The good, the bad and the neglected of email marketing

It’s easy to forget how effective email marketing can be while the more glamorous channels (the social media ones) are grabbing the limelight and an increasingly larger chunk of the marketing budget. When done correctly though, no other activity provides a better return on investment than email marketing.

We look at the reasons why email continues to be such an effective marketing tool, as well as highlighting some pitfalls to look out for when running a campaign.

The good.

  1. Nearly everyone uses email. There were well over 3 billion email accounts worldwide by the end of 2011 (which is over three times the number of Facebook accounts), and 85% of internet users take advantage of email.
  2. 83% of all emails arrive in the recipient’s inbox.
  3. Nearly 60% of B2B marketers point to email as the most effective marketing channel for generating income.
  4. In a 2011 marketers’ survey, email was the channel most frequently cited as the best performer over the previous 12 months.
  5. In a 2010 Survey, nearly 40% of industry executives said the advertising channel that performed strongest for them was email. This was the top result.
  6. Email marketing’s ROI for 2012 is predicted to be $39.40 for every $1 invested, when email will account for $67.8 billion in sales.
  7. Email marketing offers unlimited, low-cost, opportunities for segmentation and precision targeting – no other marketing channel comes close.

The bad.

However, there are still too many businesses not approaching email marketing correctly and they end up making a number of costly errors. Here are the five worst mistakes they make.

  1. Not complying with the law. It’s a legal requirement in the UK that all B2B marketing emails have an unsubscribe option and contain the sender’s full postal address. It’s also good practice as it helps to instil trust with the recipients (you’re less likely to be viewed as a dodgy trader if you comply). The law is a lot stronger for consumer email marketing where gaining an ‘opt-in’ is compulsory.
  2. Not using an ESP (Email Service Provider – a specialist in the creation, management and delivery of emails, specifically for marketing purposes). Saving money by sending marketing emails from your internal systems is a false economy and a potentially dangerous one. Most ESPs supply services that usually include easy mailing list segmentation, automated unsubscribing, analytics that show open and click-through details and much more. And, most importantly, their systems, processes and relationships with the ISPs (Internet Service Providers) can prevent your untutored emailing from getting you blacklisted as a spammer and losing all your business email functionality.
  3. Not considering the subject line value. Too often subject lines are treated as an afterthought to the main email text, but getting them right is critical for getting your email noticed and for improving open rates. The subject line can make or break an email and it needs to reflect the main thrust of the email content, in hopefully 50 characters or less.
  4. Embedding text in images. Having a whizzydesign with lovely big images and colourful typography included might be a designer‘s dream, but all too often it’s a recipient’s nightmare. With so many email clients having images switched off as default, a degree of pragmatism is necessary at the design stage so that the email has enough compelling text viewable to all recipients to induce them to switch on the images. If not, they might easily decide to delete the email when all they can see is a few box outlines with ‘x’s in the top left corners.
  5. Ignore basic spamming processes. Spam filtering can damage your email campaign if you don’t handle it right. This starts with accurate and correctly formatted coding, don’t just do a ‘save as’ from Word into HTML. Also be careful of the words you use and their frequency of use. Don’t use the words that are always used by spammers, you know the ones… offering gentleman’s physical enhancement aids, or financial improvement programmes (I’m being careful what I say here). Also don’t use overtly pushy sales talk and, wherever possible, use normal every day conversational language. Oh, and don’t repeat yourself too often.
  6. Spam filters give each email a score for each contravention against its own list of spam criteria. Once the email reaches a predetermined overall ‘spam’ total the email gets sent to the junk folder. Other things to avoid includeusing lots of large text, certain coloured text (red for example) lots of capital letters and plenty of other stuff.

The neglected.

It’s surprising how rapidly smartphone usage has taken off and how they are massively used for internet searching and emailing. And although companies are still very slow at producing mobile compatible websites they are virtually moribund about mobile email marketing.
Neglecting mobile phones when it comes to email marketing could be a big mistake. A recent survey on behalf of Google stated that 82% of smartphone users check emails on their devices. So making your emails mobile friendly is really a no-brainer.

Here are five things you need to consider for successful mobile email marketing.

  1. If your email is going to have links to a website, or a web landing page, make it ‘mobile’. There’s nothing more frustrating than following a mobile link to a standard web page and encountering the difficulties associated with interacting with it on a smartphone (lots of side scrolling, tiny buttons, etc.).
  2. Stick to a single column email format and don’t overload the screen with too much information. Legibility beats design hands down, so keep the layout simple.
  3. Review your content, and keep it to a minimum - without sacrificing the message. No matter how well formatted it is, reading loads of text on a mobile (especially while on the move) is a bind. And loads of text on a phone screen is not that much.
  4. Remember, mobile networks are a lot slower than wi-fiso keep memory hungry imagery to a minimum as it should speed up the loading time. Never mind the fact that images are probably turned off as default on many business phones.
  5. A big plus point of mobile email is that properly formatted phone numbers in the email only take a touch to dial. If that’s important to you, make it a feature.

Remember, email marketing can offer amazing business benefits but every aspect has to be approached with meticulous care to achieve profitable results.