Top 10 E-Mail Marketing Mistakes

Email marketing can be very cost-effective and productive if handled correctly. The proper approach to email starts with an ethical, well-thought-out plan and typically requires a little more time and effort than most email marketers realize.

Common mistakes include:

1. You do not have a permission-based mailing list. Unless you have the recipient's permission, you may be sending spam, which is against the law. Too many business owners take shortcuts and buy e-mail lists or compile them in unethical manners, such as harvesting them from the Web. Spam also hurts the reputation of your business. The CAN-SPAM Act provides strict requirements about what you can and cannot do; for more information, go to the Federal Trade Commission Web site.
2. Your content is poor or nonexistent. The more ads your e-mails contain, the faster people will hit delete them. E-mail marketers frequently send nothing of value to the reader. Just as people accept advertising and promotion in a magazine because they want to read the content, the same principle holds true in e-mail. You need to provide them with something that they desire. Interesting and topical content, albeit brief, should hold their attention long enough for you to market yourself successfully.
3. Your emails are full of errors. The amount of errors found in e-mails is astonishing — words misspelled, poor grammar, links that do not work, and so on. These missteps, however slight, all signal a lack of professionalism. They can be easily avioded with some careful editing; don't let these avoidable mistakes happen.
4. You make readers jump through hoops. If you want someone to subscribe to an e-mail newsletter or sign up for updates about your product or service, do not make them fill out endless online forms, click through multiple pages, and provide unnecessary information. The more difficult you make it, the less likely they will be to subscribe. All you really need is their permission and their e-mail address.
5. Your "from" and "subject" lines are poorly chosen. Pay particular attention to the "from" and "subject" lines, because often people will determine that they do not know the e-mail sender and delete it immediately. Be clear: The "from" line should be the exact company or newsletter name with which they signed up. The subject line can be the name of the newsletter or a well-thought-out, brief headline that grabs their attention.
6. You do not test them first. Too often marketers learn the hard way — by lack of response — that their marketing strategy could have been better. E-mail newsletters are a perfect medium for testing different tacks. Before sending to your entire e-mail list, test out several subject lines, different content, and a few types of graphics and designs on a small number of people. You can tell how many e-mails were opened and which test group received the most responses.
7. You do not call to action. You can't get results without a clear call to action. Do you want the reader to go to your Web site? Print out a page and send or fax it in? Buy something? Whatever you want them to do, make it clear and simple.
8. You have not included landing pages. You need to pay attention to the key pages that people land on when they click on a link from your e-mail. All too often, it is mistakenly assumed that customers want to jump right to a shopping cart; in many cases, they are dumped on your homepage to find their way around. Take a lesson from Amazon — provide a landing page with more information for each product or service.
9. Your graphics are overkill.Too many graphics, slow downloads, graphics that overshadow your message, and attachments will turn off readers. Again, keep it concise and simple.
10. You don't give the people what they want. Too many newsletters focus on generic material or are all about your business. Give people something they can use — for example, provide information that makes them want to do business with you. Readers want to know what's in it for them.

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