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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
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
Experian (Exactis) GotMarketing
iMakeNews Neighborhood Email
Topica, Inc Whitehat Interactive
You'll also get an easy-scan chart so you can pick exactly
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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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