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5 common email marketing mistakes – and how to fix them

Guy Hanson, email council chair at the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), shares his invaluable email marketing advice.

Email marketing is often the most direct way to reach consumers out of all of the channels in the marketing mix. Indeed, Gartner predicts that an estimated $500bn in digital commerce revenue will be attributable to email marketing by the end of 2018.

With individuals receiving a large number of emails on a daily basis, the biggest challenge for marketers is getting their emails to stand out in a very crowded inbox. They are under growing pressure to ensure their emails are deliverable, engaging and informative.

While there are many best practices and recommendations when it comes to implementing a successful email marketing campaign, here are the top five common mistakes marketers make:

1. Underestimate the sign-up process

People like convenience, especially when it comes to adding themselves to an email list. They do not want to be faced with a sign-up process that looks more like a form at your local doctor’s surgery rather than a mailing list to hear about sales at their favourite department store. Keep your sign-up process simple and make the information you need from them just one or two clicks away.

It’s also useful to make use of progressive registration and profiling. Re-visit new subscribers on a regular basis on the pretext of learning more about them, whether it’s via an on-boarding program, a customer survey, or a competition. Use this process to initiate engagement with the customer and understand more about them so future emails can be tailored to meet their needs.

2. Not asking for permission

Securing permission to send emails and being transparent in what the reader can expect to receive from you, is vital. Indeed, not having permission is not only breaking the law but it can affect your reputation with mailbox providers, as well as your subscribers. Readers must be fully aware of the type of mail they will be receiving from you at the point of sign-up. Will you send a monthly newsletter or will you be letting them know of offers on a weekly basis? Being transparent from the beginning will create a stronger, more engaged audience. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the legislation regarding this and programs which aren’t compliant are already breaking the law with enforcement starting next year.

It’s also important to allow your subscribers to opt-out of your emails whenever they may decide, and this process needs to be as easy as possible. If it’s unnecessarily complicated, subscribers will be more likely to complain.

3. Irrelevant content

According to the 2016 DMA Consumer Tracking Report, 85% of consumers say over half of all marketing emails they receive are irrelevant, with 27% stating they mark these emails as spam. In an age where we are able to search for an item of clothing online, and have the said item appear in our targeted ads across all social media platforms, it’s no surprise that subscribers increasingly expect mail that is tailored to them, their location and their preferences. If someone lives in the Outer Hebrides, the chances are that they aren’t regularly looking to buy flip flops and sunglasses.

How can you ensure you’re sending subscribers content that is relevant to them? Start at the beginning. During the sign-up process, give subscribers a chance to provide their geographical location and preferences about what they would like to receive. Furthermore, monitoring how recipients are engaging with their emails by tracking offers they respond to, their purchase history, when they tend to respond, and the locations they engage, can all help guarantee that your emails are relevant and targeted to your subscribers’ needs.

4. Dated creativity

The subject line, pre-header and email sign-off is important, however, it’s imperative the creative content of an email doesn’t fall to the wayside. If you have a strong subject line but weak content, there is a greater chance that the recipient will complain or delete the email after reading, which could raise a red flag with mailbox providers and hinder your brand’s email deliverability.

The reality is people are more likely to welcome and engage with your email if the body of the message is visible. You can increase engagement by making sure the CTA is ‘above the fold’ and can be clearly seen.

It’s also OK to have fun with your email. Use bold colours, emojis, moving images and video to capture and retain the reader’s attention.

5. Fail to optimise for mobile millennial subscribers

A recent Google study revealed that 88 percent of under 25s check their emails on their smartphones. They are also much more likely to have a Gmail account. According to a Bluecore study published last year, 61% of millennials and 70% of generation Z have a Gmail account, which is largely due to Gmail being the default email provider for Android devices. This has implications for marketers, however, as Gmail is the mailbox provider that is most focused on subscriber engagement metrics. Fail to engage with readers and there’s a chance that Gmail will inhibit the deliverability of your emails to this demographic.

Mobile millennials are a huge market, so it’s crucial your images, links, and text are rendering in a coherent, eye-catching way that gives these individuals a positive email experience.

Optimising for mobile can be as simple as shortening subject lines so that they read better on a mobile screen, linking subject lines to the pre-header text to create a bigger better offer, and being concise in email copy so that mobile-viewed emails translate onto the smaller screen. It’s also wise to preview emails before they are sent to ensure that images, links, and text are translating effectively for the most commonly used devices.

Battle of the inbox

The DMA states that 61% of consumers claim to receive 30 or more marketing messages per week. Marketers are subsequently waging an increasingly competitive ‘battle of the inbox’ against other brands to pique a subscriber’s attention. Whilst businesses are often told what they need to do when it comes to engaging with customers via email, it’s important that marketers are aware of what not to do to ensure that they don’t drive away any new or existing customers before they have had a chance to build what could be a fruitful and long-lasting relationship.

Guy Hanson is email council chair at the DMA and senior director of professional services at email deliverability specialist Return Path.

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