Email Marketing – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

April 18, 2017

By Chris Franks

When it comes to digital marketing, there’s not much that makes us more anxious than the moment just before we launch an email campaign. Is everything set up correctly? Are all my UTM parameters in line? Is that really how you spell “punctual”?

While the idea of sending out an email to thousands of prospects or leads can make plenty of marketers turn green, there is a reason email marketing is alive and well: it works. According to Daniel Newman, founder of Broadsuite, 72% of adults say prefer companies to communicate with them via email. Beyond that, a staggering 91% say they’d like to receive promotional emails from the companies that they do business with (translation: if you don’t have some form of email marketing as part of your business efforts, you dun goofed).

In a perfect world, you’ll write a perfect subject line to a perfectly worded email, which includes an irresistible call to action, and you will send this immaculate piece of marketing collateral to a highly receptive and engaged group of potential customers. Your list of emails is accurate, and no one unsubscribes, and marketers everywhere sing your praises for thousands of years.

Unfortunately, while sending promotional emails should be a major focus of any marketer’s workload, it’s not that easy – there’s plenty of ways your email campaigns can backfire and damage your company (and your shining reputation). Let’s take a look at it.

The Good

Good Email Marketing | Email Marketing - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly | CleverFunnel Digital

In email marketing, when things go well, things go very well. If your messaging is right, you’ll get tons of new views to your hand-picked parts of your website (ideally, a landing page specific to what your email is about). If your email is a hit, congratulations: you’ve just discovered a new way to build your sales pipeline, and to acquire new prospects and leads, or nurture and hopefully convert the ones you already have.

Even if your email isn’t a rockstar, you can gain some incredible insights based on its performance. Here are some things to consider when reviewing your email campaign’s stats:

  • What email client was most popular?
  • What percentage of people viewed your email from a mobile device?
  • What did people click in your email? The logo, the link text, the image?
  • What time of day did people view your email?
  • How does this email compare to another sent at a different time?

There’s plenty of things to test for in email marketing campaigns. Based on what you learn as you send out, you can refine your campaigns to get to a spot where email marketing is really working for you. Yes – it’s an investment in time, but, then again, according to Newman, some 25% of companies consider email their top channel in terms of ROI. If done properly, emails can take you and your company to the next level.

The Bad

 Bad Email Marketing | Email Marketing - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly | CleverFunnel Digital

Like all marketing, much of email marketing comes down to trial and error. Unfortunately, a lot of people forget the whole “error” part of that phrase, and you’re bound to have an email flop eventually. It does happen. You’ll create something that you’re certain will convert, and for some reason, no one clicks on it! Not all is lost, though. Consider a bad email a learning experience, and examine where the problem occurred.

  • If your open rate is low, then perhaps your subject line needs some work. Better yet, why not A/B test a few subject lines?
  • If your click-through rate is low, consider what the call to action on the email is and if your buttons align with that. Furthermore, how many elements are clickable in your email? Is your logo clickable? Is your image clickable? How many links are in your body text? Keep in mind: the answer isn’t always “more links!” Sometimes, if you have too many things for someone to click on, your message can become muddled, leading to a low clickthrough rate.
  • If neither of these statistics seem particularly low, then perhaps it’s not the email that’s to blame. How clear is your landing page? Does your landing page line up with the call to action in the email?

Something else to consider, especially in outbound email campaigns, is the quality of your email list. Sometimes, your emails can bounce, and if the list you are emailing to, your bounce rate can be alarmingly high. Not only is this annoying (if you intended to send an email to 2,000 people, you probably want the number of emails sent to be as close to that as possible), but it can be dangerous for your domain. With a high enough bounce rate on a high enough number of emails, and your domain can become blacklisted faster than you can say “Clint Eastwood was a great actor, but now he’s talking to empty chairs and saying vaguely racist things.”

The solution to this? There are plenty of services for cleaning up email lists. They’re not usually cheap, though. Anticipate paying around $55 for every 10,000 records. Just remember: a healthy email list is worth its weight in gold.

The Ugly

The Ugly Email Marketing | Email Marketing - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly | CleverFunnel Digital

And now for some cold, hard truth. No matter what steps you take to prevent it from happening, people are going to unsubscribe from your emails. Yes, even if they signed up for them previously. Even if you send out confirmation emails. No matter what you do, people will leave you, and you just have to be okay with that. So long as this number stays at or around 1% of your total email send, you should be all right. If that number starts creeping up, however, there are a few things you ought to consider before sending anything else:

  • How often are you sending emails? If people feel like you are “spamming” them, they’re going to shut you up by way of an Unsubscribe.
  • What is the content of your emails? If your subjects appear too spammy (“ENTER OUR SWEEPSTAKES AND WIN!”, “FREE subscription for life” and so on), people could mark you as spam, or just opt out entirely. Some email clients, depending on the wording of your subjects, will do this automatically.
  • Don’t cheat with emails. By that, I mean, make sure to include text in your email; not just a big and pretty image. Several mail clients (notably Outlook and Apple Mail) will automatically block images, making your big and graphically pleasing email look empty. Say hello to Unsubscribesville.

Also, unless you’re sending all of your emails from a “[email protected]” address, you should be ready to wade through the direct responses. Many of these, especially if you are sending to business emails, will be auto-responses informing you that Mary is out of the office, or James no longer works at the company anymore. This can take some time to go through, so make sure you set aside some time to do this.

However, sometimes, you just catch someone on a really bad day. And remember, behind the safety of a computer screen, some people can be relentlessly awful, especially if they feel like you’re spamming them (or, in the words of some wonderful office manager I sent something to, “stalking the everliving fuck out of” them).

Bonus: The Confusing

The Confusing Email Marketing | Email Marketing - The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly | CleverFunnel Digital

Sometimes, things just happen, and they’re hard to explain or learn from. For instance, we once had one specific email for a client that outperformed every other email by a large margin – its open rate was something like eight times higher than any other email in the campaign. Was our subject really that good? We’re still scratching our head at that one.