6 Common Email Marketing Mistakes (And How to Fix Them)

Ceara Milligan

STIR | Jul 13
woman typing on laptop with email icons surrounding her hands

Email marketing is climbing to the top of the priority lists of companies of all shapes and sizes — and for good reason. Email is a primary tool for nurturing relationships. Communicating via email is an efficient way for brands and people to relay information in a succinct fashion, on a regular basis, and to specific audiences. Email provides a means to send personalized messages in real-time. 

When done right, email marketing yields amazing results. To give you a better picture, email generates an average of $42 for every $1 spent, which equates to a wildly impressive 4,200% return on investment. 

The global email marketing market was worth $7.5 billion in 2020 and is estimated to reach a value close to $18 billion by 2027.


Clearly, email is a strongly backed and effective channel. But let’s be real: Occasionally, mistakes are made. Here are 6 common email marketing blunders and how to fix (or avoid) them. 

1. OOPS! Sharing incorrect or broken links 

Sometimes, honesty is the best policy. If your brand sends an email with an error, especially a glaring one, don’t fret. It’s acceptable to send another nearly identical email admitting and correcting the mistake. And, depending on your brand voice, you can even infuse a bit of humor into the follow-up. “Oops! Sorry about that. We meant to say/send/share XYZ.” 

2. ARGH! Not segmenting your contact list 

The whole concept behind email is to personalize and grow relationships. So, if your content isn’t appropriate for the receiving audience, the message will end up being counterproductive. You probably don’t have the same conversations with your parents that you have with your closest friends or significant other, right? If your mailing list is extensive, your contacts don’t want to hear the same messages or be marketed the same products. 

Most modern customer relationship management (CRM) systems offer a feature that allows email marketing managers to segment their contact lists based on various factors. You can target customers based on precise audience characteristics to increase relevance. For example, brand new subscribers can receive welcome or onboarding emails while long-time fans can be addressed in a more familiar tone. 

Marketers who use segmented campaigns report a 760% increase in revenue over those who don’t.


3. D’OH! Forgetting about mobile 

One of the key mantras of digital marketing is “mobile first,” and there are many valid reasons as to why this is the case. Your emails should be as easy to read on a mobile device as they are on a full computer screen. With more people consuming content from their phones throughout the day, it’s important that messages are fully legible and offer the same value regardless of the reader’s screen size. 

Implementing a mobile-responsive email design can increase unique clicks by about 15%, according to Mailchimp. Yet, a November 2020 study conducted by SuperOffice found that nearly 20% of email campaigns are not fully optimized for mobile devices. 

oops key on keyboard

4. HUH? Writing ineffective subject lines 

The proverb “Never judge a book by its cover” usually does not apply to email marketing. Marketers will quickly find that a lackluster or irrelevant subject line will result in deleted and unopened emails. The copy of an email subject line doesn’t have to include witty puns to seize someone’s attention. But it should be concise, credible, and spark curiosity. 

Here are a few tips to craft compelling subject lines: 

  • Express a sense of urgency: If your email is time sensitive, one of the best ways to capture people’s attention is to convey its importance. Phrases like “LAST CHANCE,” “DON’T FORGET,” and “20% OFF TODAY ONLY” catch the eye of the recipient and automatically bring urgency to mind. 
  • Personalize it: Cater the subject line to the individual recipient by addressing them by name or directly referencing their preferences. 
  • Ask a question: Pose a relevant question your recipients can hypothetically answer. Some examples include, “Does your brand have a defined voice?” or “Where is your company on the journey to digital transformation?” Humans are naturally curious beings, so when an email literally starts with an inquiry, they may automatically assume that opening the email will reveal the answer. 
  • Keep it simple: As with any marketing message, simplicity is key. Also, subject lines that are too long may get cut off, especially on smartphone apps. HubSpot recommends 50 characters or fewer as the sweet spot. 

Don’t forget about preview text — the short string of copy that appears alongside the subject lines in people’s inboxes. This gives readers a sneak peek at what they should expect when they open an email. 

5. UGH! Failing to provide a clear call to action 

What specific action do you want your customers to take upon reading your email? Calls to action (CTAs) are table stakes of modern marketing. An email, no matter its purpose, should continue the conversation or interaction between a brand and its consumers. 

Brands send emails for several reasons: sharing news, promoting products and services, plugging a new blog post, introducing new personnel — the list goes on. Emails are also an avenue between the recipient’s inbox and a destination, whether it be a website, a physical store, or another identified location. 

Common calls to action include: 

  • Learn more 
  • Download now 
  • Continue reading 
  • Get the full story 
  • Register today 
  • Shop now 
  • Request a quote 
  • Claim your coupon 
  • Order yours 

The CTA can be clever and creative, depending on your unique brand voice, but always keep in mind: simplicity is superior. 

6. SAY WHAT? Making your emails too long 

The acronym TL; DR (“too long; didn’t read”) takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to marketing emails. Of course, this depends on the subject matter as well as the design. If you’re strategically sending a longer email with multiple sections, be sure to include relevant imagery throughout the body to break up the copy and add color and dimension. 

Like any other marketing channel, email best practices are constantly evolving, so it’s important to keep practicing and paying close attention to the smallest details. Mistakes happen; it’s about how you go about reconciling them that matters. To learn even more ways to optimize your email marketing strategy, reach out to Brian Bennett

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