Election ’08: The candidates’ e-mail errors

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B-to-b marketers aren’t the only ones who make mistakes with their e-mail efforts. We spoke to Jordan Ayan, CEO of e-mail service provider SubscriberMail, about the e-mail marketing mistakes that both major party presidential candidates this year are making—and what you can learn from them.

1) The mistake: Signup snafus.
“Both candidates’ Web sites have issues with signup,” Ayan said. “Obama takes you to a landing page where you can make a donation. If you don’t make a donation, you’re stuck on the page. McCain’s signup has a lot of things you can do, but so many that it’s easy to get lost.”

Your lesson: E-mail signup links should be prominent and included on every page of your Web site—not just the home page—because many of your prospects are probably coming in via search. Once visitors sign up, they should be taken to a landing page that shows a sample of what they’ll get as a subscriber as well as significant company links, contact information and a clear opt-out link, Ayan said.

2) The mistake: No virtual welcome mat.
If you sign up for either McCain’s or Obama’s list, you may end up waiting several days before you hear from either candidate, Ayan said.

Your lesson: As soon as someone enters his or her e-mail address into your form, take advantage of that opportunity. You should send a message within minutes of the initial signup with a description of what recipients can expect, how they can white list your e-mails and something of added value to thank them for signing up.

“You want to give someone a good feeling for signing up for your list,” he said. “[Offer] a white paper, a free sample, a free download. It should be something that is not offered elsewhere on your Web site—a lagniappe, which is a New Orleans French word for a little something extra.”

3) The mistake: Irrelevant messages.
The candidates’ marketing gurus might think they are doing something right by collecting only a small amount of data at signup, but they actually aren’t doing enough, Ayan said. This means they can’t do any personalization, and messages are too generic. “Candidates are dealing with issues that could create a lot of relevance in e-mail messages, but both are just blasting messages out to people,” he said.

Your lesson: Make sure you’re not sending out e-mails just because they are on the schedule. Messages should contain information that recipients can use as well as a clear call to action.

4) The mistake: Jump-through-hoops unsubscribes.
“If you go to the Democratic site, the site is actually doing something illegal in the eyes of CAN-Spam,” Ayan said. “If you want to unsubscribe, you are taken to a page that asks you to confirm your unsubscription by entering a four-digit code.”

Your lesson: Aside from legalities—CAN-Spam compliance requires a one-click unsubscribe—you’re doing your brand and your company a disservice by keeping customers and prospects hostages on your list, Ayan said. “You want to make it as easy as possible for people to get off your list because that’s what’s going to keep your list intact.”

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