Sunday, August 17, 2008

E-Mail as a Marketing Tool: 5 Mistakes to Avoid

I love photography. I want to be a photographer. And so it’s not surprising that every once in a while, I receive e-mail invitations to photography exhibits. What does baffle me, however, is that they seem to come from this one particular photographer—let’s call him Mr. B.

Every time I receive the occasional e-mail from Mr. B, I’m curious anew as to why he’s sending them to me.

“Who is this guy?” I ask myself when I open them. “Why am I on his mailing list?”

I haven’t written to him to unsubscribe because I *am* a photography fan…but I’ve been noodling over whether these messages from him are coincidental or accidental or both.

This morning, I was vacuuming in the hallway and gazed up the wall to examine my collection of French doorway photographs for dust. As I did, a little light bulb turned on in my mind.

"Hey," I thought, "What was this photographer’s name again?"

I looked at the five signed pieces that I had bought many years ago at an art show.

Yes, you guessed it. They’re by Mr. B.

I’m a customer of Mr. B’s Photography. I like his work and support his business. I volunteered to let him keep in contact with me.

Yet, Mr. B’s bewildering e-mail marketing is ineffective at best, and confusing, bordering on irritating, at worst. Let’s take a look at the mistakes Mr. B makes in using e-mail as a marketing tool.

Mistake #1: Not acknowledging the sign up

When people volunteer their personal information and invite you to solicit them, you should thank them. If you regularly add numerous people to your list, develop a welcome template that thanks them for signing up. If you add people only at occasional events, then send a quick e-mail to them as you’re entering their information into your e-mail system. Let them know you appreciate their willingness to hear from you and that they’re now scheduled to receive updates.

Mistake #2: Not contextualizing the sign up

As you add people to your list in batches, note in the acknowledgement to them where and when they signed up. Contextualize the relationship for them. Dozens of people signed the clipboard at Mr. B’s art show to receive e-newsletters from him. His first e-mail to us could have simply said:

“Thank you for signing up at my recent art show at [insert location] to receive
updates from Mr. B Photography. I’m glad you enjoyed the artwork I featured last
weekend and I look forward to seeing you again at future shows.”

Mistake #3: Not having a call to action, or ask

How hard would it be to turn that acknowledgement note into a more effective marketing message that sells? Not hard at all. As above, the marketing message serves to reinforce the recipients’ positive feelings about Mr. B and his beautiful photography. But with just three extra sentences, it turns into an effective soft-sell.

“While most of my pieces sold at the show, there’s a chance that the one you
were admiring is still available. Visit my website,, to order your
favorite photograph. Mention the art show at checkout to receive free shipping
on orders placed by the end of the month [in real life, you should use a
specific date].”
Mistake #4: Inconsistent messaging

The e-newsletters I receive from Mr. B are inconsistent in their appearance: sometimes they mention just his show; sometimes they announce a group exhibit in which he’s participating; sometimes they’re formatted beautifully in HTML; sometimes they’re text only.

Because they look and sound so different, each time I receive one I'm just as confused about who is sending me this e-mail and why.

Inconsistent appearance combined with inconsistent messages makes it more difficult to answer that question, and thus, increases the chances that the e-mail will be deleted immediately.

Mistake #5: Irregularity

As if all of those mistakes weren’t enough to confuse newsletter subscribers, Mr. B compounds the problem by writing infrequently. It was two to three YEARS after I first subscribed to his list before I ever heard from him again! Then I received a couple of e-mails in a row for a few months, then nothing for another YEAR. Those large gaps, combined with the lack of context and different appearance of each e-mail combined to utterly confuse me.

Many business owners complain that e-mail isn’t an effective marketing tool. If you’ve been disappointed with your e-mailing results, ask yourself: are you confusing your subscribers with these mistakes? If so, take action to correct your e-mail program right away. You’ll be surprised at how much more effective your marketing campaigns can be when you add an effective e-mail component.

1 comment:

Evelyn said...

This is terrific! I've done the very same thing as Mr. B. You are truly an inspiration!!!!
Cheers~ Evelyn