27 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid


Are you making any of these common email marketing mistakes? If so, your mistakes could be sabotaging your campaigns, causing your mailings to be unopened, deleted, or worse, marked as spam.

Email marketing mistakes can doom a business’ efforts to reach and engage their audience. Email remains one of the most popular methods of marketing today. It has a great ROI (Return on Investment), but it is not without pitfalls. Many marketers – particularly those new to digital marketing – don’t know how to use email properly and as a result, make a number of common mistakes.

What Makes Email Campaigns Work?

Email marketing is all about sending subscribers information they want to know about. That’s how to get emails opened and read. But having an opt-in list of subscribers who do want to receive information from you isn’t enough to make your email marketing campaigns succeed. To succeed, you have to avoid these 27 common email marketing mistakes.

1 – Not Having a Clear Goal

A common email marketing mistake is not having a clear and measurable goal for each email campaign you send out. The goal might be to drive sales, build name recognition and trust, get visitors to a website, or get prospects to phone you for an appointment. Whatever the goal is, however, it should be clear and measurable.

2 – Using a Bad Subject Line

Using an ineffective subject lines is another common email marketing mistake. If your subject line looks and sounds like spam or a hard-sell message, your audience will scroll on by or delete it immediately.  For example, the subject line CLICK HERE TO GET THE DEAL OF THE CENTURY ON WINTER COATS!!!!  might be ignored because it looks spammy and the subject line is too long. Emails that use all capital letters and a lot of exclamation points are the online equivalent of shouting at your audience, which is something you shouldn’t do. The “deal of the century” wording is clearly exaggeration, and the product that’s on sale (the coats) is at the end of the subject line, where it may be cut off in the recipient’s inbox window. Good subject lines lets consumers know in succinct terms why it’s important to them to open your mailing.

3 – Not Using Autoresponders

Autoresponders are tools that automatically send one or a series of mails on a predetermined schedule once something “triggers” the autoresponder. For instance, if you are using an email marketing service to send your mailings (and you should), you can set up a welcome email that will be automatically sent to each new person who signs up for your mailing list.  If you have a lead form on your website, you might set up an autoresponder with a series of emails to out to each new lead, with each email in the series being scheduled to send out 3 days apart. If you tried to manually send those types of mailings, you will find yourself sinking into a mire of work where nothing gets delivered on time.

4 – Not Using an Outline to Create your Mailing

It is important to get your point across quickly in the body of the email, too.  It’s a mistake to go on and on at length before getting to the point. Doing so will turn off any reader. Estimates vary as to the best length for an email, but most conversions occur with emails that are less than 300 words.  State your point quickly and cleanly. Include any special offers immediately. An outline will assist in not going off track and rambling.

5 – Not Tracking and Testing

This should go without saying. If you don’t track and analyze your email campaigns as a whole, you have no idea which campaigns are working, or whether any of them are working better than others. You should also be A/B testing individual campaigns to determine if changing one element (say a subject line or the color of a button in the body of the mail) will make a difference in performance.

6 – Using List Brokers Lists and Email Addresses Without Permission

Buying email lists is one of the biggest email marketing mistakes you can make. List brokers are selling lists of email addresses they have collected or scraped. The names on the lists you buy won’t know who you are, are unlikely to open your mailings, and might mark you as a spammer. Similarly, it’s a mistake to build your own list by adding email addresses you scraped from websites, business cards or other sources ways. The only names that should be on your email list are people who have specifically given you permission to add them. Here are 10 appropriate ways to build your email list.

Sending mass mailings without permission is spam, which the CAN-SPAM Act prohibits. Your bounce rate will be phenomenally high if your subscribers haven’t given you permission, and your email services provider and/or ISP can shut you down.

7 – Asking for Too Much Information on Opt-In Forms

Your email opt-in signup form should be set up to encourage prospects and customers to subscribe to your mailing list. Most people don’t like filling out online forms and don’t want to give out much information about themselves. Thus, your opt-in signup form should only request the information you need to accomplish your goal. In many cases, that just means asking for a name and an email address. If you are selling high-end products or use salespeople to personally contact prospects, you may want to request more information on your form. But you’ll generally need to offer a good reason for people to provide that information.

