Looking back: The top 5 mistakes of 2009

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As a philosopher once said, those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Looking back at 2009, marketers made many mistakes. Some made more than others, of course, but there are five mistakes that were common enough that they need to be discussed, said Al DiGuido, CEO of interactive marketing agency Zeta Interactive. Here’s what you need to know to avoid ending 2010 the same way many marketers will end this year.

Mistake # 1: Serving all customers and prospects the same content. “Marketers are still going the plain vanilla route, not doing the messaging they could be if they were using better segmentation and more relevant content,” DiGuido said. If you’re not talking to someone with their interests in mind, they are going to move on to another supplier, he said.

Mistake #2: Not cultivating dialogs. E-mail newsletters as well as regular marketing communications should change based on where recipients are in the buying lifecycle. “Use your last e-mail combined with your prospects’ responses to shape the next e-mail, the next question,” DiGuido said. Your online communication should be an extension of your offline communications. Don’t treat a customer the same way on Day 45 as you did on Day 1.

Mistake #3: Failing to integrate your various marketing efforts. “We’re out there and see this all the time,” DiGuido said. “Companies have a search person and an analytics person and an e-mail person, and those people barely talk to each other.” DiGuido suggests creating a position—“head of optimization”--dedicated to looking at the overall marketing spend and taking the time to bring all of the disparate internal marketing people together. “You need overlap, and you need synergies. Everyone keeps talking about an economic rebound in 2010, but no matter what, you’re still going to need to optimize that marketing dollar and get maximum bang for the buck.”

Mistake # 4: Ignoring design standards. “The e-mail template is not a freeform template; there are rules and standards in which things are done,” DiGuido said. “People still make mistakes when using graphics and images.” DiGuido suggests sticking to industry standards--keeping images small; using standard colors, fonts and text placement; and including a plain text version for those reading your message on a mobile device.

Mistake # 5: Getting too flashy with language and subject lines. This is the season for bold subject lines, even in the b-to-b world. “We see exclamation points, wording such as ‘Free shipping,’ or ‘20% off.’ It’s a mad dash to get your message in front of people, but increasingly these are the things that land your message in a spam trap,” he said. “You need to forget about flash and use your customers’ past behavior to write your subject line and messaging.”

Consider subject lines that allude to past purchases, current products used or recent customer service activities, he said. “If I am someone who has purchased a product from you, you need to leverage that in the subject line. You’re competing with other messages in the in-box, so by setting your message apart, you’re going to gain an advantage.”

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