The 8 biggest email marketing mistakes

Last week I attended the eCommerce Expo in London - an annual event with over 5,000 attendees from the eCommerce industry. One of the best talks was one from Lorna Purcell at Marketo, a marketing automation software provider. In the talk Lorna discussed the main errors that are made when carrying out email marketing campaigns - and they seemed so on the money I wanted to share them here. Here are the eight biggest mistakes that email marketers make. 

Note: If you wish to see the original presentation you can view it right here.

1. Unclear subject lines

A lot of marketers are guilty (including myself) of having tried to be too clever with our subject lines. We think that if we pose a question, or make a clever pun, then we might be able to increase our open rate. In essence, we are trying to trick the reader. But time and again the evidence has suggested otherwise. 

AWeber communications did a study which found that clear subject lines, such as "5 things your website is missing" received 541% more clicks than "clever" ones, such as "Does your website have all of these?".

Marketo themselves have tested this and found statistically significant results that agree with this research. It seems that users just want their subject lines to be simple and honest. 

2. Poor email list hygiene

It can be tempting to measure your email marketing lists purely on volume of subscribers, but in truth the quality of those subscribers is far more imperative. Your sender reputation is far more important than the number of your subscribers as this will directly impact your deliverability and inboxing rates. If you fail to keep good email hygiene you will find that less of your subscribers will see your emails arrive 

Keep em' clean

Keep em' clean

Be sure to measure soft-bounces and unengaged subscribers - and clean them out every now and again. 

3. Failure to measure inboxing

Talking of sender reputation - this can also impact where you end up in a recipient's inbox. We may measure whether an email is received, but measuring inboxing specifically determines whether the email ends up in the primary inbox, as opposed to spam, or promotion folders. 

Using a tool to measure this can help you further analyse your emails and examine what triggers your emails to land in the wrong folder - so you can ensure your content is seen more often. 

4. No engagement segmentation

Like most marketing channels, engagement is king. Internet service providers love engagement and use it as a key indicator of content quality. An interesting suggestion within the presentation was segmenting your audience by engagement - and then ensuring that emails are sent to the high engagement list just before sending to the wider audience. By doing so you establish that the content is of quality and therefore the deliverability of the email, once sending out the second time, will be higher.

5. No re-engagement strategy

It's natural that some of your subscribers will become inactive. This can be for many reasons, such as they are too busy, or their job role has changed. But rather than just accepting it for what it is, email marketers need to ensure that they create reactivation campaigns. 

Are your subscribers asleep?

Are your subscribers asleep?

This involves creating a separate campaign targeted towards your inactive users - inviting them back in, and providing them with content that may re-engage them. From this you can determine who wants to hear from you, who doesn't, and clean your email lists appropriately. 

Remember, the cost of reactivating a subscriber is lower than adding a new one, so its essential to have a plan in place to bring users back into the fold. 

6. Using image based CTA buttons

If something is an image then the user may not see it until they opt to download images. If you choose to use buttons that are images with links, then your CTAs will be less obvious. 

Instead, use HTML buttons - which will be shown instantly. They're simple to implement, but can lead to higher open rates and CTR. 

7. No mobile optimisation

This should be obvious by now - don't even think about sending an email if it is not responsive to various device sizes. Mobile devices need the right sizes, larger text and for the call to action to be "above the fold" (i.e. you don't have to scroll down to see it). 

8. Bad testing decisions

Testing and measurement is integral to any email marketing campaign. You can read as much insight as you want, but ultimately every audience is slightly different and you will only be able to assess and improve upon performance once you are analysing the data. That said, the quality of testing is important to ensure you don't get inaccurate insights. Such mistakes include: 

  • Sending emails at random times - which can make it difficult to assess what works. Be sure to normalise your timings and measure
  • Having too small a sample size - remember, the lower the number of users the higher chance your results will have some form of anomaly
  • Including too many variable - if your A/B tests are different on multiple levels it can be hard to distinguish how each change is specifically effecting results
Test your times correctly

Test your times correctly

I'm sure most people who have dabbled in email marketing have made at least a couple of these common errors. Email marketing is an incredibly powerful tool, that is often overlooked - but when care and attention is given it can help build strong leads for your business.