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I’ve been working in email marketing [EM] since 2001 and I’ve seen (read: done) some hysterical, terrible, and awesome things. Some folks I’ve had the privilege of chatting with have heard about my [first] tale of woe when, in early 2004, I received a call from the Spam Police notifying me of some new laws. Yes, I received a phone call. Yes, I was doing it wrong, but just barely so.
As a prelude, I offer you this keen classic blunder, “never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line”. Slightly less well-known than that blunder are these:
5. Not all SPAM is created equal / not being CAN-SPAM compliant
This caveat is here to help people understand that even legit businesses can send unsolicited content, content that is unexpected or unwanted, or content that is offensive to email gateways (the folks that police and control the email digital highway) – any of which get slapped with the moniker of SPAM.
The take-away here is knowing that even good mail gets flagged as SPAM on occasion. There are measures you can take, before and after the fact, that will help you get over an obstacle like this. People trying to do this themselves, like my 2002 counterpart who didn’t have a physical mailing address, will have a steep learning curve for compliance and resolution. For simplicity sake, retain a credible [EM] service provider.
Note: this isn’t just about legal compliance as it pertains to CAN-SPAM, the EU, CASL, or potentially region-specific guidelines (like the state of California doozy: Business and Professions Code, Section 17529); it further applies to reputation management, feedback loops, postmaster terms of service, and a slew of other intellectual variables of Vizzini-like proportions (my thanks to Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride, 1987).
4. Expecting a solid return on a purchased list
This one could go further and state, “and blaming it on the email or service provider.” (but that would be me taking things personally). There are ways to do this right but the key word here is “expecting”. Expect a solid waste of resources and a marginal return at best. Sometimes, all that is needed or wanted is a marginal return and this proves suitable and appropriate. When deploying a purchased campaign, measure thrice and cut once.
3. Starting an [EM] campaign for weight-loss products, work-at-home products, gambling sites, car loans, credit cards, and the list goes on…
When the digital world writes scripts to recognize and terminate the type of content you are attempting to market, that should be a sign. Could you imagine combining #3, #4, and #5 as requirements from a single client? I wouldn’t “imagine,” but I have fired such clients and turned down business from them, as well. Like the common disclaimer: don’t attempt such things at home; use professionals.
2. Thinking BIGGER is better
Au contraire mon frere. Email should not be considered for long-format communications. We simply get too much of it to stop-and-smell-the roses. Think of email as the great reminder utility. Hey folks, I’ve got a great piece of information you really need to read – and if it is long, summarize and link to your site. Email is the LINK to an ACTION; it is a trigger, a catalyst, a reminder. Your website, your phone number, your blog, whatever… that is where the real activity takes place.
Email is definitely a sphere where less is more. I recently digested a great bit by HubSpot and Litmus (The Science of Email 2014) that suggest 200 words and one image will yield the highest click-through-rate in marketing messages. To give you an idea as to what 200 words looks like, both paragraphs in this section add up to just shy of 200 words. Compare this to what you put in your newsletters and you may be going “too big” with your content.
1. Thinking [EM] is about you or your business
I’m coining a term here called Corporate Egonomics. Too much of what we see in our inbox satisfies the egos of a more narrow-minded generation of marketeers. Paired with #2 above, you get a huge LOGO as the first thing you see in an email or newsletter. Why?
I know who you are. I subscribed to your newsletter. I probably added your email address to my contact list. I see your identity in the FROM FIELD – do I really need a giant-a## logo taking up the top 400 pixels of height in the email? I didn’t ask you to remind me of what your logo looks like; I asked you to send me relevant and interesting content that may (or may not) trigger me into some activity that will generate revenue for you – isn’t that enough?
I can keep going – so I guess I will. The single-word jobs of effective [EM] are to communicate, remind, trigger, and satisfy. These all relate to your subscriber – the one(s) that make you money. Tend to their needs and your job here is done.
Communicate the pieces of information they want to read or learn about using vertical segmentation.
Remind them of relevant sales, discounts, events that are pertinent to them with proper calls-to-action.
Trigger activities with links to your site demonstrating and encouraging engagement (CTR).
Redux: Satisfy your customer’s needs (as it relates to your business) and your job here is done.