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Ever heard of the seven deadly sins? They were originally a roadmap for avoiding moral pitfalls that included sloth, envy, and greed.
Today, these seven pitfalls frequently appear in popular culture, including the thriller film Se7en and the Morgan Spurlock documentary television series 7 Deadly Sins.
If you perform a quick online search, you’ll also find playful examples, such as the YouTube video that features examples of each deadly sin taken from various episodes of Spongebob Squarepants. No, I’m not kidding.
With the seven deadly sins all over television, film screens, and social media, I started mulling over the major moral pitfalls of email marketing. Wouldn’t it be great to have a roadmap for email marketing, too?
As content marketers, we need a list of major dangers to steer clear of, so we’re not spinning our wheels and sending ineffective messages that don’t get opened, read, and clicked on.
In this post, you’ll discover the seven email marketing sins we should avoid and the seven desirable email marketing virtues we should work hard to cultivate when creating an email marketing strategy.
Sin #1: Disappearing after you send out your “welcome” message
Many content marketers set up an automated “welcome” message to send to new subscribers, but after that, they completely disappear and don’t email their list members again for a long time.
Some marketers are afraid they will be pests. Others just aren’t sure what to say or how to say it.
Whatever the reason for your email silence, you mustn’t be an email Houdini. You’re missing a huge opportunity to bond with your subscribers if you don’t touch base with your list on a regular basis.
Virtue #1: Regularly sending your audience great content
Emailing valuable content builds relationships with your audience members and helps them get to know you.
Send emails to your list with blog post or podcast notifications, quick tips, or other useful content. Then supplement those emails with regular, relevant offers.
And always remember: Your email subscribers wouldn’t have signed up for your list if they weren’t interested in you, your content, and what you have to say. If you provide value, you’re not being a pest.
Sin #2: Panicking when people unsubscribe from your list
Do unsubscribe notifications strike fear in your heart? If so, you’re not alone. This one is a common (and avoidable) sin.
There are a lot of reasons why people unsubscribe from your list, and you don’t need to worry about most of them. Panicking holds you back and may eventually make you hesitant to send emails to your list.
Virtue #2: Remembering that your ideal community members will stay subscribed
People who discover they aren’t a fit for your list might opt out, and when they do, they save you time, money, and energy.
To combat this fear, you can easily turn off unsubscribe notifications and stop regularly looking in your email service provider to see how many people have left your list.
Sin #3: Over-promoting or under-promoting
If you send too many promotions to your list, your subscribers may become annoyed and less likely to buy from you. On the other hand, if you never send relevant offers, you run the risk of being taken for granted as the “free” person.
Over-promotion and under-promotion are both deadly sins of the email marketing world and should be avoided.
Virtue #3: Striking the perfect balance of publishing valuable content and presenting relevant offers
The best thing you can do for your list is send a balanced mix of high-quality content and regular offers.
Take a look at your email editorial calendar, and make sure promotions and content are both part of your emails over the next few months.
Sin #4: Trying to do too much in one email
Nothing’s worse than an email that includes tons of links that direct subscribers to many different pieces of content, landing pages, and sales offers.
Especially in our increasingly mobile world, we simply can’t overload our readers with too much information (and too many links) in one email.
If you try to do too much in one email, your reader will be more likely to think, “Eh, I’ll read this later” and file your message away in email folder purgatory. There’s a good chance it will never be rescued and read.
Virtue #4: Writing focused emails that include a single, strong call to action
Try to stick with a single call to action in each email, if you can. Want someone to read your latest blog post? Great! Stay focused on that, and include clear and easily clickable links.
If you’re sending out a newsletter and multiple links are unavoidable, make sure each article is clearly labeled so your content is manageable.
Sin #5: Being boring
Dull emails are the ultimate sin. Most of your subscribers get tons of emails every day, so carefully consider what you can do to stand out.
Boring emails get lost in the fray and will be deleted.
Virtue #5: Injecting personality into your emails by using your unique voice
Your subscribers want to get to know you — they want to know what you like, what you hate, and what you stand for.
Don’t be afraid to introduce some individuality into your emails by telling stories, sharing your opinions, or showing a bit of your personal side.
Your subscribers will love it, and they’ll be a lot more likely to read your emails.
Sin #6: Sending out emails that aren’t mobile-friendly
More than 65 percent of emails are now opened on smartphones and tablets.
If you’re still sending three-column emails (or other messages that aren’t mobile-friendly), a large portion of your subscribers are having trouble reading your messages.
There’s no excuse for this massive sin in 2016. You simply must be kind to your mobile subscribers.
