Wednesday, July 8, 2009

From iMedia: Email campaigns that failed

Email campaigns that failed
July 06, 2009


  • Sending to an unsubscribed address is the ultimate fail
  • Confusing or tricking recipients will almost always lead to an unsubscribe
  • Pimping out your email list causes more harm than good

Next In Focus

The ultimate email fail

The more experience you gain as an email marketer, the more you come to understand the true purpose of an email.

It isn't simply to blast something to subscribers without relevancy or reason. It isn't to make a quick, dishonest buck off them. It isn't to pull off a massive bait-and-switch. It isn't even to release the hounds on the competition. It's about nurturing, building trust and relationships, and ultimately increasing and solidifying the reputation of your brand.

Every email sent must have a purpose and needs to personally relate to the subscriber. If the email lacks personalization or has no purpose, you're taking a risk that may cause subscribers to not only opt-out of your emails, but also mentally and emotionally opt-out from any future engagement with your brand. When this happens, the recipient immediately becomes emotionally unsubscribed. We in the industry identify it with a very technical term: email marketing fail.

Everyone fails at some point. A recent study by Return Path discovered that up to 20 percent of top brand marketers continue to send emails to addresses on their lists that have unsubscribed -- more than 10 days after a confirmed unsubscribe request.

Sending to an unsubscribed address is definitely Fail No. 1. This is a violation of CAN-SPAM, and results in complaints and possible legal trouble. You may find your email reputation soon relegated to that of a spammer. This is a slippery slope. When a brand has degraded itself past the point of no return with so many email marketing fails, it has basically strung itself out on spam. At that point, batch-and-blast spamming may be the only way to get in front of enough people to make a few sales. To avoid this, it's important to find the silver lining in a fail. Learning from mistakes will actually strengthen your skills and refine your habits as an email marketer.

Not learning from mistakes and getting strung out on spam is just one negative result of an email marketing fail. When campaigns are poorly executed, or give in to the temptation of slash-and-burn email marketing revenue, they forfeit any likelihood of meaningful, long-term customer engagement, not to mention powerful word-of-mouth or even viral campaign exposure. This is what separates poor email campaigns (fails) from excellent ones (wins).

I removed the email examples in the article. If you want to see them, click here.

Let me again say that everyone makes mistakes, and making mistakes is how we improve. As shown in eROI's recent study on email analytics, thinking outside the box, testing different methods, then making decisions based on those analytics will lead to optimized email campaigns. That said, it's important to base your initial approach on best practices.

For some good email marketing ideas and examples, check out eROI CEO Ryan Buchanan's article on "11 email design best practices." Following these tips will ensure balance in your email marketing force.

Dylan Boyd is VP of sales and strategy at eROI.

On Twitter? Follow Boyd at @dtboyd. Follow iMedia Connection at@iMediaTweet.

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