Are some common mistakes turning your global email marketing into a world-class mess?

A recent survey by a Waltham, Mass.-based Lionbridge Technologies of more than 570 people from 25 countries found many global email marketing efforts are falling flat. The reason: companies aren’t tailoring their messages for the unique global audiences they are trying to attract, don’t use a mobile-friendly format and are clinging to antiquated tracking methods.

Some may even be running afoul of local opt-in or privacy laws.

A World of Differences

Clint Poole, vice president of marketing for Lionbridge, said the survey results reveal a number of weak spots in global marketing efforts and it’s time for companies to make changes to bolster their efforts. Below are five common mistakes and some tips to get your organization on the right track.

Mistake No. 1: Sending e-mails that potential customers can’t even read on their mobile devices.

“Despite the fact that mobile devices have become the preferred device for reading email, only 42.3 percent of respondents are using responsive design to ensure that email is functional on mobile,” he said. This is a big blunder considering mobile devices, combined with greater internet access, are likely to make email marketing into a $6.5 billion market by 2018, according to Lionbridge.

Fix this problem by adding someone with responsive design skills to your team, whether a full-time digital designer or external agency/contractor, said Poole.

You’ll also need to choose a responsive design technique. Select the style that works best with your current email platforms, he said. “The major challenge is there is no one-size-fits-all solution for designing for mobile. Email platforms, mail servers, design elements and other factors will require you to constantly test and reconfigure your approach,” said Poole.

Mistake No. 2: Disregarding local privacy and opt-in e-mail laws

“Privacy and opt-in email laws continue to become more stringent, a trend that will only continue as illustrated by Canada’s recent anti-spam legislation (CASL),” said Poole.

The survey results show that global marketers aren’t ready to comply. “For example, 45.2 percent of survey respondents place no restrictions on the frequency of global email campaigns."

Make compliance a critical function at your organization. “Constantly monitor changing regulations and ensure your Marketing Operations implement workflows that accommodate regulations based on region,” said Poole. Adopt strong opt-in policies and avoid “batch and blast” predictive segmentation approaches, he added.

Also consider creating a subscription center, which allows customers to choose the type of communications you send them, said Pole. Make sure the “must haves” are included such as a clear opt-out or unsubscribe option, the full name of the company in legal form and a contact address.

Mistake No. 3: Failing to communicate between departments

“The study found that in many organizations, multiple departments are blasting emails to the same list based on their own schedules and objectives,” said Ann Breckenkamp, product manager at CommandIQ, a technology company that helps B2C marketers leverage behavioral data to communicate more effectively with their customers. “It's no wonder so many companies are having a hard time managing the frequency that emails are sent to their customers if there's not a master record of what's being sent to begin with.”

The best solution is to improve coordination across departments. Technology can’t solve this problem alone, but the right solution might make it easier for departments to collaborate. “Implementing a single software platform to manage all customer communications drastically improves transparency for what is being sent by different departments,” she said.

Mistake No. 4: Sticking to old-fashioned tracking methods

The Lionbridge survey found 74 percent of marketers judge the success of a campaign only on open rates and are basically are ignoring the advanced tracking capabilities of most email marketing systems.

“Tracking email ROI needs to extend beyond opens and clicks, although these are insightful metrics for understanding why a campaign may or may not be producing desired results, they alone do not represent performance,” said Breckenkamp.

Learning Opportunities

Getting a more accurate picture of customer behavior requires tracking all recipients across channels. “For example, knowing that Person X received an email featuring a specific product on Thursday at 10 a.m. and then purchased the same product on Friday via the mobile app,” said Breckenkamp. “Of course this is dependent on being able to identify someone as the same person across channels.”

It’s a best practice to establish a control group that didn’t get the message to compare against the behavior of message recipients, she said. “This is another area where we see a lot of companies struggling; if control group functionality isn't built right into their marketing automation solution, it is a very manual process to manage that often gets neglected.”

Mistake No. 5: Ignoring language and cultural differences in marketing

You can’t attract new customers if you don’t speak their language and your message doesn’t resonate with their unique cultural experiences.

“Marketers need to understand the complexities of each market and take a tiered approach to localizing content,” said Poole. A transcreation solution is best if you’re looking to preserve your message’s creation and emotional intent.“ For product, customer service and technical content, straight translation can effectively replicate the message,” he said.

Recognize that visual images can fail to translate across cultures, so always audit what you’re sending for cultural relevance.

“Nearly 75 percent of respondents say that they do not maintain a list of regional preferences, instead managing localization on an ongoing basis,” said Poole. Instead, create a set of regional preferences that you can replicate to improve the localization process quickly and easily.

“For this level of personalization, companies need to have an automated way to determine which versions of copy, images, calls to action, links, etc. to insert into an email based on geography/location attributes of the recipient,” said Breckenkamp. Without an automated solution, it’s an enormous challenge to get the right message to people in various regions of the world.

Picture This

By taking steps to organize and strategize your global email marketing efforts you’ll have a better chance of delivering a more powerful message to potential customers around the globe. Lyris, a provider of digital marketing and messaging software, stressed that messaging needs to be connected across digital channels so it can be valuable and relevant to the real time context of each interaction. Every communication requires mastery of the fundamentals of email and digital messaging to boost revenue and reach, the company contends.

How can you do that? Here's an infographic from Lyris that explores eights signs to determine if you need to graduate from email to connected customer communications.(Click on image to enlarge.)


Title image by Anne Kitzman /