How not to do email marketing – part one

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  • July 23, 2009

Yesterday I received an email from Rebel Sport. I was actually really interested to see what it looked like and said as I had only signed up a week or so ago.

This is what I saw in my inbox.

I could read it without the images and know what the email was about. However they could have looked at styling the alt tags so the text where the images go wasn’t just Arial 10pt.

The subject line didn’t do much for me. I knew it was from Rebel Sport so why repeat that in the subject line.

They made no use of the pre-header to further sell the idea of opening the email or even downloading the images. But I do like them asking to add newsletters@rebelsport .co.nz. Pity about the lack of a space after the email address.

To me it reads more like a press release than an email to an opt-in database. The instructions are very clear but again incorrect. There isn’t an ‘attached flyer’ you have to download it and print it out. Semantics maybe but someone would have thought, “There’s nothing attached??”

Then they ask you to forward it your friends and family. Great. But how? The obvious answer is, “They will just click forward Glenn.” Really? Ok, no they won’t. When they are reading that line most will be looking for a button or link to forward it. Why not make it easy and put the link, right there, while they are reading it.

Next I downloaded the images.

Hmmm. Its not very pretty. I expected more from Ogilvy. The centering of the view online and the add email address look a bit naff now. There is a button sticking out to the right and this really long link for people to click.

My mum will not click that link. Why? Because it doesn’t look like a real link. Real links don’t have/popup_aspx?l=5606 at the end. Why didn’t someone just put the words “CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FLYER” there instead and have the text hyperlinked to it?

Then I decided to view the email online.

Rebel Sport, we have a problem. What the heck is this email?? And who is Tracey?? I think this is pretty self explanatory. #webversionfail

Right better check out the flyer.

I’m a bit lost. Hook the big one?? I thought it was an “Unbeatable 1 day sale”. Oh I see, there it is. I’m not a graphic designer so I’m not qualified to criticize this. Because my gripe is about the HUGE amount of ink I have to go through to print this behemoth out. It’s a recession. Ink costs a lot. And why does it need to be so big. Why couldn’t it be a voucher. A small one. In black and white maybe.

Vouchers/flyers are great but who knows how to print off a web page? Not many. Because of that I would recommend a pdf of the voucher that is downloaded from the link in the email. Everyone knows how to print one of those because they do it all the time. Even my mum can do that.

Then you can’t just ‘unsubscribe’. You have to go and ‘manage my subscription’. Unfortunately according to the Anti-Spam Act you are required to have a ‘functioning unsubscribe facility’. So that means that this is technically legal not legal. [UPDATE: thanks to @nzben for pointing this line out in the Act “the unsubscribe facility allows the recipient to respond to the sender using the same method of communication that was used to send the principal message”. Read this unsubscribe part of the Act here. So it’s not legal at all.] However when you go to the ‘manage my subscription’ page you have to scroll down before you see the big button.

In my experience that really annoys people. If they want to unsubscribe let them go before they click the big ‘report spam’ in their Inbox. That isn’t good for your sending reputation.
You could have a little note down there that says they can ‘leave the list immediately here’ or something like, ‘If you would only like to hear from us a few times a year. Click here to change your frequency.’ It works.

During a campaign for a sports brand I was watching people unsubscribe after they got their voucher. So I added a line that said, “If you’re down here you’re thinking about unsubscribing. Before you go we have some great deals … etc.” I wrote why they should stay subscribed. Unsubscribes basically stopped and the client ended up with a very good database to continue talking to.

I felt fairly dismayed by this email and it’s effect on Rebel Sports brand so I sent two emails to newsletter@rebelsport.co.nz.

Hi there,
Why would someone want to waste so much ink printing the voucher? Looks great but would chew through ink.
Just a thought for these times and for the demographic you would generally cater too.
Glenn

AND

Hi there,
Further to my last email.
Seriously who does your email marketing?
The view online goes to an old newsletter and there is a spelling mistake on the ‘gift voucher’ alt tag. And thats at a glance.
Whomever sends your email are giving email marketing and Rebel Sport a bad name.
Attached is a screenshot of what the online version is.
Plus its gone to Tracey.
Glenn

Of course I didn’t get a reply. So I rang Rebel Sport and asked for the marketing manager. Spoke to Jo who put me onto Tracey at Ogilvy.

Now Tracey was concerned. They had tested it. But the conversation (emails) stopped when she asked me if the link worked. Because it did. But I’ve been doing this for awhile now and I know she was thinking, “The link was correct. So it’s not that bad. I can blag my way out of this.”

How do I know she was thinking that? Because over the almost 10 years of email marketing I have made mistakes and had those same thoughts myself. But it’s not right. So I take it on the chin, say I made a mistake, and here’s how I’m going to fix it. Fixing things has taught me a lot.

What this experience has taught me. It reinforces for me that there is still no money being spent on a channel that easily achieves a fantastic value for your investment. Agencies and businesses have a ‘batch and blast’ mentality that does not work. Yes, there are some companies out there doing a great job. But they are rare.

When people are sold on why they should be on your list and treated like the valuable people they are you get fantastic results.