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3 Common Email Marketing Mistakes

There were some fantastic email campaigns in 2012. And there were some ineffective ones, too. In this article, I’ll address three of the top email marketing mistakes from 2012.

Sending Emails Too Frequently

As an email marketing professional, I subscribe to hundreds of ecommerce emails. I scrutinize the emails I receive. Thus, my tolerance for high volumes of email from any one retailer is likely higher than the average recipient.

However, while analyzing Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails, I noticed one e-tailer, Toys“R”Us, that sent many more emails than the others. I received seven emails in one day from that company. Seven emails, from anyone, is more than one person can possibly process. Moreover, each email featured multiple sales, discounts, and last-minute chances to purchase various brands or toys. Where is a consumer to begin?

With two small children, I am active purchaser of toys. But I unsubscribed from the Toys“R”Us email program. Seven emails in one day was simply too many. On a busy day or weekend, I may not check my personal email for a few days. During that time, the number of emails from Toys“R”Us can grow to more than 20.

In short, increasing your frequency and the mixed messages per email — in the manner of Toys“R”Us — is simply a bad strategy.

Sending emails weekly, or even daily, can work. Understanding your customers’ purchasing behaviors, and monitoring metrics like open and click rates, and unsubscribe rates, will help determine your optimum frequency. Identify a rough sales dollar per email sent, based on historical averages. When you start to over email, you will see a sharp reduction in the dollars earned per email sent. That means it is time to reduce the number of emails sent.

Ignoring Mobile Devices

This year, the number of people opening email on their smartphones and tablets has skyrocketed — 30 to 70 percent of your email opens may be coming from these devices. That number is just too large to ignore. We’ve all read articles and attended webinars about the increasing role of mobile in email. We have learned the basic tricks to optimize our email design to render correctly on smartphones and tablets. These are all important tactics. However they are only half of the equation.

The other half is to understand how consumers use mobile devices. The purpose of email marketing, after all, is to drive traffic back to your site to convert. Keep the process as easy as possible. Effective emails convince the recipient to immediately perform the desired action, such as reading news article, or completing a purchase in your shopping cart.

The point is, don’t design your email so that it looks good on a mobile device without also strategizing how you want mobile users to interface with your website. Their behavior is much different than people using a desktop computer. Spend time analyzing the path mobile users take, and use that as a starting point to plan your mobile strategy.

L.L.Bean, for example, has a very effective smartphone version of its email, making it easy to navigate to the mobile site to browse and purchase.

Underestimating Email’s Overall Impact

Within hours of sending an email, you know how many people opened, clicked, and purchased or converted. What is hard to measure, however, is all the other ways in which an email will actually affect your bottom line.

After years of sending email and analyzing results, I’ve consistently seen a huge percentage of recipients coming back, within three days, to purchase via another channel. I have also seen large percentages of consumers use an email-only offer code while calling to place an order, or consumers calling in not to use a promotion code but mentioning they received an email. In short, measuring the effectiveness of an email through initial clicks captures only a portion of the actual impact. Similar to television or radio, email contributes to the bottom line in a way that will never be completely quantifiable.

Spend time with more advanced analysis. Look at all the sales since a specific campaign, and track which people had opened or clicked on the email. The true impact of a single campaign will likely emerge. Email is an effective branding tool, helping consumers remember a company, even when they don’t open an email.