6 Ways to Mess Up Email Marketing

Super secret sale! This Saturday from 4-6pm only! Get 10% off all men’s underwear!”

Have you ever gotten an email that advertises a “sale” where you might save 15 cents, IF you get there at the right time, IF you know what to buy, and IF you know the super secret code word? Poorly executed email marketing annoys people you should be pleasing. It hurts your reputation as a business, and it could even have a negative impact on your sales. Here are six mistakes to avoid:

1. Sending the same thing all the time. You might think you are varying your offer, but a 15% sale on shirts one week, then a 15% sale on skirts the next week, and a 15% off sale on socks the week after that, and on and on for 3 months? I quit opening your emails after the second week, and everyone else probably did, too.

Keep a list of promotions and ideas as they occur to you and refer to it when you need inspiration. It’s a good idea to send email without a promotion now and then – just share information, or advice, or even a joke. It’s fun to not know what to expect when you open an email.

2. Focusing on what YOU need instead of what I need.You opened your business so that you could have more flexible hours, be in control, and live the life you want to live, right? You want to rule out customers who argue about price, or who are rude, or who are always late, or who always complain, or whatever. Focusing on reaching your target audience and your ideal customer is great – just make sure

This dress is a fashion fail! Don’t let your email marketing be a failure too!

you aren’t alienating them in your efforts to rule others out.

Read your emails as if they were coming from a company you do business with as a customer. For example, if you own a clothing store, you could pretend your email is from one of your vendors. Practice seeing things from your customers’ point of view.

3. Overload! Hubspot says their studies have shown that people do not unsubscribe at a higher rate whether they send weekly or daily emails. Even though they are a big, well-known agency with all kinds of expertise, I’m going to have to disagree. Unless I signed up for daily emails, don’t send me daily emails. Or even every-other-daily. You are cluttering up my inbox, taking up my time, and really getting on my nerves.

When deciding how often to click “send” consider both what your subscribers signed up to receive, your own preferences, and whether or not what you have to say is really worth your subscribers’ time.

4. Sending to me without explicit permission. If you require my email address in order for me to complete a transaction and don’t tell me that you are also adding me to your list, it’s not only rude, it’s skirting violating the law. The CAN-SPAM Act exists for lots of reasons. Besides getting my permission, you need to make sure there is a way for me to unsubscribe.

5. Using a horrible template. Just because you can use lime green text on an orange background doesn’t mean you should. Just because you like a 24 point font doesn’t mean everyone else does. You get the idea. Try to take an objective look at your template. Is it hard on the eyes? Do you have to scroll for three days to get to the bottom? Is it cluttered? Are things off-center and weird looking?

It might seem petty, but I’m pretty quick to unsubscribe from ugly newsletters. Of course “ugly” is subjective, but it’s hard to go wrong with the basics. If you have any doubts about your template, go with the simplest, most basic one you can. After all, your message is what’s important, right?

6. Being consistently negative. You don’t have to act like one of the Stepford Wives, but try to look for a little brightness. Chances are, if you are sending out marketing email, you are selling something. Happy people are more likely to spend money.

Of course, if you are selling bomb shelters or something, by all means, be negative and create as much fear as you can muster. Just don’t expect me to subscribe to your emails!

Note: As I was writing this post, it felt a little familiar. Apparently these things have been bugging me for a while. A very similar post appeared on Smiling Tree Writing on February 15, 2012. It bears repeating, though, so I’m posting this one too! Maybe this counts as a blogging mistake, but oh, well. 

 

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There Is No Right Answer

Yesterday, I spoke to a potential client on the phone. We had already met in person, exchanged emails, and talked in detail about the work he’s considering paying me to do. His main question yesterday: What’s the difference in a blog and a newsletter?

It was an interesting conversation for lots of reasons. On the surface, the answer to his question seems pretty simple. But his real question, the one he didn’t know how to ask, was different. What he really wanted to know was how to use his blog posts and he email list differently for marketing. He couldn’t quite grasp the difference between subscribing to a blog so that you get an email when there is a new post, and a newsletter. I’m not sure he understood it any better when we hung up.

We have more marketing tools than ever before. Most are easy to access, and many are either free or very low-cost. How do you choose which ones to use? What is going to make the biggest impact in the least amount of

Which of the blooms is the best?

time? (Note: I didn’t say for the least amount of money. These days an investment of time is often more costly than an investment of dollars.)

It depends” is generally not what business people trained during a different era and comfortable with a different set of rules want to hear. They want me to sell them something. They want me to list all the reasons they should use email marketing, or social media, or whatever they are thinking about doing, and make them feel good about it the way someone selling ad space might have done at a different time.

