Saturday, October 02, 2010

17 Email Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

In the last sixteen years, email has helped me win more business than any other tool. It’s turned cautious readers into enthusiastic buyers. It’s brought in prospective customers from the edge and driven repeat traffic to the money pages. Here are some of the mistakes I’ve made and how to get around them.

Emails Mistakes To Avoid

One of the dilemmas for web marketers is how to know what their customers really want. Email is one of the best ways to form a strong relationship with your readers.

It’s an inexact science. Everyone has an opinion. Here are some of mine!

1. Plain Text v HTML

Some of world’s biggest web marketers send out plan text emails. John Chow and Yaro Starak are two good examples. I’ve experimented with this format and have to say that it does seem to work, well, for certain types of content.

If your readers are after tutorials, for example, plain text will be fine. If it’s a Fashion newsletter or something up-market, then a splash of color is in order.

Plain text is also very powerful as the reader is ‘forced’ to read the text. Maybe guided is a better word but you get the idea. There’s nothing to distract them. Click-throughs can be very high if you use plain text with a single call to action.

2. Size Matters… kinda

The word count of your emails, and possibly the number of images, may also affect how readers respond. Some prefer short, snappy emails. Think Seth Godin’s pithy observations.

Others prefer long, detailed articles. ProBlogger and CopyBlogger are both, on average, 800-1000 words per post.

Some of this depends on your readership. If you’re sending 3 more emails per week, they may prefer short posts and/or abstracts.

But not always…

3. Use Abstracts Rather Than Full Post

One way to address this is to offer an abstract, say twenty words and then a link to the site.

The advantage is that you get them to the site where they can add comments, interact and/or buy something.
The disadvantage is that they may not be curious enough to click-thru, have web access at their work office, or feel that you’re trying to trick them into having to visit their site.
I give the full feed in my emails. I don’t want people to feel short-changed in any way.

4. No Endorsements or Testimonials

Use testimonials as social proof that others enjoy your newsletter. Get the right balance here with the wording and photos. Text that sounds too polished and flattering will make the readers suspicious.

Use the real words folks have sent you (a few typos never hurt) to give it that authentic sound. Try to avoid re-writing what they said.

If you don’t have testimonials for your newsletter, see if your current blog readers have favorable things to say about the site and then refer to this.

5. Hi, {Firstname}, we got your email!

Is there anything worse than a personalized email that’s gone berserk? If you’re going to use it – I don’t – be careful and test first. Most email software companies will have videos no how to do this right.

6. Not Testing Subject lines

Ever wonder how your email looked in different browsers?

Instead of setting up accounts on Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook, use this free tool to see how your subject line will look. It also shows how it will look on mobile devices. Great way to test your subject before you send it out.

Remember, if people don’t like your subject line, the email doesn’t get read.

All the effort you’ve put into writing the article, finding the right image, creating links and so on… all wasted. Test and test again until you see which subject lines work the best. See

Tip: 5 words works best for me, especially if there is some call to action or pressure put on the reader to click Open.

7. Buying Email Lists

You can buy emails links if you’re mad enough but why would you? It’s about as effective as walking down the high-street with a megaphone talking about your blog. Think anyone will buy?

Instead, learn as much as you can about email list building, write content the folks want to read, and test. I use the Reports tools in Aweber to see where I’m making progress and what needs to be refined. Feedburner is fine for broadcasting for your can’t dig down segment the lists, schedule emails or broadcast followups.

If you’re serious about using email to drive sales, invest in a Aweber or Constant Contact. I’ve also heard good things about MailChimp.

8. Keep It Consistent

Even if someone leaves your company, there’s an argument for keeping the email address active if that person has a large readership. Think twice about changing the name in the From field as you may confuse the readers and/or give them a reason to unsubscribe.

Don’t change a winning team!

9. CAN-SPAM Compliance

‘Real’ companies include their physical address at the footer of their email. I know this can be made up but most companies do comply with the Can-Spam Act and add their contact details in the footer. They also make it easy for you to unsubscribe.
If you don’t include this in the email, aside from the legal obligation, it shows your subscribers that you have a legitimate identity and that can phone you if there is a problem. Remember to add the country code suffix as well.

