Are you damaging your mailing list with these 7 key mistakes?

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Whether you have invested money in purchasing a well-targeted mailing list or invested a lot of time (and therefore also money) in building your own list – you will want to protect your valuable data, so make sure you avoid these common mistakes.

1. Over-communicating – too much is as bad as too little

Whatever channel you are using, it is important to determine the most appropriate frequency of communication. This will vary depending on the nature of your audience and your product or service. Some examples include:

  • Consumer clients being open to receiving regular emails from their favourite clothes retailer;
  • Consumer clients expecting yearly prospecting calls from various insurers when their motor or other insurance comes up for renewal;
  • Business professionals who sign-up for newsletters and will be happy to regularly receive the content requested – if it’s kept relevant. However, those business professionals may become frustrated by too frequent brochure mailings about (e.g.) stationery – when they have only occasional requirements.

2. Your design or content is not capturing your audience’s interest

As a business we have unfortunately been privy to some very under-developed email and mailer designs over the last 14 years. In some instances – despite our best advice to develop the piece more first – we have ended up supplying data for and/or sending campaigns where the poor creative had a significant negative effect on the response rates, ROI and unsubscribes received. Always consider:

  • What kind of message or creative will best engage your target audience?
  • What do you want your reader to do? / What is your Call to Action?
  • Why should a reader take the action you are asking them to?

3. Your timing is not fully considered – timing is everything!

Careful timing may seem a simple consideration, but it is surprising how communicating with your audience at a time they find more convenient can protect your list and avoid recipient frustration.

There are some widely-accepted ideas around best days and times that both B2B and B2C campaigns are best sent, which include:

  • Avoid landing on Mondays – particularly business audiences who may already be overwhelmed by that ‘Monday feeling’ so additional things to think about in their inbox or in-tray are more likely to be ignored;
  • Midday, midweek – often seen as a safe bet for most campaigns is to land between 11.00 and 15.00 on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday;
  • Avoid weekends –people are generally busy with family commitments or outdoor plans (especially in the nicer weather months). Weekends are for many seen as a poor choice – particularly for emailing;
  • Event promotion – a reminder the day or two before an event may seem like a great idea, but with many people not checking their emails or post every day you may want to consider a send further ahead of your event;
  • Prospect calling – obviously if you are calling business prospects you have to call between 9 and 5, but for a better chance of being connected or engaged with, 10.30 – 15.30 is more likely to yield better results by avoiding the times people are just starting their day or thinking about going home.

All this being said, extensive testing is the only effective way to select the best times and days for your emails or mailers to land, or calls to be made. You will then be able to identify what day and time is producing better results through reporting and monitoring.

4. Campaign unsubscribe options are not clear

Audiences are pretty savvy to the rules and regulations behind marketing, particularly business audiences. However, consumer awareness is also increasing, fueled by recent media coverage.

So, it is important to firstly make sure any data purchased has come from a legitimate mailing list provider or your own opted-in system. Having and utilising responsibly-sourced data is crucial to the performance of your campaigns. From here you must give your recipients clear and fair opportunities to unsubscribe from your emails or mailers. Obviously it doesn’t need to be a key message, but recipients will expect to be able to easily locate the unsubscribe instructions or link – normally in the footer of your piece.

Although we all want to reduce unsubscribes to a minimum, this should be achieved with relevant content and effective campaigns – not by hiding the unsubscribe link or instructions.

5. Excessive personalisation

As mentioned above, audiences are now pretty au fait with the tools behind marketing. Sending an email starting ‘Hi Tim’ doesn’t fool anyone into thinking they are the sole recipient of that email. That said, it can be seen as making an effort, so depending on your particular campaign, that type of salutation may well be appropriate. Conversely, an email that includes the contact’s first name, birthday, number of children and hometown would be perceived as creepy!

It is great to know certain things about your audience to inform customer profiling and prospect targeting, or to use it more subtly to communicate with someone at a relevant time (such as a timely birthday wish with discount or offer.) However, throwing additional information into your personalisation just because you have it, is more likely to put off your prospects than to impress them.

A great way to use personalisation is to take the insight from what you know about them to make the creative relevant without changing the text. Assume you run a holiday company; you might know that customer A takes skiing holidays and customer B prefers beach holidays. Utilising this insight can allow you to display a skiing image to customer A and a beach image to customer B.

6. Your Subject Line/Title and Calls To Action are not carefully considered

These key areas are far too often the last things to be considered, but as they are key to your piece being opened, read and then acted upon, they should be part of your planning from the start and given due care and attention to ensure they are as effective as possible.

There is a plethora of advice and tips available online on attention-grabbing Subject lines or Titles and effective Calls To Action – both in terms of wording and design.

7. Assuming people know who you are / what you do

You may have recently communicated with the same list of contacts, or they may have signed up to receive your newsletter. However, never make the mistake of assuming people will always remember who you are or what you do. It should be clear from your campaign what product or service you are promoting and even if your focus is your current 20% discount, make sure it is clear at a glance what that discount is for.

  • Have you successfully prevented any of these key mistakes?
  • How important to you is avoiding unsubscribes?
  • What other mistakes do you feel damages a mailing list?