Here are 20 common email marketing mistakes that are still happening in 2020, as well as how to fix them all.
A recent study shows that email open rates have jumped by nearly 5% from the previous year.
At the same time, unsubscribe rates are down, which means us marketers might just be getting the hang of inbox engagement.
But that doesn’t mean the worst email marketing mistakes aren’t still happening.
1. Forgetting To Optimize for Mobile
With such a shift from desktop to mobile, this is one of the biggest email marketing mistakes to avoid. One survey shows that 74% of smartphone users open emails on their phone.
Forgetting to optimize your email for mobile devices can lead to a quick and passionate unsubscribe.
How to fix it: Condense image sizes so emails load quicker on mobile devices. Make sure every image is fitted with alt text, just in case they don’t load. Use a stack-responsive email template that’s mobile-friendly.
2. Sending On a Whim, Not a Schedule
While you may be inclined to send emails all willy nilly, a schedule is your best bet for engagement.
When you’re consistent, your readers begin to expect and welcome your content. This helps you foster relationships and develop trust as an expert.
On the contrary, mixing up the days and times you send emails can frustrate your subscribers to the point where they trash their subscription. (Talk about one of the most underrated, worst email marketing mistakes there is.)
How to fix it: Select a day and time that works best for your target audience, and commit to scheduling emails then. You can perform mounds of industry research, only to find out that it doesn’t apply to your niche. This is a trial and error thing, but you can start here: Choose a day of the week, then choose your preferred time of day. Tweak as necessary.
3. Avoiding Automation
Automation can be a gamechanger for your email marketing performance. By doing things manually, you’re losing out on efficiency.
Humans are also naturally more prone to errors. If you want to take your list seriously, automation is it.
How to fix it: Email distribution software is your friend. From Mailchimp to ConvertKit, there’s no shortage of options — you just have to find the right one for your business.
4. Ignoring How Your Campaigns Have Performed In the Past
Why perform marketing if you’re just going to do what you want anyway? Like any marketing, email marketing focuses on your audience’s needs, not yours.
To know which email marketing mistakes to avoid, you need to review your past performance and highlight areas for improvement.
How to fix it: Keep track of your metrics. KPIs you’ll want to focus on include clickthrough rate, conversation rate, bounce rate, list growth rate, email sharing/forwarding rate, open rate, unsubscribe rate and overall ROI.
5. Acting Spammy
There’s nothing worse than a newsletter that looks, feels and smells like spam. And if that describes the emails you send out, don’t be surprised when you end up blacklisted.
Spam-like emails include emails that are too frequent, come from an unreliable sender or don’t have a clear purpose.
How to fix it: If you’re sending emails too frequently, mitigate your rate. Then, move on to your subject line. Make sure it’s approachable yet legitimate. Ensure your unsubscribe links are visible and easy to find (someone who wants to unsubscribe but can’t find the button is likely to send an email to spam).
6. Failing To Personalize, from Both Ends
Do you treat your subscribers like a commodity? Do you, yourself, appear like a faceless brand or admin?
A lack of personalization — from both ends of the inbox — is one of the worst email marketing mistakes you can make.
Hey, 60% of marketers say they struggle to personalize emails, so you’re clearly not alone.
How to fix it: Start with using your subscriber’s first name. You can also segment your list based on demographics or psychographics; that way, you’re not sending one email to a massive bunch of unique individuals. Edit the ‘from’ field to appeal to your audience (consider using your name, your blog’s name or a fusion of the two). Fine-tune your customer personas while you’re at it!
7. Excluding a Sign-Up or Opt-In Offer
You want to attract new subscribers and customers, don’t you? Then don’t make one of these common email marketing mistakes.
People who forget to add a sign-up or opt-in offer, or people who place them where they aren’t obvious, are missing out.
How to fix it: Place your sign-up boxes somewhere obvious. Add an opt-in offer, but keep it simple (and make sure it addresses a problem your audience is actually facing). If your email service provider (ESP) allows it, add more than one opt-in for that extra touch of personalization.
8. Forgetting To Keep It Simple
This is an email, not a blog — nor a sales page, at that. Let your content lure in customers to read further or take action when they have the time.
With so many people opening emails on their smartphone, a drawn-out, complex email is likely to wind up in the trash.
How to fix it: Prioritize short sentences and paragraphs. Use a limited amount of images. Ask yourself, “Would I be overwhelmed if this email landed in my inbox right now?”
9. Forgetting About Email Confirmation (Bye, Bots)
A double opt-in, or email confirmation, is super important. It’s simple to implement but remains one of the most common email marketing mistakes to date.
Double opt-in protects you from spammers and keeps your email list clean as a whistle — full of real people who may actually want to buy your product or service.
How to fix it: Refer to your ESP to set up a double opt-in for all future subscribers.
10. Focusing On the Number of Subscribers Instead of the Quality
Your subscriber list could be full of thousands of emails, but what’s that mean if most of them never even open your mail?
This reduces your open and click rates, which can negatively affect your deliverability over time (AKA, you’ll end up in the spam folder of folks who actually want to read your email).
Fortunately, email marketing mistakes like this one are easy to fix. And when people unsubscribe from your list, consider it an act of good will — they’re saving you the hassle and telling you they’re not interested right off the bat.
