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20 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Common email marketing mistakes every business should avoid

Written by Melissa FIlich


We’ve all made mistakes. Perhaps you’ve sent out a campaign to hundreds or thousands of people only later to notice that spelling error or find that broken link. These mistakes can be embarrassing or worse, damaging to your brand. We’ve made a list of the top 20 email marketing mishaps to avoid to successfully increase your deliverability, enhance your reputation, and improve your lead engagement.

1. Not Using a Professional System to Send Campaigns 

You might be thinking, “but I can just BCC everyone on my list and use Gmail to send my emails.” You’re right, you can do that. You can also jaywalk across a freeway, but that doesn’t mean you should! Using a professional email marketing system, like GreenRope, will dramatically increase your delivery and open rates. Sending from your own email client will undoubtedly have poor campaign results such as high spam complaints, unsubscribes, high bounces, inbox filtering, etc. 

Half your contacts won’t even receive your email because sending to a list via BCC from your email client is a blocked technique by many providers. Technical blunders aside, it is simply impersonal and will result in deletion before opening since no one wants to be part of a poorly executed mass mailing. 

With an ESP (Email Service Provider) you get all the professional tools you need in one place to create and send the perfect email. The best thing an ESP has to offer is a quality sending reputation and established sending relationship with all major ISPs. What does that mean to you? It means higher delivery and open rates which will result in more business for your organization. 


2. Emailing Without an Opt-in

Quality over quantity is the golden rule when it comes to email marketing. Isn't the goal to have your contact actually want to receive and open your emails? Cultivating and caring for a list that is 100% opt-in yields big results. Whereas a purchased or scraped list only gives you headaches, high spam complaints, blacklisting, high bounce rates, inbox filtering and a bad sending reputation. 

Purchased Lists - Includes any contact purchased or otherwise obtained from a third party. Purchasing an “opt-in list” is not the same as having a direct opt-in record from the recipient and will likely violate the rules and terms of many email marketing providers. 

Scraped Lists - Scraping lists refers to comprising a list of email addresses copied from public webpages. Just like purchased contacts, a list made up of publicly obtained email addresses will likely result in delivery and reputation problems.    


3. Not Handling Unsubscribe With Care

Forcing your customer to enter a password, enter their email address repeatedly, require a confirmation step, or otherwise making it difficult for recipients to unsubscribe has one major side effect: they will complain by flagging your messages as spam. 

The more recipients that take this action in response to your difficult unsubscribe process, negatively impacts your sender reputation, and your deliverability will suffer. Your messages will start getting delivered directly to spam folders, or worse - not delivered at all. Use the 2 click rule - 1 click from the email to your site’s unsubscribe page where their address is pre-populated into your unsubscribe form, and 1 click to submit their request.  

If you take your time responding to or processing unsubscribe requests the result will be not only angry contacts, but could also put you in a hot spot with the law. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days (CAN-SPAM Act)


4. Subject Line Faux Pas

The subject line is your first impression. You have a limited amount of space to entice your readers to open your email. According to Email Marketing Daily, the average open rate across all industries is 22%. A good subject line results in a higher open rate, which increases your company sales. A good rule of thumb, keep it short and sweet and to the point. A misleading subject line may result in an open but may be followed by being marked as spam if the reader feels juked by false allurement.


5. Overlooking the power of the preheader

While the subject line is your first impression, the preheader is the second. The preheader is the preview many of your clients will see near or next to the subject line in their inbox before opening. It is typically pulled from the first few lines of your email content and usually limited to about 100 characters. Having a strong preheader is the window to your email, use it to invite your recipients to open and enjoy.


6. Using Noreply@ 

Emails sent with a noreply@ or other generic alias addresses and names (info@, sales@) receive much lower read and delivery rates. Simply put, people will always choose to open an email from another person over a faceless robot, which is what they picture when they receive an email from noreply@ or admin@. Your emails are important to your business. Send them with care by showing your readers who you are and make the effort to personally reach out. One way to do this is by using a personal “From” name and email address. Example: when I send an email campaign using support@ our open rates tend to be low. When I send the same content to the same groups from melissa@ we consistently see a 25%+ increase on opens and clicks rates.


7. Not Including a Physical Address 

That’s right, we’re talking about your snail mail address. A physical postal address (or registered PO Box) is a requirement for all commercial email originating in the US or being delivered to US recipients (CAN-SPAM Act).


8.Not Spending Enough Time Testing 

Would you buy a car without test-driving it? Would you buy a mattress without rolling around on a showroom bed? Would you drink milk past the suggested use-by date without a sniff check? NO! So why would you send a broadcast to everyone on your lists before testing it? Testing a message across the most popular email clients (Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook, etc) allows you to see your email through the eyes of your readers. Check and double check that all links are working properly, images load correctly, and that there are no spelling or grammar errors. 

Using A/B testing is another great way to test variations of your message, different images or subject lines for example. A/B testing allows you to send the varying content to a smaller group of contacts in your list, then send the one with the best performing results to your remaining contacts. 


9. Disregarding The Delicate Balance of Content. 

Your email is not a blog article or a webpage, it is an email. The difference is subtle in some cases, but just as important to understand. While blogs and webpages typically offer larger amounts of content, an email offers an extended hand as if to say, “Hello there, come with me on a journey where you will find exactly what you need.” An email is the perfect blend of text, linked images, call-to-action buttons, and text links. It is not endless text or a gallery of images.


10. Not Utilizing Past Campaign Insights 

We’ve all heard it time and time again, those that do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. Not using the analytical data from previous campaigns is a huge snafu. Take the time to review your email tracking and adjust your strategy accordingly. 

