Email: Avoiding Marketing Mistakes

Save yourself some time and check out these tips. Avoiding marketing mistakes in your e-mail marketing program will save you time, improve your delivery rate and enable you to actually make logical and progressive changes.

Today a friend, with whom I work on a website, forwarded me 42 e-mails to add to our newsletter autoresponder.  He’d been sending them out one by one from his e-mail address, and that’s been working very well.

But the autoresponder takes him out of the mix. It allows him to concentrate on other things while his e-mail campaign works on autopilot for him.

Another good thing about e-mail marketing, in general,  is the ability to learn what your customer’s really want.  That’s really a vital part of the purpose of e-mail marketing – the autoresponder just makes it easy to keep going without getting tired of sending out e-mails yourself.

Finding out what people want is easy, if they click on it, it was interesting to them. Imagine a furniture store that sends an e-mail with a kids couch/desk combo link and a decorative botanicals link.  Imagine how useful it would be to automatically put those customers into two separate piles based on which one interested them? That would make it easy to send even more relevant e-mails, wouldn’t it?

Avoiding Marketing Mistakes in your email

Well, that’s the power of a good e-mail marketing program, but not what I learned loading up 42 e-mails. The service we use has a “spam” meter that tells you what level of spaminess your e-mail will trigger when sent out. Too spammy and you know it will likely be filtered out or end up in the junk e-mail folder.

So I loaded up all 42 and got to see the spam number on each, as a whole. I was amazed at the number of them that got “Super Spam” written all over them.  So I carefully went through the body copy and headlines changing little things (the list below) in each until they were all in good shape.

If you can avoid making these mistakes, your e-mail is going to fly through the filters and make it to your customers’ inbox:

In the Subject Line. .

  • Don’t use dashes or hyphens
  • Also, make sure not to use the word “Don’t”
  • Delete all punctuation except commas. And skip using quotes as in: Check out this “tasty” treat
  • Avoid the use of the ellipsis. That’s the thing that looks like this . . .
  • Avoid the use of the phrase “is going to be about”
  • Capitalize the first word, but not any other words. If you can avoid using proper nouns, that will be easier.

In the body of the e-mail

  • Make sure your e-mail has at least 3 sentences, and a link at the bottom that takes the person to the website the e-mail comes from. For example, if you send the e-mail as, put a link at the bottom to
  • If you’re given the option, choose to send the e-mail as html, but also check the box to allow the e-mail to be sent as text if the subscriber doesn’t accept html e-mails.
  • Finally and most importantly, follow all the Can-Spam Act rules enacted by Congress. They carry steep fines if you’re not following the rules. If you want to know the rules, you can get a copy here at Joe Marsh’s site.

That should do it. If I’ve missed something or if you’ve learned something we should add to this, leave everyone a note below.

Marketing Mistake: Indianapolis Zoo Prices

I recently wrote about how the airlines are very close to charging you more just to sit down – which I thought was ridiculous. But then I went and saw that the Indianapolis Zoo has similar logic to their policy.

It wasn’t the Indianapolis Zoo prices that prompted this post, it was the feeling I had when I left that made me wonder if they understand the value of integrating price changes with value changes. When word-of-mouth is crucial to your operation’s success, problems like these turn into a major marketing mistake.

Companies raise prices for a variety of reasons, the worst of which is when it seems arbitrary. Gas stations raise and lower prices daily in accordance with the economics of that commodity. Retailers will often raise prices as a pass-through of shipping and transportation increases. But the real winners are the companies that raise prices because they ultimately raise value.

That brings me to the Indianapolis Zoo prices. I recently attended the zoo, the day after they raised prices for the summer. In fact, the price went from $8.50 to $15.50. That price change shows up on their website and in their pamphlets as the summer price increase – which you clearly know months in advance. There’s nothing in their literature about the extra value they’re providing because of the summer change.

Unfortunately, the marketing squad and the operations department must not have been communicating. For this seasonal price change to make sense, there must surely be new stuff to see and do. I was OK with the raised prices until I came upon a bunch of exhibits that weren’t yet open, bathrooms that weren’t open, water fountains that weren’t usable and their brand new Warthog exhibit without . . . warthogs.

In their defense I’ll say they did open a bat exhibit, which was a small 8 x 12 pen where 6 bats were hanging. And they also opened an Orchid exhibit. Not too shabby, eh? Well it appears the bats were placed in an existing cage that once held some other animal – and the Orchid exhibit. . . it wasn’t in the zoo. It was outside and was free to all who ventured to see it.