How to fix it: Every few months, make a commitment to clean up your subscriber list. Remove anyone who’s been on your list for quite some time but hasn’t opened or read any of your content in awhile. You’re better off without them.
11. Missing the Welcome Email or Sequence
Sending a welcome email (or even a welcome sequence) is a great idea, but so many people don’t incorporate this into their agenda.
This gives readers time to totally forget who you are and what you do. As a result, they won’t know when or what to expect from you, and are more likely to unsubscribe.
How to fix it: Draft an email or sequence to automatically send out once someone subscribes or opts in to your offering. In the welcome email, share a bit about yourself as well as what the reader can expect from you and your content. Develop a relationship from the get-go. It’s that simple!
12. Aiming for a Large List Before Getting To Work
Don’t let silly numbers get you down. Even if you’re still building up your numbers on your subscriber list, you can start marketing to whoever you’ve got so far.
Ten or ten thousand shouldn’t make a difference to how you address your subscribers.
How to fix it: Basically, stop making email marketing mistakes now, even if you’re still not where you want to be.
13. Not Keeping Your Eyes Out for What Other Email Marketers Are Doing
They say reading makes a better writer, so it only makes sense that viewing other newsletters would help you improve your own. This can teach you what’s effective — or totally not effective — from your very own perspective.
How to fix it: Sign up for a handful of email subscriptions within the same niche as your brand. If you end up unsubscribing to any, consider what made you do so. If you stick around for others, ask yourself what makes them so great.
14. Skimping On Subject Lines
You could avoid the worst email marketing mistakes out there, but if you forget about crafting a kickass subject line, you’re done for.
Intriguing or promising subject lines are best. The hardest part is getting your subscribers to open the email in the first place.
How to fix it: Consider hiring an in-house or freelance copywriter who specializes in direct response and email marketing.
15. Failing To Perform Split Testing
Split tests, or A/B tests, are a way for you to figure out which version of the same email performs better. Over time, this will help you maximize your email effectiveness and improve your metrics.
How to fix it: Choose an ESP with built-in split testing. Some may send email A to a small portion of your audience and email B to another small portion. Hours later, whichever one has performed best wins and gets sent out to the masses. You can also do this manually and choose the best option based on your preferred KPIs.
16. Forgetting To Subscribe To Yourself
Imagine: You send out an email, but it’s got a blunder. You don’t realize it until the next day when you return to work, and there’s countless complaints.
While you can’t really unsend an email, subscribing to yourself can help you remain on the ball and fix any blunders immediately.
Address the issue before anyone else can. On a less serious note, self-subscription helps you see your email firsthand and determine if it goes to your primary, promotion or spam folder.
How to fix it: Step one. Subscribe to yourself. Voila!
17. Focusing On Vanity, Not Value
Vanity metrics in email marketing can trick you into thinking you’ve got a solid campaign. In reality, you may just be focusing on numbers that don’t go below the surface, like your number of subscribers or even your open rates (if you’re going for opt-ins and purchases).
As Tim Ferris says, “Vanity metrics: good for feeling awesome, bad for action.”
How to fix it: Determine your goal. Then, figure out which KPIs actionably contribute to that goal. Don’t necessarily forget about the rest entirely, but don’t keep them at the forefront if they’re not serving you the most.
18. Skipping the CTA
You should always have some sort of call to action in your email marketing (or any kind of marketing).
Your CTA should be overt, clear and concise. These traits will make your subscribers more likely to follow suit.
You don’t want your readers to question what they should do next, or else you risk them doing nothing at all.
How to fix it: Identity your CTA in every email on your schedule. Is it as clear as it can be? If not, boil it down even further.
19. Failing To Find the Right Image-to-Text Balance
Too many images and your email won’t load on desktop or mobile. Not enough images and your email appears text-heavy and hard to read.
Finding the right balance is key. Another troubling factor is that many people have images turned off when viewing emails, so if your email has too many images, there won’t be much context for them.
You’re also more likely to wind up in the dreaded spam folder if you fill your email with too many images.
How to fix it: Limit yourself to one or two high-quality, relevant and value-driven images per email. Definitely don’t go crazy with 10 or 20 pics.
20. Forgetting That Subscribers Should Be Able To Reply If They Want
There are so many ‘noreply’ emails that wind up in inboxes that many people forget this is even possible. But for many businesses, allowing responses is a smart move.
Why? Because when you get replies from subscribers, your subscribers’ email providers receive word that you deserve a spot in the primary inbox.
This will inherently increase your open, read and clickthrough rates. Moreover, the option to reply is a great way to foster relationships with your subscribers.
How to fix it: Incorporate this clearly into your CTA. Ask your subscribers a nuanced question, then tell them to reply with a response. And don’t forget to allow replies in the first place!
There’s No Shortage of Common Email Marketing Mistakes, But They’re Easy To Avoid & Fix
You can know about all the email marketing mistakes to avoid, but until you know how to fix them, you’ve only gone halfway. Determine which of these 20 common email marketing mistakes you’re guilty of, and resolve them ASAP. After all, no campaign strategy is set in stone — and marketing evolution is the best way to get through this changing world.