It’s a tough crowd out there. And they’re reading your email campaigns. Sure, the more obvious email mistakes are easily avoidable (we’ll get to that in a minute), but certain details are judged by readers more harshly than others. You may be guilty of some of these…
Starting with the harshest email critique I’ve come upon… I just read an article about sending email between 10pm and 6am, which is not recommended according to X (whose name and blog I forgot to bookmark, probably because I was web-surfing in the wee hours again). The premise of the article is that when your recipient sees that you’ve sent an email in the middle of the night, he may judge your work ethic, your time management, and even your sobriety! Ouch!
No writing emails and doing tequila shots, got that?
Maybe all you ever wanted to do was to put your best foot forward and contact your email list during hours when you’re not actually running your business. Unfortunately that leaves about 8 hours overnight to do it.
I would have to agree that if you’re up writing email campaigns at 2:00 am you may as well schedule the sending time for the next morning. Few are up reading email anyway (assuming your customers are in approximately the same time zone as you are) and if you are using a decent email service provider, you can easily send it at the time of day you think it would get the most readership.
From a copywriter’s standpoint, it’s best to return to your writing the next day and edit what you wrote late the previous day (tequila shots or not). I don’t think I’ve EVER closed up my WordPress shop mid night, only to come back in the morning and read a PERFECTLY written post. It just doesn’t happen. Spare yourself trouble and embarrassment.
And if you are having trouble deciding what time to send your email, just use those metrics available from your service provider. Pay attention to your open rate in relation to the time you send emails. They should give you an idea of when that optimum “open” time might be.
Personally, when I see a late night email I think one of three things:
- It’s a small biz owner – just like me. Give him a break!
- It’s a large company, somewhat out of touch with customers. The email was scheduled in a process that is so complex no one considered or factored in the sending time of day. The marketing department is cumbersome and they made a mistake in spite of their plentiful IT and human resources.
- The email service had a long cue and so the small business that sent the email had to wait its turn. The campaign was supposed to go out 5 hours ago; OOPS!
Aside from late night send, what else might cause a reader to question you and your small business based on your emails to her? On what other factors might someone judge you unfavorably in your role as:
- the human communicator of your company?
- the protective owner of the email list?
- the competent small businessperson?
Well, let me count the ways – as well as how you can overcome them:
- Poor spelling. I know it’s not fair, but bad spelling bugs a lot of folks. If you’re not a great speller, have someone proofread your work.
- Lousy choice of pictures or none at all, ever. Are the pictures the appropriate file size? Clear? Personal? Related to your brand or message? Artistic? Stock photos “everyone” has seen a hundred times before? (Sam recently pointed out a woman on a website whom he claims is the stock face on every third website he visits; of course it’s always possible Sam may have been exaggerating.) Again, feedback from a trusted co-worker or colleague within your industry can help a lot! Every now and then consider including one of YOU!
- Sent from Outlook or Gmail. Sorry, but there is no excuse for this anymore. Don’t get me wrong; I love Gmail and use it all the time. But never for my small business. If you shop around, you will find ESP’s that are very reasonably priced even for a small company and its weekly, bi-weekly or monthly sending schedule. Marketing emails sent from Outlook and Gmail look unprofessional. Period. On top of that, it’s tedious to consistently manage your brand, your customers’ unsubscribes, your suppression lists (people who have opted-out, or whose emails have bounced), and any photos or files you’d like to attach. And I’ll bet you’re tired of splitting your Gmail sends over three days, too! These email services were not created to be professional email services for businesses. You do have choices that can meet your needs for just a few dollars a month.
- No unsubscribe option. Big mistake. But perhaps a bigger mistake is including an unsubscribe button that accomplishes exactly NOTHING. Your frustrated addressee continues to receive emails she doesn’t want, never opens, and that you pay for. Don’t make this unfortunate soul search out your contact information in order to personally request to be taken off your list. It’s easier to mark your email as SPAM, which it is.
- Off-the-wall layouts, email lines that cut off at random lengths, super long email text lines (longer than 700 px), email that has no white space and no style. If people find your emails difficult to read and tedious to navigate, they may even dismiss them before they open them. Instead, give readers an organized and recognizable style; nothing too fancy. Test them in different email clients to make sure they are clear and deliverable.
These five mistakes are the most unforgivable in my book because they are the easiest and least costly to correct. Send me an email while I happen to be sleeping and I probably won’t even notice.
Most people are looking for honesty and professionalism; the delivery of accurate, useful or beautiful content that you have promised them; and a predictable personality and style. Oh, and the meaning of life, while you’re at it.
That’s the ideal, but online marketers should start with these five basics that reassure customers and prospects it would be good to do business with you: great content, yes, but also these 5 simple yet manageable criteria to help you come across as a professional and an expert in your field. After all, your email says a lot about you and your small business; sometimes it’s the only knowledge your recipient has about you.
Anyone can pass all of these simple tests of email professionalism.
By the way, I still stand by my claim that sending email in the middle of the night is far from the worst thing you could do to your reputation!
Are there any other pet peeves you want to share, while we’re on this topic? Let’s hear them; comment freely.