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9 Damaging Misconceptions About Email Marketing

Email marketing is an essential medium for budding advertisers, but it does come with a lot of incorrect assumptions. Let’s set the record straight.Email marketing is a valuable practice to any marketer out there – newbies and seasoned veterans alike. However as with a lot of things in marketing, it comes with a hefty helping of mistaken ideas and incorrect assumptions.

Let’s set the record straight about 9 of these inaccuracies.

1. Isn’t “email marketing” just another word for “spamming”?

Not when it’s done properly. You should only send bulk marketing mail to people who have explicitly and willingly opted in, rather than blasting out a message to as many addresses as you can find. In fact, doing the latter may land you in legal trouble – there is legislation in place to protect internet users from unsolicited mail. The UK has regulations in place referring to how companies should send marketing materials, and the UK will also be affected by the EU’s upcoming GDPR data protection regulation as of May 2018.

Though the early days of spam email have left many people with a negative view of the ethics of bulk email, email marketing can totally be carried out in a lawful, ethical, and respectful manner.

2. Isn’t it better just to advertise on social media?

Not always – it depends on where your ideal target audience generally hang out. Though social media appears to be everywhere nowadays, it may not be something that your ideal audience uses; you need to pursue the marketing methods that suit you, your average consumer, and your budget. The good news here is that email marketing and social media marketing are in no way mutually exclusive – you can totally do both to great effect.

A secondary point to make here is that you generally have more ownership over an email mailing list than you do, for example, your Facebook followers. If Facebook were to shut up shop tomorrow, you’d have no other way of getting in touch with those people; however if your email marketing platform goes bump, as long as you keep backups of your subscriber lists (which is recommended) you can easily set your lists up again with another provider.

3. The bigger my list is the better.

Not necessarily. Resist the temptation to think of it as a “my list’s bigger than yours” numbers game – you need to focus on how engaged your list is and how suitable those subscribers are to what you’re selling. It’s far better to have a small group of engaged followers hanging on your every word than it is having a large group of people who aren’t really that bothered.

4. My marketing emails should be all “sell, sell, sell”.

Though there may be a time and a place for the good old fashioned hard sell email, they shouldn’t be all you send out. We’re marketed to more than ever nowadays, which has resulted in us automatically tuning out heavy salesy content a lot of the time. Email marketing is great at trust building, so make the most of that by providing useful information about your services and offering up valuable advice and tips that the reader can benefit from personally. Handy and applicable takeaways nurture interest, prove your expertise, and are rarely considered boring.

5. Oh no! People are unsubscribing! That’s bad news! 🙁

It might be a shame, but it’s not always the worst thing ever. All subscriber lists worth their salt need to be kept up to date and “hygienic” – chiefly by removing addresses that bounce or no longer engage. If a subscriber’s situation has changed and they no longer need what you offer it’s probably best that they bow out gracefully. As long as your unsubscribe rates stay low – say below 1% – that’s quite normal and nothing to get down about.

6. Reaching inboxes is all you need to worry about.

Though it’s important to keep your deliverability rates decent, that’s only half the battle. The real value comes when subscribers open your emails, digest the contents, click on links, or even send you a reply. There’s little point in reaching 100% of your subscribers’ inboxes if 0% of them open the email and engage with your brand. Remember that engagement and brand awareness are the real name of the game here, so create strong and enticing content to encourage interaction.

7. The more people see this message the better – I’ll just send it to all of my subscribers!

Hold your e-horses! Though there is sometimes a time and a place for sending a blanket message out to everyone on your list, there is usually something that can be done to separate (or “segment”) your subscribers into different subgroups to tailor your message to each subgroup’s individual needs.

Look at the demographic information you currently hold on your subscribers and the specific past campaigns that they’ve engaged with. Not everyone is going to need your product or service in quite the same way, so it may be worth creating a distinction between these groups. To give a very broad example, if you spot a lot of marketing agencies and IT support companies within the same list, it’s likely that their needs from you will differ wildly. Therefore by filtering by these two groups (or “segments”) and sending a tailored message to each segment, you may find that you get a more positive comeback than going with a blanket, catch-all message.

8. Subject lines need to follow this set formula…

By all means make yourself aware of the set formulae out there and the points they raise, but following them to the letter isn’t always beneficial. Though tools like Subject Line can show us helpful technical data about the subject we’d like to use, it’s important to remember that there is no “silver bullet” formula that leads to increased opens and engagement.

Though set rules are enticing because they present an easy “fill in the blanks” or “x many words” type template, in reality you need to test different things to gauge your subscribers’ response. No two groups of people are going to react the same to a given subject length, format or tone. Most email marketing tools provide A/B testing functionality so you can test out different options and glean useful insights into your list’s individual preferences.

9. I need to send marketing emails every (insert frequency here).

Again – testing is your best friend here. Though new research seems to come out every week from various sources saying that a certain magic frequency is the best thing since sliced bread, you have to remember that these studies are usually taken from massive amounts of data spanning different industries, and may not be applicable to those in your specific niche or to the interests of your individual subscribers. Try things out in a methodical manner and record the results you get; use this approach to work out the best times of day, days of the week, and optimal sending frequencies that work best for you and your subscribers.

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Which are your least favourite email marketing misconceptions? Have you ever agreed with any of the points on this list? What convinced you otherwise? Let us know down in the comments!

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