10 Common Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

If you think email marketing is dead, think again! While there are so many different platforms to engage your audience these days, email marketing is one of the foundations of a company that will likely always have a place at the table.

Successful email marketing isn’t rocket science, but there is definitely a process to follow and mistakes to avoid. Most small businesses struggle to build an email list in the beginning, choosing to focus on social media and events instead. The truth is, social media and email marketing go hand in hand, and when you can optimize both, you’re going to see massive growth.

At the center of this growth, will be customer loyalty. Customers who love a brand will recommend it to everyone, and that’s where the magic is. Building a loyal customer base through effective email marketing is one of the most lucrative and effective marketing strategies out there.

At Pico Digital Marketing, we work with clients to develop a solid email marketing strategy. We also work with clients to uncover common email marketing mistakes that can hold you back without even knowing it. There is certainly a formula for effective email marketing, and this article will help you understand what not to do so that you can build an active list.

The inbox is a sacred space, and landing in it comes with great responsibility. All too often, people sign up for an email newsletter, forget all about it, and never open an email from the company they’re likely interested in. This not only keeps your amazing products and services out of the hands of your potential customers, but it also can hurt your rankings with your customer relationship management (CRM) software.

Hubspot found that 81% of small business owners say they rely on email as their primary customer acquisition method. Additionally, 80% of small businesses say that email marketing is their primary method for customer retention as well.

With stats like this, email marketing is very much alive! However, it’s easy to make mistakes or get stuck in a groove or plateau.

Some of the most common email marketing mistakes are super simple to avoid once you know what you’re looking for. But mistakes in email marketing are also so common, that you may not even realize anything is wrong until it’s too late.

First, let’s start with the basics.

What is Email Marketing?

Neil Patel, the master of all things digital marketing, defines email marketing as such:

Email marketing is a digital marketing strategy based on sending emails and developing relationships with prospects and customers. An effective email marketing strategy converts prospects into customers and turns first-time buyers into recurring customers.

Seems simple, right?

Email marketing has seen ups and downs in the marketing industry, but with so many different CRM software options, it’s never been easier or cheaper to start email marketing.

If you sell products and/or services or simply want to stay in touch with your customers, email marketing is the most direct way to reach your subscribers. But that’s the catch, you have to get them to subscribe before you can send them anything via email.

And with so much landing in people’s inboxes these days, it can seem overwhelming to take a good hard look at your email marketing to revamp it if necessary. But in the long run, this will help you grow your company. And if anything ever happens to social media, it’s always smart to diversify your communications to your customers. You never want to rely on one channel, not even email marketing.

There’s a common misconception that email marketing is dead. That’s because there are so many different platforms where customers are hanging out, that email marketing seems obsolete. But the truth is, email marketing will always be a strong channel to reach customers because everyone has an email address and likely checks it regularly. Again, diversify across platforms, but don’t exclude email marketing by any means.

If you’re struggling with an email marketing strategy and are thinking about giving up on it, check out this list of common email marketing mistakes before you pull the plug entirely. You may discover that a small tweak here and there solves the problem.

email marketing

10 Common Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Every frustration in business is an opportunity to make a change and optimize. And in the business of digital marketing, discovering the mistakes you’re unconsciously making can be a total game-changer.

If you’ve hit a wall with email marketing or simply don’t know how to start, this guide will help you get out of the funk and into the flow. Small adjustments for big changes.

If you’re not seeing the results you need from your email marketing, you could be making some of these very common mistakes:

