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Grow Your Business Sales & Marketing

6 Major Email Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

6 Major Email Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Credit: ESB Professional/Shutterstock

Email marketing remains a top method for business owners to regularly engage customers without putting too much of a dent in the marketing budget. Businesses can send customers information on discounts, upcoming promotions and other events.

Despite the many options to engage customers, businesses fail to develop proper email marketing campaigns daily. Whether because you end up in the spam folder, send too many blasted emails or create boring content, it's not a guarantee that your campaign will find success.

Here are six of the biggest email marketing mistakes you should avoid when sending emails to your customers. Limiting these errors can help you turn emails into sales.

When emailing your customers, it's important to understand why you're emailing them. You want to get something out of the relationship, whether it's increased sales or website traffic, but you still need to foster a relationship with your customers. If every email focuses on selling your products, your customers are going to become disengaged. Try to find a balance between helpful content and product offers.

Editor's note: Need help with email marketing? Fill out the questionnaire below to be connected with vendors that can help.

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"For example, if you run a hardware shop, perhaps you could send out a weekly newsletter with tips on better completing projects around the house or worksite," said Nicolas Straut, content marketing associate at Fundera. "Interspersed with this regular content, you could showcase relevant, new items or sales."

Sharing tips and ideas allows you to engage customers through content marketing. By doing this, you can bolster your position as an industry expert, while also gaining trust and building a relationship with customers. This will lead to higher open rates, as well as improved conversion rates.

As consumers continue to use smartphones to open emails, it's vital that your business considers mobile optimization when emailing customers.

"You can usually see in reports if most people are reading your email on a desktop or mobile device, but it's always good to send yourself a test copy of your email and check across devices to see if the font is big enough, the graphics or video looks good, the flow of the email translates well, and if the email is too long to scroll through if reading from a phone," said Shannon Howard, senior digital marketing strategist at Overit.

The best emails give customers a great experience both on mobile and desktop. It might take a few extra minutes to perfect your email's format, but it's worth the effort to ensure your emails are optimized for mobile. Information from Adestra suggests that if your email doesn't display properly on mobile, nearly 3 out of 4 people will delete the email in seconds. [Interested in using email marketing software? Check out our best picks.]

Don't use customer communication platforms like MailChimp or Constant Contact for lead-based email campaigns. These services don't allow businesses to use purchased or other third-party mailing lists they didn't compile themselves, but marketers often buy lists and load them on these platforms. If you violate their terms of service, these companies may shut down your account or, worse, blacklist your domain.

"Marketing is much more effective when the message is targeted," said Michael Cohen, vice president of marketing at eRelevance. "And the deeper you go, the better. Demographic information such as gender and age is a good start, but deeper behavioral segmentation based on data like purchasing habits delivers even more value to customers, and greater marketing effectiveness."

Catering to the needs of each customer is crucial. Think of the process almost as individual email marketing. Customers want to feel like they matter and aren't just another subscriber on your list. Including personalized greetings in each email is a good starting point.

Your emails should serve a purpose. Whether you want your customers to consider buying a product or following you on Instagram, there should be a call to action for it. It's important to be clear about what you're looking for from customers; otherwise, you're just crowding their inbox.

"Decide what you want the recipient to do, draw their attention to it – in the form of a big bold button or [something] similar – and enable the action to be taken in as few clicks as possible," said Sean Luechtefeld, communications director at ANCOR.

He warns against overdoing it with CTAs, however. You don’t want to overwhelm or confuse email recipients.

"If you're asking your subscribers to buy multiple products, sign up for another email list, post a photo on Instagram, support a cause and seven other things, you are likely to fracture your audience into different conversion funnels," Luechtefeld said. "The result? You have 100 people taking 10 different actions, rather than having 100 people taking one action."

When GDPR changes took effect in late May, the world of email marketing changed. To comply with GDPR, businesses are required to show proof that customers have opted to receive emails. These regulations don't directly apply to emails sent to those in the U.S., but adding an opt-in feature to your email list is a good idea regardless of where your recipients reside.

"Perhaps more to the point, even where not illegal under actual law in the U.S., such email is seen as spam by most people, and all email inbox providers, meaning that you will be subject to the 'law of the spam filter,' which will penalize all email that you send, not just marketing email," said Anne P. Mitchell, an internet law and policy attorney and CEO of the Institute for Social Internet Public Policy.

By avoiding common mistakes and following legal guidelines, you put your business in a position to reap the benefits of email marketing.

Additional reporting by Sara Angeles.

Bennett Conlin

Bennett is an editorial assistant based in New York City. He graduated from James Madison University in 2018 with a degree in business management. During his time in Harrisonburg he worked extensively with The Breeze, JMU’s student-run newspaper. Bennett also worked at the Shenandoah Valley SBDC, where he helped small businesses with a variety of needs ranging from social media marketing to business plan writing. Contact him through email or Twitter.