When I sent out my first official email in March 2003, I was like Stan Snow, stumbling into Wildling territory.
I knew nothing. But if you learn by failing then feel free to call me Queen of Email Marketing. Her Empress would do, too. 😉
Among my many mistakes were:
- Using a free autoresponder that sent the same email 17 times
- Scolding all subscribers when one person made a spam complaint
- Sending a cruel video without warning to make people help end the cruelty
But at least I only committed those mistakes once.
My biggest mistakes were some I did more than once. Some lasted years. Some I did maybe five times (the last one).
Let’s look at them so you don’t need to make those mistakes.
Not growing my list
Why would an email marketer fail to grow her list?
Ooh, the old trap: Everything is fine here. Nothing to see. Move on.
Ever since 2003, I have mainly made a living thanks to my list.
My list was tiny, but I compensated by having a loyal following. It came natural to me (after my mistake of having a no-reply email address). I loved to communicate with people on my list.
So I got comfortable.
My list only grew, when I created a new product and a group of affiliates who knew me shared with their lists. But after a while that caused a problem.
We now more or less had the same pool of subscribers.
So my list just didn’t grow. And when you don’t grow a list, it decreases in size. Because people get other interests and leave.
Do you know that feeling?
All is well, so why change anything? Money is coming in. There’s not too much work.
And then when things start to fall apart, you ignore the alarm bells.
Lower income? Ah, it’s just October. That’s always a lower month.
Still lower income?
Ah, it’s the pandemic. People don’t dare to invest in courses. They want security.
Ah, others make money in this economy?
Surely, it’s because they promise people push-button riches. Surely, it’s because they just crank out junk and promise the moon. Surely, it has nothing to do with me…
Or has it?
Finally, I woke up and found that I was down to a list of 159 people. It was time to grow my list or find a job. And the last option was NOT an option.
Don’t commit my mistake.
Don’t get too comfortable with your existing list. Grow it. And nurture it.
That leads me to my next big mistake which I did repeatedly.
Not deleting inactive subscribers
A female marketer disagreed with me when I told her I deleted inactive subscribers.
"Why would you do that?" she asked. "They can become active later. You shouldn’t delete them."
I raised a virtual eyebrow and walked away.
Why should you delete inactive subscribers? And what determines that they are inactive? Here’s where many marketers go wrong.
They rely on open rates.
Open rates are unreliable. They used to be a way to measure if somebody read your email or not. But I’ve seen both false positives and false negatives in the past.
If a subscriber uses Outlook, for example, and reads the email in the panel, it won’t show up as opened. Same thing if your subscriber only reads the text version of the email. Then there won’t be a pixel image to show that he opened.
So open rates – fun to look at but not significant.
It’s when you combine things that it gets interesting. Is somebody (or Gmail) opening every single one of your emails, but is not interested enough to click on your link… Ever?
If they’ve behaved like that for more than 3 months, it’s an inactive subscriber.
Yes, they could change after 3 months if you gave them the chance. But meanwhile, your account is at risk. For several reasons.
Deliverability being the main reason.
Your sender reputation is at stake here. Because the big email services like Google and Microsoft keep an eye on your emails. Nobody opens or read them? Nobody ever clicks? Nobody cares?
Down you go in reputation.
When your email reputation is low, providers won’t like you and they’ll reject your emails. They’ll think you’re a spammer. Or at least that you’re sending out emails of low value.
So inactive subscribers must go.
How do you get rid of them? How do you make sure, you’re taking care of an inactive subscriber? And not just a case of the opening not getting registered?
You filter for open AND clicks.
What I do now is twice a month (the 1st and the 15th) I filter like this:
- Who has been subscribed for more than 3 months
- Who has never opened an email
- Who has never clicked a link
Then I move those subscribers to a new temporary list and give them 24 hours to open and click.
Usually, I get no reaction, but at least I tried, right?
Then I delete them. (You can unsubscribe them or delete them.)
My biggest mistake, though, happened several times. At least 5 times. I see other marketers make this mistake, too, because it’s so easy to do and hard to spot.
Promoting because I liked the vendor
George Katsoudas has a special place in my heart.
He was the first product creator ever to contact me and ask me the magical words: "Do you want a review copy?"
Free stuff? Me? You bet!
George makes good products, so this was a wonderful deal.
I got to try his WordPress plugins. I told my list about them. George and I made sales and I earned a 50% commission.
More vendors came to me.
Vendors like David Kirby, Billy Darr and Michael Cheney.
Every time it happened, I was in awe. To think that little me got the attention of great marketers… Marketers who told me how good their products were.
I believed them.
I didn’t even question it until much later. I’m guessing that the law of reciprocity was in charge here. Big time.
Today, nobody calls that kind of thing for reciprocity.
Because those marketers may have started out by being nice people who wanted to share good stuff with the world. But when I left them, they did rehashed stuff. Repackaged stuff.
And people call them circle jerkers.
I still struggle in some cases. Like recently, a product creator I like shared a new product with me, a video course. I got bored half way through, though…
So I chose not to promote, but a part of me hoped that he wouldn’t notice.
Does this mean you should never accept review copies so you won’t be in debt to another marketer?
No. I think you should. But you should use your integrity and stay strong when you see something that is not good for your list.
I like getting review copies
because they are free because you can take a look before they launch.
I’ve also used it as a rule of thumb to weed out products that aren’t good: Typically, if the vendor refuses to give away a review copy, it’s because they have something to hide.
So they just hope for a bad affiliate who will promote anything to make a quick dollar.
Feel free to get review copies, but stay strong if the product either is not of interest to your list or if it’s not good enough for your list.
My 3 biggest mistakes in email marketing
- Not growing my list
- Not deleting inactive subscribers
- Promoting because I liked the vendor
Don’t commit my mistakes