Marketing Bootcamp

Email Marketing: There's a Good Chance You're Doing It Wrong

Email Marketing: There's a Good Chance You're Doing It Wrong
Image credit: Shutterstock

Email marketing strategies aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be, and getting them right is more important than you might realize. Digital marketing trends come and go, but email continues to prove its staying power.

Related: Email Remains the Heart of Cross-Channel Marketing

Having a website, in fact, might be the only aspect of marketing more critical than email, but email’s high returns (about $44 for each dollar put toward email marketing) keep marketers increasing their budgets for campaigns.

The key is learning how to effectively integrate it with other marketing tactics.

The companies we work with that set up email marketing early often see better-than-average ecommerce conversion rates. The right strategies generate more revenue on a per-visit basis than those that don’t incorporate email ever will.

Employing reliable tactics helps avoid the kinds of blunders that the startup Honestbee saw during its recent campaign when it pretended to partner with an exotic merchant offering whale, panda and koala meat in order to raise animal rights awareness.

Readers weren’t impressed, and Honestbee faced a public outcry against the campaign even after revealing it to be fake.

Misguided tactics to avoid

Having a good idea of how your readers will respond to your messaging before you start planning an email campaign will help ensure it doesn’t meet a fate similar to Honestbee’s.

Here are a few email don’ts that will help you avoid alienating or annoying your subscribers:

1. Don’t send emails ‘just because.’  Many consumers believe that marketers overestimate how often people want to hear from them. Emails that lack practical, useful information come across as boring and spammy and lead people to unsubscribe.

Every message should grab attention and call readers to action. Customers appreciate it when every piece of your campaign is meaningful, and they’ll show their gratitude by purchasing.

This free template from HubSpot helps organize and optimize campaigns for maximum impact.

Related: 5 Tips for Staying Out of the Spam Folder

2. Don’t use sales-bait language. Emails with all-cap subject lines and blatantly pushy sales language (e.g., “20 PERCENT OFF TODAY ONLY!”) have worn out their welcome. People have gotten wise to email marketing gimmicks, and they know click bait when they see it.

Think like a customer. How would you feel if you received the email you just sent out? If your own subject line makes you think, “Someone just wants my money,” it’s time to get more creative.

Instead, a personalized headline (e.g., “Happy Birthday, Nathan -- Surprise Inside!”) connects with the recipient and stimulates curiosity.

3. Don’t say too much. Too much information kills conversions. If emails aren’t easy to understand and short enough to hold attention, overwhelmed readers won’t sift through them -- and your call to action could get lost in the copy.

If you have a lot of information to send out, break it down into component parts to send individually in a “drip campaign.” If that’s not possible, embed links to allow readers to click-through to the information at their own pace.

For example, we used a customized drip campaign to increase KO Production’s subscriber base by 16,000 while also increasing site engagement.

4. Don’t trust just any old image to help your campaign. Images must complement your copy to avoid sending mixed messages. Too many or too few also hurt: Imbalanced ratios of images-to-text make your emails seem noisy. Worse, images that don’t load smoothly make your company look amateurish and unprepared to do business.

Because a one-second delay can reduce conversions by 7 percent, testing is a crucial step to take before sending out any piece of email marketing. Tools such as Litmus make it easy to preview your email across different platforms and formats, to see what needs improvement.

Chubbies really knows how to use images; its copy promotes the shorts its sells, but the images the brand includes also promote the kind of lifestyle its subscribers respond to best. Of course, the brand also makes sure its content displays consistently on every medium.

Email is going to remain a mainstay of any business that relies on digital marketing, and the revenue it generates can be well worth the effort.

Related: 3 Marketing Tactics to Avoid Next Year

If you tailor messages to your audience and choose your language carefully to ensure outgoing emails are intriguing, readable and full of valuable information, you can maximize revenue each time you hit “Send.”