Email Marketing Services
Published April 10th, 2017 by

Email Marketing: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Email marketing has basically become the Betty White of the digital marketing world — it’s been around for awhile, but it’s still got it! Email is an important part of any solid marketing strategy. It can be super effective when it’s done right: Email marketing is economical and it drives more conversions than any other marketing channel, including search and social.

But when email marketing goes wrong, it goes HORRIBLY, HORRIBLY wrong. Most of us have suffered an email snafu — glaring typos, broken merge variables, unfortunate innuendos, sending the wrong email to the wrong people…the list continues. But aside from the occasional accident, there are bad habits and major oversights that can cost you potential business.

Let’s take a look at the the good, the bad and the ugly of email marketing: the winning strategies, the common mistakes and the costly blunders that can make or break your marketing efforts.

The Good

1. Personalize. This might seem obvious, but personalized messaging is a must these days. The ‘spray-and-pray’ email blast is a thing of the past — and a thing of the junk folder. According to Experian Marketing Services, personalized emails have a 29% higher open rate and a 41% higher click through rate. These days, a prospect is more likely to become a client after having a personal, meaningful interaction. So go ahead and get personal. Don’t be shy.

2. Include a Strong CTA. The CTA, aka Call to Action, is the soul of your email. If it’s weak or confusing, then there’s really no point in sending the email in the first place. Here are some tips for crafting a strong CTA:
● Use first person. According to one study, switching the button text from second person (“your”) to first person (“my”) resulted in a 90% increase in clicks (e.g. Get My Report, Download My White Paper, Save My Spot)
● Avoid passive language. Action verbs are your friends. Supercharge your CTA with verbs like register, download and create.
● Create a sense of urgency. Encouraging your lead to act right away helps strengthen your CTA.

3. Segment. In order to more effectively personalize your email communication with your prospects, it’s essential to segment your contact lists. When you start to pinpoint specific behaviors and traits of your prospects, it’s easier to craft targeted messaging.

Segmentation is no joke. Marketers have noted a 760% increase in revenue from segmented campaigns. The numbers don’t lie, so get segmenting!

4. A/B Test. Again, this seems obvious. But it’s easy to get caught in a rut with email marketing. A/B email testing allows you to compare two emails and see which resulted in higher engagement. For marketing emails, you could A/B test CTA, subject lines, design, content, send names or whatever it is that you need to analyze.

Stay on top of your game and make sure that you’re producing the best, most productive content possible. Even when something might seem to be working, it never hurts to A/B test. The results may surprise you. Don’t miss out on a chance to boost engagement.

5. Write an Engaging Subject Line. No pressure, but everything hinges on your subject line. Think about it — the subject line determines whether or not the email will be opened. Here are some solid tips for crafting A+ subject lines.

● Keep it short: According to a study conducted by SendGrid, three-word subject lines have the highest engagement rates (21.2%, compared to 17.2% overall and 15.8% for seven-word subject lines).
● Human sender name: Sending an email from [email protected] or [email protected] is a one-way ticket to junk town. Instead, emails should come from a real name. In an inbox, you shouldn’t sound like a marketing robot. We should sound like someone the recipient knows.
● Be clear about the email’s contents: I’m as zany as the next guy, and there is something good to be said about unique standout subject lines. But it’s better to be up front about what your email really has to say, while also being creative and punchy.

6. Invest in a High Quality Marketing Automation Platform. “Wait, I already have an email marketing platform. What do I need this for?” Email marketing is just one facet of a true marketing automation platform, but it’s a big one.

Here’s an interesting statistic: Companies using marketing automation see 53% higher conversion rates from initial response-to-MQL and a revenue growth rate that is 3.1% higher than non-users. That proves that marketing automation can produce business growth, but how does it affect email marketing?

For starters, a marketing automation platform is a godsend when it comes to data. You can use marketing automation to track a prospect’s site visits, behaviors, email actions, traits and interests. Armed with this valuable information, you can create targeted messaging that’s going to boost your conversions.

