Avoiding the Most-Common Mistakes Marketers Make After Acquiring an E-mail Address

Apr 18, 2005 10:27 PM  By

Building your permission-based e-mail database begins with creating a strategy for e-mail address collection and, ultimately, your corresponding value-based e-mail communications program, says Deirdre Namur, vice president of creative services at e-mail solutions provider Bigfoot Interactive. As such, she advises paying particular attention to collecting important demographic and product-interest fields that will help you build relevant e-mail communications.

“More than any other channel,” Namur says, “e-mail marketing offers the most exciting opportunity for catalog marketers, allowing them to leverage behavioral data so they can dynamically serve relevant contextual communications to their target audience while quickly being able to test product offerings and creative strategies prior to full roll-out.”

Yet too many marketers don’t make the most of e-mail’s potential, Namur says. Here, she lists the five most common mistakes she sees and shows how to counteract them:

Mistake #1: Sending generic mass e-mails. “Savvy catalog marketers know that personalization pulls,” Namur says. “And while the same theory rings true with e-mail, very few catalog marketers are investing the time and resources required to gather the database knowledge needed to create personalized and relevant online communications.”

To avoid this mistake, you need to build a comprehensive data collection center. Namur suggests establishing a “preference center” for prospects and customers to opt in to your e-mail programs. There, you should gather personal data that will help you create value and targeted content but, she adds, “only collect information you intend on using and leveraging.” Then you can amass any additional demographic/psychographic data necessary to boost the relevance of your messages.

Mistake #2: Not taking full advantage of the medium’s unique traits. The solution, Namur says, is “to understand, leverage, and pique. E-mail is an interactive marketing resource, and it should be used to pique the reader’s interest.” To encourage your audience to click-through, be sure that your e-mail creative contains clear call-to-action points and links to Websites and microsites.

Mistake #3: Not designing the e-mail with the lowest common technology denominators in mind. “E-mail creative is more about quickly capturing your audience’s interest and urging them to respond than it is about creating a perfect and controlled user experience,” Namur says. “In fact, you have zero control over what e-mail clients your audience views your campaign with.”

Therefore, from a technology point of view, you need to design your email creative with the lowest common technology denominators in mind. And that means:

* Avoiding an all-image message; instead use a balance of system text and images (remember that some e-mail clients suppress images). * Ensuring that a call to action or key message is included within system text (this messaging may also be duplicated within the e-mail image). * Avoiding using white text on dark background. * Avoiding using style sheets (CSS) and JavaScripts. * Limiting HTML file size to no more than 65K * Limiting the message width to 600 pixels. * Designing for navigation and usability (for instance, including quick links or a table of contents) * Keeping your key message and offer “above the fold.”

Mistake #4: Treating print catalog and e-mail creative the same. What sells offline does not necessarily sell online. Often there are slight variations in the demographics between a merchant’s offline and online audiences. What’s more, Namur says, “what works offline with one loyal customer may actually work against them when the exact same individual views the information online. And they correctly assume that their readers are always in a rush!”

When crafting e-mail creative, keep in mind: * The “three second” rule–don’t forget it! * The importance of the “preview window”–generate interest by using the top three inches of the e-mail. * Content is king–relevant, personalized content drives readership and results. * Clean up the clutter–summarized content and a clean approach facilitate scanning. * Optimize content for two types of readers: those who only scan the visuals, and those who want details. * Test your readers’ preferences and then optimize content accordingly. * E-mail creative and content should be consistent with branding and creative elements of other marketing efforts, especially microsites, but should be optimized for the medium.

Mistake #5: Treating print catalog and e-mail creative differently. This seems to contradict the previous mistake. “But the point is, too many catalog marketers undersell the value of e-mail,” Namur says, “and don’t treat it with the respect it deserves. They mistakenly believe that e-mail creative should cost less money and take less time to produce than direct mail.”

In other words, you cannot bypass steps in the online creative process and expect to achieve the same results you get offline. Great creative takes time to produce; there are no shortcuts. And as is the case with print, testing is critical. “Optimizing creative based on observed results leads to improved performance,” Namur says.