Cautionary Tales: Marketing Pros Share E-mail Mistakes and Fixes

To err is human, even for the best direct marketers. So it is instructive to learn from marketing pros when they admit mistakes and then share corrections and prevention advice. A recent Direct Marketing News magazine article asked 13 experienced marketers to share their biggest goofs, how they fixed them and lessons learned. Here we’ll share just their e-mail marketing stories since we have experience helping clients address the same issues via our e-mail list brokerage support and data services.

Data Blindness: Missing Segment Crossover Creates Confusing E-mail Flood

Guillaume Cabane, vice president of growth at Internet software firm Segment, relates how he failed to take segment crossover and duplication into account. He ended up e-mailing the same user five times in a week because the user appeared in multiple different data sets of people. The subscriber was not only irritated by the flood of e-mail but also confused by “similar but different” messages. The solution? Cabane notes that using data services to exclude recipients who have recently received other communications is one way to avoid the problem.

Honesty’s the Best Policy: Making Lemonade From Subject Line Lemons

The team at Return Path, a leading e-mail data solutions provider, cites several lessons from a failure to update an e-mailed webinar promotion post-testing so that the subject line “TEST” went to the entire subscriber list. The team needed to come up with an immediate fix. They decided to send a follow-up e-mail with the subject line “Oops,” and it performed so well they ended up doubling registrations. Besides learning the importance of double-checking subject line and content, the experience also showed that an unexpected subject line can sometimes intrigue and prompt more opens, and that subscribers appreciate honesty about errors (although it’s better to avoid them).

E-mail Etiquette: Avoiding Confusing, Frustrating Shortcuts

Melody Gambino, director of marketing at Grapeshot, which improves online ad targeting via advanced keyword technology, reminds that, in crafting e-mail content, the basics of e-mail etiquette count. Using acronyms, slang, abbreviated names/personalization, and shortcut instructions or explanations can cause confusion and frustration. Gambino is especially focused on the problem further down the B2B sales funnel, when customers or prospects may get a speedy but inadequate response from a company rep instead of the clear, thorough answer they seek. She advises a conscientious effort at being thorough in e-mail questions and instructions and limiting e-mail responses from mobile devices, where the shortcut temptation is greater.

To read about 10 more marketing mistakes and their fixes, go to