The Blue Kite Blog

7 Critical Mistakes that Will Kill Your Email Marketing Efforts

By | October 01, 2012

In the realm of digital marketing, email is a dinosaur. It’s been popular for more than 10 years, so it’s something that doesn’t get talked about a lot.

It’s not shiny, sexy or new. But, it’s an incredibly effective way to engage with your customers and nurture leads if you do it the right way.

The problem is that so many businesses do email all wrong. I don’t want that to be you.

If you’re struggling with your email marketing efforts or you’re just getting started, avoid these common mistakes to make email work harder for you.

Mistake #1 – Not using a professional email-marketing service.

Although this may sound like a no-brainer, I’ve encountered many businesses that are still sending mass messages directly from their inbox.

There are a number of problems with this:

  • You’re limited on the number of people you can send it to from your inbox.
  • Your message is more likely to get caught in a spam filter – especially if you have a large attachment.
  • You don’t have any way to track your message – who opens, clicks, etc.
  • People can’t sign up for your email list – you have to manually add them.

I could go on and on.

Using an email marketing service will not only make your business look more professional, but it also makes your email efforts easier to manage.

And, if you’re not sure which service is right for you, here are two email marketing providers that I highly recommend.

Mistake #2 – Adding people to your list who didn’t sign up.

You should not send emails to people who didn’t sign up for your list. In addition to being against the law, people are not very receptive to receiving unwanted email.

Quit feeding yourself the lie that people will automatically want to receive your content. Making that assumption will only backfire on you.

Most quality email providers make you agree to their terms of service to ensure you obtained your email list legally. If you’re not sure, read the CAN-SPAM laws or read tips from your email provider to be clear on what you can and cannot do.

There are some exceptions to this – for instance, customers can be added to your list without violating any regulations. However, if you haven’t communicated with them in a long time (or ever), you may still want to send an email asking them to opt-in.

The bottom line is to ask people to sign up. Make it be their choice, not yours.

Mistake #3 – Making it hard to unsubscribe to your list.

Although it might sound counter-intuitive, you should make it easy for people to unsubscribe from your email list.

There is nothing more frustrating than looking desperately for the unsubscribe button in an email, but you can’t find it. Some businesses think it’s clever to hide that option or make it very discreet to prevent people from getting off of their list. However, that only has the reverse effect on people.

Oftentimes, people want to unsubscribe simply because they are cutting down on all emails they get. Sometimes, it’s not you. You are just a victim of the desire for a cleaner inbox.

If you inhibit that desire, you are going to piss someone off who just wanted a cleaner inbox. Don’t turn an advocate into an enemy.

Christopher Penn goes so far as to make a huge box at the top of every email to make it easy for people to unsubscribe. While that might be extreme, his point is right on – you want your list to be full of people who WANT to be there. It’s okay if you don’t appeal to everyone.

Mistake #4 – Not offering a “cookie” to sign up.

I don’t know about you, but I like cookies. And so do your readers. Cookies are incentives or freebies to encourage sign-ups.

E-books, videos, white papers, reports, podcasts and other free content are great cookies to offer to get people to sign up.

Your cookie doesn’t have to be a 72 page e-book. It can be something simple. In fact, people are more likely to read it if it’s easy to digest and it’s well designed.

Look at a previous blog post series and repackage your content into something that would work well as an e-book or video.

Mistake #5 – Not making your email sign-up prominent enough.

If your email sign-up is buried at the bottom of a page or a tiny icon in a sidebar somewhere, don’t be surprised if you’re not getting people to sign up for your list.

Although this sounds simple, many people miss this. If you want to encourage people to sign up for your email list, make it easy for them to do so. Here are a few places you can do this:

  • In your blog posts. I wouldn’t do this on every single one, but it helps to occasionally mention your email list to remind people to sign up so they don’t miss out on your content.
  • At the end of your posts. If people have enjoyed what they read, give them a quick and easy way to sign up for your content.
  • At the top of your site. HelloBar has incredible conversion rates for email sign-ups because it calls attention to the content at the very top of the website or blog.
  • On your front page. This is an excellent approach – especially if you offer a cookie to sign up. That’s what Fransisco Rosales did and his subscriber rate went up 500% in one week. Not too shabby!

Mistake #6 – Making all your emails sales focused.

People sign up from your email list because they want to learn from you, get special discounts and get important updates from your company. While your email list is also a vital sales tool, every message should not be about promoting or selling your products or services.

Instead, focus on helping people first. Switch the focus of your messaging to be about helping readers solve their problems. Do that and you’ll earn people’s trust, which will make them much more likely to buy from you down the road.

Jeff Goins and Stanford Smith do an excellent job of this. Their emails sound more like a one-on-one conversation than an e-letter jammed with sales promotions. Sign up for their lists to see email marketing done right.

Mistake #7 – Emailing too little.

People often worry about emailing too much, but you rarely hear people discussing the downside of emailing too little. If weeks or months go by between emails, it will be hard for people to create a relationship with you.

Make them eager for your content by setting a regular schedule and then stick to it. Keep the good content coming. If you are giving your readers great information, they will welcome getting that message from you.

What are you struggling with?

There are plenty of other mistakes you can make with email, but these are by far the most critical. If you can steer clear of these, the next step is to learn how to further optimize your email for better results (which we’ll save for another post).

What would you add to this list? Which of these are you struggling with?

Image credit: A.M. Kutchling


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