Is your open rate down? Change up the subject line and/or time of sending. Is your click rate less than desired? Change up the images or text associated with them. Unsubscribe rate too high? Review your list quality and update it as needed. Monitoring your sending stats will help you discover where you need to improve and fine tune your communication.   


11. Overselling 

When you are creating your email it is important to think about not only who your consumer is but why are you reaching out to them? Is it to improve your consumer/seller relationship? To gain more website traffic? Finding a balance between selling and engaging is the ultimate goal. If you bombard your customers with “BUY! BUY! BUY!” based emails, they start to disengage and eventually exit your sales funnel completely. Sending helpful tips, engaging newsletters, and other content in between your more sales focused emails keeps your customers subscribed and satisfied.


12. Not Making Emails Mobile Friendly 

Are you reading this from your phone? Chances are many of you are. We are a cell phone addicted society, so creating mobile-friendly emails is an absolute necessity. Another benefit to using an ESP is that many, if not all, of the available templates are already mobile friendly. All you have to do is add your content and send (testing first of course). 


13. Avoiding Segmentation 

List segmentation allows you to personalize your emails to specific groups of contacts, catering to their exact needs. Sending one email to your entire database collectively will likely leave some people thinking, “why did I receive this?” Swiftly followed by deleting the email, and possibly unsubscribing from future emails they might actually want. Fine tune your lists, creating as many segments (groups of contacts) as you need based on your products and services and cross referenced with consumer interest.


14. Violating The Terms of Your ESP

If you have taken the time to invest in your email marketing future by subscribing to an Email Service Provider, go the extra mile by reading their Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The information there not only gives you peace of mind about the system’s security and privacy, but also lets you know, in clear text, what is and isn’t allowed. While we strongly discourage using purchased lists, in general you will find that all ESPs have strict rules prohibiting third party lists.  Violators can be fined, or worse, have their accounts closed resulting in a loss of precious data. 


15. Not Complying With GDPR

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individual citizens of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA) (Wikipedia). What does that mean for you as a sender? Simply put, you are required to show proof that contacts on your lists have opted to receive emails from you specifically. While the GDPR doesn’t currently apply to recipients based in the US it isn’t far fetched to think it will soon, so starting the habit now will get you ahead of the game later.


16. Not Taking Time Into Consideration 

Not strategically planning the timing of your emails is a huge mistake. The consensus is the same everywhere you look, the best time to send your campaigns is Tuesday through Thursday morning, typically between 8 and 10 am. But what about time zones? This is a common question many people have and struggle with, if you are in NY and send an email at 8am local time that isn’t going to reach your consumers in London or LA at the optimal times. To answer this, we circle back to the importance of segmentation & tracking. Create lists based on same or similar time zones, and use your past broadcast history to determine which sending times in the past worked better than others.


17. Not Establishing a Solid Sending Pattern

People are creatures of habit. They want to know they can depend on you to send them a personalized email, specific to their needs, on a consistent basis. Overlapping emails, sending one right after another with conflicting offers, can cause confusion or worse, email clutter that will go unread or get deleted. 

Case in point, I recently signed up to receive a popular monthly subscription box. I activated my account and paid my first monthly subscription payment. So when I received an email asking me to update my account preferences immediately followed by an email offering me an incentive to activate my account you can imagine my confusion. Why would they send me an email to activate when I already have? Do I need to reactivate or do I need to update my preferences? Am I going to be billed twice? Why did I pay so much THEN get the incentive email after activation? I was so confused I just deleted them all and was left wondering if I should just cancel completely.  

Sending inconsistently also has its downfalls. Surprising your consumers with seemingly random emails can hurt your open and click rates. Letting your recipients know what to expect by establishing a good sending pattern will help raise your open/click rates, increase your quality of consumer interactions, and result in higher product/service sales.


18. Not Personalizing Your Emails

The easiest way to make your consumers feel important to you, because let's face it - they ARE important to you, is by adding simple personalizations to your emails. Start your emails with their name, Dear Sara. Stand out in cluttered inboxes by adding personalization to the subject line or preheader. Segment your lists and include contact specific information, letting them know you understand who they are and what they want from you as a consumer. 

Avoid errors like “Dear FIRSTNAME” by using dynamic data offered by ESPs like GreenRope to send “Dear Friend” in the event you do not have the contact’s first name on file.


19. Underestimating The Power of a Text Link

Call to Action buttons are great, linkable images are fun, but many people still prefer the good old fashioned “Click Here” text link. Add one or two to your next email campaign and see how they compare next to your Call to Action buttons and linkable images.  


20. Forgetting the Ease of Plain-Text

HTML emails are like the Vegas of emails, they are glitzy and fancy and when done well have a lot of WOW power to them. Plain-text on the other hand is, well plain. Plain isn’t bad, it’s just, plain! Just like some people prefer plain toast some people prefer a plain-text email. Almost like a text message, it is short and straight to the point. A confirmation email, a registration email, even a simple thank you email when received in plain-text are often appreciated by consumers.  


Remember, don’t beat yourself up too much when mistakes happen, because they will happen, but taking as many precautions as possible to avoid them will help alleviate the shame you might feel for using the wrong than/then or sending a broken link. By avoiding these commonly made mistakes and following legal guidelines, your business will reap the many benefits that email marketing has to offer. 


Love lists as much as I do? Here are a few more of my favorites: 

10 Ways To Be Successful With GreenRope

6 Clever Ways To Gather CRM Info For Marketing

10 Surprising Things You Didn’t Know About CEO, Lars Helgeson



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