4 Big Email Marketing Mistakes—and How to Avoid Them

As effective as email marketing may be, it’s all too often misunderstood or underutilized. “Email can be the most cost effective and highest-performing channel you can have. It works, if done right,” says Gerry Blakney, creative director at eROI, adding that marketers often fail to realize “the amazing power that email really can have. Is it sexy? Not always. It doesn’t always have to be.”

But it does have to provide value to customers to stand out. What follows are four mistakes email marketers often make when endeavoring to deliver that value, and ways to avoid them.

1. Confirming but not connecting.

Post-purchase confirmation email messages are an e-commerce staple, as are retargeting emails. Despite their ubiquity, these emails tend to be on the bland side. Dan Darnell, VP of marketing and product at Baynote, believes that this often-neglected segment of brand email communications is “low hanging fruit,” and is rife with potential. Even though these transactional and follow-up emails are usually automated, there are ways to weave relevant marketing messages into them.

Here’s what to do:

Say thank-you. Joe DiNardo, marketing manager at Blue Fountain Media, says that “a lot of marketers miss the opportunity to say ‘thank-you.’” Simply taking the time to say ‘thank-you’ will make customers feel valued and appreciated.

Be relevant. Make cross-sell product recommendations based on customer behaviors such as purchase history and search terms. “You need to have a good grasp of what the customer is doing on your site to use that information to deliver personalized recommendations,” Darnell says.

Follow up. Customers abandon carts for a multitude of reasons, but whatever those may be brands can reach out with a retargeting email containing not just the products from the abandoned cart, but also related items.

Be creative. Don’t simply list items that customers recently viewed on your website in a confirmation or retargeting email. Doing so can seem borderline “creepy, and like you didn’t put much thought into it,” Darnell says.

Refrain from TMI. Including too much personal information in these follow-up emails can annoy customers instead of engage them. “If you use someone’s information, and they were not aware you collected it, you’re going to get in a bad place with them,” Darnell says.

2. Failing to incorporate other channels.

Pamela McAtee-Lord, SVP of digital solutions at Epsilon, believes that the potential of email to drive engagement on other channels is often overlooked. It is important for marketers to have a holistic view of their multichannel marketing campaigns, and to avoid treating each channel in isolation. “Email is a powerful tool and channel,” she says, adding that marketers can use it to get request SMS opt-ins, encourage customers to share content, and drive them to social websites. “The possibilities are almost endless,” she says.

To integrate well with other channels:

? Collaborate with your peers. “Work with [teams in charge of] other channels, and incorporate their channels into your email program,” McAtee says.

? Add social icons to your emails. This now-expected item will make it easier for customers to follow the brand on social media websites.

? Dedicate emails to promoting other channels. Email is an influential tool used to raise awareness about a branded app or a text alert program.

? Tailor the channel mix by user segment. Some customers are more likely to respond to email invitations to social websites, content sharing, or SMS alerts than others. Aim to send these requests to the customers most likely to respond to them.

? Provide content. Using email solely as a vehicle for sales and promotions found on other channels may alienate some customers. Instead, use select email communications to direct customers to, say, content on Pinterest, or a live Twitter discussion. This communicates value to the customer and helps initiate meaningful dialog.

3. Being overwhelmed with data.

The insight garnered from data is at the core of delivering targeted and relevant email communications. Marketers need to understand “how to turn data into strategies and solutions,” says Joe Devine, account director at Listrak.

Here’s what email marketers can do to make effective use of their data:

Set goals. “Find a KPI that’s important to [your brand],” Devine says. This is step one to uncovering actionable insights from marketing data.

Segment customer lists. “List segmentation is critical—by location, revenue stages, company size,” DiNardo says. “If you’re not segmenting your list you’re missing out on huge opportunities.”

Understand that lists aren’t static. “Lists are organic,” DiNardo says. People change, fads come and go, and preferences evolve. Marketers should update their lists to reflect this.

Keep relevancy top of mind. Understand which customers respond to what content and calls-to-action, learn their preferences and interests, and then use that data to steer content.

Maintain all data under the same roof. “I’m used to having complete and total trust in data, because I know where it comes from,” Devine says. “Having your email solution directly tied to that data leaves no room for error, so you can rely on it fully.”

Refrain from acquiring lists solely for the sake of list growth. The wrong lists can increase unsubscribe rates, abuse complaint rates, and bounce rates, which will have a negative impact on email campaign performance.

4. Limiting the scope of metrics used.

Too often marketers rely on open and clickthrough rates to evaluate the success of their email campaigns. Matt Popkes, strategy manager at eROI, believes that concentrating on these two metrics to “judge the life and death, success and failure of an email” is a mistake.

“As emails become more and more pervasive, numerous, and ubiquitous in our lives, those metrics continue to decline,” Popkes says, adding that open rates and click-through rates “aren’t really telling the full story.” Tracking user activities after the click uncovers a wealth of opportunities for marketers, he says. Metrics on cart abandonment, time spent on a website, and search keywords can be used to drive conversion, growth, and personalization.

Here are some tips on isolating the right email marketing metrics:

Redefine success. Identifying important metrics beyond open and click-through rates depends on the goal of each email marketing campaign.

Differentiate between platforms. Marketers can, for instance, define success in mobile in terms of the amount of time spent on site, whereas gauging success based on conversion is more suited for emails opened on desktops.

Hire an analytics specialist. Have a member of the marketing team with “the skills necessary to identify what needs to be tracked and when, because it’s not always obvious,” Popkes says.

Harness analytics. “Set up analytics to track a [customer] from click-through to conversion,” Popkes says. Having the right metrics means nothing if marketers can’t get the data they need. Doing so requires collaboration between marketers and their agencies to ensure that all necessary data is available. It also requires building the necessary infrastructure to conduct effective customer tracking.

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