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Common Email Marketing Blunders – and How to Handle Them

To paraphrase – and slightly butcher – Mark Twain, rumors of email’s demise for marketing purposes have been greatly exaggerated. In reality, more than 200 billion electronic messages are received every single day.

What’s more, for every dollar spent on marketing via electronic mail, you’ll get about $32 back for your investment. Plus, more than 70 percent of millennials actually prefer communication from a business by email.

Email Marketing, Online Marketing, Online, Marketing

If that’s not enough convincing for you, consider the fact that 60 percent of marketers say email marketing is their biggest source of ROI. Unfortunately, you may not be able to say the same thing if you are making common email marketing blunders.

But don’t worry if you discover that you are making one or more of the email marketing missteps discussed below. There are some smart and effective ways you can turn things around and make marketing via email work for you.

Not Making a Good First Impression

Getting someone to willingly subscribe to your email mailing list is only half the battle. If you fail to send an initial welcome email, you’ll be losing out on an opportunity to start things off on the right foot.

The first email you send new subscribers is also the one that’s most likely to be read. This is because it’s from someone who wants to be engaged with your brand – so don’t blow this opportunity!

If you haven’t done so already, put a policy in place for sending out welcome emails. A well-crafted greeting that sets the tone for your future email interactions with a recipient includes:

  • A sincere welcome: Make it personal by using the recipient’s name. Go a bit further and mention their location (if it makes sense to do so).
  • A brief intro about your business: Also include a link back to your company’s homepage or “about” section if you want to give a more detailed overview.
  • What can be expected: This can include appealing things like exclusive deals, early announcements of upcoming sales, access to email newsletters, or any other perks you wish to offer subscribers.

Having a Vague or Missing Call-to-Action

Content for marketing purposes requires a call-to-action (CTA). This is also true with email marketing content.

If your emails have either no CTAs or vague CTAs, you’re just leaving it up to your recipients to guess what to do next. Eliminate this guesswork with an email call-to-action that meets the following criteria:

  • It’s easy to find – e.g., bright or different colors, bold text, large buttons, or separation from the rest of the email’s text.
  • It has active words like “shop now” included.
  • It’s displayed an appropriate number of times based on the length of your emails.
  • It’s strategically placed – e.g., once at the beginning for recipients ready to take quick action and at the end of the message for those who need some convincing first.

Failing to Meet Your Recipients’ Expectations

Email subscribers can easily unsubscribe if their expectations aren’t being met. Once you lose a willing email recipient, it’s practically impossible to win them back!

So, how can you fail to meet your recipients’ expectations with your email marketing efforts? One way is by being inconsistent with your email frequency.

If your welcome email, for example, says recipients can expect weekly deals sent via email or bi-weekly newsletters, follow through on what you promised. On the flip side, don’t take advantage of your email relationship and overdo it with way too many emails.

One way to keep your email frequency spaced out just right is with drip campaigns. This just means a set of marketing emails sent out automatically based on a schedule.

Going off-topic is another way to lose recipients. If your readers expect travel tips or fun, family recipes, that’s what your email content needs to cover.

Also, realize that email marketing campaigns are supposed to have a very specific focus. More general content is best saved for your website and social media pages.

Forgetting to Segment Your Email Lists

Each person subscribing to your email mailing list is doing so for different reasons. Some subscribers may be looking for exclusive discounts, while others may want tips, fun facts, or attachment options like e-books or email newsletters.

Instead of sending out the same exact email to every recipient, tap into your data to determine what matters most to reach recipient. This is called segmenting your email lists. If you’re honestly not sure what your recipients really want, consider:

  • Sending out emails with different content to your recipients for the first few weeks after they sign up
  • Paying attention to the type of email content each recipient is responding to the most
  • Presenting email surveys to get a better idea of what your recipients want to receive most

Your emails can also be segmented or broken down in other ways. Options include:

  • Geography
  • Age and gender
  • Education and/or income level (if you have access to this data)
  • Specific buyer personas
  • Past purchases or purchase interests
  • Frequency of purchases made

One final thing with segmented lists – don’t forget to prune now and then. Doing so allows you to remove unresponsive recipients and focus more on your more engaged recipients.

Not Sending ‘Professional-Looking’ Emails

Unless you are a well-known brand, email recipients are likely to be a bit suspicious of your emails. This is especially true if you’re a fairly new company or small, local business just getting started with email marketing.

You’ll have better luck if your emails have a consistent design and tone along with a professional style, look, and feel. Achieve this goal by:

  • Double-checking your grammar and spelling
  • Avoiding stock images – or at least mixing up your images so they’re not all from stock sources
  • Only including attachments recipients are expecting – e.g., email newsletters, your weekly ad flyer, etc.
  • Using respectful language – unless you are marketing to a very specific audience you know won’t mind some colorful language, it’s best to mind your Ps and Qs
  • Including your logo and other design elements (this should include the ones already used in marketing materials to improve brand recognition and consistency)

Relying Too Much on Clichéd Language

Image result for cliche words email

“Can’t Miss Offer!” “You Have to Read This!” “Act Now!” These are all examples of email subject lines that have already been used many times before in one version or another.

