7 Email Marketing Mistakes that Small Business Owners Make

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There’s no doubt about it – email marketing is a great way to both increase your company’s online sales and build relationships with current and potential customers.  Having an active email marketing list gives you the ability to follow-up with customers who haven’t yet purchased from you, as well as the chance to send targeted promotions to past buyers.

That said, not all small business email marketing messages are created equally.  While the basics of email marketing are fairly easy to understand, you’ll want to keep an eye out for the following mistakes in your own promotional campaigns:

1 – Failing to use an email marketing provider

At a basic level, email marketing is simple.  Collect email addresses, write a message and send it to your recipients.

However, when it comes to sending your messages, the last thing you want to do is to use your Gmail or Hotmail account.  Instead, sign up for an established email marketing provider like Aweber or MailChimp (which offers free, limited usage plans to small business owners).  Not only do these services offer great features like message templates and account analytics, the arrangements they have with popular email services ensure that your messages are delivered – not hung up in your recipients’ spam folders.

2 – Emailing without permission

Once your email marketing provider account is set up, you’ll have the option to set up your new email lists as either single or double opt-in.  Single opt-in means that visitors must submit their contact information to your list in order to receive your messages, while double opt-in arrangements require potential readers to go a step further and confirm via email that they did, in fact, request contact from you.

Double opt-in is generally believed to cut spam complaint rates, though you may see a slight decrease in your opt-in rates compared to a single opt-in set-up.  Both arrangements have their place in the email marketing world – the important thing is that you’re requesting future recipients’ permission to receive messages from your business.  Sending messages without securing this permission is a quick way to get your account banned due to CAN-SPAM complaints.

3 – Writing bad subject lines

In email marketing, your subject line is everything.  Subject lines must be both concise and compelling in order to cut through the clutter that plagues most modern inboxes.

If you suspect that your low message open rates result from poorly written subject lines, there are plenty of different pre-established formats you can follow until you get a feel for the type of message that your audience responds best to.  A few different options to try can be found at the following links:

4 – Crafting uninteresting email messages

Of course, it isn’t just your subject line that needs to be compelling – the content of your message must be interesting as well!

Consumers today are incredibly protective of their email inboxes.  If your email marketing messages aren’t immediately perceived as offering some type of value, these readers won’t hesitate to hit the “Unsubscribe” button to be removed from your list.

So, how can you determine whether or not your messages are appealing to your readers?  Start by asking yourself if you’d be excited to receive your proposed message in your own inbox.  If nothing about your email content speaks to you, it’s possible that the message will fail to resonate with your audience as well.

But since you can’t just judge a message’s quality by your own perceptions (as the members of your list will have diverse interests and viewpoints), you can also take a look at the analytics information provided by your email marketing account provider to see which messages have been opened and which emails have been accessed most frequently.  This should give you some insight into the message topics your audience finds most compelling.

5 – Ignoring your spam score

As you’re drafting your messages, pay as much attention to the spam score reported by your account provider as you do the content of your emails.  Nearly all commercial email list providers offer this service, which grades your messages based on the presence of excessive links, sales oriented phrases (like “Buy now!” or “Free”) and other elements that are commonly used by email marketing spammers.

If the content of your message is solid, it’s likely that you’ll never run into issues with your spam score.  However, because a high score can be triggered by unexpected combinations of message elements – and because spam scores that are too high could prevent your messages from being delivered correctly by most email services – it’s important to double-check this metric before queuing your messages up for delivery.

6 – Sending messages irregularly

Now, while there’s no doubt that email marketing can be a great tool for small business owners, it’s also true that this type of promotion is usually only one item on a lengthy “to do” list.  So while the strategy may sound good in theory, it often falls to the wayside for business owners who are too swamped with other priorities to send out messages regularly.

This is a mistake.  Sending regular messages to your email marketing list conditions your audience to expect to hear from you at certain intervals.  At best, your recipients may come to look forward to your scheduled missives, but even at its worst, sending regular messages gets your audience members used to seeing your company’s name inside their inboxes.

Imagine how your audience members’ response might be different if their added to your list but don’t hear from you for several months until your schedule opens up enough to revisit email marketing.  By this point, your readers will have grown cold to your company’s promotions (assuming they remember who you are or that they requested information from you at all in the first place).  As a result, you’ll see a significantly lower success rate from your promotional efforts than if you’d taken the time to build genuine relationships with the members of your email marketing lists.

7 – Not paying attention to your email marketing statistics

Finally, when it comes to small business email marketing success, it’s incredibly important that you pay attention to the analytics information offered by your account provider.  When you take the time to look at these numbers, you’ll be able to make decisions about the direction of your future email campaigns based on actual, measurable data – rather than half-formed guesses or blind stabs in the dark.

In Mistake #4 above, I referenced the importance of using this information to identifying your top performing message topics, but there are plenty of other things you can do with this information.  For example, you can use your open rate data to identify readers who have opened all your messages, but failed to make a purchase with your business.  Using the tools provided by your email marketing program, you could then group these readers into a sub-segment of your list in order to send them targeted promotions based on their past interaction history.

Really, when it comes to utilizing your email marketing statistics to improve the overall performance of your campaign, the opportunities are endless.  And while you don’t need to be an expert marketer to start taking advantage of the potential benefits emailing your customers has to offer, taking the time to learn about these advanced techniques will go a long way towards ensuring your small business’s email marketing success.

Image: Thomas Kamaan

One Response

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