Email marketing: 10 mistakes to avoid

Run Your Business Feb 16, 2016

Learn how to avoid common mistakes that trip up email marketers.

You understand why email continues to be a viable marketing option for small businesses. Now, let’s learn how to avoid common mistakes that can trip up your email efforts.

If you don’t analyze the results from email marketing, how will you know if it’s working?

  1. Too much of a good thing Avoid sending email too often. The most common reason people unsubscribe is because they receive too much email in general. If they get really annoyed, they might report you as spam or avoid your doing business with you altogether.
  2. The dead letter office Your email won’t accomplish anything if it goes to a blocked address, a mailbox that’s full, or an address that’s no longer used. It’s normal to get one to two per cent of emails returned (“bounced back”), but if you see a higher percentage, find out what the problem is so you can fix it.
  3. Failure to measure If you don’t analyze the results from email marketing, how will you know if it’s working? Some email solution providers do this for you, but it isn’t rocket science. The most important things to measure are:
    • Open rate. How many opened the email.
    • Click-through rate. How many linked to your Web site or offer.
    • Conversion rate. How many completed an action or made a purchase.
  4. Vague subjects and SPAM triggers Make the subject line of your email clear and action-oriented. If the reader doesn’t immediately sense its value, your email will go straight to the trash. Avoid !!!s and ???s and anything that comes across as hucksterism. Even “free,” “clearance,” and “cash” can trigger SPAM filters. (For a comprehensive trigger list, visitHubspot.)
  5. Impersonal touches An advantage of being a small business is knowing your customer personally. Don’t overlook this, and don’t send every email to every customer. Target specific messages or offers at specific times—for example to working moms, seniors, or students.
  6. Call to inaction If a customer opens your email, reads it, and stops there, what have you accomplished? Always have a next step and make it an easy one. You don’t have to give away something with every email, but you do need to reward your customer with valuable information or something else of interest to them.
  7. Beating around the bush What’s the purpose of the email? To introduce a new menu item? Remind customers to pick up their summer dry cleaning before fall? Celebrate coffee week? Focus your email on one subject, and stick to content that’s relevant to your audience.
  8. Selling too hard People seldom appreciate hard sell tactics. Try a problem and solution approach instead. Remember, your email should be all about the customer.
  9. Avoid hit and miss, and all or nothing Develop a calendar for your email marketing plan. You’ll lose momentum if your emails are hit and miss. Many marketers give customers the option of receiving fewer emails (for example, once a month), or opting in only if email is related to specific topics (new products, special offers, etc.)
  10. Don’t get too up close and personal Email marketing is a great way to get demographic information about your customers, but don’t overdo it. If you send a survey or questionnaire, limit the number of questions and how long it takes to complete, or you may lose them altogether.

Make your email messages a rewarding experience for your customers and they’ll reward you with more business.


Kelly Burkart is a freelance writer from Minneapolis, Minn. While she has spent most of her time writing about financial services the past 15 years, she has also explored and written about everything from cardiovascular health to travel, higher education and sustainable energy practices.

Article by KELLY BURKART, Content Strategist/writer