  1. Not Sending a Welcome Email
    When a potential customer comes to your site and signs up for your newsletter, they’ve already taken a lot of steps to get to that point. Whether you were offering a lead magnet (free resource) or sharing valuable information, they wanted to be part of your community. With most CRM software, you can easily set up automation to go out to new subscribers. These emails don’t have to be long-winded or super detailed, but customers appreciate a hello or digital wave when they give you their coveted email address.
    How to fix it: Set up an automated email that goes out to each new subscriber to welcome them to your community, tell them what to expect from your newsletter, and something interesting about yourself or your company. On a per email basis, welcome emails generate 320% more revenue than other marketing messages. This is a huge opportunity to deliver a freebie, welcome them to the community, and gently make a sale.
  2. Being Robotic and Too Salesy
    Tone and personality are absolutely detectable via email. If you’re sending emails that are dry, robotic, or just too aggressive on sales, you’re going to lose people. The point isn’t to scream into the void until someone finally clicks and purchases something. The point of email marketing is to nurture the connection and gently encourage people to engage with your products/services.
    How to fix it: Add personality into your emails! Why so serious? People are more likely to purchase from you if they feel a connection. Show the humanity behind the company/brand/yourself so that people can begin to relate to you and your mission. Constantly selling isn’t going to end up making sales. Telling a story, sharing testimonials, or sending emails to simply say hi and offer value is what’s going to click.
  3. Not Using a Double-Opt-In Strategy
    Many businesses use a single opt-in strategy, where a new subscriber fills out a form and is automatically added to an email list. This is great at building a list quickly, but it’s not only about having thousands of subscribers if those subscribers aren’t active. With a double opt-in strategy, the subscriber has to confirm that they do indeed want to be on your mailing list before you can send anything to them. If they signed up by accident or used the wrong email account, they won’t get this confirmation email and won’t ever receive anything from you. You may also end up with fake emails and spam accounts on your list, which will totally mess up your metrics.
    How to fix it: This is a simple fix. All you have to do is add a double opt-in confirmation in your welcome email. That’s it! Then your subscribers can confirm that yes, they want the free asset and they want to be subscribed to your regular newsletter list. Sure, it’s an extra step, and you may lose some subscribers as a result. However, you’ll know that the people who double opt-in want to be on your list and will be more likely to open and click, which boosts your metrics and sales. It’s better to have a small active list than a large inactive list. Again, this isn’t all about the size of the list.
  4. Not Using a Call to Action
    In every email, even your welcome email, there must be a call to action (CTA). People need to be told what to do in order to do it. Without a call to action, people may open your email and gain something from it (providing your emails are value-based) but then that’s it. They move on with their day and forget all about the email. Each and every email you send needs to have a clear and defined purpose, and there’s no easier way to do that than with a CTA. On the flip side, having too many CTAs can confuse and distract people. Stick with one per email and you’ll see your click rate soar.
    How to fix it: Before you even begin to write the email, define the purpose. Why are you sending this email? What do you want people to do? What is your desired outcome from sending the email? Then, write in a way that builds up and provides value, then closes with the CTA. You want people to not be able to resist clicking that button, and the best way to do that is to provide massive value. Here are some examples of CTAs that convert: shop now, sign up for the event, take advantage of our sale, forward this to a friend, share on social, join our community, read now, watch now. 
  5. Inconsistent Sending
    Just as sending too many emails is a quick way to rack up unsubscribes, not sending enough emails can have the same effect. People are busy. Their lives are full of responsibilities, names to remember, events to attend, children to raise, pitches to pitch. If you’re sending a random email every couple of months, the likelihood that someone will forget who you are or what your company is is high. There’s a sweet spot in email marketing, and depending on your company, 1-4 emails per month is effective. Unless you’re a major publication with a quarterly magazine or another comparable offer, you’ve got to be consistent.
    How to fix it: Sending more emails is a slippery slope. It’s important to be consistent, but not overbearing by sending something every day unless you’re a news organization or something similar. Sit down with a calendar and figure out what content you have to share, and what’s in the pipeline to be created. Then, choose the cadence for your emails. This can be bi-weekly, weekly, or once a month. Don’t go over that unless you have something incredibly newsworthy to share. Once your content calendar is set, you can easily stay on track and send 1-4 valuable emails per month, with a clear CTA of course. 
  6. Sending Too Many Emails
