The war going on in email inboxes can seem challenging.
Subject line too vague or confusing? DELETED.
Use the wrong words in your email and look like spam? SENT TO THE SPAM FOLDER.
Too long since your last email and they forgot who you are? BLOCKED.
Or even worse—BLOCKED AND REPORTED AS SPAM.
It can get a little rough in there, but don’t get discouraged.
The benefits can outweigh the challenges in a big way.
That’s because email is one of the most cost-effective marketing tactics out there, so the return on investment is high. As high as $40 in return for every $1 spent, according to Adobe.
Where can you beat that?
For that kind of ROI, it’s worth every minute of time you spend improving your email marketing. Just think of it as a long-term game that can lead to big wins.
To help you get those wins, here’s a list of steps to avoid.
10 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
1. Not having a plan or strategy
Yes, this is obvious. But we hear way too often of people who write emails on the fly, asking, “What should I write about this week?” If this sounds familiar, it’ll take you longer to see success. That’s why you need a plan.
Start with your goals, then create a list of topics and ideas to help you reach those goals.
What are good goals for email marketing? Here are a few we recommend for small businesses:
- Grow your list of subscribers.
- Help close sales with prospects.
- Build a relationship with current customers and increase loyalty.
- Be seen as a trusted, authoritative source of information in your industry.
- Get more subscribers to open your emails (i.e. boost your open rate).
- Get more subscribers to take action (i.e. boost your click-through rate).
These are all geared to your ultimate goal: growing your business.
2. Not offering an incentive to sign up
“Sign up for free tips & updates” used to work to get subscribers, but no longer. Now you need to offer a freebie or incentive.
We call it an opt-in offer. It’s a gift you offer for signing up, like a guide, a worksheet or a small discount—something you can deliver online that is of value to your readers.
Think of it as a small ‘thank you’ for getting access to their inboxes. And we do mean small. It doesn’t have to be a big ebook or a time-consuming project, just enough to add some incentive.
3. Ignoring timing or frequency
Consistency in marketing always brings better results and the same is true in email marketing. Figure out how often you’ll send emails and be consistent about it.
A HubSpot study points to 1 to 2 emails a week as optimal. But for many small businesses, that can be a challenging pace. We often suggest emailing weekly or every 2 weeks. The bare minimum is once a month.
The day/hour is important too. Don’t send emails overnight. You’ll just be competing with all the other messages waiting for attention in the morning.
There really isn’t a perfect time for every business. But studies suggest sending emails midday (between 10 and 3pm) and during the week (Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday).
We agree with this advice, especially if you’re trying to reach people at work. If you’re trying to reach moms, shoppers or niche buyers, test different days to find your sweet spot.
4. Not following rules and best practices
Believe it or not, there are rules for sending mass emails and consequences for not following them. In the US, emails fall under the CAN-SPAM Act, enforced by the FTC and the FCC.
A few of the requirements:
- Address: You must include your mailing address in emails—a full, physical address, not just a city.
- Unsubscribe: You must have a clear and conspicuous way to opt out or unsubscribe.
- Handling opt outs: You must honor unsubscribe requests within 10 business days. (Your email program should handle this.)
We also DON’T suggest buying email lists. Besides the fact that emailing someone without their permission is considered spam, this tactic offers very little return on your money.
It’s best to focus on permission marketing. This means building email lists, rather than buying them. And only emailing those who have a relationship with you (customers) or who’ve given you permission.
5. Not sending mobile-friendly emails
How often do you have to pinch and scroll to read emails on your phone? This is a sure way to get readers to stop reading your emails forever, so avoid this at all costs. Fortunately, there are mobile-friendly templates available on most email platforms.
6. Not sending a welcome email
Most email systems let you send a welcome email automatically to every new subscriber. Not sending one is a big mistake.
What’s the big deal?
Think about what happens when readers miss some of your emails. If they miss 1 or 2 weekly emails, it’ll be weeks before they hear from you. By then, they might forget they signed up and delete your message or report it as spam. That can affect your reputation as a sender in the email world.
Start off on a positive note instead. A welcome email is a great way to do this. This first email also tends to have a high open rate, so it’s more likely to be read.
7. Focusing purely on the sale
Please don’t focus on sales in every email.
Remember, your prospects signed up because they wanted to hear from you. So it’s important to deliver value with your expertise, helpful insights and information.
This sets you up as a go-to authority in your industry. It’s a powerful, trusted role and much more valuable than a quick “buy now” message.
Yes, you can still email promotions, but we suggest following the 80/20 rule with 80% educational and 20% sales-related content. It’s the best way to keep them reading and taking action.
8. Using poor subject lines
We understand the need to get things done quickly, but it’s worth spending an extra minute or two on improving your subject lines.
They’re more important than you think.
Honestly, they can make or break the success of your email. Because getting readers to open your message is half the battle, especially in an overflowing inbox.
Try to spur curiosity or make it intriguing. Anything’s better than “August Newsletter,” or “Summer Sale.”
While you’re at it, avoid words that will get your email sent straight to the spam folder. Here are few that will trigger the spam filter: Free, Act Now, Buy Direct, Cash, Giveaway, and many more. See this list of words to avoid.
9. Not including a CTA
Any marketer will tell you that a call-to-action or CTA should be part of every marketing piece. It tells readers what to do next and moves them towards your goal.
So don’t forget to tell your readers what to do. Should they visit your blog, buy something, leave a review, send you a reply? Make it clear and easy to understand.
10. Not checking results
How will you know you’ve reached your goals without checking results?
You might look for a bump in sales, but that might not happen for a while and is not the only measure. Open rates and other stats are a click away in your email program.
Email data can help you see progress and adjust for better results. For example, if open rates (percentage of people who opened your email) are high, but click-through rates (percentage who clicked a link) are low, you might need to make your call-to-action buttons more visible. If open rates are low, you might need to improve your subject lines.
Small moves can lead to big wins overall
Remember, email marketing is a long game where small adjustments can lead to success over time. But you have to stick with it by continually adjusting and improving.
Use this list to keep you on track and help you win more clicks in the inbox!
Need help with your email marketing? Get in touch.