Digital MarketingEmail MarketingTop 10 Fears of Email Marketers

Top 10 Fears of Email Marketers

It's an arena fraught with peril -- and with so much possibility. What's keeping you from implementing killer email marketing programs?

I suspect that this article will be interpreted differently depending on what level email marketer you are. For example, are you new to marketing in this space? Or are you an expert?

If you’re a newbie, you’re probably not acquainted with the entire scope of problems and headaches that this medium can bring. However, the more I talk to people about their email marketing efforts, the more horror stories I hear.

In any case, this article will focus on how you, as a marketer, may perceive your email marketing challenges.

10. Fear of accountability

OK, everyone knows that this venue, because of its direct-response-oriented measurability, is highly accountable. Jackie’s article last week succinctly described several metrics for which you can be accountable. Let’s face it, if your campaigns are faltering, accounting for this type of information and data — and creating assumptions and hypotheticals — can be a rather daunting process. As John Wanamaker once said, “I know half of my advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half!” And I cannot think of a marketing medium that is more accountable than email marketing, can you? (Well, OK, maybe direct mail… specifically for acquisition efforts.)

9. Fear of change

One of our clients markets to its house list, which comprises thousands of business-to-consumer (B2C) names. For its first effort, which involved creative developed by our agency, the company decided to test the creative — from the client input stage to the communications brief stage through to the final files. The test performed better than we could have imagined. We achieved click-through rates as high as 57 percent for one of its lists, and the lowest click-though rate for that campaign was 42 percent. Not bad, eh?

The client also insisted on testing a second promotion — one that utilized the creative from its traditional agency. This offline branding creative was essentially turned into email creative. Whoa. Its click-throughs plummeted to the mid-teens for all of the lists.

What went wrong? Just like you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip, you can’t squeeze a decent direct response from a piece of creative that was not originally created to achieve it. Lesson learned: It’s best to trust your email marketing agency with your email marketing creative.

8. Fear of going to battle with your IT department

Getting what you need from your IT department members may be a challenge. In many cases, the IT folks may feel threatened. Often, they believe that the electronic space and all things related to it are really a part of their territory and any interference with it will usurp their power in the organization. Moreover, they are usually incredibly busy, and getting them to consider your company’s email efforts as a priority is not easy. This challenge can be difficult and frustrating.

7. Fear of customer service issues

Customer service is its very own channel and medium — one you must deal with. So once you’ve got your campaign planned, don’t forget to involve this department! One email marketer told me about deploying a campaign in which the customer service number was placed on the email… but the marketing team forgot to tell the customer service department. The campaign generated a flood of inquiries, and the customer service people were swamped — and hopping mad.

6. Fear of creative team issues

Hey, let’s face it. Email marketing creative is a completely new skill set. Most creative teams are, of course, comfortable with anything you throw their way — television, radio, print, direct mail, you name it. But these folks have been trained to understand and work with these different advertising mediums. I don’t know of too many creative directors — or anyone else on the creative team
— who like taking direction from the account management team (on the agency side) or the marketing department (on the client side). It’s probably in your best interest to either hire an email marketing agency to handle your email marketing creative or get relevant training, read up on the subject, and be prepared to brief your team internally.

5. Fear of data group issues

It can be a challenge and a half in many cases to add email marketing fields to your database so that they will have true value for future efforts. Even “simple” additions that involve storing and selecting email addresses and gaining permission can take years to finish. (That’s once everyone has decided how to structure and build those fields based on privacy policies and email usage.)

4. Fear of media buying issues

The whole process of planning and negotiating email acquisitions campaigns can be confusing and frustrating. That said, you’ve got list salespeople hounding you all the time. It’s hard to discern what’s fact and what’s fiction.

As one of my readers pointed out, the proliferation of names and how it’s affecting the business can be an article unto itself. It seems that because names are being bought, sold, swapped, overlaid, and harvested, we must be leery of so many. And the discounted lists — the really, really cheap ones — don’t they make you wonder why things are being discounted so deeply? Moreover, it appears that everyone has 40 million names now. And the cost-per-thousands (CPMs) range dramatically. How can you tell what’s going to work? Or what’s not? (Hint: You typically get what you pay for.)

Please note: There are certainly some excellent and reputable lists out there. All I’m saying is caveat emptor.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this — email me at

3. Fear of legal issues and such

Dealing with this area can send anyone screaming into the night. You’ve got to be cognizant and well versed in your company’s privacy policies, as well as in all of the legal requirements of your permission-based email marketing programs. It’s imperative that you honor the policies you stated to your customers.

2. Fear of keeping up with the Joneses

The world of email marketing is changing rapidly. It’s important that you keep up with what’s new and relevant in this space. Consider reading leading-edge publications on email marketing, including my colleague Kim MacPherson’s book, “Permission-Based E-Mail Marketing That Works!” and Hans Peter Brondmo’s, “The Engaged Customer: The New Rules of Internet Direct Marketing.”

1. Fear of success

My father always told me, do a job well the first time and you’ll be asked to do it again. Hey, once you’ve got that email marketing thing up and running, you’ll be asked to be the email marketing expert for your company! Isn’t that exciting?

Email me with your fears regarding email marketing. I’d love to hear them.

Take care, everyone, and have a fearless week!


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