When email marketing goes wrong

Email is nearly 50 years old and remains the most trusted form of marketing communication. 77% of consumers favour it over channels like social media or direct mail. Unfortunately, this glorious history doesn’t mean it never goes wrong.

We’ve highlighted four of the most common mistakes below, along with a few thoughts about what you can do to recover if you make a slip-up.

1. One size fits none

Have you ever sent one email to your entire contact database? If not, you’re in the minority. 89% of marketers admitted to doing this in the last year!

Do you think that a marketer based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne would come to a 1-hour seminar in London? Or that an Events Coordinator will care about SEO-optimised blogs?

With 188 million emails getting sent per minute, any that aren’t immediately relevant won’t get read. The links in them will go unclicked, your content unread. That’s not a good use of the time you’ve spent crafting your email or the content behind it.

2. Dear Mr SupportTeam

We’ve all been there. With so much data in CRM, and the ability to send email to thousands of contacts at once, occasionally an email with bad personalisation will slip through the net.

It is often taken as a given that putting someone’s name in an email is an absolute must for modern marketers. However, it is critical that if you do it, you get it right. That starts with having confidence in your data and checking it regularly. Based on the reactions we’ve received (even we’re not immune from this error!) an email addressing someone by the wrong name is much worse than not personalising your email at all..

3. Click here! And here. And here!

The prime example of dodgy design in emails comes from the Call-To-Action (CTA). Badly-designed emails have multiple CTAs, leading to confusion about what you want the reader to do. Alternatively, one single CTA is hidden in the layout, resulting in no clicks and no conversion.

Humans are creatures of convenience, so this makes it easy for them to complete the action you want. A good email will only have one CTA, or perhaps two at a push, positioned clearly and prominently at the focus point of the content. We particularly recommend putting your CTA “above the fold” so it can be seen without scrolling, on whatever device your reader is using.

4. Happy Easter! Buy new tires!

We’ve done our best to block this from our collective memory, but in trying to be highly topical, we once upset a chunk of our database of leads.

Jumping on a bandwagon or cultural moment sounds like a great idea. But if it isn’t actually relevant to your brand it can irritate your readers more than engage them. Just think of the mass of Easter-themed emails you’ve received lately. How many of the companies behind them have anything to do with Christianity, chocolate or rabbits?

Our own policy is to only reference news items when they are directly relevant to what we do. This shows readers that we are following the latest changes to our industry. In addition, a non-Easter-themed email stands out more in an inbox full of marketers shoe-horning the holiday into their writing.

What can you do about it?

First of all, take a deep breath! Panicking is not going to help anyone.

When you spot an error, ask yourself three questions. What impact did this have on the reader? What’s the worst that can happen as a result? Does the worst that can happen justify any action?

Quite often, it will turn out that no further action is needed. In a busy inbox, a message which isn’t relevant will be simply ignored or deleted. The threshold at which a reader reacts by replying or unsubscribing, is surprisingly high. While your email not getting read is not ideal, being reported as spam would be far worse, but this rarely happens off the back of a single send.

When a follow-up is needed, quite often a simple apology will solve the crisis. Remember that you’re writing to humans, who will have made a mistake or two of their own somewhere in their careers. Hopefully, they also have a sense of humour, so a “Whoops, we screwed up” apology message often goes down well. If your error is more serious, the tone of any apology will need to reflect that. Ultimately, the simple acknowledgement of the mistake will win over the majority of your readers.

How to avoid making these common email mistakes

While a poor topic choice may be a simple judgement error, you can avoid most of these mistakes by double- and even triple-checking your emails before they go out. GatorMail allows you to schedule sends to go out at a future date. This gives you plenty of opportunities to review your emails or ask a colleague to check them with a fresh pair of eyes.

CommuniGator users can also use our AI and SendForensics modules, which can predict what impact your email will have. AI uses a range of algorithms to predicts your Click Through Rate based on the email content and the audience it is going to. These tools mean you can be confident that your emails will be error-free and accurately targeted.


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