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By Ronald Kimmons

Email marketing is one of the most powerful marketing channels available. It is highly scalable, responsive, and cost-effective. However, in conducting an email marketing campaign, there are some big, fat, ugly blunders that neophytes often commit. These can waste your time and resources, and harm your business—and you should do your best to avoid them. They are:

1. Buying a list

There was a time when email marketing meant buying a list, spamming that list, and hoping someone on that list was in your target demographic and would buy. Thanks to the government and email providers, such things are no longer done by legitimate marketers.

If you intend on purchasing an email list and sending out unsolicited mass marketing emails to that list, you need to know that:

  • Your conversion rate will be low. Those selling such lists will often cite “industry standards” by promising 3% conversion or something like that, but even that is pie in the sky. Those are the kinds of numbers seen by email marketers who have legitimate lists of people who chose to receive marketing emails because they were interested. Even if these people see your emails, the leads from purchased lists will not have the same conversion rates as more legitimate lists.
  • Many recipients will not see your emails anyway. Email providers have gotten very good at spotting spam. That being the case, do not be surprised to find that your emails are going straight to the spam folder. Also, note that in Gmail there is now a “Promotions” tab where promotional emails go. Even if your emails do not go to the spam folder, they will likely go here. Though this email is technically still in the inbox, people often ignore the contents of this tab.
  • You could get fined. Sending unsolicited mass emails like this is illegal in many countries. In the United States, according to the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, you can be fined up to $11,000 per violation.
  • You could get sued. That’s right. People who receive spam email from you can actually take you to civil court. A lawyer named Daniel Balsam actually makes a living by suing spammers.
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In short, don’t buy email lists to send unsolicited marketing emails. It’s not worth it.

2. Failure to comply with other CAN-SPAM policies

Even if your list was collected legitimately, with people who requested your emails, you still have to abide by certain other legal rules. For example:

  • Include identification information. This means your company name and address. Most marketers include this in the footer, and email marketing tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy.
  • Include an “unsubscribe” or “email preferences” link. This makes it easy for people to unsubscribe from some or all of your marketing emails.
  • Follow up when people do unsubscribe. If people change their preferences or unsubscribe completely, make sure to remove them from your list. Again, if you use an email marketing tool like MailChimp or Constant Contact, this is automated and easy.
  • Write clear subject lines. The subject line of your email cannot be misleading. This is (ironically) one of the more inexact requirements, so there is a little flexibility, but try to play it safe. As a marketer, it may be tempting to write whatever grabs people’s attention and causes them to open the email, but do not lose control. (More on this later.)
  • Information in ads should be clear and unambiguous. It is very good practice to include advertisements in your emails that are visually similar to what people might see in magazines or on posters. However, whatever you write there, make sure that it is easy to understand. Do not make statements that are intentionally vague and then rely on fine print to clarify them.
  • Make sure anyone working for you is compliant. Anyone sending out emails on your behalf—whether an employee or a contractor—is legally connected to you, and you are also liable if they fail to do what they are supposed to do.
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Again, if you fail to abide by these rules, not only is this bad business, but you can actually get fined and/or sued for that failure.

3. Failure to be mobile-friendly

Google has now openly embraced a mobile-first philosophy. This is because the majority of internet activity now occurs on mobile devices. This is especially true for emails; it would be a big mistake to ignore mobile users when you draft your marketing emails. To optimize your emails for mobile, consider doing the following:

  • Make the text big enough to read. None of your text should be smaller than 14 point.
  • Make buttons easy to tap. Simply adding a link to your text may not cut it for some mobile users. Instead, try to use an actual button.
  • Use a layout that is responsive to different screen sizes. Again, email marketing tools like MailChimp and Constant Contact are usually good for this.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Test Mobile Marketing in Your Small Business

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