Common Email Marketing Mistakes

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Diwali is next week. Did you send out special offers or greetings to your customers and prospects?

While everyone is talking about social media, email marketing remains an excellent way of nurturing your prospects and customers. In this post, I look at some common mistakes marketers make in email campaigns, through a few Diwali-themed marketing emails I received.

Wasting the Subject Line

Here is a screenshot of some Diwali offers in my inbox.

Diwali Emails as Seen in Gmail

Diwali emails as seen in Outlook

The first screenshot is of my Gmail, while the second is of Outlook 2007. HomeShop18 offers me an incentive to open the email by saying “Rs. 500 Diwali gift coupon” but they could have avoided the first sentence — “We REALLY miss you!”. If I was checking email on my phone that first sentence is all I would have seen in the subject line.

LG is wasting the subject line on showing me my own name, but the later part is slightly better. It doesn’t tell me what they are offering but some users might find the mystery attractive enough to open the email.

Kotak Cards seems to have clearly mentioned the offer but don’t think many would find it lucrative enough. (EMI’s? That’s it?) And Domino’s seems to be just wishing me Happy Diwali so I might as well give it a pass, unless I am a regular user of their coupons or something.

First 6 to 8 words in your subject line are most important and you need to make them attractive enough for me to want to open the email and read. If I can’t see anything meaningful in your subject line in a full size web display, imagine what would show up on a tablet or a smartphone? An unattractive subject line means your email might get deleted without ever being opened.

Not Using Descriptive Text in the “From” Field

Did you notice the “From” field in the screenshots included in previous section? Take a second look and see how different the “From” value is for Kotak Cards in Outlook and Gmail. Outlook is displaying the whole email address to I can make out it’s from Kotak Cards, but in Gmail it says only “Celebrations” so the user won’t know who is sending the email (except by looking at the last few words in the subject line). This is probably because they left the From field blank and it’s interpreted differently by Gmail and Outlook.

Make sure you are adding descriptive text in the From field and test the emails on different email clients to avoid such issues. If you’re a small business and your customer knows you by name, use your name. If your business name is recognizable but customers might not remember your name, use the business name.

Using Only Images, And Not Using Descriptive Alt-texts

I opened the Domino’s email and this is how it looks (in Outlook).

Domino's Diwali Email - without images

Everything is in images, and all images have the same alt text (“Celebrate the festival of diwali” — really? too much effort to capitalize Diwali?) so it’s all junk unless I download images.

Most email clients DO NOT download the images by default. You are forcing the user to make one extra click in order to see your email. Downloading images over a slow internet connection is going to take longer, and if I am seeing this email on a smartphone — your marketing team probably won’t have much to celebrate this Diwali.

And this one from LG (in Gmail).

LG's Diwali email without Images

Again, high on images, no alt text, and a text message that doesn’t say anything meaningful or actionable.

Not Making Good Use of the Top Section

Let’s download the images and see what LG has to offer:

LG's email in Gmail with images: Top Section

This is all I see on the screen. It looks more like a screenshot of LG website than a promotional email. And if you are wondering about that “Click To Call” button, that opens in an error page because it’s linked to a phone number and my PC doesn’t recognize that.

Just like subject line, top section of your email is also very important because that’s what I am going to see first when I open your email. I might scroll down if I find the first part exciting or interesting.

In this case — who does laundry to celebrate Diwali? I’m scrolling down out of curiosity — so maybe they’re doing this right after all!

Using Small Fonts And Adding Unnecessary Details

Not having found the actual Diwali offer yet, I scroll down further.

LG's email in Gmail with images: lower section

There is a lot of details about some washing machine but no indication on why I should buy it now. It’s not like Washing Machine is a seasonal product – is it? And finally there is something that looks like a Diwali offer — “6 months of free insurance”  (blue rectangle was added by me). I am assuming it’s a Diwali offer because below it says — “Other Exciting Diwali Offers”.

Those boxes below (other Diwali offers) are in such small fonts that I can not read AND, they are not clickable either. Again, this is on a laptop, imagine what would show up in a smart phone or a tablet?

Also, “thank you for choosing LG”? The last LG product I bought was a washing machine… six years ago. Stop spamming, LG.

I won’t go in to details about other Diwali emails I listed at the top but most of them have similar issues. As I have said before, don’t make it difficult for your customers to understand what you are offering. It’s surprising to see big companies making these mistakes because everything I listed above is considered basic in email marketing. This is an opportunity for small businesses because doing these things right don’t cost extra money.

For a good promotional email:

  • The first 4-5 words of your email subject are the most important and must be attractive enough for me to want to open the email
  • Keep a good mix of texts and images — I should be able to get the core message even if I don’t download images
  • Use descriptive alt text for images
  • Top section is critical, make good use of it — don’t use up that space with a big company logo or a fancy “Happy Diwali” banner
  • Highlight the benefit (discount?), required action and time frame — make it easy for me to know what action you want me to take
  • Don’t use very small fonts
  • Focus on what is the one thing you want user to do. Don’t add unnecessary information about other products or services unless you have a good reason.
  • Test on different email clients (gmail, outlook etc), browsers and devices

So this Diwali, let’s get the emails right :-)

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About Nilesh

Nilesh has worked in the IT industry for nine years, and is both a PMP and an MBA in marketing. He has worked in and with small businesses, managing projects, leading teams, and improving business processes.At Markitty, Nilesh translates requirements into tasks and timelines. He jumps into whatever is needed, whether it’s marketing, design, or technical architecture. He also keeps the others sane with his intermittent wisecracking.

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