Are You Making These 8 Beginner Email Marketing Mistakes?

Interview with Francis Jones

Episode Description

I built my entire company on email marketing.

We went from a quarter million in sales to almost four million last year, and we’re on track to hit six or seven million in 2017. And the backbone of all that growth was a few lead generating PDFs and videos paired with — you guessed it — email marketing campaigns.

It’s a powerful tool for businesses of any size. And if you haven’t gotten serious about email marketing yet, now is the time.

Chances are, you already know that. But you’re wondering how to get started. You’re thinking, “It’s too big. I don’t know how to do it.”

In this episode of the Building a StoryBrand podcast, we’re going to take away the confusion behind email marketing. I interviewed Francis Jones of Infusionsoft, a software company that offers small business marketing tools. He shares eight common email mistakes he sees beginners make when they start email marketing — plus what to do instead.

Listen to this episode and schedule an hour of time to implement even one of these ideas, and you’ll make a dramatic impact on your business.


Mistake #1: Not Even Getting Started

“One of the biggest challenges we run into,” Francis says, “is that [customers] don’t want to do anything until they can do everything.”

In other words, a lot of us look at the world of email marketing and feel like we need a sprawling strategy in place before we ever get started.

But as the great Steven Pressfield says, “Start before you’re ready.”

Once you send your first email, a switch is going to flip in your brain. You’ll start looking at your own inbox differently. You’ll pay attention to what other companies are doing. And that’s going to inspire great ideas for marketing to your own prospects and customers. You’ve just got to start.

“If someone gives you their email address,” Francis adds, “that is a qualified hot lead.” Don’t miss out on the opportunity to nurture that relationship because you don’t do email marketing. They want to hear from you.

Mistake #2: The “Spray and Pray” Strategy

“Pray and spray,” Francis explains, “is the idea that we just send [our email] out and just hope that people will read it.”

The most successful email marketers don’t send the same message to every single person on their list. They segment their list into smaller groups based around a common behavior or data point. That could mean men and women, buyers and non-buyers, or people who clicked your last email and people who didn’t.

The most successful email marketers don’t send the same message to every single person on their list.

If you’re completely new to email marketing, you may not know enough about your customers to effectively segment your list. But, as Francis says, “You really want to avoid sending out messages that don’t mean things to people.”

So as you gather and organize customer data, start thinking about how you can tailor your emails to feature the messages that will interest your customers.

Mistake #3: Using Inside Language

We open every podcast by saying it: “If you confuse, you’ll lose.”

Unfortunately, you see this all the time in the language that companies use in their email marketing.

Inside language and jargon will kill your emails. People will not respond if they don’t understand what you’re saying. Nobody likes to be confused.

This happens sometimes because we, as experts who are close to our companies, have the “curse of knowledge.” When you’re an expert in something, you forget how to explain it to non-experts. As a result, you make assumptions and use language that seem obvious to you but that are super-confusing to everyone else.

Francis’ advice? “You have to create emails that speak to them how they want to be spoken to.”

Mistake #4: Bad Subject Lines

We’ve talked about what makes a great email subject line on the blog before, because it’s one of the most important elements of any good email campaign.

A bad subject line means nobody will actually read your email, even if the content itself is packed with value.

Because every audience and brand is different, there are no “silver bullet” subject lines that are guaranteed to get opened.

But in general, it’s best to keep your subject lines simple and direct. And because many people will initially see your email on their smart phone, where only the first 6 or so words will show, keep it short.

A bad subject line means nobody will actually read your email, even if the content itself is packed with value.

You may be tempted to get clever or poetic in your subject lines. But don’t get cute. Get clear. If you’re having a 50% off sale and it ends Tuesday, just say that.

Finally, Francis recommends you to do what’s called a “split test.” Say you’ve got a list of 5,000 people. You might send one subject line to 500 people and another one to another subset of 500 people. See which one performs better in that split test, and then send the winning subject line to your remaining 4,000 recipients.

Mistake #5: No Clear Calls to Action

Wouldn’t it be weird if you sat through two hours of a movie about two characters trying to break out of jail — only to have the movie end before they even try to escape?

In movies, we want people to take action — and the same is true in our emails, even if the “action” isn’t to buy.

“We absolutely want people to get used to clicking something of value in our emails,” Francis says.

We’re all creatures of habit. “We get trained to do things,” Francis points out, “so, when I send emails, there needs to be a call to action.” It doesn’t necessarily have to be to buy something, or even click. That sense of action, psychologically, helps our readers to wrap things up.

And when your readers get used to clicking something of value in every email, they’ll be more likely to keep it up when your call to action is to buy your product or service.

Mistake #6: “Too Long, Did Not Read”

We all have “Big Block of Text Syndrome.”

We see a bunch of copy and our instinct is just to skip it. It’s going to make your brain use up extra energy, and your brain is always thinking about ways to conserve that energy.

If you tend to write long emails, chances are, the overall strategy for your email lacks focus.

“It doesn’t even matter how important the information is,” Francis says. “If it’s too long, they will not read it.”

If you tend to write long emails, chances are, the overall strategy for your email lacks focus. Narrow down the scope of your email to a single problem and single resolution. For example: “Hot weather is coming soon, so we are offering HVAC inspections to make sure you stay cool all summer.” That’s it. Problem and resolution.

Mistake #7: Failing to Interrupt the Pattern

What do we mean by “failing to interrupt the pattern?”

Here’s how Francis explains it: “So pattern interrupt is a principle that we talk a lot about. When people get emails from you, they start to look for and sense what’s coming.”

That’s dangerous for you as an email marketer because your readers start scanning, not reading. “If you want their attention,” Francis says, “you have to do something different.”

For your emails, you might:

• Experiment with formatting and design. For example, format your email to look like a plain personal email instead of formatted HTML (with stylized text and graphics).
• Change up your sending time. If you typically send in the mornings, try one email in the afternoon.
• Try a different “from” name. In most email marketing software, you can customize the name your email appears to come from. If you usually use your store name (“Pet-o-Rama,” for example), mix it up with your own first name (“Sam at Pet-o-Rama”).

Mistake #8: Sending Too Often or Not Often Enough

One of the most common questions we hear from email marketing beginners is, “How often should I send?”

It can be hard to find the sweet spot. Send too often, and you’ll get people unsubscribing from your emails. If you don’t send frequently enough, you risk diminishing your sales because people have forgotten who you are.

Like so much in marketing, it comes down to value. “If you create content that sells, that really resonates with people,” Francis tells us, “you can send it everyday. Make sure you’re creating content that resonates with people and that has value in it.”

Email marketing is such a powerful tool for your business — but it needs to be done well. I hope this overview of common email marketing mistakes (and what to do instead) can help you start or refine the way you use email to communicate with your prospects.

If you’re new to all this, what email marketing obstacles can we help you overcome? Leave a quick comment and let me know. If you’re an email marketing veteran, take a look and feel free to jump in with what you’ve learned.

Got a Good Product with Bad Sales?

If so, chances are your messaging needs work. We can fix it together. Come to one of our Live Workshops this summer and I’ll walk you through it. We’ve got sessions in both Nashville, TN and Portland, OR. Which one works for you?


Executive producer: Tim Schurrer
Additional production and editing: Chad Snavely

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