DMF 2011 | 7 Email Marketing Mistakes I Made & How to Avoid Them

By Kaitlyn Smeland Dhanaliwala | Feb 3, 2011
More Articles by Kaitlyn


The first session I’m attending today at Marketing Profs Digital Marketing Forum is “7 Email Marketing Mistakes I Made & How to Avoid Them.”  DJ Waldow of Blue Sky Factory is presenting.  (Due to the weather, Giovanni Gallucci is unable to make it this morning…)

Email is not my primary area of expertise, so I’m very  interested to see what others have learned through the experience of email marketing.

Mistake #1: Purchasing an email list. When is it ok to buy an email list?  The short answer, according to DJ, is never. Of course, there are exceptions – but most of the time, lists are not scrubbed and contain people who have not opted in.  This might get you black-listed.  The recommendation is to try to grow a list organically.

Mistake #2: Sending to an old email list. If you have an old  list of contacts (for example- people who attended a presentation of yours years ago), what are the risks of reaching out to those people again?  Keep in mind that these contacts haven’t heard from you in a while; they may not recognize you and might mark you as spam.  A rule of thumb from DJ is that beyond 6-9 months, your likelihood of getting contacts to remember you dramatically declines.  (On a related note, make sure you send a welcome email to every new contact as soon as you can.)  Contacts will also have likely changed their email addresses over time, so those messages will either go unopened or will bounce.

Mistake #3: Sending emails with inconsistent branding. It seems like this would present the biggest problem for big organizations with multiple departments.  Universities are a prime example.  Be sure to keep the same logo across the email, landing page, and website.  Similarly, try to keep the same navigation and header on the email as on the website.  Templates are great for managing the email communications of different departments.

Mistake #4: Dumping email addresses from business cards onto your list. There were no brave souls in this audience who cared to share their experiences with what happened after employing this technique after trade shows and conferences.  Presumably, the result wasn’t good.  Now, there is nothing wrong with sending a personal follow-up email after collecting a business card and giving your new contact the opportunity to opt into a list.  You can also use email marketing tools to add a new contact to your list on the spot and personalize a welcome message.

Mistake #5: Employing a “batch & blast” or “spray & pray” strategy. What is a “spray and pray” strategy?  It’s blasting the same exact email message to everyone on your list- without segmenting.  Sometimes it can work, but usually segmentation gives a much better result.  Consider asking users who sign up for your email to fill out preferences; they can set their preferences and specific areas of interest.  This makes email communications more relevant- always a good thing.

Mistake #6: Not understanding why you are doing email marketing. Know your goal!  What’s your call-to-action?  What do you want people to do?  Often, email communications are loaded with information and multiple CTAs.  To me, this sounds a lot like the principle behind landing page conversion rate optimization.  Try to keep things as simple and focused as possible.  Everything you include in your email should be consistent with the intended effect you want to have on people.

Mistake #7: Sending emails sporadically (no consistency). Irregularity is a problem in email marketing, because people forget about you after a while.  What can you do to combat this irregularity? Create an editorial calendar to keep your team on track for pushing out email.  But also, re-imagine content.  (This is a technique we recommend for SEO as well).  If you have a blog, you have articles you can include in an email.  If you have special events coming up, you can promote them through emails.  Be as creative as you can about re-purposing existing content.

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