It’s almost impossible to browse more than a few websites or listen to drive time radio without being exposed to an ad from a company offering do-it-yourself email marketing solutions-and most of them are pretty good. Yet most of the small businesses we meet are disappointed with the results. Well you can’t expect advertisers to say “email returns more sales per dollar than any other direct marketing vehicle but it’s a mindfield of common pitfalls”. That’s what bloggers are for.
Part one of a recent client engagement was to evaluate their past email marketing efforts. We found a lot of the same mistakes that other businesses , large and small, make every day. The email software providers aren’t to blame, except maybe for making it seem too easy. And most have good information on their websites. But obviously the best practices are not being read there. So on the fat chance that they’ll be read here I thought I’d share the most commonly made email marketing mistakes small business make and some advice on how to avoid them.
Know your readers preferences.
With and more people reading their emails via mobile devices it’s important to pay extra attention to layout and text version of your message. Test your message on a Blackberry-you’ll understand why re-thinking design is critical especially if the read on mobile first trends contuse-and it will.
Test Before You Send
Don’t limit your testing to mobile devices. A typical subscriber list consists of people using various versions of Outlook, Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, and several other popular email clients. It’s likely your messages will look different in each. So keep the design simple and stick to some core design and spam compliance best practices.
Do not use Microsoft Word as your HTML editor-just don’t. Keep you message width at 600 pixels or below. Code simply. If you are not an HTML expert-keep things simple. Different clients rendering HTML differently. Use tables or if you must us CSS, use it inline. Webmail clients are notorious for wreaking havoc on CSS divs, especially Gmail. They’ll also strip out DOCTYPE, BODY, and HEAD tags .So use your CSS inline or better yet code cleanly and by hand using tags. Make sure your images are hosted on a fast pubic server not an intranet or secure server Don’t ignore the text version of your message. Read it carefully-it could be the only version of your message an important prospect sees.
Spam filters are getting better—thankfully. But this presents a challenge for email marketers. Here are some common mistakes I see frequently when evaluating new client’s in-house email campaigns:
» Don’t send one big image as the message. This is a definite red flag spam filters look for.
» Don’t use too many colors of fonts, especially red and green. After all Christmas is but once a year. Besides making your message look like a middle school bake sale flyer-it’s a spam trigger.
» Don’t use all caps and limit or eliminate exclamation points. Use of !!! has become rampant in general but carrying it over to email is guaranteed to put more of your messages into spam-so stop, okay! The same goes for other punctuation like quotations. Spam filters work on a point system. With enough minor deviation you can end up with a major deliverability problem.
» Don’t use words associated with spam. I assume if you’re running an online pharmacy or a financial scam from Nigeria you aren’t reading our blog but I guarantee a phrase like “Cheap V*I*A*G*R*A form Nigeria-FREE shipping” will end up in spam. Check your spam folder and look at the messages—you’ll see these and many other spam triggering words and phrases used repeatedly.
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Don’t give up on email because of a few disappointing campaigns. There’s more to it than the advertising tells you-but it’s worth the effort. It’s one of the best ways to stop losing your best customers.
Before moving to Western MA, Dan launched his career in New York in advertising and public relations, where he worked with some of the country’s top brands. Dan also has many years’ experience in small-business and corporate marketing, finance, franchise business operations and field consulting. In 2005, Dan became the first area president of TruePresence, a national internet marketing firm specializing in web design and search engine marketing. Dan’s clients have included Johnson & Johnson, Sears, Warner-Lambert, Monsanto and Pepsi, but he prefers the individuality of his smaller business clients. Dan launched The Green Internet Group to help business owners fully leverage the digital marketing and social media by offering results driven marketing planning, consulting, training and creative services.
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