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McLellan: Avoid common email mistakes


Even though nowadays it’s considered a golden oldie, email marketing is still one of the most effective and efficient ways to connect to an audience. One of the biggest benefits of this marketing tool is that it is equally effective on a wide array of audiences: current customers, prospects, employees and even professional peers who might serve as a referral source.

Unfortunately, thanks to the incredible persistence of spammers offering everything from Nigerian riches to the latest in pharmaceuticals, email marketing often gets a bad rap. We legitimate marketers and business owners don’t always help. All too often, we too break the basic rules.

As you plan your next email campaign, double-check to make sure you aren’t making these mistakes:

• Not having permission. You’d think we’d beaten this one to death, but the truth is, it’s incredibly common. Pay attention to your own inbox for a day to see how many companies are sending you coupons, sales offers or other solicitations without your permission. It’s annoying to be on the receiving end. It’s actually illegal to be on the sending end. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a very specific can-spam law, and shutting down your email domain might be the least of what they’d do. (Imagine explaining that to the boss.)

• Not giving recipients a clear and easy way to get off your list. The FTC says you must give your recipients a straightforward way to remove their email address from your list. Don’t make them double opt out or remember a password from eons ago. If they click the unsubscribe button, unsubscribe them.

• Using your personal email address as the reply-to address. If you want to present yourself as a real business, use a real business email address. AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail and even Gmail suggest that this is more of a hobby than your profession. It’s easy to set up email addresses that are the same as your Web URL, even if you want to use Gmail or some other third party to receive your emails.

• Ignoring your email software’s analytics. Most email tools (Constant Contact, MailChimp, InfusionSoft, Aweber, etc.) provide some data in terms of how many of your emails were opened, what links were clicked on and how often you were reported for spam. Sadly, fewer than 20 percent of users ever bother to look. These numbers will tell you which topics and subject lines get your audience’s attention and what day of the week and even what time of day gets the best open rates – if you look at them.

• Not understanding how spam filters work. Every email software has built-in spam filters, and most companies add another one of top of that. If your email matches one or more of the criteria they set as likely to be spam, your email will never get delivered. Some of those common filter criteria are:

• Excessive use of exclamation points or other punctuation!!!

• ALL CAPS (especially in the subject line).

• Bad code (copying a Word document directly into your email software will often do this).

• Colored fonts.

• An email that is just an image and very little actual text.

• The salutation “Dear” before the recipient’s name.

Email marketing can be a very cost-effective and customer-centric way to stay connected with the audiences that matter most. So be sure you avoid these mistakes to maximize your success.

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