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Lessons from an email marketing mistake

By June 30, 2015 September 27th, 2017 No Comments

 Yes, you heard it right.It flopped. Despite having above average open rates.What went wrong? The subject line, the content? Or the offer?

I’ll show you the 2 lessons and 3 important takeaways later in the article.

It’s a long article, but it’ll be worthwhile especially for business owner doing DIY marketing.


Prologue – Email campaign to remind prospect of a paid event:

1. The client has informed the prospects about the event (a conference) via an email a week before this campaign.

2. The conference is about the new opportunities and impact from the cooperation between economic communities in the neighbouring countries.

3. All info and pricing of the event have been provided. That includes the speakers and guest of honour.

4. The client intended to call all 300 names on the list to confirm participation after seeing a meagre response rate.

What was done:

The event took place on a Friday with Thursday being the closing date for registration.

The 3-email series was drafted, each linked by a common story and featuring a prominent benefit of joining this conference.

The first email was sent on Sunday. (You will be surprised that people read their email on a Sunday!) Followed by Tuesday and Wednesday.

The same full event info was also included.

The open rates


For the 3 emails, the open rate is between 33.3% and 43.1%

Based on the open rate, the campaign worked.

The open rate is higher than all the various industry (Event is at 21.53%)

source: http://mailchimp.com/resources/research/email-marketing-benchmarks/

With such open rates, we would expect some response right?

Unfortunately, there was a critical missing information that wasn’t brought up during the brief.

It was the first time they are hosting a paid event.

All the previous events were free!

This is only revealed halfway through the campaign… ouch.


Lesson 1: Dig deeper. Sometimes, some info is thought to be unimportant when it’s crucial!

If I had dug a little deeper and knew that it was the very first paid conference, the content would be written very differently.

So is the Call-To-Action that leads to the landing page.

I won’t even advice to have all the event details in the email.

Lesson 2: Don’t sell to the wrong crowd

After scanning through the list, post-campaign, it seems that most of them are not the intended prospects.

Many are employees and even lecturers.

We would expect business owners and C Level suites for such a conference.

In short, the list is not the right fit for the conference.

It’s like sending info about Tesla Model S, the best electric sedan around, to a list of non-drivers. Irrelevant.

Take Away

What could have been done?

1. Solicit interest

The best practice is to advertise online or even in relevant portals to get an interested party to join the list first.

2. Some lead time to gear up the interest

At least a 2-week run-up to the event via email. Drip information for nurturing the prospects over the week leading to the invite.

After which they would be more ready to take the offer.

We are talking about at least 8 emails: 4 teasers with intro of speakers, the benefits and exclusive information, followed by 4 emails each speaking to different kinds of person (e.g. a message for procrastinators and analytical minds are very different)

3. Ask the list what they want

Unless you have a significant and relevant list, any hit rate would be God sent.

What does the list want? How and why did they join the list in the first place?

Typically the take-up rate for email to a well-nurtured and relevant list is above 20%.

If not, either the offer is not attractive enough and/or we are speaking to the wrong crowd.

I hope you have picked up at least one take away from today’s article.

Have you faced something like this too? Feel free drop me a line here.

Nothing beats spending the time and money to prepare and send email to an uninterested list. It’s painful.

Everything is Possible!
Kok Wai

p.s. The above challenge was taken up to prove that email marketing works better than cold calling as a follow-up. It was a pure commission based project.

So, unfortunately, I didn’t earn anything.

Earn a couple of lessons though.

Kok Wai

Author Kok Wai

Kok Wai is a content producing marketer, media trainer at Kelvin Sng Productions, a dad of two and photography contributor to multiple magazines. A sponsor of B60 Charity Run 2017, Kok Wai's goal is to help busy and ambitious business owner focus on running their business even with their limited time and lack of marketing know-how. He especially loves kids, playing the guitar, and exploring with software. You'll find him pondering on the exhilaration of securing two more good clients on a retainer basis. Connect with him on Facebook (thePF)

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