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Top 10 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Erin Myers
November 10, 2015

Email marketing is the number one way small businesses are reaching more people than ever before. With a solid email marketing strategy, business owners can convert new customers and stay top of mind with existing customers.

But what makes up a solid email marketing strategy? We’re here to help you answer that question and show you how to avoid some of the most common mistakes small business owners are making with their email marketing today.

You can avoid these potential setbacks by investing in a done-for-you email marketing solution, but for the purposes of this article let’s focus on common mistakes and, most importantly, how to avoid them.

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1. Not Building Your Database

The first imperative for an email marketing strategy is having people to email. Start with a list of your existing email contacts and grow from there. There are many ways to build your email list; you can import contacts from LinkedIn, provide an email newsletter signup field on your website, use the call-to-action button on your Facebook page, and ask your customers to spread the word.

Whatever you do, don’t buy email lists; it’s not worth the money. Email service providers don’t like when you use purchased lists, and the people you end up emailing have no idea who you are. The key to email engagement is reaching out to those who have in some way expressed that they want to hear from you.

Start with recipients you know and make sure the emails you send are easy to share (we do this for our customers). That’s where you gain customer referrals and generate leads.

2. Going in Without a Plan

Now that you’ve built your contact list, you need to figure out what to write. Our content strategists rely on content calendars to map their strategy. A well thought out content calendar will keep your send dates timely and your topics thoughtful. For example, a real estate agent might send an email about how to heat your house efficiently in the winter and another about deck maintenance in the summer.

To determine how many topic ideas you’ll need, first decide how often you plan to send your emails. Once a month is a great place to start. Ninety percent of MarketingSherpa survey respondents say they like to hear from businesses at least monthly, if not more. We’ve found bimonthly newsletters are perfect for our customers.

The trick here is to watch for current events. If a natural disaster were to hit, you would want to postpone your email or tailor your message accordingly. On the flip side, there might be a hot topic that would benefit your subscribers if you have something to add to the conversation. Plan ahead, but stay nimble.

3. Setting too Little Time Aside to Write

Next comes the often-dreaded task of writing the emails. Keep your content relatively short (we aim for about 250 words), easy to read and engaging.

Set aside more time than you think you need, especially in the beginning. It may take some time to get the creative juices flowing. Plan for multiple drafts, as well as having someone else provide feedback as part of the process.

If you don’t set aside enough time, you may find yourself in a bind. Under a time constraint, you may be forced to either send an email that isn’t completely polished or fall behind on your schedule.

As a small business owner, we know you have a lot to do, that’s why we have a staff of seasoned writers on hand to provide professionally written email content just for you. Don’t let email end up last on your list.

4.Boring Subject Lines

One of the most elusive yet crucial aspects of a successful email campaign is the subject line. Nearly 50 percent of consumers say the subject line is what compels them to open an email; the other half are probably inclined to open emails from people they trust, regardless of the subject line. In the world of email, your subject line is your first impression.

You need to grab someone’s attention enough that they open your email even if you’re not a name they recognize in their inbox. There are so many ways you can go with a subject line, but ultimately you’ll need to see what works best for your email subscribers. The best advice we can give is to try new things, measure your open rate success and do more of what works.

As a general rule, keep it casual, conversational, personal and, above all, creative. For example, instead of “Tips to Cut Down Your Heating Bill,” try “Is Heating Your House Breaking the Bank?”

5. Sending Unprofessional-Looking Emails

Let’s be honest here. The second someone opens your email there is a moment of judgment. Does it look professional? Is it well written? Are there typos? Are the images high quality and appropriate for the topic?

No matter who you are, when you land in someone else’s inbox, you’re competing against big companies with money and resources dedicated to email marketing. Your emails need to stand up to the competition.

This means you need to send well-written emails that are visually appealing, which includes both the email template you use and the photos or images that you include. Above all, you need to proof everything before you hit send.

It’s okay to feel a little anxious when sending out an email newsletter. Your newsletters are like electronic ambassadors for your business. And mistakes happen; we are human after all. But the fewer mistakes you make in the process of sending out your email newsletter, the better you’ll look and feel.

6. Sending Emails at the Wrong Time

We don’t necessarily consider this a mistake, but over time it can become one. As you get your email marketing strategy off the ground, it’s important to track your email open rates. If no one is opening your emails, you’re wasting your time.

Start sending emails at a steady cadence, like the first Tuesday of every month at 9 a.m. After a few months of gathering data, switch it up one variable at a time. Try the first Tuesday at 7 p.m. instead and see if you get different results. Eventually, you’ll see what days and times yield the best results for your contact list. Anticipate that this may change over time, so the mistake to avoid making here is not paying attention to your email success rate statistics.

7. Ignoring Your Analytics

This mistake takes point six one step further. It’s one thing to see if an email is being opened, but it’s another to pay attention to how well emails are doing. What are your subscribers doing once they open your email? Are they clicking your links, or are they unsubscribing? Are you annoying your email list? All these questions and their answers point to when and where you may need to consider a strategy change.

8. Keeping a Bad List

Your email bounce rate and spam score are something you need to be aware of. An email bounce means that your email isn’t going through to someone. Bounces happen for many reasons ranging from typos in an email address to a recipient with a full inbox.

Email service providers pay attention to your bounces, too, and having a high bounce rate reflects poorly on your business. It’s good practice to comb through your list on a regular basis and remove any problem email addresses.

Different from bounces, spam flags occur when an email service provider thinks you’re sending junk mail in bulk, or when a recipient marks your email as spam. Make sure that your emails aren’t filtered out as spam by monitoring your efforts.

9. Not Using Time-Saving Tools

There are so many tools and resources to help alleviate the work that email marketing requires; use them to your advantage. Our vetted Time-saving Tools Cheat Sheet is a great place to start.

10. Not Automating Your Email Marketing

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, an easy way to avoid these mistakes is with a done-for-you email marketing solution like OutboundEngine. Consider letting someone else manage your email marketing, so you can focus on running your business. Just like thousands of customers we currently work with, you’ll reap the benefits of the repeat business and referrals that result from a carefully planned email marketing strategy. Email marketing yields an average 4,300 percent return on investment, and for every dollar spent, marketers see an average $44.25 in return.

Whatever you do, set yourself up for success by avoiding the commonly made mistakes mentioned in this article. When you take the time to handle your email marketing efforts the right way, rewards will follow.


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