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A dozen mistakes that e-mail marketers make

E-mail marketing is potentially the most powerful and cost effective marketing method in use today. I say “potentially” because most marketers are not exploiting its full possibilities. They make at least a dozen mistakes that reduce their chances of success. What are they?

1) Failure to personalize. Most people like to be addressed by name. If you know the subscriber’s name, you should use it in the text of the e-mail – and in the content by featuring products or services that the customer has expressed an interest in. You can also add photos and links that relate to something that the subscriber clicked on in the past. How do you know that personalization works? Easy: send half of your e-mails out with no personalization and half using the subscriber’s name. The results will convince you – and let you see if the ROI from personalization is worth it.

2) Lack of interactivity. E-mails differ from any other type of marketing in that they can engage customers to pursue interests and activities and indulge their curiosity. Customers can click on links to get more information or to order products. And since most statistics show that the more clicks, the more sales, you should fill your e-mails with clickable links, and you will boost sales.

You can also invite customers to receive answers to questions or be entertained. Or you can encourage them to interact with e-mail by adding polls or surveys, which offer the added benefit of collecting additional data or preference information about your customers. One major retailer used preference polls in their e-mail programs to identify which customers were most likely to shop for their children. This increased available customer data by 50 percent and enabled the company to target back-to-school e-mail campaigns for promoting retail store sales.

3) Not enough testing. The results of e-mail tests come back in 24 hours. No other medium has such results. What is the best product to feature? The best subject line? The best price? The right frequency? You can learn all of these things with simple and low cost tests. The results can mean thousands of dollars to you. Despite these indisputable facts, most e-mail marketers still fail to include tests that incorporate control groups in their campaigns.

4) Neglect of offline sales. E-mails are like TV ads. They build the brand. They produce online sales, but they also encourage recipients to get into their cars and drive to a store. Statistics show that multi-channel customers spend more than online buyers alone. If you have retail stores or catalog sales, your e-mails should also be designed with this in mind.

5) Not using product reviews. When customers buy a product – any product – you should use your e-mail to ask them to rate the product. When customers do this, what do you do with the results? You put them on your Website and (with a link) in all future e-mails that mention that product. Why? Because statistics show that product reviews are usually the most read parts of any e-mail. Suppose some customers slam your products – should you leave these reviews out? Absolutely not. By leaving links to them in, you will appear more honest and objective to your readers – and they will read and buy more from you.

6) Making it hard to unsubscribe. Many e-mail marketers hide the unsubscribe link down at the bottom in tiny print – hoping that you will not find it. Big mistake. Why keep sending e-mails to people who do not want to receive them? Make it easy – but while they are unsubscribing, ask them a few clickable questions: Reduce the frequency? Send e-mails only about certain subjects? Why are you unsubscribing? You will learn something valuable, and perhaps keep customers who might otherwise leave.

7) Not segmenting your audience. Is this subscriber over 65? A college student? A mother of young children? A small business? These are important questions for any marketer. The messages to each segment should be relevant to the interests of people in the segment if you are going to build a long-standing relationship. You must find a way to learn this information and use it in creating your e-mail messages if you want to be successful.

8) Not learning the value of your subscribers. E-mail permission-based subscribers have a value that can be calculated. Some are worth $10 each. Some are worth more than $200. Once you have computed this value, you can use it to determine how much you can afford to spend on list growth, including rewarding both subscribers and employees for acquiring more subscriber e-mail addresses. You can also learn how much you are losing every month through unsubscribes. Determine this value and use it in your marketing strategy or to convince senior management that e-mail works so that you can secure more resources for your efforts.

9) Not treating buyers better. In any e-mail subscriber list, 90% typically never buy anything. For those 10% who do buy, the marketer should go all out to thank them and to make sure that their subsequent e-mails reflect their status as buyers. Many marketers send the same messages to buyers as to non- buyers. This is a serious mistake. Losing a non-buying subscriber is a trifling matter. Losing a buyer is a disaster.

10) Sending too many e-mails. If you go from weekly to daily, what will happen to your sales? They will go up. So why not do it? Because your unsubscribes, undelivers and spam complaints will also go way up. Many marketers who have calculated the effect of over-mailing have found that while sales have gone up from higher frequencies, profits – and brand loyalty– have gone way down. Think carefully before you ruin a good thing by over-mailing your audience.

11) Not sending triggered e-mails. A triggered e-mail is about something that happens in the life of the subscriber such as her birthday, or a cancellation of her upcoming flight. Triggered e-mails get opened and read – at about double the rate of regular promotional e-mails. Have a brainstorming session and think of all the ways that you can trigger e-mails to your subscribers and set them up to go out automatically. Be sure, after the triggered event, to include some promotional material that relates – if possible – to the event.

12) Sending transactions in text without promotions. Like triggered e-mails, transactions (Your order was shipped today) are read more than most e-mails. For this reason, they should always be in HTML and include relevant promotional material below the fold. Some companies make the mistake of sending transactions in text with the warning: “Do not reply to this e-mail! ”

Arthur Middleton Hughes, vice president of The Database Marketing Institute, has presented 28 seminars on database and email marketing.  Arthur has also authored several books includingStrategic Database Marketing 4th Edition (McGraw-Hill 2012). He and Andrew Kordek, chief strategist and co-founder of Trendline Interactive, are hosting a two-day Email Strategy Study Group in Fort Lauderdale  March 26-27, 2013, featuring group competition for email marketers responsible for subscriber acquisition, lifetime value, ratings and reviews, boosting their email budget, and doubling their ROI.  To learn how to attend the Study Group,click here

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About Arthur

Arthur Middleton Hughes has published over 200 articles on Database and E-mail Marketing. Click Here to read them.

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