Successful marketing is more than meets the Eye

Last week I had a call from Radio NZ to comment on air about a Sydney morning herald article . It was about a guy who pressed ‘go’ and out flew 400 emails addressed Dear Andy. Along with advice to test, test, test, there were the normal helpful hints. The same ones I’ve been writing about, and that you’ve read about for years. Namely

  1. Give good content
  2. Short articles – no one has time
  3. Interesting short attention getting subject line
  4. Format for phones

Knowing from experience the best radio interviews are succinct and perhaps a bit controversial, I put a few bullet point thoughts together covering the questions people don’t know to ask and to broach the real meaty problems that most commentators leave out.  My short list of course far exceeded a three minute conversation and normally happens, the interview veered in another direction

I thought I’d strike while the iron was hot, and write a two part series covering my experience and views about the real problems to overcome and pitfalls to avoid in email marketing today.

The first thing we must do is to step back and look at the whole picture. A successful marketing email is not simply just an email. It’s the successful weave of four components:

  1. Database
  2. Content
  3. Technical setup/design
  4. Distribution

Each of these four components have significant baring on how well received (including if received at all) your email will be and if action is required, it’s taken. Because of space allotment, we’ll look at the first two components, database and content now; and follow up with the Technical set up (design) and distribution next week.


  1. Targeted is better. If you are selling something location based, or suitable for a certain demographic – only send it to them. This is why one of my top database recommendations is always to get as much information as you can (and enter it!) into your marketing database. For example if you are promoting something in New Zealand, exclude email delivery to all those outside of the country. If you’re doing something in Auckland – exclude those outside the drivable area. Why? Well you might perhaps in the short term sacrifice a few sales, but in the long term you’ll preserve your gold – you list and maintain your permission to email those on it. In this day of extreme overload, it’s vital to be relevant and spot on in your targeting. This leads us to point two when your email is a selling one.
  2. Don’t try to sell the same thing to the same people too many times. In my experience, the first use of the database for a specific offer will get the most takers, It’s the gold. Your second email out on the same subject turns up the bronze. Notice silver is omitted? Your third run is a wipeout.  Very little take up and lots of unsubscribes. My advice – if possible, don’t be greedy and skip the third email.  This leads us to point three
  3. Replenish, replenish, replenish. Continually focus on getting shall we call it fresh blood in to top up what you’re losing through unsubscribes and mail delivery errors. It’s exceedingly hard to get new subscribers nowadays. This leads us to content,

Content. Naturally this constitutes what you actually say in the email.

  1. Wiifthem  (what’s in it for them). Short and sweet. The number one rule to remember about content and unfortunately what the vast majority of businesses in their marketing emails and newsletters don’t recognize is this simple fact. People, their recipients don’t care about anything except their world. They’re busy. Over messaged. Over inundated. Most emails are written from a me, me, me point of view with that type of content.Here’s a few examples from my inbox:
    1. A consultant: I’ve just written a new book
    2. A Twitter direct message: We develop easy to use & affordable hosted IT….
    3. Speaker: if you missed my webinar

Can you see by these examples, they’re written from the businesses perspective – them; rather than from the readers perspective. The road to take for more success is this. Put yourself (or should I say your marketing person) in your readers shoes and think like them. What are my problems? My pains. What solutions would interest me? How can I be more successful. How can I save x?

  1. You must, must, must write for spam filters.
    Spam filters look at your words (as well as technical set up). So it pays to understand how emails are screened, rejected or accepted.  Commercial spam filters intricately examine each email and primarily work on a point scoring system. The filtering criteria is different for every business as they set the criteria.  You’ll know by now that you shouldn’t put forward/pass on in your email. I took it out years ago. Here are a few examples of what spam assassin looks for in the words in an email, and the points scored if found. Generally if the total score of the email is under 5 points your email will get through the filter (it then has Outlook to contend with).  Have a look at the list
ContentOne hundred percent guaranteedPoints scored2.7
Contains ‘Dear (something)’1.9
Talks about lots of money1.3
Claims you can be removed from the list2.4
Claims you wanted this ad2.8
Talks about how to be removed from mailings2.9
Contains urgent matter1.7
Money back guarantee2.9
Free express or no-obligation quote2.7
Home refinancing1
Lowest Price1.4