But blog posts are not ads and email newsletters are not direct mail, and social media is not the same as Chamber of Commerce networking events – and ad space is still relevant. The digital marketing tools at your disposal can be used successfully in lots of different ways. Your personality, or your brand depending on the size of your organization, plays a huge role in how you should approach marketing. If you prefer a suit and tie, you are probably going to be more comfortable using LinkedIn than Twitter. That’s a broad generalization, but sometimes those are useful.

The individuals who are most successful in digital marketing are not afraid to be who they are, warts and all. If who you are is buttoned-up, perfectly coifed, and pulled together all of the time, then you should choose a niche that celebrates rigidity and formality. Everyone else will most likely find you a little boring. Sorry to be brutal, but it’s true. Humans who make mistakes, laugh, cry, and succeed despite struggles are interesting. They have stories to tell and people like stories.

I’m still struggling with how to explain clearly, simply, and accurately why my potential client should generate different content for his blog and his newsletter because what he really needs to do is share his story – with an audience likely to find it interesting.

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Something Exciting for Me and Something Free for You

It’s no secret that I am really interested in self publication, and since I’m a writer, it’s no stretch to imagine it’s because I want to write and self publish a book someday. And that is the case. In fact, I’ve written a book. It’s not a cool, sexy book about my life or vampires or anything really interesting like that. Instead it’s a book for people who run businesses, but hate to market, and just sort of fumble along, doing a little here and a little there to market their businesses. (People who are very much like me.)

The book is set up so that you get a tip each week, that should only take an hour or two to put into place. The idea is that if you just spend one to three hours a week marketing, you will eventually develop a solid plan that generates good results for your business. It doesn’t have to be painful, and it doesn’t have to exhaust you.

There are lots of tips that involve testing things, because not every marketing strategy will work for every business, or every personality, or every audience. You might be delighted to find that in-person networking is not a good strategy for you, or if you hate writing, you might be happy to see that blogging generates little in the way of results for what you do. The tips guide you through figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

It’s funny that I’ve written a book detailing exactly how to do something I am not very good at doing for myself. It was almost like writing a marketing plan for Smiling Tree Writing, or like writing down everything I have learned in steps that wouldn’t be hard for someone even as lazy as me to take.

Now that the time to publish and market the book is getting so very close, I should probably start implementing the tips to sell the book. Isn’t that an odd notion? I will use the tips that are for sale in order to sell those tips. It’s like some kind of weird brain teaser.

Of course, the fact that I’ve written a book is exciting for me, but why should YOU care? Well, I came up with a few extra tips, and I’m going to be sharing them with folks who are interested in free marketing advice. If you’d like to get the freebies, just sign up for my newsletter. I promise not to spam you, or sell your email address, or send you an email a day. I’m lazy, remember? Hopefully you will smile a little and possibly learn a little, and if you find that is not the case, you can unsubscribe at any time.

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Don’t Be Another Boring Navy Blue Suit

When you are writing for business, there is this terrible temptation to “be professional.” Unfortunately, being professional is often the equivalent of being really, terribly, horribly dull. Think about suits. Suits are not interesting. To tell an expensive one from a cheap one, you have to look at subtle details. You don’t want your business blog to be like a suit because readers are not going to look for the subtle details.

Several years ago, when Smiling Tree Writing was just beginning, a new client told me to look at her biggest competitor’s web site to get ideas for her blog. Then she suggested I could save time and she could save money if I just “copied everything they did.” Aside from the obvious copyright issues, I tried to explain why that approach wouldn’t work. She insisted that her company did the same thing as this other, bigger company and since they clearly had a marketing department, the best thing to do would be to copy them. In her mind, it was like getting a marketing department for free.

Although this client was not sophisticated in stating what she wanted to do, she was also not unusual. If you choose any industry, in any particular location, then look at the web sites, blogs, and other marketing materials of several, you are going to see commonalities. I am not acquainted in any way with these three businesses, but take a look at how this establishment, and this one, and this one are visually similar. At one time, pretty much every photographer in Chattanooga had music and a flash intros on the landing pages of their web sites. Real estate agents tend to have lists of tag words longer than their posts on their blogs.

It makes perfect sense to look at what someone you admire is doing and emulate it. But, it makes more sense to evaluate what the others are doing, then do something a little different.

Be just a little different.

Stand out from the crowd. Distinguish yourself. Show your personality.

Standing out can be tricky, though. If everyone else is wearing a navy blue suit and yours is gray, you might stand out. If your suit is purple, you will definitely stand out, but it might not be a good thing. So, there is a balance to be struck. Most people try to stand out in some small way, and it turns into the equivalent of wearing a novelty tie when everyone else is wearing a solid color tie, and that might be enough, depending on your industry and audience. When I was researching photographers a few years ago, if I found one that did not have music that automatically played when I landed on their site, it was enough to make make me look at them closer.

