Email marketing mistakes
Stop making these 5 unintentional mistakes and get the email marketing results you've always hoped you would

Stop making these 5 costly email marketing mistakes

July 3, 2020

Pound-for-pound invested, or hour-for-hour spent, email marketing is the most evergreen, hard-working, engagement-building marketing medium for services-based small businesses.

You can spend weeks and months of your business life engaging on social media, writing blog posts, hand-crafting videos, or drinking stale coffee and eating limp bacon sandwiches at tiresome networking events, but none of those marketing activities will work as hard for your brand as a well-crafted email marketing strategy.

Email marketing works relentlessly hard for you

Email marketing - especially automated email - represents you, on your very best day, every single day to prospects who discover you or have been referred to your website.

It's like your most loyal, most engaged, most thoughtful member of staff (or VA) going to work on your behalf with your prospects and clients exactly when you want them to, all of the time.

Avoiding unwanted cliff drops

Some great sets of email marketing automations in your armoury builds bridges between stages of your marketing, sales and delivery activities. They help you avoid unwanted cliff drops in your client's engagement. Cliff drops are those moments in your client's experience with you where they let doubts enter their mind about the relationship you're managing with them. You know that they have them, because you've had them yourself with other service providers you've worked with. Think of those times you've got to the end of your working relationship with someone without feeling wowed to offer testimonials or referrals, or that you'd rush to hire them again.

Yes, your own clients will certainly have felt the same with you.

So better email marketing sounds great, right?

But if it's so great, why do so many millions of business owners get it so badly wrong?

Let's take a look at the five crucial mistakes that those who use it (or don't) are making that are losing them engagement, reputation, and ultimately, sales:

Mistake #1: Email marketing is not a 'software problem'.

The greatest misunderstanding that small business owners have with email marketing is that they see the problem they have to solve as a software one. It’s not. It’s an empathy one first and foremost. Once you get going, you'll realise you dwelt too long on choosing an email marketing software (many of them do everything you need on email anyway) and too little time demonstrating empathy for your prospect's problems.

Email Marketing Mistake 1 Not A Software Problem

You can fix this focus mismatch, reassuringly simply:

  1. Shut your computer down. Take out a sheet of A4 paper.
  2. In the middle of the page, write a single word or phrase that represents a key problem your customer has that they can’t properly solve on their own without your help.
  3. Don’t phrase it as your service. Phrase it as their problem; something that stresses them out, keeps them awake, causes them deep frustration. Get right into their mindset.

Now you’re going to turn that into a mind map by drawing lines off that first word / phrase by writing other words or phrases or problems on the page that describe the deep impacts of that core problem. Describe the absolute HELL impacts of it to them. Put yourself in their shoes.

And that’s the core of your email series. It’s then time to write.

Mistake #2: Email isn't the problem-solving superhero. You are.

As you begin to write (or re-write) your email marketing series, remember that your role with email is not seeking to solve the problem your prospect has through email alone. Because if their problem is big enough to make serving them commercially viable, it won’t be solved by one or two emails.

Email marketing mistakes - you are the problem

Rather, the purpose of follow-up email marketing is to nurture your prospect to take whatever the next step is with you - a call, a meeting, watch a video etc.

But on receipt, the first hurdle is to get them to see themselves in the problem you’re describing, starting with a subject line they identify with. If they see themselves enough to open the email and read the first few lines, they’ll read the whole email.

Don’t tiptoe around the problem. Poke the pain, the frustration and the impacts they feel as vividly as you can. Use personal anecdotes or stories of people you’ve helped to give them a clarity they probably haven’t yet interpreted themselves. Nothing builds trust or empathy better than your prospect hearing their exact problem - or impacts of it - relayed through others in the exact way they experience it. If they identify their own emotions in what you’ve written, it’s far more likely that the step from ‘trust’ to ‘requesting help’ becomes a smaller one.

So pop that superhero cape on. It's your turn now.

Mistake #3: Your short follow up looks like you've lost interest.

You shouldn't overthink how long your email marketing follow-up should last, but the simple rule of thumb is that you're probably not following up for long enough.

Email marketing mistakes - your prospects have lost interest

Judge the length of your follow-up email marketing based on:

  1. how much trust you feel your prospect needs to build in you, and;
  2. the time it might take your prospect to make the decision to meet you.

If they’re reluctant to make a decision quickly, such as where your service is for something in their life they’re putting off, then your series might need to stretch longer (months, or even years).

By contrast, if it’s a decision that can be quicker, a more urgent need for help, space those emails closer together (a few weeks to a few months).

In either of those scenarios, what you're doing now probably isn't for long enough. For those taking longer to decide, it looks like you've lost interest. It makes it easy for a competitor to steal their business despite the fact you've done all the ground work.

Take your 5 or 6 big problems and the impacts of those problems that you came up with at the mind map stage (when you solved mistake #1, above) as topics for each email.

For now just focus on quality writing in a Google Doc or Word file. The best way to write this ‘version 1’ of your email series is simply to block out a day and write them as a batch. Immerse yourself in the reader’s life. Write as if only that person is reading it, experiencing the pain or frustrations of the problems you're describing.

When you’re happy with the draft, leave it for a day, then come back to review it. Make sure every sentence, every paragraph speaks to the direct impacts of that problem to the reader so that it keeps them reading until your call to action.

Mistake #4: Your call-to-action should be more 'you', less 'guru'.

If you’ve run your business for a while, you’ll likely have been on the email marketing lists of various UK or US business ‘gurus’. You’ll have seen the ‘clickbait’ methods some use in their emails to get you to take action, often with fake scarcity.

You can see I’m not a fan.

