What does a strong email marketing plan look like? 10 email marketing mistakes to avoid along the way

By: Chris Thompson on November 9, 2016 Categories: Content Marketing, Corporate Communications
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Over 200 billion emails are sent daily around the world. Yet, emails are the mostly likely method of communication to stick around in someones day. To get rid of an email, the reader has to take a manual action: read, delete, or archive that message. While many readers will instantly unsubscribe, emails are harder to ignore and get avoided less.

When it comes to long-term engagement, emails win every time. Email marketing is the most cost-effective content tactic to connect with people and measure impact with minimal administrative or operational overhead. Emails can be tailored to any action, or inaction, and be easily shared.

With over 2 billion users, email isn’t going anywhere so it’s time to master email marketing.

 Accept that there’s no magic “formula” to success

When creating any email plan, you have to become okay with the potential that you’re going to fumble. Regardless of all the best practices read and guides followed, the only way to make an impact with content is to try, learn, iterate, measure, and repeat.

There’s no one magic algorithm that will magically make any business successful, otherwise there’d be no more money for people to spend on new things! There is however some general mistakes to avoid if you’re just getting started or looking for quick ways to improve your existing strategy. Paying attention to detail, testing everything, and looking professional go a long way.

Putting in the effort to correct for these small mistakes can mean the difference of starting with an email campaign that produces 0 results, or a campaign that might not produce your ideal results, but creates a reasonable benchmark to learn from.

In addition to asking yourself, “is this something I would read?” here’s 9 common mistakes to avoid in email marketing:

Not paying attention to how professional your content looks like.

With over 65% of buyers in the awareness stage when they hit your brand for the first time, now more than ever you have to pay attention to the small things. From layout, to images, to gimmicky CTAs, you have to think how many times someone will cringe looking at yet another poorly-thought out ploy.

It’s important to tighten up the brand experience, spend a bit more timing learning the email marketing product you use, having a fresh set of eyes edit for mistakes, and ask yourself, “Would I delete this if it I received it? Would I sigh and unsubscribe because it’s too promotional?”

Pay attention to:

Email colors are consistent with brand colors

Formatting: Don’t randomly center align a mostly left aligned email, or vice-versa.

Is your logo and a link to learn more easily accessible?

Is that image really necessary and providing value to the reader, or distracting from the copy of the email?

Bait-click and over-hyped subject lines, or subjects not related to your body copy.

Being let down is worse. Lying, tricking, or placing a spin on things to get higher open rates or click-through rates does more harm than good.

While your initial round of emails might have higher results, readers won’t want to continuously engage. Clickbait or over-hyping what your email is about can leave bad blood and taint the view of your brand.

Always focus on long-term goals and don’t sacrifice continuous engagement for short-term statistics.

Your email is self-promotional and offers no value to the reader.

Don’t send spam emails that just promote how awesome you are. Every email should be crafted with the intent of giving the customer something for taking their time to engage with you.

They’re taking the time to read your message, so take the time to give them a reason to not unsubscribe. If you’re just talking about how you can save them time, but don’t show it, they’re not going to believe you.

This doesn’t mean you can’t create CTAs that speak to signing up for a trial or book a demo, but insure you’re giving some meat with that action. Why would this help them?

Are they ready for this click-through action or should this type of email be sent after a few educational emails? Timing and valuing a reader’s time is everything.

Favoring buzzwords over telling a brand story.

Your content should make your readers feel like they need you.

As humans we’re wired to naturally believe we don’t need something unless we fall in love with a story first. It has to fit into our lives before we’ll make a connection with it.

Behaviors of consumers are changing, so your email sending habits need to as well. Stop placing arbitrary understandings of how our audience understands your story. Uncover those assumptions and seek to break down those perceptions that are incorrect.

Ask yourself: “What challenges and perceptions is our content faced with? Are we telling the right story to combat those challenges?” Focus on telling the story first, and naturally revenue will follow.

Don’t get stuck on plugging in keywords and speaking in marketing-lingo to trick search engines into displaying your content first. If that’s all your efforts are focused on, those that engage with you aren’t going to know why they should bother listening.

Your email contains too many different call-to-actions (CTAs).

Each email sent should have 1 action. More than one, and you’re asking your customer to spend their time interacting in too many ways. It also becomes harder to track conversion rates, improve on messaging using A/B testing, and map out what’s working in your strategy.

Best practice is to have the same action, called upon 3 times/email. A great way to embed CTAs throughout the email is to insure all photos are clickable, add buttons, and add in-line text links.

To maximize the potential of a call-to-action to converting, insure there’s at least 2 opportunities to act above the fold. Speak to a pain the reader has and a gain they’ll receive if they click.

Your email message is made up of image-only content

With an increase in email marketing from all businesses, spam detection and server blocks have also gone up. As people filter out the noise more and more, relying on an image to pitch a message is the equivalent to sending an empty email with no body copy.

If the image gets blocked, there’s nothing there the reader can actually absorb. There’s a higher chance they’ll unsubscribe and or walk away without having acted or converted. If you want to include an image, be sure it doesn’t contain a critical message that you want to make that isn’t also contained within the message body itself.

Adding ALT Text to an image is also an overlooked aspect of email marketing plans. ALT Text is what appears when the image itself gets blocked and should explain what the image is. This helps identify if the reader unblocks, or shows the images, they’re not going to get an unpleasant surprise.

Sending without testing

Never launch an email campaign without testing your messaging and workflow settings. From simple spelling errors to something more critical such as sending logic that sends one email after another email has had action or inaction, make sure everything looks professional and is functional.

View your emails on as many operating platforms as possible to test for how different email clients are going to handle your messaging. From blocked images by default, to how a button gets interacted with, through to how your email looks on a mobile device, testing assures your conversion metrics don’t take a hit due to something you could have prevented by taking an extra day to QA.

Testing also helps you walk through the shoes of those that will be receiving your message. It’s a great way to step back and ask, “would I read this if it was sent to me?” If the answer is no, it’s time to make changes.

Not automating repetitive, mundane tasks

It’s easy to think that you can do it all without automating anything to save costs while you work to create a marketing strategy that is proven to work. However, it’s also easy to create sunken costs when it comes to manually repeating certain tasks.

Before executing on your email marketing plan it’s important to discuss operationally, where you can save time. Time is money, and if you are already short on resources, it’s important to automate as much as you can that is a time-sink.

Having someone manually send emails everyday when a product can help will save you thousands of dollar in salary time alone, let alone the thousands you’ll save having that individual contribute in more meaningful ways.

Automating the mundane is also helpful when it comes to engaging your team members! If someone is stuck doing repetitive tasks, they’re likely to become disengaged; however, if they’re also able to contribute to strategy and develop new skills by having time to get involved in new projects, they’ll be a much more engaged team member.

Lack of email sending consistency

Sticking to a regular schedule of content distribution and committing to that schedule is more powerful than just creating content for content’s sake. This is because of the power of predictability in maintaining a schedule.

Humans naturally feel more comfortable when something is predictable. Predictability breeds trust.

Content marketers need to stop trying to be the only thing our customers are listening to, because that’s just wildly unreasonable, and set a time with our audience that they’re dedicated to listening to us. This starts with content distribution predictability.