The Seven Deadly Sins of E-Mail Marketing

Over the past few years, e-mail marketing has rapidly evolved from a relatively unsophisticated medium of mass promotion to a highly specialized medium used to drive revenue, influence prospect behavior and deepen customer relationships.

Yet many practitioners still fail to realize that to do e-mail marketing well is no easy task.

It is common for marketers to get caught up in the enthusiasm of blasting out millions of undifferentiated e-mails and measuring their success in terms of the volume of e-mail messages delivered. However, to implement world-class e-mail marketing campaigns, it is important to avoid the seven deadly sins of e-mail marketing:

Sending unsolicited e-mail or spam. Marketers must avoid sending e-mail to customers who have not explicitly opted in or granted permission to receive their messages. While including such people in the recipient list will increase the volume of messages delivered, it is shortsighted. All the e-mails sent by the company may be blocked by organizations that monitor spam, and sending unsolicited e-mail will raise the ire of customers and taint the corporate brand.

Making it difficult to unsubscribe. Even marketers that send only permission-based e-mails often make the mistake of not providing a way for customers to unsubscribe easily. Or they fail to respond to unsubscribe requests in a prompt manner, frustrating their customers. It has been found that fewer customers unsubscribe when provided with clear and easy instructions to do so.

Overmailing. Customers receiving frequent e-mails tend to become immune to them. The result: E-mails that would have been read, if timed correctly, get ignored or deleted. Each marketer should determine the best message cadence, preferably targeted to different audience segments. Optimizing e-mailing frequency based on variables such as customers' declared preferences, purchasing tendencies and seasonal habits keeps customers interested and return on investment high.

Little or no personalization. The success of any e-mail marketing campaign depends on the degree of personalization. This means designing tailored messages based on customers' declared preferences, past purchases and demographic background. However, many marketers ignore this basic premise and send large volumes of undifferentiated, unsegmented e-mails.

Poor quality assurance. As basic as this may seem, many times marketers fail to conduct adequate quality assurance and, therefore, execute campaigns laden with mistakes, thereby damaging the customer experience and the company's brand. Mistakes include typos, incorrect offers and creative, links that do not work and images that do not render correctly.

Overemphasis on click-through rates. Many marketers focus on measuring only the click-through rates and do not pay attention to other metrics, such as open rates (percentage of e-mails opened and read), conversion rates, return on sales (ROS = gross sales/campaign costs), and return on investment (ROI = gross profits/campaign costs). This often leaves the marketers with a skewed perspective of the success of the campaigns.

Poor quality lists. Last but not least, many e-mail campaigns fail to fulfill their potential because of poor list quality. Marketers that purchase lists based solely on the size of the list often end up acquiring low quality names. This logic is similar to deadly sin No. 6, in that both rely on hollow volume measurements rather than meaningful results such as conversion and ROI.

The implementation of thoroughly optimized, highly targeted online direct marketing campaigns that maximize the lifetime value of each individual customer is extremely important to ensure campaign success. In a time when most marketers have limited budgets with which to execute high-impact marketing campaigns, paying attention to the basics becomes increasingly important.

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