Virtue #6: Sending single-column emails with large, clickable links
Use a single-column layout, and test your emails on mobile devices to ensure they are easy to navigate and click on.
Sin #7: Neglecting to create a smart, workable email marketing strategy
Many content marketers approach email messages like the task of achieving perfectly cooked pasta — they just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.
This sin can be deadly for your business. Confusing, overwhelming, or flat-out poorly crafted emails can hurt your website traffic, your next promotion, and your overall reputation — so you should always think before you hit “send.”
Virtue #7: Mapping out your email plan before you hit “send”
I can’t overstate the importance of having an email marketing strategy before you start getting subscribers to opt in to your list.
You need to determine approximately when you’ll be emailing your list, what you’ll be sending, what your goals are, and what your emails will look like.
A smart email marketing strategy that yields high open rates is sin-free and attractive to your subscribers.
Achieve email marketing success
These seven deadly sins are avoidable in the digital marketing world, and when you steer clear of them, you’ll get that much closer to accomplishing your content marketing goals.
You’ll also be able to build stronger relationships with your subscribers and feel confident every time you send an email to your list. Your conscience (and your subscribers) will be there to encourage you on your journey to ethical, principled content marketing success.
And if the last sin on this list (“Neglecting to create a smart, workable email marketing strategy”) has you sweating bullets, the final post in our current email marketing series will have you covered. In the meantime …
Read all the posts in our email marketing series
- How to Choose a Solid Email Service and Build Your List on a Firm Foundation
- Your Top-to-Bottom Email Checklist: What to Include Before You Hit Send
- Email Newsletters vs. Content Notifications: A Head-to-Head Comparison
- How to Write a Heroically Effective Email Autoresponder Series
- How to Write Email Subject Lines that Make People Stop, Click, and Read
- 13 Tantalizing Incentives that Will Build Your Email List
- 4 Quick Solutions that Spawn Radical Email List Growth
- CAN-SPAM 101: A Crash Course in Bulk Email Regulations
- Your Step-by-Step Email Marketing Strategy Guide [Free Checklist]
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Reader Comments (12)
Sharon Brodin says
Thank you, Beth! This is a great synopsis. I’ll definitely be hanging on to this article for future reference. I still get so many emails that violate #4 — except from marketing experts 🙂
Beth Hayden says
You’re welcome, Sharon! And yes, #4 is easy to violate, because we often want to stuff everything we possibly can into every email message we send. But unfortunately, if we give people too many options, they’ll get overwhelmed and not do any of them. Simple is almost always better.
The Guy Who Flies says
Thanks for the guide Beth.
E-mail marketing is something which I’ve yet to truly master. The open rates on my e-mails were never too high and the click through rates much lower. This was with a monthly newsletter too so I wasn’t bombarding them.
I wonder if the e-mail list is quite as valuable now as it was say 5-10 years ago. With social media now I would regard social media followers a bit like an e-mail list too. Many people are wary of giving out e-mail addresses (me too) because of spam etc. So lots of people choose to follow on social media instead.
Beth Hayden says
If anything, I think email lists are even MORE important now than they were 10 years ago. Every study still says it’s the best (and most reliable) way to reach prospects and drive traffic to your site, so I still think it’s one of the best uses of your marketing time and energy.
Lacie L Larschan says
Great post! I like that you included the statistic about mobile opens. It’s something I think most content marketers know intuitively, but seeing the number added a extra push to take it that much more seriously.
Beth Hayden says
Definitely, Lacie – it certainly lights a fire under me to make sure all my messages are responsive and mobile-friendly!
Great tips Beth! One question i would like to ask is that you said emails should not be boring.. So sending simple text based email will also be boring? Or is it necessary to always send html based email templates with images?
Beth Hayden says
Quite the opposite, Richa – some studies actually show that under some circumstances, you can improve your click-through and open rates by using a plain text format.
I was talking more about making sure your writing and your calls to action have some personality. Boring emails (and boring subject lines) won’t get you the results you want, but you don’t have to create all the interest with your images and graphics.
Too much in one email and boring emails are common violations. But some of the marketers I subscribe to send out as many as 30 to 40 emails per month, so perhaps it is difficult to always have something exciting. On the other hand, cut the number in half and make them more interesting.
Beth Hayden says
I think you could create a lot of excitement by sending out great content on a regular basis…hopefully the folks who are sending 30-40 emails a month are doing that!
Janice Wald says
These are great Tips. Thank you for keeping me focused on continuing to do the virtues.
Chris Thompson says
Great Tips Beth, you made some great points here, and you give me some great ideas. It helps a lot, thanks for sharing, surely I will recommend this. 🙂
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