4 Common Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

by Stephanie Taylor Christensen on September 30, 2013
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Small businesses spend 15 percent of their marketing budgets on email marketing, and 56 percent expect to increase their spending on the tactic this year, according to a survey by iContact [PDF]. Yet only 32 percent say they’re “very confident” with their email marketing strategy.

To increase your email marketing confidence, avoid committing these four common mistakes:

1. Failing to include an opt-in form on your company website — The ability to reach a precise, targeted audience is a key benefit of email marketing — yet many small-business owners neglect to collect contact information from visitors who don’t buy. “The vast majority of people that initially come to your website aren’t going to be ready to buy, but that doesn’t mean they won’t ever,” says Eugene Farber, founder of Content Strategy Hub.

Farber explains that email marketing is your biggest source of potential future income, because it’s an inexpensive way to capture the proverbial “low-hanging fruit.” Nurture the customer relationship with relevant emails and when prospects are ready to purchase, you’ll be at top of mind.

2. Sending “overly professional” newsletters — Newsletter-style emails have become extinct in the terms of effective online marketing strategies. Farber says today’s most impactful messages build relationships and give customers something they really want in a snappy, to-the-point, easy-to-digest format. “Tell personal stories in active voice and relate them back to your business. People use their email for communication. That’s the way you should use it with your customers and leads, too,” he says.

3. Using an unreadable format Research by email testing and analytics firm Litmus shows that 43 percent of emails are now read on a mobile device, an explosive rate of growth considering that figure was just 10 percent in 2011. Email templates should be adapted to accommodate mobile devices, including vertical formats, brief copy, more legible fonts, prominent call to action, and hotlinks that are easy to swipe with a finger. Anna Yeaman, creative director of email and marketing firm Style Campaign, offers a free video and slides that discuss optimal email layouts for mobile devices.

4. Being inconsistent — Conflicting theories about how often you should send email marketing messages abound. Farber believes that waiting more than a week between sending emails is likely to cause people to forget who you are and why they signed up to your list. Other experts, like those at email provider MailChimp, say sending marketing emails too frequently may cause people to engage with your messages less (or worse, unsubscribe), and they recommend sending messages less frequently.

The moral of the story? Frequency is really something a small business should “test and learn” over time, by analyzing website data like click-through rates and your own return on investment. Approach your email marketing efforts using an editorial calendar that outlines subject matter and release dates. Once you develop some consistency around your email “drops,” you can begin to test additional strategies, such as the impact of specific types of headlines, offers, and layouts, as well as the time of the day and the day of the week you send emails.

Stephanie Taylor Christensen is a former financial services marketer who brings more than a decade of experience in marketing and writing to her career as a full-time freelance writer and small business owner.

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