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The Seven Deadly Sins of email marketing

By on Nov 4, 2013 in Social

The seven deadly sins of email marketing: don't turn your client into this guy.

The seven deadly sins of email marketing: don’t turn your client into this guy.

Content Marketers around the globe have weighed in on the subject of email marketing, sharing their valuable insights on how to get it right – and how to get it wrong! This week, we’re looking at the value and power of email marketing, so today I thought we’d share our top Seven Deadly Sins when it comes to email marketing. These go beyond the obvious cardinal rule, Thou Shalt Not Spam. No one likes spam. Ever. It’s a cheap trick and an excellent way to get your server blacklisted. Don’t do it. But we assume you know that, so let’s take a look at some other no-no’s guaranteed to get you unfollowed – and fast.

  1. Emailing too often

    In the same category as the NO SPAM rule, emailing too often is a bit of a no-brainer. Yes, you want to be top-of-mind when your clients need a product or service that you provide. But you want to be there because you’ve earned it. You need to win your audience’s loyalty by sharing valuable content that they will love – and share. Self-serving emails focused only on sales will lose you loyalty. And the resulting annoyance you’ve caused will ensure that no one buys from you – even if you are the first person they think of when they need what you have.

    “How often is too often?” you may well ask. Well, that’s a good question. The answer is a little complicated: it depends on your audience, your offering, and your intentions. I have emails I receive every day and devour with gusto. And I have emails I get once a month and delete without a second thought. And bear in mind that I subscribed to those mailing lists on purpose. The key, as with all content marketing, is to provide value. If your emails tell a great story and/or meet a felt need, they’ll be welcomed. Always focus on the audience.

  2. Not emailing often enough

    This may seem like a contradiction after point one, but it is still true. If your emails are spread too thin, your followers will get the impression that you’re not all that invested in them. Worse still, they may forget about you altogether. The occasional reminder is better than no reminder at all, of course.If you’ve promised you’ll only mail four times a year, best keep that promise. But then the email needs to be even more jam-packed with value than an email that comes more often. Once again, adding value is paramount. Identify the pain your audience faces, and solve it.

  3. Emails that are too long

    We’re busy people. Every moment of every day presents a hundred new distractions and demands on our time. We don’t want to read about your great product or service. We don’t want to read one sentence about it. We certainly don’t want to read two pages about it. I know that sounds harsh, but put yourself in the recipient’s seat and you’ll see that it’s true. Between the increase in visual learning, the upswing in ADD, and the advent of tools like Twitter, which force you to condense your thinking into 140 characters, we’ve become the Fastfood Generation 2.0. We want everything instantly, and that includes information. If you want your audience to pay attention, keep it short and simple.

  4. Content that doesn’t engage

    This is key. From the very first word, your email content needs to grab the reader’s attention – and hold it. The web is full of tips and tricks for creating engaging content. Look them up, understand them, and use them. The key to creating content that ENGAGES is to identify the pain your clients (or potential clients) face, and speak to that. Solve it for them. The best way to create loyal followers is to offer them that old chestnut – great value. Help them, and they’ll come back for more, guaranteed.

  5. Too many images

    An email full of images takes long to download. Not only that, image-heavy emails are often labelled as spam by servers, so your news doesn’t even reach its target in the first place. And if it does, it is unlikely to be read as it takes too long to open. The most likely place that email will end up is in the trash. Use small images, and use them sparingly. (Do I need to say “use legal images”? If you’ve used an image without permission, be sure your sins will find you out!)

  6. Too few images

    Once again, there are two sides to anything, and this includes the images in your email. Having too few images in your newsletter is not the serious crime that using too many images would be. However, as I’ve said, the world is becoming increasingly visually-driven, and if you don’t acknowledge that in the way you craft your communication, you potentially lose out on a significant segment of your market. So use images, but use them wisely. And of course, legally.

  7. Emailing without a plan

    aXent is all about marketing strategy, and we say it again and again: market with a plan. This is no less true when it comes to email marketing. Ideally, your email marketing should form part of your broad marketing strategy, which should cover online marketing, blog articles, PR and print media. Each avenue needs to feed into your objectives (which you’ve defined already, right?), and work together as a cohesive unit. So while you wouldn’t say the same thing in the same way on every portal, you do need to be sending a consistent message, with an established tone and recognisable branding.

    But even if email marketing is the sum of your strategy, you need a plan. You need to know what you’re saying to whom, when you’re saying it, and what you hope to achieve from it. And you need to measure your success rate. Without a strategy in place, and tools for measuring the success of your implementation, you’re shooting in the dark. With a bow. And the arrows are chocolate-coated marshmallow Easter eggs. Probably yummy, but not very effective in hunting.

In a future article we’ll discuss the flip side of this discussion: how often is often enough, and how to create good, engaging content. Don’t miss it! If you need help with your email marketing strategy, or with getting the tone and design of your communications perfect, give aXent a call today.

Vanessa Davies is the head of aXent Associates, a team of writers, designers and social media strategists working on online content around the world. Writing, technology, online marketing, education, nutrition and personal growth are just a few of the many interests she spends her daily research time on every day. You can follow Vanessa on Twitter or Google+.

Great content writing, combined with a marketing strategy based on decades of online marketing success form the foundation of a potent relationship marketing plan.