Email marketing is the number one way small businesses are reaching more and more people than ever before. With a solid email marketing strategy, business owners can convert leads into new customers and stay at the top of their existing customers minds.
But what makes up a solid email marketing strategy? I’m here to help you answer that question and show you how to avoid some of the most common mistakes small business owners are making with their email marketing efforts today.
You can avoid these potential setbacks by investing in a done-for-you email marketing solution, but for the purposes of this article let’s focus on common mistakes and, most importantly, how to avoid them.
1. Not Building Your Database
The most important thing as far as an email marketing strategy goes is having people to email. Start with a list of your existing email contacts and grow from there. There are many ways to build your email marketing list(s); you can import contacts from LinkedIn, provide an email newsletter signup form on your website, use the call-to-action button on your Facebook page, and ask your customers to spread the word.
Whatever you do, don’t buy email lists; it’s not worth the money or hassel. Email service providers don’t like when you use purchased lists, and the people you end up emailing have no idea who you are. The key to email engagement is reaching out to those who have in some way expressed that they want to hear from you.
Start with recipients you know and make sure the emails you send are easy to share (we do this for our customers). That’s where you gain customer referrals and generate leads.
Another important factor in building your database is having a professionally designed website where new leads can find you online via search engines and contact you online via web forms. You might also want to start a BLOG and encourage your visitors to subscribe or sign-up to receive your new blog posts via email. I’ve had so many clients tell me over the years “but where else am I suppose to get leads”, after advising them not to purchase email lists. If you’re managing your website properly and offering valid products, services and generating content that ranks well in the search engines, then you shouldn’t have any issues with building your database.
2. Going in Without a Plan
Now that you’ve built your subscriber/mailing list, you need to figure out what to write about. Content strategists rely on content calendars to map their strategy. A well thought out content calendar will keep your send dates timely and your topics thoughtful. For example, a real estate agent might send an email about how to heat your house efficiently in the winter and another about deck maintenance in the summer.
To determine how many topic ideas you’ll need, first decide how often you plan to send your emails. Once a month is a great place to start. Ninety percent of MarketingSherpa survey respondents say they like to hear from businesses at least monthly, if not more. We’ve found bimonthly newsletters are perfect for our customers.
The trick here is to watch for current events. If a natural disaster were to hit, you would want to postpone your email or tailor your message accordingly. On the flip side, there might be a hot topic that would benefit your subscribers if you have something to add to the conversation. Plan ahead, but stay nimble.
Don’t just send sales oriented emails either, educate and inform your customers/prospects about who you are, what you offer and why doing business with you is important/valuable.
3. Setting too Little Time Aside to Write
Next comes the often-dreaded task of writing the email message. Keep your content relatively short (we aim for about 250 words or 2-3 paragraphs), easy to read and engaging.
Set aside more time than you think you need, especially in the beginning. It may take some time to get the creative juices flowing. Plan for multiple drafts, as well as having someone else provide feedback as part of the process.
If you don’t set aside enough time, you may find yourself in a bind. Under a time constraint, you may be forced to either send an email that isn’t completely polished and is full of spelling errors or grammatically errors or fall behind on your schedule.
4.Boring Subject Lines
One of the most elusive yet crucial aspects of a successful email campaign is the subject line. Nearly 50 percent of consumers say the subject line is what compels them to open an email; the other half are probably inclined to open emails from people they trust, regardless of the subject line. In the world of email, your subject line is your first impression.
You need to grab someone’s attention enough that they open your email even if you’re not a name they recognize in their inbox. There are so many ways you can go with a subject line, but ultimately you’ll need to see what works best for your email subscribers. The best advice we can give is to try new things, measure your open rate success and do more of what works.
As a general rule, keep it casual, conversational, personal and, above all, creative. For example, instead of “Tips to Cut Down Your Heating Bill,” try “Is Heating Your House Breaking the Bank?”
Here are some other examples of Good Email Subject Lines
5. Sending Unprofessional-Looking Emails
Let’s be honest here. The second someone opens your email there is an immediate judgment. Does it look professional? Is it well written? Are there typos? Are the images high quality and appropriate for the topic?
