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How to Avoid Failed Email Marketing

24 Feb, 2012 By: Corey Smith, Dealer Marketing Systems imageSource

Email Marketing and Social MediaIf you’ve listened to the radio lately or have seen this message online, you’ll have noticed that more and more ads are proclaiming that if you add social media to your email marketing, you’ll be able to supercharge your overall email marketing campaign. The premise is that if you add the social media icons to your email marketing, your subscribers will forward for shared content via their social circles.

You may have been inclined to start your email marketing campaign for your dealership and include social media elements. The reality is, too often marketers treat email and social media as a magic bullet for marketing online. Yes, I agree they are great traffic generation tools. I address each of these methods in my recent book: “Do It Right: A CEO’s Guide to Web Strategy” (Although I don’t specifically tie them together as that would be too tactical for my tastes). However, I think that there is one key component that some email marketing providers do to significantly mislead their clientele – that if you market via email (or social media) then you’ll never want for more business.

I don’t want to leave anyone out of this, so let me be clear. I don’t think that this misleading advertising only exists in email marketing companies. It’s been going on for years. It’s often from the radio, television and/or newspaper salesman that says, “You’ll get more business if you are use [insert media here].” It’s the yellow page rep that convinces businesses to pay thousands of dollars each year because of [insert your reason here].

The real challenge that you, as a marketer of your own products and services, is understanding how to make it all work. The challenge you have to overcome is learning how to effectively execute on these marketing tactics. There is far more to an email marketing campaign than putting some text in a random (yet pretty) template and hitting send.

While this article is primarily about email marketing, it should be clear that these principles apply to social media marketing as well. The way you would implement these principles in social media might be a little different but understanding these principles for email marketing will help you in your social media campaign as well.

Here are 3 key reasons why email marketing fails:

List Management

List management is the most common reason why email marketing fails. The most common approach to email marketing is that many companies take all the people in their database and start emailing them. They don’t look to whether they have asked for email communication or whether or not the content is applicable to their particular company or business needs.

I can always tell when someone is starting a new email marketing campaign because I’ll get “subscribed” a couple of times yet I know the emails that I use on a regular basis. It’s obvious they have just stripped their Outlook or Gmail account and then started emailing everyone. They put no thought into how to appropriately select who should actually be added to their list. They simply add everyone.

The other issue is, companies don’t actively “manage” their email lists. Different people are willing to take action differently than others. Because of this difference, we need to manage the subscribers differently. Customers react differently than prospects. Prospects react differently than people you just met at a convention or networking event. Because of this difference, we need to actively manage lists of people as groups that will act differently.

Above all, don’t buy email lists… don’t do it. If you feel this is your only viable option, there are ways to maximize the benefits; but to do it right is a very expensive process and you can never assume that anyone on the list actually opted in.


After list management, the next most important area of failure for email marketers is the content. Too much text and a confusing message can cause people to simply ignore your message… or worse, send your email message to their spam filter (which you’ll never know).

Content relates to your text, obviously. It also refers to imagery and video. When you have images that support your message that are well thought out in order to enhance your intention, people will be able to see what your point is quickly and increase the likelihood of action.

When it comes down to it, content needs to speak to your audience. If you have an audience that is looking for a lot of industry news (i.e. subscribers of imageSource) then a lot of text is appropriate. When you have an audience that is looking for the daily deal, then you need
one bold message/image that allows them to
act quickly.

Think about your ideal audience. Your audience probably does not want a lot of emails about the latest, greatest MPS sales opportunity. If you know your audience then you’ll know better how to craft your messages so they are appropriate, timely, and make sense


If you’re like me, we get emails way too often. Too much frequency can backfire. Then again, from the right sources, I might not get emails nearly as often as I’d like to. Essentially, the challenge that we have as email marketers is that we don’t always know what people expect or want. When I sign up for a newsletter from a publisher of news, I’m probably expecting that I will receive something on a weekly or even daily basis. When I sign up for a blogger’s email distribution I’m probably going to expect emails multiple times per week. If I sign up for a newsletter from a business that I shop with (retail or commercial) then I probably don’t want to receive emails very often unless they contain a promotion that month or week and typically with a date deadline announcement.

Think about your clients. Your clients will probably not want to hear about MPS or copiers as often as you’d like to talk about them. If you talk too much about your products and services, they’ll tune out as one does with an overzealous car salesman that keeps talking. You need to find a good balance somewhere between “it’s too much so they tune you out vs. not enough so they forget about you.”

This can be a tricky thing to master. This is one of the key reasons why proper list management is so important. Different people will want to receive their emails at different frequencies and at different times. You have to test what works and what doesn’t work. You really need to manage this area efficiently.

When sending your emails, check open rates, unsubscribe rates and, most importantly, check what percentage of people actually take action. If you apply appropriate list management techniques you can move your subscribers to lists that are more indicative to their level of interest.

Bottom Line

Email marketing fails because marketers don’t really take the time to properly understand and manage their email marketing efforts. They send emails inconsistently, they try to get too much information in an email or they send emails to people that never really wanted the message in the first place.

In order to be effective in email marketing, you’ll need to take the time to manage it efficiently. Look at the analytics your email-marketing provider has and always test new concepts to see what is the most effective. And of course, it may just be better to hire it all out (outsource).

Either way, know that it’s going to take time to do it right. It’s not something you can easily throw together in a few minutes and expect it to be effective. Better not to attempt to do it at all… rather than do it wrong, alienating your base. Email marketing requires planning and consistent execution to be successful - just like the rest of your business does!

About the Author: Corey Smith

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