Email marketing mistakes - your call to action

Now with the best will in the world, you’re not a guru. Sorry to break this to you. So unlike the guru, you’re not going to be forgiven by your readers for the same lack of empathy or humility. So don’t be fake. You’ve just invested energy and integrity to build your reader’s trust. Don’t blow it now.

Your call to action doesn’t need a ridiculous claim, big buttons or graphics. It should be simple and continue the rapport you’ve built in your emails. Something like:

“We help people with this problem all the time. If you’re ready to get some help on this, please call [your number].”

(Or, even better, provide a link to your appointment booking calendar).

It’s accessible. It’s friendly. But most of all, it’s consistent with the message and tone you’ve used. By now, they know you understand their problem and the impacts of it, and that you’re the expert in solving it. So if they want to solve it, what other logical step would they take than to take that next action, now or after one of your other emails

You’re simply just extending an invitation to the action-takers.

Mistake #5: Stop throwing your clients off mountain tops.

Some small business owners have a perception that all that email marketing involves is an occasional newsletter-style email, or a short series of auto-responder emails following an enquiry or lead magnet download.

Email marketing mistakes - stop throwing your clients off mountain tops

Those are certainly common scenarios. But think about all the other points in your client’s experience with you, from first discovering you, to a point at the end where they're offering delighted client referrals or testimonials.

If you’re not getting lots of testimonials or referrals, then you might be inadvertently leaving client experience gaps along the way. You’re not alone.

Almost every small business makes mistakes that push their leads and customers off a series of cliff edges, forgetting some important communications touch points, or leaving them struggling to relate the service they're receiving to the experience they felt when they were first in contact.

Meanwhile, the business just lives in hope that either:

  1. their client comes with them - on their own steam - between stages of the relationship, or that;
  2. their delivery model delivers a consistently good experience for every client they work with. Hint: it never does.

There's a Simpler Method:

Email marketing - the SIMPLER Method

Different marketing models call different stages of client experience different things, if, indeed, they consider them at all. In my business, Connectably we use an analogy of a mountain range that your client is crossing with or without you as they go through your client experience. We call the process ‘The SIMPLER Method’ (image above). It covers the seven steps of client interaction after they've discovered you.

Without a consistent end-to-end method to keep clients engaged, informed and on-board, most businesses drop their clients off these communications (& experience) cliffs at different points in this process.

Sadly, it results in the client’s experience and emotional connection to your service going from ‘engaged and excited’ to ‘unfulfilled and indifferent’. When you peak a prospect’s interest but then fail to deliver against that emotional expectation, then the only way is down. Clients don’t give testimonials and referrals on experiences that end lower than they start, or they've experienced during the process.

Is this food for thought on where and how you balance your email marketing communications across all the points of client interaction?

Mistake #6 [BONUS]: You've invested in the wrong mentor.

I promised you five unforeseen mistakes, but there's also a sixth.

One of email marketing's biggest problems is that it's so accessible. When that happens - just as we've seen with SEO, web design, LinkedIn lead generation (ugh! ?) and Facebook ads - it results in basement-level coaches and dime-a-dozen gurus entering the marketplace.

Email marketing mistakes - the wrong mentor

Many are spammy and damaging for your business. And like you, I've seen the good, the bad and the ugly.

Those hard core marketers always end up damaging the reputation of any marketing method that's achieved success, don't they? But their spammy version of what they delivered as email marketing is now on a rotting waste pile that already contains their irritating Facebook ads, intrusive text messaging, and grating YouTube pre-roll video ads that leave you reaching for the 'Skip Ads' button.

Yes, those 'gurus' have been all over email before. And for a time, really damaged it. Instead of treating it as a great opportunity to improve client experiences, they treated it as a numbers game. And the problem with numbers games is that they always over-emphasise the number, not the experience.

But here are two pieces of positive news:

  1. Email service providers are gradually and thankfully squeezing out spammy tactics. Spam controls are becoming much tighter with all major email marketing software providers. So those empathy- and humility-less gurus have had their day with email. Besides which, they've already lost interest and buggered off to work on 'growth hacking' TikTok and Facebook Messenger Bots. And so....
  2. Those who do use email marketing ethically are actually seeing their open rates and engagement rates rise again.

Those email marketing loyalists who've done it consistently and credibly are still helping their clients achieve results.

Those email marketing loyalists who've done it consistently and credibly are still helping their clients achieve results.

It leaves email marketing back in front as the very best method for engaged, caring, client-centric, service-provider small businesses to build relationships and engagement with their audiences again.

Just don't trust those spammy gurus.

Next steps

In the last 12 years, I've helped over 350 business owners like you to understand and master email marketing. I'm an implementer, a coach, and even the founder of an entry-level CRM and marketing software company.

These business owners aren't always natural "software people", but I've helped them to systemise their processes, understand marketing technology, improve client experiences, launch new services, get paid their true worth, and increase the value of their business.

Along the way, I've had some decent recommendations for doing so.

I help people with these (& other) email marketing problems all the time. If you're frustrated with your outcomes until now and are ready to get some help on this, I'd be happy to help. Please book a call with me at a time that's convenient for you.

(Seen that before addressing mistake #4? ?? ? )

Thanks for reading. If the article's resonated with you and you've got value from it, but you don't want to book a call, please 'Share' this article on LinkedIn. Thank you.


Gareth Everson

Gareth's the founder of Connectably. He's a business systemiser who helps small business owners who aren't always natural "software people" to systemise their processes, understand marketing technology, improve client experiences, launch new services, get paid their true worth, and increase the value of their business. Connectably is a self-funded software business (founded 2017) that serves other small businesses. You can follow Connectably here, and connect with Gareth here.
Author: Gareth Everson - Founder Connectably

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