No matter who you are, when you land in someone else’s inbox, you’re competing against big companies with money and resources dedicated to email marketing. Your emails need to stand up to the competition.
This means you need to send well-written emails that are visually appealing, which includes both the email template you use and the photos or images that you include. Above all, you need to proof everything before you hit send.
It’s okay to feel a little anxious when sending out an email newsletter. Your newsletters are like electronic ambassadors for your business. And mistakes happen; we are human after all. But the fewer mistakes you make in the process of sending out your email newsletter, the better you’ll look and feel.
Over the years I have seen people make a lot of bad mistakes when it comes to designing/creating their emails. Some will insert their images/logos as attachments vs inserting them into the email using the URL of where the images is hosted online (ideally your website). Some will make the entire body of the email one large graphic/image and that will almost always get your email flagged as SPAM. Another email mistake I see people do is attach a PDF flyer or image or something else to the email, expecting/hoping that the email recipient will open that and read it. You can’t track who clicked/opened that email attachment so your email marketing analytics can suffer a bit with that sort of strategy. For some really good inspirations on what good email design look like, check out Really Good Emails
6. Sending Emails at the Wrong Time
We don’t necessarily consider this a mistake, but over time it can become one. As you get your email marketing strategy off the ground, it’s important to track your email open rates. If no one is opening your emails, you’re wasting your time and it’s actually now considered a good practice to remove anyone from your list who does not open your emails over a period of 6 months or more months, as consistently sending to people who do not open your emails can get you marked as a SPAMMER.
Start sending emails at a steady cadence, like the first Tuesday of every month at 9 a.m. After a few months of gathering data, switch it up one variable at a time. Try the first Tuesday at 7 p.m. instead and see if you get different results. Eventually, you’ll see what days and times yield the best results for your contact list. Anticipate that this may change over time, so the mistake to avoid making here is not paying attention to your email success open rate statistics.
7. Ignoring Your Analytics
This mistake takes point six one step further. It’s one thing to see if an email is being opened, but it’s another to pay attention to how well emails are doing. What are your subscribers doing once they open your email? Are they clicking your links, or are they unsubscribing? Are you annoying your email list? All these questions and their answers point to when and where you may need to consider a strategy change. There are lots of email marketing solutions today and they all offer the ability to track who opened, who clicked, who unsubscribed, etc. GoldMine has a very powerful email marketing Add-on called IntelliClick, I strongly encourage anyone who is doing email marketing today with GoldMine to look at IntelliClick.
8. Keeping a Bad List
Your email bounce rate and spam score are something you need to be aware of. An email bounce means that your email isn’t going through to someone. Bounces happen for many reasons ranging from typos in an email address to a recipient with a full inbox, to person no longer working at that company or maybe the person got married and now has a new email address.
Email service providers pay attention to your bounces, too, and having a high bounce rate reflects poorly on your business. It’s good practice to comb through your list on a regular basis and remove any problem email addresses.
Different from bounces, spam flags occur when an email service provider thinks you’re sending junk mail in bulk, or when a recipient marks your email as spam. Make sure that your emails aren’t filtered out as spam by monitoring your efforts.
IntelliClick has built in features for removing any/all emails from your GoldMine database that bounce from your email marketing campaigns.
9. Not Using Time-Saving Tools
There are so many tools and resources to help alleviate the work that email marketing requires; use them to your advantage. If you need assistance with creating your emails, with setting up analytics or integrating your current email marketing solution with GoldMine, please give me a call and we can discuss the possiblities.
10. Not Automating Your Email Marketing
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, an easy way to avoid these mistakes is with a done-for-you email marketing solution. Consider letting someone else manage your email marketing, so you can focus on running your business. Contact First Direct Corp. so we can discuss your email marketing strategy and how we can help you be successful. Email marketing yields an average 4,300 percent return on investment, and for every dollar spent, marketers see an average $44.25 in return.
Whatever you do, set yourself up for success by avoiding the commonly made mistakes mentioned in this article. When you take the time to handle your email marketing efforts the right way, rewards will follow.