8 – Personalizing Mass Emails

Years ago, personalizing email “subject” lines got people’s attention and got emails opened. But that was before studies touting the increased open rates from personalization led to the tactic’s overuse. Fast forward to today, and according to a survey recently conducted by Get to the Inbox by SuretyMail, almost 44% of email recipients are less likely to open an email if their name appears in the subject line. The reason: most people realize that email sent by a company or a website is likely to be a mass mailing. And mailings that use their name in the subject line are sales pitches more often than not. So they skip them. Or delete them without opening them

9 – Omitting the CTA in Email Campaigns

CTA is a marketing acronym that’s short for Call to Action. A call to action is a command, or prompt that tells the reader of your email (or any marketing promotion) what step they should take to act on the offer. Without a CTA, your email is likely to be read and then closed without the readers making a purchase, phone call, or visiting your site. 

In email, the CTA might be Buy Now button, a Call Us reminder (with a phone number and click to call link), or a link to visit a website.  Leaving the call to action out of your email marketing campaigns is a mistake.

10 – Forgetting to Include a Share Button

Forgetting to include a share button is another common email marketing mistake. Most consumers will share with others what they find interesting.  Remind them to share and make it easy to do so with share buttons and reminders to forward the email to friends.

11 – Not Segmenting or Cleaning Lists

Email contacts who never open your emails are useless to you and may jack up the cost of your email service if you have a large list and/or mail frequently. If you have people who never open any emails, they should be removed from your mailing list. 

Similarly, if you sell products or services that appeal to different niches, you should segment your lists, so you can send the right messages to the right people. The kind of clothing a 75-year-old woman from a Northern part of the world is likely to order is MUCH different from what a 30-year-old man from a sunny climate would be interested in. Images you use in messages, the tone you use, references to experiences all have to be considered whether you’re selling products or services.

12 – Forgetting to Set Up a Welcome Email 

When a new subscriber fills out your email form, they should immediately get a short, cordial welcome. Not a buy-now offer but a welcoming email.  E.G., “We Are Happy to Meet You.” If you’re not sure what to include in your welcome email, read our guide that explains how to write email welcome letters.

13 – Mobile Device Checking Missing

Statistics on the number of emails opened on phones vary greatly but most businesses find that at least half of the people who receive their email marketing campaigns use a smart phone to open and read them. Thus, it’s essential to check how your message looks on mobile devices. If your email can’t be read on a smart phone or tablet without scrolling from side-to-side, people will quickly close it without taking action. To test, send a test email and open it on your phone.

Since the people reading on a phone are also likely to visit your website that way, be sure your website is mobile-responsive.

14- Including Attachments with your Emails

With all the malware out there today, email recipients are wary of attachments. Thus, it’s a mistake to send them in email.  Your email should describe the offer or promotion, with the CTA or BUY NOW button leading to a simple, secure (https) website or form. If you are offering a catalog, a website link to view the catalog should be embedded, not an attachment.

15 – Failing to Proofread for Typos Before You Send Mailings

A spelling error can make your business look unprofessional. A typo in your business address, phone number or contact information will prevent subscribers from reaching you with questions and orders. A typo in a price can play havoc with customer relations or your bottom line. Say you have a product that normally sells for $129.99, and you decide to reduce it to $99.99 for a limited time. How would you handle the situation if the email promotion goes out saying the new price is $9.99, instead of the $99.99 you intended? Avoid the problem by proofreading your emails before you send them. Ideally, two or three people should proofread an email campaign before you send it.

16 – Not Checking for Broken Links, or Errors

Yes, you are busy and, in a hurry, but two big and surprisingly common email marketing mistakes are sending a campaign with a broken link or missing link and leaving placeholder text in place unchanged. Be sure to check that images are correctly linked, as well as CTA buttons.

Your audience is going to be annoyed if you refer them to an article on your website about 5 ways to prevent running injuries, if the link doesn’t work, goes to a different blog post, or isn’t there at all. And they may quickly unsubscribe if they get email that reads “Dear {First name} “or “Dear Lorem Ipsum”, because you used a personalization feature incorrectly.

17 – Failing to Acknowledge Your Errors

If you accidentally send out an email with a broken link or other major error, fix the problem and then immediately send another email to the list with the correction.  Make the subject line of read something like “Oops, we goofed,” or “Corrected link” or something so that your subscribers will notice and open it. Everyone makes mistakes once in a while, and admitting to the mistake shows your readers you care.

