Anatomy of a Poorly Executed Email Campaign

By Jason Thompson, co-founder, 33 Sticks
I recently received an email from a large analytics vendor introducing a new virtual training series. The topic of virtual training being one that is very interesting to me, I actually opened the email rather than sending it directly to the trash, which I typically do with most marketing emails.
While the email campaign may have been poorly executed (and not a good representation of the type of work the vendor does) it does serve as a good teaching opportunity.

The Email

Designing an email campaign that has high open rates is extremely difficult, so focus on a well crafted content and user flow is critical.
Email Campaign
#1 – Main CTA Not Clickable
The Problem: Upon opening the email, the first thing my eye jumped to was the early bird special offering 25% off. It was bold, it was red, it was offering me something, so I wanted to click on it but I couldn’t.
The Solution: Convincing consumers to open an email from a bulk marketing campaign is hard enough, the last thing you want to do is to make it difficult for them to hunt down the action you want them to take. Low open rates, combined with a poorly designed call-to-action (CTA), will most always result in extremely low conversion rates. In this campaign, the desire is to get the consumer to utilize the 25% discount to sign up for this new service, so why not make the offer easily visible and clickable?
#2 – Offer Not Clickable
The Problem: So the 25% off CTA is not clickable, at least there is a secondary call to action directly below the offer AND it provides me a method to take advantage of the offer. Yet, once again, the offer is not clickable and if I want to take advantage of this offer, I need to copy and paste the discount provided — assuming I actually find the CTA that takes me to some place where I can make a purchase.
The Solution: Providing a method to easily take advantage of an offer like providing a discount code, is a great way of removing friction points in the conversion funnel. In this example, I would make this offer not only clickable but I would ensure that the discount code follows the consumer to the ultimate landing page and is pre-populated for them in the appropriate discount code field. Any time we can remove friction points and manual steps from the process, conversion rates will go up.
#3 – Actionable CTA is Buried
The Problem: Not only is the only CTA that is clickable buried deep in the email, it presents a very soft sell that is disconnected from the overall tone of the email. I’m being sold on this new service offering that solves my problem of wanting to learn more but having limited time and flexibility makes that difficult. I’m even given a nice discount to purchase now, yet the CTA on the page is a passive-aggressive ‘learn more’ which says “hey, this is a good service, we will even give you a discount but, I don’t know, maybe, you don’t need to buy, maybe just read some more about what we are offering?”

The Solution: Make your CTA clear and prominent. In this example, combining the bold 25% off banner and the discount code into a single, clickable, banner will increase clicks to the landing page exponentially. And while secondary CTAs are not necessarily a bad thing, in this example I would A|B test the use of the ‘Learn More’ CTA to understand how it impacts overall conversion rates.

The Landing Page

Landing Page
We have already established that getting consumers to open a marketing email is extremely difficult (depending on which source you believe, 5% open rates are extremely sought after), so it is critical that you hand-hold those precious few that open your email down the path you intend for them to take.
If you have done a good job at delivering your message and you have provided a clear path for the consumer to take action, it comes down to a well designed campaign landing page to convert the consumer into a purchaser.
#1 – Product Not Offered
The Problem: On-site training? Your email spoke to me, I have very limited time and a virtual training product would solve so many of my problems, yet I’m being told the product I was pitched is unavailable. Not only is the product that I was marketed not available for purchase, but I’m being pitched a product that is the opposite of what I need right now.
The Solution: Executing any type of marketing campaign is costly so the absolute worst thing you can do is connivence a consumer to purchase a product and then inform them that it’s actually not available. Before pushing the launch button on any campaign, someone in your organization has to have the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that all the plumbing and wiring is in place. A campaign should never be launched before the end-to-end experience has been throughly validated.
#2 – Too Much Text
The Problem: A secondary issue with this landing page is the overall text heavy nature of the design. As with the email component of the marketing campaign, your goal is to reduce friction points to purchase. There is so much text on this landing page that a potential customer has a high probably of getting lost in the weeds.
The Solution: To increase the probability of conversion, take the time to design a clean and focused landing page that leads a consumer down a path to purchase. In this example, that path was blocked immediately due to product availability but assuming the product was available for purchase, getting a consumer down that path would still be very difficult given the overall design, and text heavy nature, of the page.