Three Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

I first started using email in 1996, the year Hotmail was started. It was useless in terms of FE marketing for one simple reason. There were very few people with Hotmail or any other sort of email accounts. None of my friends had one and none of my college’s target audience understood what email was.

It was several years before colleges started using email to communicate with prospects and even longer before we all had websites.

Fax still ruled and mobile phones were so big and heavy that “mobile” seemed to be a misleading description.

So I’ve been using email for FE marketing so long that I suppose that makes me a bit of an expert.

Expert or not, there are lots of words of wisdom written about email marketing, I have to think twice about.  So much accepted wisdom is just plain mad.

As I write this I could spend a long time reflecting on the GDPR. It comes into effect today and will impact the way we handle data and privacy. But I’ll take it as read that you have understood what to do and have done it.


FE Email Basics 

Let’s get back to email basics and consider it in light of real people.

Humans behave today in much the same way as they did 1000 years ago. The same basic psychology is still there. It’s just the tools we use that have changed.

One piece of advice I see time and time again is that you need to use a professionally designed template for all your emails.

My psychology works in a certain way, and I bet yours does as well. When I see a professionally designed template I think someone is trying to sell to me.


Experience really. When my friends send me emails they are just simple text emails and they rarely try to sell me anything.

But when a business emails me, 98% of the emails are templated. And in most cases, there is a strong sales message. They send me an email to pitch to me.

Well, the strange thing is that although a lot of people enjoy buying, not many of us like being pitched or sold to. The result is that we don’t buy and the sender tries even harder next time! And you know what? It still doesn’t work.

And think a bit more about those templated emails. Where’s the evidence that banners, multiple columns and loads of colour works?

You’d think that these people had never heard of white space, building rapport or being friendly. The template designers often have no idea about how they overload people with this rubbish. They seem to think that good design is about packing as much crap into a template as possible!

The email that works best for businesses, and colleges, is the one that engages and either provides value in terms of advice or a compelling offer.

Compelling Emails

For example, my favourite country house hotel recently sent me an email. Giles said he wanted to give me a heads up that a special offer was being launched later in the week and that they would be offering existing customers a discount on any room booking for the summer period, but you had to book within a five-day window.

Later that week the email came out and a few days later there was a follow up that said they’d sold over 300 rooms and to remind me that the offer was closing the next day.

There wasn’t a template in sight. The email was from the boss himself and was signed by him. He’d even added a few bits of personal news in the email; the sort of things you’d write in an email to a friend.

Well, it worked. We booked. It was a good deal and I quite like Giles. He sends out personal invites to events throughout the year and his emails are usually quite chatty. Even his GDPR email was chatty and I read it .. I didn’t bother to open most GDPR emails, but this one was from Giles.

Crazy Templated Emails and Links

Another thing these crazy “template” people do is to add links to their emails.

They seem to think that the more links they add the more sales opportunities there are.

What actually happens is that people get confused and then bored.

If someone is encouraged to leave an email to go to a website or social media they do it. But they don’t go back to the email and once they finish on the website they close it.

If later they go back into their email system they close the templated email (they’ve finished haven’t they?)  and open the next email.

Good emails are really about using common sense. It’s a rare commodity though!


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