18 – Not Encouraging Feedback

Some subscribers might have questions about delivery dates, sizes, etc. Encourage them to reply with a Contact US button that is easy to access. Do not make them dig through your email looking for a way to contact you. Make sure that someone on your staff monitors the phone or contact form the Contact Us button leads to and responds quickly to all inquiries.

19 – Not Including an Unsubscribe Link

This is a biggie. The law requires that commercial message must have a clear way for recipients to opt out.  Email marketing service templates include this link automatically, but if you are not using an email marketing service, be sure you have give recipients a way to unsubscribe to your mailings.

20 – Failure to Monitor your Metrics

Most email marketing service providers provide at least basic statistics to show you how your campaigns are doing. At very least you should be able to tell how many people opened your emails and how many clicked through. But there are other data that matters, too. Be sure to check these customer engagement metrics regularly. What worked last week might not work this week so you cannot “set and forget” anything especially metrics. 

21 – Using Confusing Brand Messaging

Your email subscribers associate your products or services with a particular brand name. Stick to that brand name and those products or services in your mailing. If perchance you start a new division of products, create a separate mailing list for it. You can introduce it to your original subscribers in an email and then invite those who are interested to sign up for email from the new brand.

22 – Using Hard Sell Subject Lines and Copy

Even if you don’t overuse exclamation points or capitalization, your email marketing campaign can still come across as a hard sell. Although hard sell phrases like “Act Now”, “Limited Time Offer,” or “Limited Quantities” do work for some businesses, they can be a put-off to some people. They might also get your email marked as spam.  Furthermore, truth in advertising laws prohibit you from using terms like that if they aren’t true. 

23 – Not Targeting your Email Campaigns to the Right Audiences

No matter how many subscribers you have each will have dissimilar needs. You may need different emails for different demographics and psychographics, as we mentioned above. You might want to create list segments for new subscribers, repeat customers and customers who haven’t purchased in several months and send each of them different offers.

24 – Choosing the Wrong Email Templates

Not only should your templates match your consumer’s buying needs they should also match the holidays and celebrations of each consumer. Diversity is rampant in the world today, and you should not be sending Merry Christmas emails to those who are celebrating Hanukkah and vice versa.  Be always aware of the cultures in the world today. Try to have a birthday list as well. It is an enormous way to make a sale by offering a discount on someone’s birthday.

25 – Using Unclear Subject Lines

You are taking up space in your subscribers’ inboxes.  Make them aware of why you are sending the email and do not have them guessing what the mail is about.  If offering free shipping for the holiday, begin the title with “Free Shipping for the holidays.” Birthday emails should read, “Happy Birthday.” Remember, email subject lines are what get attention and get emails opened.

26 – Using an Unrecognizable Email Address

Your email campaigns should be sent from an email address your subscribers will recognize. If they are most familiar with the name of your business, then the “from” email address should be your business name.

For example, if people know your business as Bayside Tech, you should use Bayside Tech as the name that shows in the from line. However, if customers and prospects are more likely to recognize your name instead of the business name, use your name in the from line. This might be the case if you are a blogger or a one-person business.

Using a recognizable name in the “from” field in email allows your subscribers to immediately know who is sending the email and will help avoid spam filters. If you use a from line that is unfamiliar to subscribers, they’re unlikely to open it.

27 – Creating and Sending Email Campaigns When You Are Overtired

Creating and sending email is just one of the many hats you may have to wear if you are a business owner. And because it may seem less important than other “urgent” tasks in your day, you may find yourself working on the task without devoting your full attention to it.  That can lead to embarrassing mistakes. Burnout occurs with everything, and fewer mistakes will be made if you do all your creation and analysis of email marketing campaigns when your mind is clear each day.  If you can’t set aside that time, you may want to consider hiring someone to create and manage email campaigns for you.

In conclusion, remember that every company makes email marketing mistakes occasionally. You can avoid most by avoiding the errors we mentioned above. Remember, too, that a failure of one campaign does not mean you are a failure. Tweaking (making minor changes to) email campaigns and learning from your mistakes will help you improve the success and ROI of future mailings.

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