10. Email Schedule. What Email Schedule?

Create a schedule and then stick to it. This ‘trains’ your readers to expect your emails. I look forward to certain emails during the week and make time to read them. Your readers are probably the same.

Also, don’t chop and change the schedule. Keep to the same schedule for at least a month. Don’t push too hard or be over-ambitious. Try to get one out per week. If you can manage that for a week, try then and so on…

11. Don’t Send on Wednesday

Choose the best day to send the emails based on YOUR stats.

9 out of 10 web marketers will tell you that Wednesday (or is it Thursday now?) is the best day to send emails. Their ‘research’ shows it.

Well, if they all use that day, you choose another.

Makes sense, right.

Also, think of your readers. If you’re sending out an Entertainment email, maybe Friday lunchtime is that best so they can plan their week.
Sunday also works for me as people have time to browse and aren’t in a hurry.

12. Remove Deadwood

If they haven’t read your emails for six months, delete them.


Different reasons. One is that large ISP counts the number of bounced emails (e.g. From dormant accounts) and may punish you if your negative rating gets beyond a certain level.

Again, my buddy Aweber has tools that let you do this.

13. Not Testing Before Sending

One of the advantages of Aweber is that I can sent test emails to different accounts before I sent it out.

It sounds like a small thing but it lets me see what the email will look like from the reader’s perspective.

Sometimes I catch a typo. Other times I look at it and see it needs to be revised. The tone doesn’t feel right or there are too many links.
Testing helps with this.

You don’t get a second chance with first impressions.

14. Use Special Reports

Let’s say you have a site about Travel. Send out special issues every quarter with tons on info getting your readers ready for special events. Focus on a single issue, say traveling to Asia for the first time. Include a link to a PDF version of the ‘report’ so they can keep it with them and/or share with friends.

Sprinkle in some links to your money pages or affiliate sites.

15. Use Follow-ups To Sell Longtail Products

Create a list for each type of class you offer (Yoga for Strength, Qigong and so on). When members enroll at the beginning of each new rotation, ask them to sign up for that list.

With a follow-up series for each list, you can prepare students with tips they can use to succeed that particular discipline, clothing suggestions, links to buy any special equipment they’ll need and a short biography of their instructor

Here’s an idea. Say you run a site about Finance. Follow up after 5 days and tell the new readers that you have the 5 part free newsletter about Personal Finance. Send them a link to a sample issue. If they like than – and take the course – send them another email towards the end offering another free course about Buying Shares For the First Time.

You get the idea. Don’t let your list sit there. Use it as much as you can. If the quality is good, no one will complain.

Then sprinkle some links into the newsletters that go to your money pages or affiliate sites.

16. Use Your Email Signature, Business Card and Stationery

My email address includes links to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and my email account. I also add a PS for sales, discounts, and special offers that we run from time to time. And it’s very effective.

Over the course of the week, I’ll email several 100 people. Some days I have 200 emails in my inbox when I arrive. Many of these are getting in touch with me for the first time.

Adding my contact details and social media sites to the email, makes it one step easier for them to contact me. It takes one minute to setup but can be very effective in the long term.

PS – always use a PS. We all tend to scan down to the end of a document, report, or email from habit. Add a little ‘linkbait’ there and some will take a nibble.

Don’t forget to add your email to your stationery; you never know where it ends up. Business cards are the same, especially if you make them creative.

17. Impossible to Recognize “From” Names

My ISP sends me emails from This isn’t the best way to engage with your customers. Personalize the email’s From field so it shows a real name.

As my name Ivan isn’t that common, I use it where-ever I can. It stands out from others and helps reader remember my posts.

Even if you’re a one-person company, you can create names for different functions in your business.

Rather that everything going to info@, create Sally, Tom, Stacy, Dion… and use these for your Sales, Customer Support, Finance emails.

You’d be surprised how many small companies use this tactic to big themselves up!

Are You Making These Mistakes With Your Emails?

