Avoid email marketing pitfalls

Wayne Williams
Posted on November 7, 2012

As you can see from my picture in the article, I have a gray goatee. I am consistently asked what kind of Harley I ride. Occasionally, people make a comment to me such as, “I wouldn’t want to make you mad.” I think the bald head, the gray goatee, the sunglasses; they are all often misinterpreted. From time to time though, while at a restaurant or buying a movie ticket, I get offered the senior citizen discount. I never turn it down; it makes me feel special. We all like to feel special.

I’ve noticed that several restaurants near my home have started new programs. My wife, who loves a special offer, has signed us up to receive their email offers. What I have noticed is several of these offers really are special. The core of these program/promotions is simple email marketing. By filling out a few enrollment questions online, we are able to take advantage of some real offers, and the restaurant is enjoying repeat business; a win-win. At one restaurant, my wife enrolled online via her smartphone while we were waiting for our food, and we saved 15%.

I bring this to your attention because each program is thoughtfully done and well executed, and it makes customers feel special. What tire and auto repair outlet doesn’t need or want more frequent visits from their special customers?

Studies have shown that today’s customers are less loyal and, therefore, susceptible to being lured away from one tire-and-service outlet to another.

Email marketing is very personal

Email marketing is personal and requires thoughtful execution. Asking a customer for their email address without good reason or an obvious advantage is dangerous; this is a human being, a customer after all, and most will not simply surrender their email address upon request. They may do so only because you asked, but will still have some reservations after having given it to you. Offer something in exchange for the information: A discount, a future discount, a free oil change on their birthday, something.

Many retailers in our industry lack even the most basic marketing skills and do not put a priority on this. I’ve heard scores of tire dealers tell me they are gathering email addresses, but are not really using the information. Then why gather addresses?

Stop blasting: Simply because you have the email address is no reason to blast your customer with endless, meaningless offers. Again, email is personal, and email offers should be more personal. I receive dozens of emails every month from a wide variety of businesses. I receive emails from Nissan, Porsche, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Lowe’s, Home Depot and many others because I’m looking to see how these retailers are staying in touch with their customers. Some of the messages are beautiful, helpful, informational and interesting. You might say, “Wayne, you have too much time on your hands.” Quite the contrary. I’m always looking for ideas for my clients, and some of the very best emails come straight to my home computer for me to view and make quick decisions: trash, keep or forward.

Make sure your email is well-written, inviting and includes an offer your customers will appreciate.
Make sure your email is well-written, inviting and includes an offer your customers will appreciate.

Stop dumping: I receive reminder cards from a variety of automotive service outlets. Is the goal to put a full-page ad on a screen the size of a 3x5 card? My mailbox is loaded with monthly flyers from several auto retailers associated with major tire manufacturers. The flyers look like ransom notes; they are ridiculous. One flyer I received didn’t even have a tire offer on the front; it had free tickets to a water slide, a children’s amusement park over 75 miles from my home, and a rebate offer if I signed up for a credit card with over 20% interest. I couldn’t find a tire or the retailer’s name without careful inspection.

Last Saturday my wife and I were paying bills in our home office; she pays the personal, and I pay the business. As we were finishing, she received an email from Souplantation, a local restaurant, inviting us to come savor their new fall specials. She hit print, I grabbed the keys, and away we went.

A skillfully executed email program is a key component in any marketing effort, and well-written, inviting, customer-friendly content is essential. Email marketing is an important part of the sales process. It’s affordable and effective, but it requires some time and attention. You must not simply set it and forget it.

Stop blasting inboxes! Stop dumping mailboxes! Junk mail, either email or snail mail, is just that, junk.

Make it personal. Make it special. Most of your customers think they are pretty special. Treat ’em accordingly. ■

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at

Check out more of Williams' articles:

Selling is a contact sport

The certainty of uncertainty

I love tigers

Related Topics: Counter Intelligence, email, email marketing, Wayne Williams

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