Marketing automation also has the ability to track all your digital marketing campaigns. A solid marketing automation platform will deliver detailed reports and analytics on specific email performance as well as entire email campaign performance. This additional information provides all the knowledge you’ll need to finetune your email tactics.

With true marketing automation, you’ll get access to features that make your emails pop like dynamic content and behavioral-based email marketing. Most marketing automation platforms also include a landing page builder, a form builder, anonymous site visitor identification, life-of-the-lead tracking, social integration….and there’s tons more.

The Bad

1. More Than One Focus. Marketers have a lot to say. Sometimes, the first instinct is to cram as many offers and as much information into one email as possible. After all, now you have your prospect’s attention, so it’s all or nothing right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. Remember earlier when we talked about how a strong CTA was the heart and soul of your email? All your email content should work to support that single, strong CTA. Otherwise, your prospect may get distracted or overwhelmed.

2. Forgetting About Mobile. 55% of email is now opened on a mobile device. Because most of your workday is probably spent working on your laptop or desktop, it’s easy to forget about mobile email opens. But it’s essential to render test for mobile view, especially if so many of your recipients will view it this way. If your email doesn’t load correctly on a mobile device, you may just blown your chance at engagement with a large portion of your contacts.

3. Poor Instinct For Design Style. This one is difficult to churn out an exact “one-size-fits-all” formula. It takes a degree of testing, strategizing and trial and error. But email design plays a crucial role in keeping a prospect interested.

A plain text email can seem like beautiful templated email’s awkward younger sister, but plain text emails have some major advantages. For one thing, they come across as more personal, since it appears that they were typed out by a live human. Also, plain text emails bypass spam filters more easily and rendering is far less difficult across multiple devices and email platforms. It’s probably best to use plain text if you’re sending emails from a salesperson, account manager or customer service rep.

On the other hand, there are times when enticing visuals are necessary to keep a prospect’s attention or get your point across quickly. If you’re sending a newsletter, introducing a new product or sending invitations to a webinar or event, it may be best to use a tastefully designed template.

Both plain text and templated emails have their place in an effective marketing strategy. It’s imperative to use the right one at the right time.

The Ugly

1. Not Testing Emails. Ok. Big no-no. No email should EVER go out without being tested and checked by the team. So many disasters can be avoided simply by checking before sending. There’s not much more to say here except: Always. Test. The email.

2. Send Emails Too Frequently. We all know that drip marketing is effective. You send multiple emails over time to “nurture” your prospect until she’s ready to purchase. But this can be taken to the negative extreme. If you’re sending emails every day to the point where you become a plague to your prospect’s inbox, then you’ll do more harm than good. This can annoy your recipient and can make your emails seem spammy. According to one survey, 35.4% of consumers site frequency as the main reason they unsubscribe from email newsletters.

What’s the moral of the story? Don’t get trigger happy with your emails. It could mean ruining your e-relationship with your prospects.

3. Neglecting to Pay Attention to Metrics. Email marketing efforts are futile without the ability to track effectiveness. Email metrics include open rate, click-through rate, hard and soft bounces, unsubscribe rate, delivery and conversion rate to name a few. Anyone with a solid marketing automation platform should have access to all of these numbers.

If these metrics are not examined often, then your emails are essentially shots in the dark. It’s foolhardy to ignore valuable information that can help improve performance or avoid future problems. Metrics are the key to putting your best email marketing foot forward.

You made it…
There you have it. Now you can kick off a successful email marketing campaign and avoid the dangerous pitfalls that have claimed many a marketer. I challenge you to take a critical look at your email marketing to see what you can be doing better and to ensure you’re using the latest technology to make your campaigns shine. Good luck and happy marketing!

Olivia Williams

Copywriter at SharpSpring
Olivia is an email marketing expert and an advocate for using marketing automation to get the best results from digital marketing. She's a part of the content marketing team at SharpSpring.

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