Those are some of the ways you can get it wrong with email. I know I have and am still learning. If I were to nail down three things that really help, I would say:

Make the sign-up super simple. Don’t complicate things and get too fancy. Place the web form in the top right of the web page. Use simple words like Sign Up! or Subscribe! Don’t be clever, clever. Include a small benefit in the text near the form, such as free reports, discounts or gifts. Links to previous issues are another way for cautious readers to sample the goods first.
Write interesting headings. Study how others do it and write out 20 variations of their headlines. After a while, you’ll get into the right mindset and see how they do it. Like all things it takes practice.
Stay in touch. I send out one personal email every month. I just say hello, share some info, maybe giveaway a free book. Something that lets the reader know that I’m not taking them for granted.
That’s it for now.

What else would you add?


Warren Buffett Business Plan Writing Tips

‘The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective.’ Warren Buffett


Friday, October 01, 2010

How to Get Started on Your First Business Plan

Writing a Business Plan can be intimidating at first. There is so much to cover and it’s difficult to know where to start. One suggestion is to prepare yourself to go forward. What do I mean?

Ernest Hemingway’s 10 Steps to Better Writing
One of tricks that Hemingway plays on the reader is that while the prose is ‘ordinary’...

Friday, July 09, 2010

Content Strategy: Using Cards To Index, Organize and Structure Websites

One of the alternative careers I’ve considered as a Technical Writer is Information Architecture. Information Architecture is worth considering if you’re attracted to organization of data, for example, indexing, rather than writing. I get a bit tired to typing at times and enjoy other tech comms activities such as analysis, diagramming, and documentation planning. This short article gives some insight into how Information Architecture is used when developing websites. So, for those of who want to retain your writing skills and move into web-facing career, maybe Information Architecture is worth exploring.


Thursday, July 08, 2010

How to View YouTube Mobile on Your iPhone

YouTube Mobile can be accessed by visiting on your phone.

From Alex Chitu, "Google's services have a big advantage: a lot of mobile phones include applications for services like YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail, Google Search. Unfortunately, the native applications are rarely updated, so users miss the new features added to Google's services.

A good example is the YouTube application for iPhone, developed by Apple, which still uses 5-star ratings, doesn't support captions, annotations or search suggestions and offers a single sharing option: email. Google's YouTube application for Android is not much better, even if it's updated faster."


Sunday, July 04, 2010

How To Write Case Study Analysis For Marketing Plans

To prepare your case study analysis, you need to understand the four parts that hold the case study together. Once you have grasped how to structure your case study, you are then in a better position to refine this document and make the sections flow more smoothly from one topic to the next. Your case study should be built around the Situation, Problem, Solution, and Evaluation.


Is Apple The World's Most Popular Cult?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say Cult? I was offered a job with Apple many years ago and turned it down. They struck me as a bit odd. Think different campaigns were somehow a tiny bit sinister. I couldn’t put my finger on it didn’t buy into it. Later I realized that most successful companies in the Valley are cult-like to some degree. It’s an Us versus Them mentality. Not my cup of tea.


26 Ways to Handle Customer Complaints

The more you sell, the more complaints. Nothing personal. Oscar Wilde said, ‘the only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.’ It’s the same on the web. If you plan to run a business, you better get ready to deal with the complaints.

Google Webmaster Tips: Get Your Site Verified & Increase Your PageRank

Google Webmaster Tools is one of the hidden secrets on Google. Use this to add your site directly to its index, verify that Google sees your site (and sub-domains), and also fix the errors it has identified. Split testing has shown me that sites indexed this way perform better than sites that rely on xml sitemaps. FYI you can also add sitemaps here.


Checklist: How To Value Your Website or Blog

Create a handover checklist. Itemize what you need to do (and dates) and what they need to do (and dates). See this as a small project that needs to be coordinated. Create a list of tasks, allocate them and assign dates. Share this with the new site owner.For example:


Getting Things Done: How To Make Friday Your Busiest Day

Friday is my busiest day. Most folks power down and go into weekend mode. Not here! Ask yourself, ‘why do I go down a gear on Friday?’, ‘How does this benefit my career?’ Ok, let’s be honest. We do this because others do it. Right? This is a high-risk way to manage your career. You’re letting others determine how you behave. And it damages your career in many, many ways. Here’s an alternative approach.


