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How We Badly Used Email Marketing Services at My Company

Gene Marks

For the past seven years my company has been running an email marketing strategy. Sometimes we help our clients set up theirs too. There are many good email marketing services – MailChimp, JangoMail, AWeber and others – we use Constant Contact. We’ve been very happy with the service and have had no reason to switch. We’ve learned a lot about email marketing. We’ve also made a lot of mistakes. Let me share five big ones.

Our lists were too big.

We learned that good marketers don’t “blast” emails anymore. They did that ten years ago. We learned that today people do targeted campaigns. We used to have one big list where half of the emails bounced back due to bad addresses. The other half barely got read because the information was irrelevant. We learned it was better to create more detailed, segmented lists of recipients. Now we manage the data that comes in to us. Then we drive our email campaigns out of our customer relationship management database. We also clean up bad email addresses. We learned that it’s better to have a list of 100 people who are interested in our email than a list of 10,000 who aren’t.

Our emails were too long.

We earned that people don’t have the patience anymore to read long emails. We learned that when they see a big email they tend to delete it. We’ve learned to keep them short with 2 to 3 items on each email. We write a few sentences and then drive the reader, through a link, to the full article on our blog.

Our content wasn’t useful.

We learned that newsletters should have news. Information. Advice. Helpful hints. We learned that people will read stuff if that stuff is going to help them do better in both life and business. We learned that people don’t care about our products and services unless there’s a specific need they have. We learned to have catchy subject lines to draw readers in. Sure, we place a few buttons in and around the email to promote some of our services. But our main content is the educational material to help our readers.

We weren’t committed.

Our emails weren’t going out on a consistent basis. That was a problem. We learned a consistent delivery schedule increased reader loyalty. So we created a schedule for sending emails and then committed to it. We learned to make the project less of a burden by delegating the content creation work to a few people . We learned to put one internal person in charge of getting the emails out and we created a budget to do this. That person became an expert in using Constant Contact and now knows the application inside and out.

We ignored a few great features of our email service.

We were only using Constant Contact for email delivery. But when we investigated further, we found that the service had many other features of use to us. For example, we built a sign-up page on our website that automatically added people to our email lists. We also built a sign-up by text feature so people can register for a newsletter by sending a text message. We review all emails for potential spam factors before they go out. We also track recipient metrics to measure the effectiveness of each email campaign.

Each month my company sends five separate product newsletters and one “making money” tip to about 20,000 people. You can’t do this with a regular email system. You can’t even do it internally with a customer relationship management application. You need to rely on a good email marketing strategy. We were using email marketing poorly, but we learned.

Join writer and small business owner Gene Marks each Wednesday on the Small Biz Ahead podcast. You can also submit a question for Gene to answer on the podcast.

5 Responses to "How We Badly Used Email Marketing Services at My Company"
    • M ney | April 25, 2017 at 4:55 pm

      Great info!

    • Carla Lambert | April 25, 2017 at 2:44 pm

      Don’t forget to proofread content. Too often I see emails and even articles with grammar and spelling errors. And no, spell check is NOT good enough! Good luck all!

    • Jim Flood | April 25, 2017 at 1:57 pm

      All good advice. However, for a VERY small company where the owner of the business is trying to find the time to do email marketing, there is no “delegating content creation to a small group of people”. So it is done as time permits. I am getting an average 40% open rate because the emails are not done frequently and the content is pertinent to the reader.

    • Dave Aronson | April 25, 2017 at 11:40 am

      Another big mistake: SPAMMING! Make sure that everyone on your list actually signed up to receive your email — use “double opt-in” to *prove* it came from their address. Don’t take some shady third-party list-seller’s word for it that everybody is interested. To do otherwise is to risk your reputation. If you spam me, I WILL tell everybody. That’s why I will no longer buy from Sears, nor have an American Express card, just to give a couple well-known examples.

    • Renee Antoine | April 25, 2017 at 6:56 am

      Most useful as I am transitioning my business!

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