautifully crafted e-mail and be brought to a landing page or microsite that has a totally different look and feel.
Remember the best user experience is a seamless one. Your e-mails should be consistent with your site.
7. Don't select rental e-mail lists based on price
There are inexpensive cost-per-action (CPA) lists available. Marketers pay only for those recipients who meet performance criteria set in advance: clicks, registrations or purchases. This sounds like a great deal: You control your marketing costs, and pay only if someone responds. Be wary! Many CPA lists simply blast all names on the list rather than use selection criteria. Also, the level of permission may be suspect. Use these lists and you run the risk of being labeled a spammer.
Work with a quality e-list broker who provides information such as prior usage and how the individuals opted in. Expect that most good lists only will be available on a cost-per-thousand basis.
8. Don't keep your list size up by making it hard to opt out
Some marketers ask you to reply to a message and include "remove me" or "unsubscribe" in the subject line. The theory behind this is that more people will stay on the list. But this practice reduces the effectiveness of the list. Communicate with recipients who welcome your message and you will have better results.
9. Don't sell, sell, sell
E-commerce marketers want to monetize their efforts by selling goods and services. It's tempting to fill every inch of your e-mails with product offerings.
The best e-mail programs have a balance between selling and content. The content can provide behind-the-scenes information about products, tell a story about your company, or provide tips and hints on how customers use a product. Value-added content will keep your recipients interested. A great example of this is the Lands' End newsletter. The lead article is always a long-form article that sometimes sells, but often presents a story about what's happening in Dodgeville, WI, or a customer testimonial about a product. The copy is impeccable, and I suspect their open rates are much higher than average.
10. Don't think online only
The beauty of e-mail is that it's a great way to promote your offer and drive traffic right to your content. However, customers or prospects may not want to order online. Don't think only in one dimension. Provide ways for recipients to contact you offline by including your toll-free number both in e-mails and on your site. Some marketers have measured the impact of including their 800 number in e-mails and found up to 20 percent of sales came in through the call center.
One interesting twist on offering a contact option is eStara's Push to Talk technology that can be implemented either in an e-mail or on a Web site. Once the recipient clicks the Push to Talk link, she is prompted to enter a phone number and a time when she would like a return call from a sales or customer service agent. This information is routed automatically to your call center.
11. Don't forget to make time to test or measure
Testing and analysis take time, and time always seems to be in short supply. If you approach each e-mail as a one-time event that lives or dies based on results, you never will achieve all that you could.
A plan with specific goals will provide you with a road map to success. Testing is relatively easy in e-mail. Create hypotheses, and test to see if you're right. Build upon your previous efforts in terms of what worked and what didn't work. Your campaigns should be interconnected.
12. Don't assume offline customers would have registered if they wanted to receive e-mails
This may be true for a percentage of your customers, but there are many who simply haven't thought to sign up. E-mail appending works for many marketers who want to further penetrate their customer database. Select a quality supplier with a database that clearly is permission-based. Take the time to nurture any names with a special program.
Obviously, no one would deliberately sabotage an e-mail campaign. Consider this food for thought to help maximize your efforts.