Marketing Fail: When You Don't Know Your Audience...

I recently experienced an epic email marketing fail. When it happened, I sent the offending example to the entire PMG team and knew I had to write a post about it. I will share my experience here in the hopes of saving you from your own email marketing fail!

Somehow I managed to make it onto an email marketing list of a company I had never interacted with. I can't say this is terribly uncommon; it's likely you've experienced unsolicited email yourself at some point and you quickly unsubscribed. In this case, I had not been to their site to download anything, I did not subscribe to their newsletter, blog or any other form of content, and I had never met anyone from the company. In fact, I hadn't heard about this company before (nor the services they provide), but I didn’t unsubscribe right away because I was a tad curious about who they were, and I was actually meaning to check out their site.

One email comes in. Delete. A second email. Delete. The subject line of the third email I received actually caught my eye successfully because it referred to a topic I had just been discussing with a client. The email was set up to introduce the topic and then you had to click to read more. The moment I saw it, I forwarded it to the client and said “I have not had a chance to read the entire article, but the opening paragraph reminded me of the conversation we recently had and I thought you might find this valuable.”

Ok – so why the detail on these unsolicited emails? Because of what happened three days later! Now remember, I did not ask to be on this list, I did not interact with either of the two previous emails, all I did with this third email was forward it.

Here is what showed up in my inbox three days following that forward (click to zoom in)...

Marketing Fail Example Email

And here are all the things that are wrong with this:

  • I did not read the tip of the month. Maybe my email was marked as opened, but since I clicked on nothing, it was presumptive to assume I read the content. And I certainly did not read the full article on the sitea fact they should have known if they were tracking click-throughs.
  • This company was founded "to assist executives like me." Hmmm, where did this company get my name and how do they know I really meet their criteria? Executive is a very broad title, to say the least. Without any other reliable information about the email recipient, it's unsafe to assume they're legitimately part of the target audience segment.
  • Now here's where it gets really good. The sentence indicated they knew “me”, that they knew who they were talking to. However, this sender said he'd like to help me “with [our] marketing efforts” and that this company is "an outsource marketing department." UMMMM Precision Marketing Group is an outsourced marketing department! So essentially, we are direct competitors.

Unfortunately, a careless error like this one sends the wrong message.

They bought a list of “executives” they could “help,” but they did not vet that list for the members' industries to know they were emailing their own competition.

Plus, they sent an email assuming I had taken some actions I did not take.

So please, we beg you, know your audience. If you feel compelled to buy an email marketing list (there are so many reasons not to do that), at the very least be really clear what criteria you use to determine who to include in your database or a particular email marketing campaign. And if you're unsure of how to build an email marketing that's as effective as it could be, hire a professional! Just not the one that emailed me…

Want to learn more? PMG would love to help you! Feel free to contact us to discuss your email marketing goals or simply talk inbound marketing strategy.

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Susan LaPlante-Dube | PMG Principal
About the Author
Susan LaPlante-Dube, PMG Principal

Susan LaPlante-Dube created PMG in 2002 and acts as one of PMG’s Principals. As a jack-of-all-trades in marketing, she loves digging deep on a topic and finding new ways to spin old ideas. While she would prefer having some high-tech voice software to record all of her blog thoughts instead of having to write them down, she loves the satisfaction of helping her readers learn something new.