As I spoke about in my post Adding Value with Giant Marshmallows, you should not feel you’re earned the right to raise prices – unless you know customers will appreciate the added value to their experience.

So I left the Indianapolis Zoo feeling jipped.  I got to pay double what yesterday’s crowd had to pay – yet the experience was just the same. What is the likelihood that future exhibits will garner my attention?

My question to you, to answer below, is are you looking at your company from your customer’s eyes? Are you judging the value of their experience from a cost perspective? from a user experience perspective? And are you taking into account the perceived value you must be providing when you raise prices? Start the discussion with your thoughts below.

Marketing Plan Mistakes – A Hallmark Case Study

Sometimes I’m surprised that big companies like Hallmark can make huge marketing plan mistakes. But I was flabbergasted that Hallmark really blew a huge opportunity the other night during their broadcast of the November Christmas movie.

I’m a sap, I must say and heard my wife ask no fewer than 3 times if it was OK to watch the movie. She knew I’d get teary-eyed 10 – 15 times and I knew it, too. Those Hallmark movies are good for that. But Hallmark goes above and beyond these days, they buy almost all the ad time and fill it with sappy commercials too. Continue reading “Marketing Plan Mistakes – A Hallmark Case Study”

Mistakes of search engine marketing

Typically I reserve this SEO case study information for my Dan’s Notes, but I thought I’d turn it into today’s blog post. Mistakes of search engine marketing attempts will certainly lead to no traffic. So here’s some tips to help you for sure.

I met with a group who needed marketing help this week, but they said they didn’t need SEO help – they needed Social Media help. That sounded fun, but after meeting with them, I realized they needed something I don’t do.

They needed someone to start and manage their social media. I don’t think any company should have an outsider speaking for them in the social media sphere so I can help them with the structure, design and strategy but they’ll have to do the social media interactions on their own .

I did send them some tips about their website SEO though, and thought I’d include them here.


I stumbled around the site for a category page to see how it was optimized. This was the url of that page: (I changed the site name so that link shouldn’t work).

Category pages are great pages to optimize for the search engines  because they see new content when anything new is added to that category.  However, their page wasn’t optimized for anything so let’s take a look at some things you could do.

Let’s start with their URL ( Their site is about Gourmet Foods so the keyword Gourmet Foods should be in the url. Try something like or


Secondly, the title tag (the words you see at the very top of the computer screen) reads: Gourmet Foods, by Holydoly – Your Source For Luxury Shops Online

Other than Gourmet Foods, none of those other terms are relevant to that category page. The title tag bar is more useful to search engines than buyers, so optimize it for the organic searchers. One of the mistakes of search engine marketing is to ignore how people search and assume you know what’s best.

And unfortunately, Gourmet Food and Gourmet Foods are really too difficult to compete in with a retail site. The other problem with the term Gourmet Foods is that it is a really broad term. Buyers start searching with wide terms and then narrow the search the closer they are to buying. Gourmet Foods is that “first search”.

Better, more targeted and easier to dominate keywords would include:

  • Gourmet food stores
  • Gourmet food retailers
  • Gourmet food gift basket(s)
  • Gourmet food online

These are the terms I’d focus on for this page. I’d then change the title tag to something like:

Gourmet Food Gift Basket | Gourmet Food Stores Online (you don’t need the name of your company in the title tag on a category page)


Now this is going to be a bit more advanced, but it is important. You really want to rank in the search engines for all four of those terms. So when you link to your site from other sites, use those terms as the text that links back. We call that anchor text.

[stextbox id=”info”]The words SEO Tips in this sentence are the anchor text links that lead back to this page.[/stextbox]

One other thing, they don’t have any meaningful text on the page, just pictures of the products they’re selling. If you add a description on the page at the top, you’ll be able to use your keywords on the page. And a description can help build a story and pre-sell these items. I’d suggest having between 350 – 500 words per page – even if that means the text is scattered amongst the photos.


Images need to be optimized. I right-clicked on a photo on the site and pressed “view photo”. The url at the top said:

If you found that photo on their computer, it has the name HomePagePhotoRetouched.jpg, but the photo itself was of gourmet wine. They need go back to the photo on their computer and rename it gourmet-foods-wine-online.jpg or something like that – and then upload that to their website. (there probably are better gourmet wine keywords than that).

