6 Mistakes you are Making in Your E-mail Campaigns


What’s the old saying? To err is human but to forgive is divine? Well if you are making certain mistakes in your e-mail campaigns, you’re going to be in desperate need of divine intervention if you want to make a living. I’ve written on this in the past but it’s worth looking at these things again so that we can all be reminded of these common bone headed mistakes:

No Alternative to HTML

This is something that I see all too often when I get mass e-mails. People send them out using HTML because it looks prettier. I get it – you want to sell products and HTML combined with good graphics makes this happen. There’s nothing wrong with sending out HTML e-mails in fact. However, you also need to realize that a certain percentage of your customers won’t see anything when they open your e-mail.

The reason is simple – many e-mail clients block HTML e-mails and do not allow them to be displayed unless the user specifically changes this setting. The reason should be obvious to anyone who surfs the net and has to put up with scanning everything for viruses – unscrupulous people tend to use e-mail as a quick and easy way to hijack computers.

There are several ways around this problem. One option is to simply send a straight text e-mail and then leave a link for people to get to your website, where you can use all the graphics and HTML that your heart desires.

In fact, you can even use Java and Flash (though in moderation) when you do this. Of course, you’ll need to ensure that you actually take the trouble to do good copywriting to get them to the site, but that’s important even with graphics and HTML.

Another possibility here is to simply offer an alternative option. Just have a text link which says, if you can’t read this e-mail, go here. Make sure by the way that you set up a text link and not an html link (in other words, you don’t want a live link because that’s also HTML.

Note also that some e-mail clients allow HTML but don’t download graphics because of bandwidth limitations. Again, you want to accommodate everyone so try to make sure that you have a plain Jane text link which people can copy and go to.

The best idea of course is to offer people two options for getting e-mails to begin with, when they sign up they can choose either to sign up for the HTML version or the plain text version of your e-mails. This allows people to get the option and hopefully get something that works for them. You should also offer the option in both versions of the e-mail to switch to the other version.

Failure to Put in a Call to Action

I just read a really cool article on Lifehacker about how to fix ideas into people’s heads. There are some pretty interesting ideas there about how to properly drop hints. However, one thing they don’t mention is that once you’ve dropped your hints, you still need to make the final call and try to get people to your side of the argument.

This is what we call a call to action. Too often, people send out e-mails to their client list trying to advertise a product and think that all it needs is the hinting part of the pitch. That’s simply untrue. You need to include a clear call to action. You need something to get them to actually click a link or otherwise interact with your company.

Calls to action can be as simple as “call now for a free quote” or they can take on a more complex style. Just make sure it’s clear that you are asking them to take some kind of action following reading your e-mail. An example of a good call to action might be:

Yes, I want to get out of debt and stay out of debt. Show me what I need to know in order to make an Internet living!

This is often reinforced with a “no” option as well such as:

No, I’m perfectly happy living a paycheck-to-paycheck life and worrying about whether I’ll get fired tomorrow. I don’t need to make an Internet living.

Mind you, that “No” option is put there even though 99% of people will never click it. It’s just mean to reinforce for people that they should want to choose the first option and click “Yes.” A smart Internet marketer will also have a message attached to the No option though. You can for example have a page that says something like:

If you’re really sure that you don’t want to learn how to make money online and you don’t care about having more time with your kids and for doing the things you love then we wish you luck. If you’ve changed your mind though, click here.

call to action

Failing to Confirm Your E-mail List and Conform with CAN-SPAM

This is another one of those bone headed moves that beginners make and often end up regretting. There was a time when spam was a good way to make money online. You could send out 20 million e-mails for a product and it didn’t matter if 99.8% of the people who got them didn’t respond. That .2 percent would still provide you with 40,000 customers.

These days however, even that .2 percent is unlikely to respond. You’re more likely to see a few hundred responses for your 20 million e-mails. However, that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is that you also must concern yourself with getting sued. Sending out unsolicited e-mails is against the law today in most countries (certainly in the USA) and you can and will be sued for thousands of dollars for each customer who files a complaint.

