Every marketer’s media toolkit contains e-mail. In fact, until social media came along, e-mail was the primary method businesses used to connect with their customers via the Internet. Even though Facebook pages and Twitter feeds have exploded in popularity over the past few years, they still can’t hold a candle to e-mail for its ability to push information to an audience, its ubiquitousness (not everyone does social media, but pretty much everyone—including Grandma—has an e-mail account these days), and its fairly low cost.
Just because you send out an e-mail, however, doesn’t mean that your targets will actually open it, much less read it. Even with good design in place to catch your reader’s eye, you must still pay attention to other factors that strongly influence whether your e-mail gets read—or goes straight into the trash folder.
If your organization hasn’t been enjoying the strong e-mail marketing results you anticipated, take a close look at your e-mail practices. If you spot one (or more!) of the following mistakes, it’s time to revamp your marketing M.O.
1. Sending at the wrong time of day. E-mail has the highest chance of being opened within one hour after it’s sent, so schedule yours for when people tend to clean out their inboxes. Most people work on this task first thing in the morning, right before or right after lunch, and at the end of the day. Keep in mind, though, that at the conclusion of a long day of work most people just want to get out the door and go home; thus end-of-the-day marketing e-mails are rarely opened then. By the time people are back in the office the next morning, their inboxes are teeming with messages from colleagues and clients that clamor for their attention—and any message you sent the previous afternoon or evening is likely to be overlooked completely.
2. Including too much about you—and not enough about them. If you’re using e-mail to increase client interaction, brand awareness, or client loyalty, remember that if you want your clients or prospects to take time from their busy schedules to engage with your content, there has to be something in it for them. So make your content worth their time to read by providing information that’s useful to them. (And that means recognizing that most of your audience simply isn’t interested in who your employee of the month is, the opening of your new office location, or your company’s ranking on the Fortune 5000 list.)
3. Subject lines that fail to pique the audience’s interest. No matter how great your content is, it won’t reach your targets if they don’t actually open the e-mail. Hundreds of other marketers vie for your audience’s attention every day, so you definitely need to stand out from the crowd. How do you do that when your e-mail is lined up alongside dozens of others in someone’s inbox? Give your e-mail a subject line that makes your reader think “This looks useful” or “I wonder what’s in here”—and then gets him or her click on your message.
4. No personalization. Technology makes it incredibly easy to personalize a marketing e-mail. Rather than list the sender as “[email protected],” for example, you can send from an e-mail address that the recipient recognizes. Similarly, addressing the recipient by name in the body of the e-mail goes a long way toward distinguishing it from spam.
5. A terrible list. My number-one rule of sales and marketing is this: “Know your audience.” Don’t waste your recipients’ time if they’re not a fit for your service in the first place. This seems like such a simple concept, but I still see companies use a “spray and pray” approach in which they blast an e-mail out to everyone in their databases. Companies do this because the cost difference between sending 100 e-mails and sending 1,000 e-mails is negligible and because it’s easier to export an entire database rather than tag specific contacts based on marketing goals. This scattershot approach devalues any data you receive from a particular e-mail campaign: the thrill of knowing that 200 out of 1000 recipients opened your e-mail pales when you realize that only 20 of those 200 should have actually received it in the first place—and your campaign wasn’t nearly as effective as you’d hoped. Remember, the more irrelevant e-mail you send to your targets, the less likely they are to pay attention when you do send something relevant.