November 14, 2016
So, you’ve just setup your e-mail automation system and have written the first of what will be many different e-mail marketing campaigns for your company.
You’ve read over the e-mail and everything looks great, and you test it once in Gmail to make sure it works.
Convinced you’ve got it all set, you send it out.
Your co-worker is on the e-mail list and opens the e-mail in Yahoo Mail, only to find that the images won’t load properly.
Upon closer inspection, she finds a bunch of spelling mistakes in the first line.
She alerts you to your mistakes but it’s too late: you’ve already sent that e-mail out to the more than 2 million people on your e-mail list.
This happened to Brazilian marketing expert Andre Armenni a few years ago, and could have easily been avoided had he given the project a bit more time to ensure that everything worked properly.
See? Even the experts can make mistakes. But you can learn from them.
Here are some e-mail automation horror stories from marketing pros, and what you can do to avoid repeating their mistakes.
1. Bombarding customers with too many e-mails — or not e-mailing them enough
“I have a client who I’ve been writing golf e-mails for. I came into the mix after he acquired the leads, and I started doing daily e-mails. Well, the first e-mail did incredibly well, but then I noticed if I sent them daily, a huge jump in unsubscribes would happen.”
— Shawn Lebrun, e-mail copywriter and member of Warrior Forum
Shawn isn’t alone in fumbling with e-mail frequency. Luckily, he was insightful enough to immediately research the source of the problem by taking a look at the reasons for unsubscribes (too many e-mails). After testing a few campaigns, Shawn came up with the perfect formula that kept his client list growing instead of shrinking: three days a week.
Fine-tuning your e-mail frequency is one of trickiest aspects of automation marketing. Depending on your niche or the quality of content you have to offer, subscribers may be open to multiple e-mails a day or only once a month.
The best solution is to test out frequencies with portions of your list to see how often your subscribers are comfortable being contacted.
At the very least, be sure to state how often they can expect e-mails on the opt-in form. Setting expectations and coming through on them is a fast route to trust…and opens.
2. Not personalizing and segmenting your list.
“[We received an unsolicited e-mail] offering Chicago-based SEO services, and we’re a Chicago-based SEO agency. Not exactly the best target. Do your research.”
— Hannah Marks, Digital Third Coast Marketing Agency
No one wants to feel as though they’ve been lumped in a group with a thousand other people. If they receive your e-mails and what you’re offering them isn’t relevant to their needs, then you’re bound to lose potential conversions over it.
This is why user personas and segmentation are key to engagement.
Before putting together your next campaign, take time to research:
- Who your target customer is;
- Where they are in the decision-making process or your sales funnel;
- The specifics of their problem; and
- How each feature you offer solves it.
Then create a segmented e-mail campaign personalized to the needs of each target user.
3. Not sending from a real person’s name or sending from a “no-reply” address.
“We still see many marketers routinely go against best practices by sending e-mails from a no-reply address. If your company sends e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org, it’s an indicator to your recipient that you’re creating a one-way communication and that you don’t want to hear from them.”
— Adam Holden-Bache, director of business development at Striata eMarketing
This seems simple, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t personalize their e-mails by attributing it to a real person from their company, or explicitly preventing their subscribers from communicating with them.
Seriously: no one likes talking to a robot. You’ll get higher click through and open rates if you make it seem like the e-mail was sent from someone in your company, such as the CEO.
Plus, the more you invite people to reply to your e-mails, the better your deliverability will be so future e-mails don’t end up in their spam folders.
If it looks and feels like it’s been written by an actual human, then you’re doing it right.
4. Not having useful content
“I’ve seen too many cases of people trashing, marking spam, ignoring and unsubscribing because of irrelevant content. Remember, inbox is not social media; inbox is a private space and you don’t want to desecrate it with promotional junk or unwanted stuff.”
— Udita Purkayastha, business development marketer
The purpose of e-mail automation is to help nurture conversions from your readers by offering them something that will help solve their problems. If all you’re sending are promotional e-mails, you’re making the relationship about you instead of about your target user and their needs.
Be sure that 80 percent of your e-mails have valuable content that your subscribers can use in their lives, or helps them learn more about how to use your product if they’ve started a free trial.
For example, if you’re sending a five-e-mail sequence, write three e-mails that are focused on value and engagement and only two that are focused on sales.
When you’ve built value that goes beyond sales, it’s much easier to get your subscribers to buy when you only send direct sales e-mails 20 percent of the time.
5. Not having an adequate enough platform for what you need
“The worst error I’ve ever seen in e-mail was a while back and is just plain silly. A company decided to send a mass marketing e-mail to their entire customer base. The marketing team sending it out didn’t use any sort of e-mail tool. They… sent it to their entire mailing list using the CC: line in an e-mail client. Every single one of their customers got their entire customer e-mail address database. Many people replied-all to complain. Not pretty!”
— Jeremy Kraybill, co-founder of Dashcord.
Does your e-mail automation platforms offer enough options to create successful marketing e-mail campaigns?
The tools you use to create your e-mails are just as important as the content in the e-mails themselves.
Make sure that you’re using a platform that can accommodate all your needs. Look for a platform that allows companies of all sizes to send personalized e-mails, drive up conversions through analytics and tracking, and create target lists and segments.
6. Sending Without Previewing and Testing
“An uncooperative e-mail client can distort your carefully crafted copy and optimized layouts, hurting response rates in the process.”
— Mark Brownlow, e-mail copywriter and publisher of E-mail Marketing Reports
The horror story we opened with about Andre and the two million broken e-mails was an example of a lack of thorough testing. Although he did a quick preview of the e-mail in Gmail, he failed to take the time to test it in more than one platform.
The lesson: always preview, fix problems, and preview again. If your e-mail marketing platform doesn’t offer the option to preview or send a test e-mail, there are several low and no-cost e-mail testing apps you can try out.
Speaking of testing, A/B testing is an integral part of improving conversion rates. Split test different variants of the same campaign by sending them to a small percentage of your list. That way you’ll see what works in terms of opens and clicks.
When e-mail automation is done right, all of the pieces of your plan and your potential for growth will fall into place. Many of these common mistakes can be avoided by collaborating as a team and really listening to what your customers are looking for.
Do you have any embarrassing stories about your biggest automation fails that you’re brave enough to share? Leave a comment!
I am Robert Yank a marketing manager at Reply.io with four years of experience in IT. I am trying to combine my technical skills and professional background to bring higher-level perspective into my work. Currently I am sharing the company experience and vision on the hot topics from the app development world.