Other than some additional information about the internal linking structure of their site, that’s pretty much what we discussed. If you can think of some other general SEO tips to look for onpage, leave a comment. Otherwise, sign up for Dan’s Notes (below) and read more about our meetings.

Marketing Strategy Mistakes

Most businesses don’t consider empty tables as marketing strategy mistakes. But with good tracking of your peak hours, a marketing plan can be developed to take advantage of the slow times. For some businesses this lack of marketing strategy can leave them in dust when the unexpected happens.

I used to manage the Stadium View Club Restaurant in Omaha, NE atop Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series. We had a pretty good business on game nights, and with the game schedule known in advance it was pretty easy to schedule the work.

The only problem that cropped up did so when it rained. Hard driving rain early in the day meant a called off game and likely a double-header the next night. No patrons – No money. And without tips, higher server turnover. If the rain started late in the game, we’d get hundreds of people from the stands coming up to wait out the rain in the restaurant. When that happened we were suddenly under-staffed, out manned and sometimes without enough food. Rain was a problem.  Patrons got angry and again, small tips for the waiters.

Bowling alleys do not fear the rain. For the most part rain doesn’t change the numbers. But rodeos, football games and school events do. When something big is happening in town on a Friday night, bowling alleys are libraries. Office clean-up, shoe shining and carpet cleaning are the only things that get done. Since Friday night is the money maker, empty lanes kill profitability.

And we all know about road widening. There’s a coffee shop in my town that’s about to go out of business because the road widening project has taken a lot longer than expected and has made it frustratingly hard to get in and out of the coffee shop. When you rely on drive-by traffic as your marketing strategy, road widening is a death-knell.

The Cure to Marketing Strategy Mistakes

But rodeos, road widening and rain don’t have to be business killers. We’ve said it many times before “hope is not a marketing plan”. In all three of those examples, the only traffic that comes in is the kind you hope for. And in some cases the traffic pattern becomes so regular that you even stop hoping. You just drone on.

Instead of relying on hope, implement some of the many strategies we talk about here. Collect names and e-mail addresses so you can keep in contact with your customers. Give them reasons to come in. Have contests, specials and promotions on slow nights so you no longer have to settle for low profitability.

With e-mail address bowling alleys can reach customers when they hear school has been called off due to snow. With text messaging, coffee shops can send out special discounts on the days that construction has made it the hardest. And the stadium restaurant should clearly e-mail their clientele to let them know that parking for the restaurant will be really easy since the game was called due to rain.

Your business can be run better if you currently rely on hope. And you don’t have to spend money on marketing to get new customers. Start by thanking and giving to your existing customers. Give them a reason to be happy you’re there for them. Whether it’s entertainment, information or products – you can always be helping to improve the lives of your customers.

Hope is not a marketing plan.

Be proactive. Get my weekly notes and start implementing some new strategies today.

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Normal Marketing Mistake: Pricing

Why does it seem like our “preferences” are being used against us? I just read that airlines are now charging an extra fee to sit in a window or aisle seat. US Airways is charging between $5 and $30 for this service. From an economic standpoint, I guess it narrows down who really wants to sit in those seats – but does it also narrow down the passengers who even want to fly?

Why does it seem like our “preferences” are being used against us? Like taxes pricing is often used to help people make choices, but it’s also a normal marketing mistake companies make.

customer service
Are they really charging more for this?

I just read that airlines are now charging an extra fee to sit in a window or aisle seat. US Airways is charging between $5 and $30 for this service. From an economic standpoint, I guess it narrows down who really wants to sit in those seats – but does it also narrow down the passengers who even want to fly? Continue reading “Normal Marketing Mistake: Pricing”

Marketing Mistakes: conversion rate blinders

I approached an affiliate network this week to see if I could place some banner ads on my sites for a couple products I thought were cool. And the response I got was “let us review your sites and see if there is a match”.

I thought that was odd. Well, once I totally over-thought it, that’s when I decided it was odd.

The upside for them: It doesn’t cost them anything to e-mail me the url so I can download a banner ad. It doesn’t cost them anything if 1 million people visit my site and no one clicks the ad. And it doesn’t cost them anything if no one visits the site and no one clicks the ad. Therefore the upside is potential sales, actual sales and exposure. If it takes 7 impressions before you buy I could be one of those.