12 Step Plan To Get Started as a Small Business Consultant

Most people think it’s difficult start a career as a business consultant. I used to think the same in my early 20s when I started in IT.

In retrospect, I should have made more efforts to establish myself as a consultant earlier; the benefits certainly outweigh the downsides. As luck would have it, I was forced into a consultancy role when I lost my 9-5 job.

Time to learn to hustling and bring in business. Harvard Business Review refers to it as The Hustle Strategy.


How To Write Content For Your Blog Every Day of the Year

In this short video I explain how to create content and to remove the barriers that stop most people from creating content on a daily basis. It’s not difficult but you do need to have a system that lets you maximize your opportunities to create content and reduces the barriers that stop you from doing this. For example, you can create more content for your blog – and generate more business – if you work in batches.


GTD: 37 Tips to Increase Your Business Writing Productivity

This article on business writing reminds us that our sales, marketing, business, and proposal development does not stand alone. It is process of a larger process that involves planning, research, writing, editing, proofing, submission and acceptance.

This list gives 37 ways to improve your next proposal. Scroll through it and tell me what I missed.

Show that your response is logical and organized
Make the information easy to find. Cross reference against the Request For Proposal
Include a table of contents for proposals over 10 pages in length
Ensure that your Proposal is in compliance with the RFP
Arrange material in order of priority to the reader (see Audience Analysis guidelines)


How to Make Six Figures, Part 2

What do soloists who make six figures have in common? To find out, we asked this week’s guest, Mike Koenigs. Mike is best known as the guy who created the Web 2.0 syndication service, Traffic Geyser that distributes over a million videos per week and generates top ranking, web traffic and leads in minutes by sending video content to over 70 video sites, social bookmarking, social media, blog and podcasting directories.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Case Study Writing: 20 Great Tutorials

Twenty articles to get you started with your case study writing. It’s all here.

Case Study methodology, SWOT, grounded theory, interviewing SME, Media Kit, Marketing Plans, how to promote your products and services, raise its market profile, and construct, format, design and publish your document.


Inside SEO: Why the About Us Page is the Second Most Important Page on Your Blog

You find a blog you really like. You want to learn more. You’re thinking of buying from them. What do you do? Click About Us, right? Most people do. Now, pretend you’ve never visited your own site. Remember, you know nothing about you. Nothing. Look at your About Us page? Be honest, what’s the one thing that’s wrong with it?


5 Entrepreneurs like Kobe Bryant Who Overcame Discrimination To Succeed

Should you use a role model to develop your business?

Maybe you should: the top business magazines say, ‘be yourself, be authentic, share your story’ Or maybe you shouldn’t. For entrepreneurs, using a role model creates a dilemma.

Does it mean you’ve sold out? Do you lose street cred? Can you really copy someone else and be true to yourself?


My Top 10 Worst Money Making Ideas from Neil Patel at Quick Sprout

I know most of these ideas sound foolish, but I was a kid/new entrepreneur when I came up with most of these business ideas. The point I am trying to make is that you to will come up with a lot of dumb business ideas, which means that you will fail a lot. Just don’t get discouraged because sooner or later you’ll learn to come up with good business ideas.

And if that doesn’t encourage you, just look at Mark Cuban. At one point he had a business idea that revolved around selling powdered milk. In his eyes, it tasted as good as the real thing and you wouldn’t have to worry about expiration dates. But as you know, that isn’t how he made his billions.

PS: If you are looking for more bad business ideas, check out this post by Jeremy Schoemaker and this post by Brian Armstrong.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For Better Market Research Get Real Clicks not Fake Answers

For real information, watching what people do is way better than asking them what they think, what they did, or, the worst case, what they intend to do. That’s why I like this new click-based and search-based research so much. Don’t go with what people say; go with what they do.

A great recent example is Marketing Profs’ In Social Media Era, Facebook Rules.

The data is fascinating; but the methodology, and the tool used, is even more so.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

How To Submit Your Video to YouTube?s Editors

While there are several ways to get your videos on the YouTube homepage, this is the simplest, the more legit and the most rewarding. To do so, you need to understand how the Spotlight Videos option works in YouTube. The screenshot below is an example.