9 email marketing mistakes (and how to avoid them)

We’ve all been there. It’s the day before Cyber Monday: you’ve crafted the perfect marketing email – it’s sophisticated yet straightforward, creative yet factual, and guaranteed to inspire customers to open, click, and convert in one seamless motion.

With a slightly self-satisfied smile, you hit “send” before you realize…

… that the link to your site was broken. Or one of the images is missing. And unfortunately, there is no “Undo” button for email (yet).

We've collected a list of common email marketing blunders and tips for avoiding them. We’ve also included a cheatsheet at the end, which you can use to verify that each email you send is truly good to go.

1) A subject line that is unrelated to the email – sometimes intentionally designed to tempt recipients to open the email (“subject line bait”).

How to avoid it: Make sure the subject line conveys the punchline of the email. If the email contains multiple messages, it’s best to have the subject line match the message in the first section of the email (the one your recipient reads first).

2) Broken links or links that don’t work as intended  including links that don't work or send readers to the wrong place.

How to avoid it: Click every link in your email to make sure they function appropriately. Better yet, have someone else click them (in general, having someone else checking your mail is an essential part of the cheatsheet we included at the end of this post).

3) Incorrect spelllling – enough said.

How to avoid it: Some browsers and online editors offer inline tools that will show a squiggly red line to indicate a spelling mistake. Those are good as a first pass. However, for better reliability, we would recommend that you copy / paste the body of the email into a word processor and run a full spelling and grammar check.

4) Funky layout when images are not displayed - an email that is reliant on images and doesn’t render correctly when images are disabled. Some email clients and browsers don’t have images enabled by default, so a lot of people will not see the images you’ve included in your email.

How to avoid it: Test your email in image-disabled mode and make sure it displays well. Always include an alt-text for each image so some of the images’ meaning is still presented.

5) Breaking the law - according to the CAN-SPAM law, you must include your physical mailing address and a link for unsubscribing from your mailing list in each email you send.

How to avoid it: Include these two elements in your email template so you don’t need to worry about them in every email you send.

6) Poor mobile layout - not optimizing your email for mobile devices (or at least making sure they look reasonable). Considering the ever-increasing percentage of recipients engaging with email on mobile devices, this one is important.

How to avoid it: To start, check how your email looks on a few mobile devices (iPhone, iPad, android). It might be that you only need to make some cosmetic changes; it might be that you need to replace your template to a mobile-friendly or responsive template. Even after finding the right template, it’s probably a good idea to continue testing any new emails you create on a mobile device.

7) Incompatibility with certain email clients - your recipients read your emails on many different platform combinations: different hardware (Mac vs PC vs Mobile), operating systems (Windows vs Mac vs Linux), email clients (gmail vs outlook), browsers (Explorer vs Firefox vs Chrome). They all display the same email slightly differently - or very differently. You don’t want your email to look bad on any of them.

How to avoid it: It will be near-impossible to manually test your email on every platform combination. However, when starting to use a new template, it’s a good idea to test it on a few popular combinations. There are also online services that will do the testing for you.

8) Excessive or insufficient length - your email is so long that people either don’t get to the end, or – worse- feel overwhelmed and unsubscribe. Alternatively, your email is so short that you don’t make full use of the attention your readers have offered you.

How to avoid it: The best way to determine your readers’ length preference is to A/B test. Send two versions of the email - one with 10 product images, one with 20. Or one with 5 content items and one with 8, and look at differences in clickthru rates, unsubscribe rates and conversion. Optimize and continue testing.

9) No personalization or segmentation - sending the same email about the children’s socks sale you’re running this weekend to customers who only ever buy women’s lingerie, or football merchandise, or dorm room accessories.

How to avoid it: This one isn’t a quick “fix”, but there are initial steps you can take: Start thinking about segmenting your customers by their shopping behavior, demographics, site engagement or other attributes. If you need some help kickstarting your segmentation thinking, check out the Segmentation course on Custora U and the Segmentation cheatsheet with plenty of examples of ways to segment.

10) And finally, as part of our 'read 9, get one free' promotion, here is a bonus mistake to guard against: Being boring. For example, your email is so boring this happens:

bunny falling asleep.

How to avoid it: Personalizing your messages and ensuring your emails are timely and relevant are a good start. If all else fails, here’s a collection of funny animal videos, the funniest Amazon product reviews, and a meme generator to ensure you have all the tools you need to spruce up any email.



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