All of this goes back to your uniqueness – your USP, or unique selling proposition. What is special about you? What makes your widget better than the widgets for sale down the street? Why should I choose your business out of a list of forty results on the first couple pages of Google results? You don’t want to copy the marketing department at Competitor XYZ because they are not you, and being you is one of the biggest advantages you have in the marketplace (even when it doesn’t feel that way).

Have you observed any industries where all of the copy reads the same, or all of the web sites look the same? Do you purposely toe the line that exists in your industry in order to be professional? When you are shopping for a good or a service, are you more likely to look for the business that is different, or do you find comfort in working with someone who seems to know what the standard for his industry is? 

 

 

*NOTE: Just in case you are wondering, the first interview with an independent writer will be posted on Thursday. YAY!

 

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The Common Denominator Between Marketing & Seed Ticks

Do you know what a seed tick is? If the answer is “no,” count yourself lucky. If you do know what a seed tick is, you are going to understand how uncomfortable I have been for the last week or so.

I live in an area where there are lots of uninhabited, heavily wooded acres. Hiking and trail running are two of my favorite activities. Last week a friend and I went for a hike. We didn’t really have a destination, and the trail we were on ended at the power lines – where there is a wide right-of-way, and the trees are regularly cut down. It’s about a hundred yards wide, and covered in grass and scrub. There is a path along the power lines right-of-way and we followed it, eventually coming to a road. The whole walk took just over an hour.

When we got home we jokingly called the part of the path under the power lines a “hike through death valley” because it was a good 10-15 degrees hotter, and there were some steep hills. That part of the walk wasn’t much fun, but we felt pretty good about doing it. We had been home for probably 20 minutes or so when I noticed what looked like a piece of dust moving along my arm. SEED TICK!!!

Seed ticks are so small that they are hard to see. They are actually tick larvae, and they congregate in groups of hundreds or thousands, usually in grass. When you brush by the grass, they all jump onto you, hoping you provide enough of a meal that they can progress to the nymph stage. Ugh. Gross. If you see them right away, before they start crawling like crazy, you can grab some tape and press it to your skin, and the ticks will stick to

Beautiful. And infested!

the tape. Lots of people make the mistake of thinking they can wash the tiny demons off in the shower, but that doesn’t work. They dig into your skin and stay there.

I’m fairly certain I got the ticks while walking through death valley, so they were on my body for no less than 40 minutes before I saw that first one. When they first get on you, they are in a big group, but they spread out – quick. The sooner you can get to them with the tape, the better your chances of getting them all. I got the tape and started sticking it to those ticks. (hah!) After about an hour, I figured I’d gotten as many as I was going to find, and sat down on the couch. And found about 10 more. Later, when I showered, I found even more. The situation was not looking good.

That night, I woke up scratching my ankle. The next day I was covered, toe to head, in tiny tick bites. There’s not much you can do about it – I kept a bottle of rubbing alcohol handy and wiped the bites with it. Stinging is better than itching in my book.

Six days later, the bites were healing up, and not itching nearly so intensely. I decided to go for a run, and didn’t want to go back in the woods. I went to my grandfather’s farm and ran along the driveway – it’s a 1/3 of a mile loop, so makes a great place to track time and distance. Since no one lives there now, the mowing is not done quite as regularly as it maybe should be…You know where this is going, don’t you?

More  *^!@!! seed ticks. Not nearly so many this time, but my poor feet are covered in scabs and bites. It’s really horrible – and it reminds me of marketing.

If I have ONE itchy bite, it’s not so awful, just like sending out one marketing query or making one cold call is not so terrible. But 400 (that is not an exaggeration) itchy bites is physical torture in the way that the prospect of having to make 400 cold calls or send out 400 queries is mental torture. Unhappily, there is no way to prevent a seed tick infestation other than staying out of the woods (or dowsing yourself in poison, but I don’t like to do that). But, you can avoid marketing overwhelm fairly easily.

Schedule in a minimum number of calls or emails a day. It really is that easy. Just don’t go to bed until you’ve hit your marketing target. That’s my simple system, and most of the time, it works. Do you have a system to keep you from avoiding the tiny tasks that quickly pile up in your business? Even if you don’t have to do marketing, you probably have some similar thing that can quickly overtake your whole world if you don’t handle it.

Oh, and the common denominator between seed ticks and marketing? They both suck. (I itch everywhere. Forgive my bad joke.)

 

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