    On the other side of the coin of not sending enough emails, is sending too many emails. There is nothing more annoying than being bombarded by a company trying to sell you something almost daily. Your open rates will be low, your click rates even lower, and your unsubscribes super high. None of this is good, but it’s all easily avoidable. One of the most common reasons people unsubscribe from newsletters is because they receive too many emails. If the average person receives 50-100 emails a day, it’s no wonder that your sales email 3 days in a row pushed them over the edge. Less is more, but as we talked about above, consistency and respect are key.
    How to fix it: Respect people’s inboxes. The inbox is a sacred space. Just because someone signed up for your newsletter doesn’t give you the right to email them daily. Reconsider your content and look at a calendar. Scale back your emails to once a week, at most, and you’ll likely see a bump in open and click rates. You can also send a survey to your subscribers and ask them what they want. After all, you’re there to serve them. Once you have a better idea of why people signed up for your email list, you’ll be able to deliver what they want. And there’s nothing better than giving the people what they want.email marketing
  7. Not Segmenting Subscribers
    Subscriber segmentation is going to save the day and boost your sales. Segments divide your list into many different sections that help you better serve your audience. If you’re sending the same email to your entire list, you’re missing the boat. Segmentation allows you to send emails based on actions taken (sales, opens, clicks), on demographic (gender, age, location), or by preferences that the subscriber selected like coupons or newsletters. People are more likely to unsubscribe when they deem an email irrelevant, even just one. Others will delete the email or mark it as spam. To ensure that your emails are as relevant as possible, it’s vital to segment your list.
    How to fix it: With most CRM software, you can easily segment your list based on activity and action. To segment based on demographics, you may need to collect more information from your subscribers. At the very least, you’ll be able to segment between openers, clickers, and purchasers. From there, you can craft slightly different emails, different subject lines, and even test different offers. Then, you’ll have a strong idea of what people want and be able to deliver that directly. Email marketing segmentation strategies are highly effective. 
  8. Neglecting Mobile Users
    The world is going mobile. Mobile web traffic accounts for 52.6% of global web traffic. That’s a big deal if your emails are only optimized for web browsers. You could be losing out on 52% of customers, or drastically increasing unsubscribes, if you’re not optimizing for mobile. Smartphones are by far the most popular device for all ages, which means that the majority of your customer base is primarily using their phone to browse, research, read, interact, and purchase.
    How to fix it: This is another easy fix. Don’t rely too heavily on images in your emails. Some email applications don’t automatically load images, and if the message is too large, it’ll get cut off and the likelihood of someone clicking the “clipped message, show full message” button is low. To see how your emails look on mobile, simply send yourself a test and troubleshoot anything that comes out funky.email marketing
  9. Not A/B Testing
    From email content to subject lines and CTAs, you should be A/B testing everything. Otherwise, how do you know what’s working? Again, most CRM software will allow you to A/B test, likely for a paid plan, that will allow you to test everything. From formatting to photos, subject lines to CTAs everything can be tested. And from there, you’ll have hard data that tells you what your customer base wants and what works. An inbox is a competitive place, and your emails have to stick out from the first impression. And there’s no better way to know what works than with A/B testing.
    How to fix it: Look at your CRM software and find A/B testing. Then you can make a spreadsheet to create different subject lines, CTAs, and so on. From here, you’ll get hard data and can make decisions that are based on performance going forward. This is also a great way to segment your audience, as mentioned above. From the action, or inaction, taken you’ll be able to better deliver what people want and need with more information. 
  10. Not Focusing List Building
    Email lists won’t build themselves. Even if you have a professionally designed email and the perfect offer and CTA, if there’s no one on your list, you can’t expect great results. Building an email list is multi-faceted labor of love and strategy. Creating a freebie that provides major value is a great place to start. People are unlikely to sign up for an email list without getting something for free these days.
    How to fix it: The freebie can be a secret podcast, unlisted youtube video, digital guide, audio recording, or access to a free community. Once you have your free offer, it’s important to make it easily accessible in all your branding and across your site. This needs to be on your homepage, promoted on social media, and mentioned in any interviews or press. A pop-up or top bar banner is a great way to communicate to anyone visiting your site. 

Email Marketing: The Bottom Line

Mistakes are easy to make and typically easy to correct. When it comes to email marketing mistakes to avoid, this list certainly isn’t exhaustive but it will give you a great start to turn your marketing around. If you’re just starting out, then this is a perfect time to look at what can go wrong in email marketing so you start out on the right foot.

More than anything, don’t become discouraged and give up on your email marketing altogether. Everything can be resurrected, including your email list.

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