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Common email marketing mistakes and how to avoid them

By Will Stevens - January 7, 2015
Will Stevens

Will Stevens, 123-reg blog contributor

Despite the ubiquity of social media, email remains a great way to reach your customers. With the rise of the smartphone and tablets, emails are no longer read from an office chair – they can be used to reach people wherever they are. But getting things wrong with email is easier than you think. Here are five common email marketing mistakes on how to avoid them.

Not getting permission

If you’re running an online business, the chances are you’ll gather an email address each time someone buys from you or signs up to your site. You may be tempted use this data to send newsletters and special offers in the hope of turning someone into a repeat customer, but it’s not always the best idea.

Putting someone on a mailing list when they haven’t explicitly asked to be included is a bad idea for two reasons. The first is that emailing people when they’re not expecting it means your messages are likely to be treated as spam. This makes it unlikely people will read what you’ve sent and it may damage your business’s reputation. It can also increase the chances of other people’s email providers treating your messages as spam, leading to disastrous results for your email marketing efforts – if an email provider thinks your message is spam then it’s likely to be blocked or redirected to a junk mail folder before being automatically deleted.

The second reason is even more important – signing people up to mailing lists they don’t want to be on could be against UK data protection laws. If you’ve signed someone up to an email distribution list when they’ve bought a product from you, you can only send marketing messages about similar products and services. You also have to offer people the chance to opt out when they buy from you, and in future messages you send.

Even though you can legally use this “soft opt-in” technique in some circumstances, many marketers recommend avoiding it altogether. The theory is that getting people to actively opt-in to you mails leads to a smaller but higher quality mailing list. Some go even further and recommend using a double opt-in system where people have to confirm there subscription to your list after they’ve signed up.

However you do it, you need to make sure people know they’ll be hearing from you.


Outdated design

The days when all email messages were read on 14-inch cathode ray screens is long gone. In 2015, people might be reading your emails on a widescreen TV, or they could be checking them out on a smartphone. You can’t ask customers to read your emails on a particular size screen; that means it’s up to you to ensure your messages look good no matter which device is used to access them.

Responsive design is the key here – using it will make sure your emails automatically resize themselves to fit whatever screen they’re being read on. If you don’t have the skills to make the move to responsive email marketing, it’s more than worth paying someone to do it for you.

Why? Because up to 60% of your emails will be read on a mobile device and four-fifths of people delete messages if they have to pinch of scroll to read them.

If you send a lot of emails but have a limited budget, you can pay for a responsive email template, which you will be able to reuse when you need it.

No personalisation

Nothing alienates someone more quickly than a message which starts with “Dear customer” or worse “Dear valued customer”. Personalisation is rapidly becoming best practice, meaning if you don’t embrace it your email marketing campaigns will look worse compared to those of your competitors.

Clearly, personalisation doesn’t mean hand crafting every email you send. It does, however, mean using a mailing system that allows you to address customers by their names whenever you get in touch with them.

To underline things, research by Experian shows that personalisation can increase email marketing revenue by up to 500%. Personalisation is clearly a big deal and, if properly implemented, should more than pay for itself.

Not keeping to a regular schedule

Firing out emails whenever you feel like it is a sure way to confuse customers and may even lead to them unsubscribing from your marketing list. When people sign up to receive messages from you, make sure they know what they’ll be getting. If your newsletter goes out weekly, tell them to expect a weekly newsletter, if it’s monthly tell them that. Then, make sure you stick to the schedule – if you promise someone a weekly newsletter on sign up and then they don’t hear from you for two months, they’re likely to forget you exist. If that happens, your readers are less likely to open your message. Email marketing is like any relationship – it will fade if you don’t keep working at it.

It’s also important to keep unscheduled emails to a minimum. If you send a mailout promising special offers every other day, people will soon get sick of hearing from you. They’ll either ignore you or unsubscribe, so when you do have something special to share with customers you won’t be able to get through to them.

Almost 70% of people have unsubscribed from a mailing list because they were receiving too many messages, so make sure you don’t overdo it. If you have an established email list, ask people how often they’d like to hear from you and use that to guide your future efforts.

Not measuring ROI

Using Google Analytics (or a similar programme) to measure how people interact with the content you link to in your email newsletters is always important, but when you’re selling things via email it become vital. If you don’t know what the return on investment (ROI) is for your email marketing campaigns, then you don’t know whether its worthwhile. Monitoring ROI can also give you valuable insights about how to improve your marketing.

If you have an analytics programme set up to monitor conversions and use URL tagging in the proper manner, you’ll be able to see how much revenue each email generates for any products you sell via email.

Anyone who hasn’t set up Google Analytics can get started with this guide, while there’s more information about monitoring ROI here.

Other issues

Like any aspect of business, email marketing is a nuanced and no matter how good you are at it, there’s always room for improvement. If you want more inspiration on how to improve your business emails, check out this guide to email tactics that don’t work and what you can do instead.