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February 12, 2003                Please forward without cutting


1. Interview: Top 7 Mistakes Marketers Constantly Make in Email



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1. Interview: Andy Sernovitz on Email Mistakes



"More than $2 billion was spent on email marketing last year,"

says Andy Sernovitz CEO Gaspedal Ventures, "but a lot of great

marketers are still doing average-to-bad campaigns."


Why?  "Because it's never been a priority before.  It was always

an ancillary part of your Web program.  Now that email is a

proven primary DM technique, DM skills and best practices need to

be translated to the world of email."


Sernovitz, who has been advising companies such as ABC, Kimberly-

Clark and TiVo on email since 1999, named the most common seven

mistakes he sees being made constantly:


Mistake #1. Clunky Subscribe Process


Don’t make it too complicated.


How many times have you wanted to subscribe to something only to

hit the link and see a page — or more — of questions you need to



You’re trying to entice them to subscribe, not screening them for

a loan. Don’t ask for anything more than the person’s email

address. With every additional question, 10 percent of the people

who want to sign-up will bail out.


Once you get that email address, you can go back and try for more

information. “You can do it right away,” Sernovitz says. “Send an

auto reply that thanks them for signing up and offers to

customize messages if they’d only answer a few questions. Even if

they ignore the second message you still get to send them the



The key is that the number of people who want to sign up

shouldn’t say, no thanks, because of the process. 


Also - although most marketers are scrupulous about putting "how

to get off this list" instructions on their creative, many forget

to add instructions on how to join the list as well.  Why not

take advantage of the viral factor and sign up some pass-along




Mistake #2. Not Selling the Benefits of Joining an Email List


“The worst offers are the ones that say, ‘We’ll send you news and

announcements,’” Sernovitz says. “Nobody wants to receive PR



Your offer must include true benefit copy.  Recipients should

receive some benefit that those who don’t subscribe won’t

receive.  One idea, try: “We’ll give you advanced notices of




Mistake #3. Using Words Repeatedly That Filters Stop


Sernovitz recently sent out a newsletter that used the word

"spammer" too many times and was blocked by some filters.


Many filters decide to block your message not only based on the

exact wording you use in your subject line, from line, and

message, but also on the total number of forbidden words used.


The longer your copy, the more likely you'll rack up negative

points and end up being filtered on some systems. 


That doesn't mean you should use shorter copy (length depends on

your test results) but you should be extra-aware of the words in

your copy that can trip a filter.



Mistake #4. One Size Fits All Campaigns


It doesn’t take much. Even the slightest bit of personalization

can bump your response rate up. But there’s definitely a point of

overkill where all that personalization turns recipients off:

they wonder, how do they know all of this about me?


You often don’t need any kind of fancy tech, you just need to

customize the content with information that you know is

interesting to select recipients.


“We recently worked with a book publisher who segmented their

list in four pieces, booksellers and book reviewers, teachers,

parents, and kids,” Sernovitz says. “They only changed two or

three paragraphs for each, but it was enough to make it more




Mistake #5. Landing Pages That Get Lousy Conversions


Although your landing page (the page clicks end up at) is the key

to your campaigns' sucess, it's often the most overlooked aspect

of a campaign.


Biggest mistake - sending clicks to your company home page

instead of a page designed specifically for that campaign -

reflecting the offer and creative of what they responded to.


But don’t go too far. “I worked with one client who sold

electronics,” Sernovitz says. “Their offer consisted of $50 and

$100 savings on products. It had a huge click through rate, but

their landing page was the site’s check out area and the

recipient’s shopping cart was already filled.”  People turned



A good landing page will reinforce the offer you’re making and

walk the consumer to the sale. 


Second biggest mistake - not tracking the landing page traffic

and conversions to sales or registrations. 



Mistake #6. Mailing a Campaign Without Tests


Don’t simply accept that what works best for other companies will

work for you.  There are just too many variables involved.  (And

never assume blithely that another company's campaigns are

successful enough to be worthy of copying, unless you've got data

on them.)


Test time of day, test what you put in the subject line, test

different colors, test, test, and test.


A good starting point is to never send an email without first

sending out a test that has three different subject lines. In a

half-hour you’ll know which email is being opened and you can

send the rest of your emails with that message.


One of the latest hot ideas is testing on the fly as a campaign

goes out. Say you have a graphic in the middle of an email. Every

time the email is opened, the image is pulled off a central

server. During the first hour you use one image. During the

second you use another. “After the first couple of thousand

you’ll see what image is working best,” Sernovitz says.



Mistake #7. Relying in Single Campaign Results vs. Trends


A single campaign's results can be thrown off by a wide variety

of factors (including deliverability that day on the Net.) 

Instead of making all-or-nothing judgment calls based on one

test, watch your numbers over time.


Are your opens going up or down over a couple of months?  Do you

see a trend with your clicks?


Sernovitz also advises marketers to stop being obsessed with

matching average numbers for an industry.  What matters is - are

your campaigns profitable, and are you gaining ground over time

as you learn from tests and build your list? 



Note: Want to meet Sernovitz in person?  He'll be at the next

AD:TECH show in San Francisco, June 16-18.  Get on the mailing list:




Buyer's Guide: How to Pick an Email Broadcast Service



Are you choosing a service to send out your email campaigns or

newsletters?  Or, do you fear that your current vendor may be

too pricey, or blacklisted? 


MarketingSherpa's new Buyer's Guide gives you side-by-side

comparisons of 52 vendors including:

    Accucast (Socketware)        Bigfoot Interactive

    CheetahMail Inc.             Digital Impact

    DoubleClick                  e-Dialog

    Experian (Exactis)           GotMarketing

    iMakeNews                    Neighborhood Email

    PostMasterDirect             Responsys

    SparkLIST                    TailoredMail

    Topica, Inc                  Whitehat Interactive

    Xpedite                      Yesmail


You'll also get an easy-scan chart so you can pick exactly

which vendor is best for your company and your budget.


Get your Buyer's Guide now:




Three More Resources to Improve Your Email Campaigns:


1.  How to Create, Design and Get Subscribers for Newsletters



2.  Real-Life Stories of 25 Marketers Using Email Newsletters



3.  How to Grow Your Email Newsletter's Profits








? Copyright 2003, MarketingSherpa Inc. & JD Events.  

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