Recently, I received a marketing email from a well-known car company. I'm not going to mention them by name, but their brand is one of the most recognized on Earth, and their marketing budget is humongous (even bigger than yours!). The reason I’m on their list? I just bought a new car from them.

First, the majority of the email was a single image. As you probably already know, most email clients (when I say email client, I'm referring to the software you use to read your email, like Outlook or Gmail) block images until the recipient says it's okay to view them. Best Practice #1: Don’t make your email rely on images to convey the message. Best Practice #2: Put text behind your images, so even if they’re blocked, your recipients can see what you wrote. The text should be something they’ll recognize, like your brand name. Please don’t put the words, “header logo”, behind your header logo, since I still won’t have any idea who it’s coming from.

Since they ignored both best practices, all I could see was a blank email, except for the fine print legal language at the bottom, and even this was done poorly. It was written in black text on a dark gray background. In a small font. In Times New Roman. Reading speed on a computer screen is 30 to 40% slower than paper. You have to do everything you can to make your email as easy to read as possible, not more difficult. Ideally your emails will contain dark or black text on a white or light background. Also, even the fonts matter. Fonts with serifs (those curly things coming off the letters), like Times New Roman, are more difficult to read than sans serif fonts, like Arial or Tahoma.

Fortunately, I actually read the fine print and recognized the company who sent it, so I decided to allow the image to be downloaded. This was much better: a slickly produced ad, and a clear message to buy the car in the ad. Now I don't know about you, but I don't buy a new car every 2 months (sometimes, I wait 5 or 6 months before I buy a new car). So, this huge company makes a giant mistake when it comes to email marketing. They take all the email addresses they collect and dump them all into one bucket, and send the same message to everyone. In reality, they should have several buckets, or lists. They should have a bucket for people who bought a luxury car, people who bought an SUV, people who bought a sports car, and people who came in and didn’t buy anything. And they should send a different, targeted message to each list.

This is one of the huge advantages of email marketing, and it's where most traditional marketing is weak. Don't get me wrong, I love all forms of marketing: radio, print, television. But let's use television as an example. It's very expensive, so it must be fantastic, right? However, when it comes to television commercials, even if I had the budget, could I shoot 20 different spots and target them to different homes? Can they click and buy from the TV commercial? Do we know if they actually watched it? With email, we know what day and time they opened it. They can click and buy from it. Even better, they can forward the email to their friends. I’m not suggesting that you abandon all forms of marketing except email. I think marketing is most effective when it’s a mix. But to not include email in your bag of marketing tools is most likely a huge miss.

About the Author(s)

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Ron has developed a broad range of solutions for marketing professionals, small businesses, and nonprofit organizations; helping strengthen their customer and donor relationships.

Digital Marketing Expert & Speaker