However, even if you do have permission to send out e-mails to the people on your e-mail list, that’s not enough. Generally, you want to conform to the rules of the CAN-SPAM act in the United States even if you don’t live there. The rules protect you and allow you to operate legally as a mass e-mail marketer.

This means that you are required to include a real name and a physical address where you can be reached. In addition, you must include a link in every e-mail which allows people to easily remove themselves from your e-mail list if they choose to do so.

Ideally, you should also use double confirmation when building an e-mail list. This means that you need to have your autoresponder service send an e-mail to the customer’s e-mail address and they must then click a link to confirm they want to sign up for your list.

While the law doesn’t absolutely require double confirmation (it merely requires that you get consent), this protects you from malicious people signing up random e-mail addresses which would then sue you because there is no proof that they really agreed to get your e-mails . In other words, better safe rather than sorry.

Also, please note that I am not an attorney and am not offering legal advice of any kind. If you have any questions whatsoever about the CAN-SPAM act, contact your own attorney. Neither I, Eric Hammer, nor Quantum SEO Labs nor Yasir Kahn can be held responsible if you rely on anything written here from a legal standpoint.

The above is simply the law as I understand it but it’s purely a layperson’s opinion and doesn’t construe legal advice at all.

Blowing Your Whole Wad at Once

Let’s say that you have an e-mail list with 5,000 names on it. Now you might be tempted to send out the same e-mail to all 5,000 people today to let them know about this exciting new product that you want them to purchase. That would be a big mistake. The hallmark of every good Internet marketing campaign is testing, testing, testing.

I’ve written about this extensively in the past but the important thing to be aware of is that you really need to do split testing whenever you try a new campaign. Try different versions of the text of your pitch and different versions of the subject line of your e-mails. You can send these out to a small subset of your e-mail list, say 200 each to see what kind of reactions each version gets.

Then, you can combine the best elements of all the testing and send it out to the remainder of your e-mail list. This effectively means that you are going to make more money from your e-mail list than if you simply put together a single pitch and then hope for the best. What if it turns out that the pitch you made isn’t successful? What if you find that the subject line you chose doesn’t get opened regularly?

Split testing

Bottom line, you need to test, test and test some more in order to find out exactly which version of your pitch will make money for you before you blow your entire “wad” of prospective customers on a maybe version of an e-mail.

Sending Out a Generic E-mail from the Affiliate Provider

I have seen this over and over and over again. I’m on a rather large number of e-mail lists and I know that every single marketer who creates a product they’d like to sell through affiliates tends to provide you with a sample e-mail which you can send out to your own e-mail list to try to get them to buy the product.

Here’s the thing though – while these e-mails may well be written nicely and even work well, they also show me as someone getting them that you couldn’t care less about me as your customer. You just see me as another number. Another person you can tick off on your list and get a sale from. This effectively means that you’ve lost my sale before you ever started to try to make it.

Use the sample e-mail as a guideline but add something original. Maybe it’s a bonus of one of your products that you’re willing to offer to people who buy from you. Maybe it’s a free consultation for whatever service it is that you provide. Or maybe, you should just tailor the e-mail to fit your own voice so that you don’t sound like a drone trying to cash in.

Bottom line, this kind of tactic is little better than sending out spam to 20,000,000 people and hoping that a few hundred of them might make a purchase without your needing to be concerned about getting caught out as a spammer. It shows people that you don’t care about your customers and it’s a huge turn off which is likely to get people to not only stop buying from you but also unsubscribe from your list.

Going off Half Cocked and Hoping for the Best

This is one of those sayings that people know but it’s original meaning is basically lost. It refers to a position on a gun and it means to simply show up without really planning anything in advance. Before you start writing the e-mail that you want to send out, be clear on what it is that you want to accomplish with this e-mail.

Are you trying to get people to buy a product? Then go in with that idea. Are you trying to get people to sign up for a newsletter? Fine – go with that. However, too often, people get confused when writing their e-mails and they simply put together a hodgepodge of different ideas without really thinking things through. This effectively means that you will be wasting your time and your money when sending out your e-mails.

Instead, think carefully what your e-mail is mean to accomplish and then plan out how it’s going to accomplish that. If you do this in advance, you are that much more likely to have a successful e-mail campaign than if you simply hope for the best.