Not sure what’s a cliché? Look at your personal inbox and see what subject lines you naturally gravitate toward and which ones you instinctively skip. To be fair, it can be hard to make marketing-based emails stand out from the crowd. After all, how many ways are there to say “check out our new weekly deals”?

You’re not always going to be able to use a truly original email subject line. But what you can do is avoid sounding like everyone else as much as possible by:

  • Being personal: Approach your emails as if you are reaching out to a friend and not just trying to rack up more conversions.
  • Making emails about your recipient: Let each recipient know how they could benefit from what you are offering.
  • Being cautious with list emails: These are ones that include subject lines like “5 of the Most Confusing Veggies Ever! (Wait Till You See Number 4)”. You’ll see better results if you focus your energy on purposeful subjects that don’t sound like something from BuzzFeed.

Not Considering Mobile Users

The reason why email has experienced a popularity boost within the past decade or so is because of the widespread use of mobile devices. According to a 2015 report, nearly 70 percent of all email in the U.S. was either read or opened on smartphones or tablets. 

Today, such figures are likely even higher. So, one major email marketing blunder is not optimizing for mobile. It only stands to reason that if mobile users are having difficulty accessing or viewing your emails, they’re not going to respond or even bother opening them. In a nutshell, mobile optimization for email means:

  • Using a responsive email design so your messages can be viewed correctly on any size screen
  • Keeping your emails simple and clean without excessive images or videos
  • Not going over 600 pixels with your images
  • Making links or buttons in your emails easy to tap with appropriate spacing

Going Overboard with Images  (and Not Using Alt Text)

Yes, beautiful, eye-catching images can quickly capture the attention of email recipients. However, some recipients have their accounts set up so emails are automatically viewed without images.

But this doesn’t mean you have to forego using images in your emails (they can still be attention-grabbing in the right way). Just use alt text so recipients can see what images are supposed to be if they don’t load.

Even if you are using alt text, emails with a bunch of empty boxes aren’t going to look very professional. Be proactive and ward off this potential problem by including your most important points within your actual text. And be mindful of your image-text ratio so don’t end up using too many images.

Not Using Your Website to Effectively Get Signups

Marketing via email is only successful if you get a steady stream of new recipients. One of the most effective ways to encourage signups is with your website. Just be careful with where you place your signup prompt or box. Some sites, for instance, stick it at the bottom in the footer to avoid using too much prime webpage real estate.

However, an “out of sight” approach to placement of your email signup prompt means visitors to your site could easily overlook it. The solution is to prominently place it on pages where you want it included.

If it makes sense for your brand, go even further and make the email signup box stand out with different colors or bold design. Or if you want something a bit more subtle, give your website visitors a perk or two for signing up – e.g., 10% off their next purchase, free shipping, etc.

Forgetting to Update Timely/Topical Email Content

Being timely with email content can be highly effective – at least when it’s done right. The concept is simple: recipients are more likely to be interested in your messages if you sprinkle them with timely references or even mention top celebrities or sports figures to drive home a point about what your business does or offers.

The potential problem, however, is forgetting to update topical or timely email content. Another potential email marketing blunder is being a bit off with your timing – e.g., sending out a Black Friday sale announcement via email the day of or after this popular post-Thanksgiving day.

Also, remove any celebrity mentions if a prominent person you referenced is suddenly in the news for all the wrong reasons. And if you use automation to send out your emails, double-check the dates to make sure your time-specific emails (meaning ones referencing a specific sale date or holiday) won’t go out too late or too soon.

Listening to the Wrong Feedback

Generally, feedback related to your email campaigns is a good thing. What’s not such a good thing is making changes based on input from the few and not the many.

Let’s say you get complaints from a vocal email recipient who thinks receiving emails from you twice a week and when there are special offers to share is too much. If you completely change your email frequency because of this one individual, you may unintentionally lose a whole bunch of other recipients who were perfectly happy with what you were doing!

This is where email segmenting comes in handy again. Use the feedback to further segment your emails based on preferences with frequency. Therefore, Mr. Unhappy Recipient can get emails every other week while others on your list can get them more frequently.

You don’t want to ignore valid complaints. But you also don’t want to judge the success or failure of your email marketing efforts on opinions that aren’t in the majority.

Avoiding these email marketing blunders is a great first step when it comes to improving your results with this approach to digital engagement. But like anything else involving online marketing, you’ll need to continue producing top-quality content while keeping an eye on your stats so you know when it’s time to make some adjustments – preferably proactive ones before your ROI takes a hit.

Ken C.

Ken is a freelance writer currently living in the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania. Born in California, his fondness for writing dates back to elementary school writing contests and led to positions on both high school and college newspapers. He earned a degree in Journalism and Communications from Point Park University and did work in data entry after college before transitioning to a full-time career as a freelance writer. While his areas of expertise are marketing and health-related content, Ken is a versatile writer and enjoys exploring and researching a variety of topics. When not busy knocking out articles, he likes to spend time with friends, go for walks, and discover new and exciting things about the world around him.

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