The downside for them: If 1,000,000 people click the ad and no one buys, their conversion rate looks really bad. (see related posts to see the truth behind conversion rates). If they put their ads on porn sites, their reputation may suffer. If they allow everyone to put banner ads on their sites and 95% sell 1 unit, that’s a lot of paperwork to deal with. Legitimate concerns? I’d say so.

But after totally over-thinking it, I believe they’re trying to protect their conversion rate. Oddly enough the conversion rate tells you so little that it really means nothing. A conversion rate that is too low means you’re fishing with too wide a net, driving the wrong kind of traffic or a poorly worded ad. Or finally does it mean that your site isn’t converting good prospects into paying customers? The only way you learn those answers is to get lots of traffic and test new things.

And that brought me to these questions. She didn’t ask a single question about what visitors to my sites have bought before or what is their demographic makeup. Nor was she curious as to the size of my e-mail marketing database – or the response rate I get when I e-mail information to my database.

Which leads me to believe that they’re interested in ads that are similar in content to the websites themselves. For example, they’d be happy to promote an Oprah book on an Oprah site. Unfortunately, it’s often the traffic itself that drives sales. A site about Kite Flying that is heavily viewed by people over 50 may do well with Enzyte ads – but that has nothing to do with kites.

So here are two potential marketing mistakes you could find yourself making. I’m not saying the affiliate company I contacted was making a mistake – you’ve got to run business as you see fit. But if you’re motivated by either of these wrongs, you may be missing out on income.

Don’t limit yourself to products and services that are similar to yours. If you’re a home builder – feel free to send your audience a coupon for tax planning at H&R Block. Homeowners and taxes go together. And stop worrying about your overall conversion rate. Look at it as a function of source – not as a function of performance.

How Twitter and Obama Got Hacked


Both Obama’s Twitter account and Twitter itself got hacked into. Can you believe that? Well I read a great article on how the hacker did it.

This will amaze, but hopefully will inspire you to take action, too.

The hacker’s name is “Hacker Croll”. He’s a 20-something Frenchmen who breaks into corporate and personal accounts in his spare time. Hackers likeCroll are incredibly diligent and patient, as you’ll see here.

Hacker Croll shamelessly publishes the methods by which he gains access to accounts, and to start with he utilizes an entire network of sites to gain enough information to break into the target. He starts by building a database of information about the company and its employees. He keeps track of any information he can get his hands on, even the employees’ pets names.

As you continue to read this, keep Nicole Dean’s e-Book”How To Avoid Disaster” in the back of your mind. Can you really afford to be without it?

Hacker Croll knew that he probably only needed a single point-of-entry into any one of the business or personal accounts in his list. Since most sites are set-up so that users log-in with an e-mail address and password, once he got one – he likely could break into many. Why?

Because people generally use the same information for each site.  Imagine if someone hacked into your e-mail account? Could they not go to any site on the web and press the “I forgot my username” button? Or the “I forgot my password button”. It is precisely this system that allows hackers like Hacker Croll to break your simple Hotmail password in order to break into your bank account.

Going back to Twitter, Croll knew that he only needed to find the weakest employee password to get into the network. Companies that allow their employees to come up with their own passwords are in jeopardy for precisely this reason. Unfortunately for Twitter, Croll found such an employee and was able to crack his Gmail account.

If you’re a business owner, you should know that because of human habits, someone could break into your server just by learning the password of an employee’s personal blog, or e-mail service or twitter account.

From there, Croll mines the Gmail account information for more information about other sites the user is registered at. He quickly found that the employee used the same password at many sites. And in the case of “secret question” websites, he found it even easier to break in. Imagine trying to break into an account where there are a billion possible passwords, and then get help from the secret question as it narrows the options down to “pet names”.

From this point Croll had access to all the employees email attachments, business notes, and important information.  That led him to quickly taking over the accounts of the founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone.  Croll then got control of their AT&T, Amazon, iTunes and MobileMe accounts.

He got access to over 300 business documents which he sent directly to the media to proved he’d broken in. In this case he didn’t steal the secrets or hurt anybody. He did what he wanted to do – expose weakness. He even sent them a note that said “better fix your holes, or someone malicious will break in next time.”

Regina Smola, of WordPress Security Lock, and I are putting on an internet security seminar March 31st. We’re going to be teaching you everything you need to know about keeping your WordPress blog and Twitter account safe and secure. And how to recover from problems should they occur. If someone hacking into your accounts will put you at risk, you and your employees need to join us!

Take Action today. Go to – This is one problem where waiting could be too late.