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9 Killer Email Marketing Mistakes

The sad truth is that most people do email marketing all wrong.

Fifteen percent of marketers were willing to admit that their email marketing stinks, but the real number is probably much, much higher.

Everyone uses email. From charities to political advocacy groups and nearly every business, it’s well known that email is a powerful way to build awareness and loyalty. But there are some distressingly common errors, all of which are largely preventable.

Mistake #1: Not Segmenting Your Email List

Email is difficult for consumers to ignore. Your marketing messages are lumped in the same inbox as personal correspondence. Without a strong value proposition, your email could end up in the trash or, even worse, the spam folder. Segmenting your lists is one way to avoid this.

Try to collect as much data as possible from new customers or subscribers, and then use it to create customized messages. It’s important to be respectful of everyone’s time and attention; it’s a precious commodity these days.


Mistake #2: Not Reviewing Goals Regularly

Yes, making sales is the ultimate goal, but micro wins should also be monitored. Did someone open the email you sent? Click through to your site? Forward your email? Or was the email dumped into the spam folder?

Take a good look at your email metrics, and set achievable goals for opens, clicks and conversions. It’s also smart to use A/B testing to optimize your marketing efforts.

Mistake #3: Sending Ugly Emails

Are you using every available tool to make your emails shine? There are many HTML templates available, so there is no excuse for sending an ugly email. Here are a few places to find free or inexpensive templates:

Look for mobile-responsive designs, and then read this guide on how to use templates in your email marketing.

Mistake #4: Not Providing Enough Value

Don’t compete on price; compete on value. That way, you get to set your own prices. The same mantra rings true for email marketing. Your customers have enough noise in their lives. Discounts and freebies sometimes work, but it’s not a long-term marketing strategy.

Instead, focus on finding your voice. Your business has something valuable to offer (otherwise, you wouldn’t be in business). Telling the story of your product or service through content, essays, images and social media can be hugely beneficial in email marketing.

For example, if you sell garden equipment, you can provide seasonally appropriate tips on soil preparation, link to a relevant news story, give exclusive access to an online publication, offer an instructional video or send alerts about changing regulations or market conditions. Such niceties go a long way toward building a relationship with your readers.

Mistake #5: Not Personalizing Your Emails

Readers appreciate a little recognition. Chris Hexton proved this in a previous post: He found that personalized emails generated a 50 percent higher click-through rate.


Remember, too, that personal email counts as marketing. Sending a quick thank-you note to a customer or prospect is a great way to deepen an existing relationship or build a new one.

Mistake #6: Not Allowing Time for Quality Control

Get some help with editing and proofing anything you plan to send. Every piece of writing has room for improvement; there is nothing cute about bad grammar. Make sure you have a schedule that allows for a rework of the content or the presentation. Build in enough time so that you can delay or even cancel the mailing if circumstances warrant it.

Mistake #7: Not Leveraging Seasonal Opportunities

It seems as if everyone takes advantage of April Fools’ Day, but you shouldn’t limit yourself. Check the list of special days and capitalize on them; somewhere in the list are days that are meaningful to your message (for example, MLK Day is relevant if your cause relies on volunteers or if your firm can highlight employee volunteerism).

Be careful to avoid tacky mistakes, like these.

Mistake #8: Getting Stuck in a Rut

Keep current on what others are trying and how their efforts are working. Be willing to experiment and test new ideas often. Check out these 10 email campaigns for ideas, and read these 50 marketing blogs for the latest marketing tips.

Mistake #9: Not Having a Strategy

Strategy always comes before execution.

Every marketing effort needs to be carefully thought out. Emails can be the biggest driver of leads and sales for your business or the fastest way to turn people off to your brand.

Be sure that you have planned your email marketing for at least a few months in advance — six months is a good goal. This will give a unified feel to your campaign and prevent annoying repetition.

Email is a powerful tool. Use it well!

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