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Editorial

10 More Common Email Marketing Mistakes — And Solutions

8 minute read
Chad S. White avatar
Email is likely never going away. But email marketing mistakes can. Here are 10 more common email marketing mistakes with fixes.

Email marketing is a complicated interplay of tactics and strategies, and it’s easy to make mistakes. I recently wrote about 10 Common Email Marketing Mistakes That Are Easy to Fix, and now I’d like to share another 10 common mistakes with fixes that are slightly more involved, but still very much worth your attention. 

1. Allowing Errors to Slip Through

Email marketers have to watch out for all the errors that are typical of other digital marketing channels, including:

  • Copy errors, such as spelling and grammatical errors, as well as ensuring that offers and descriptions are accurate.
  • Broken or incorrect images.
  • Broken or incorrect link URLs.

Beyond all of that, marketers have to watch for email rendering errors, which there’s considerable potential for because of the lack of email code support across inboxes. Using personalization, live content, CSS-based interactivity, and other advanced email functionality — which you totally should use — increase the need for careful quality assurance measures.

To avoid problems: 

  • Have someone outside of your team review your copy.
  • Send test emails to yourself and others on your team.
  • Click all the links in your email to ensure they work and go to the correct destinations.
  • Use email preview software like Email on Acid or Litmus to see how your emails render in a wide variety of inboxes and in light and dark modes.

Related Article: 10 Common Email Marketing Mistakes That Are Easy to Fix

2. Not Setting Default Values for Personalization

Personalization is powerful, but sometimes you’re missing data points for some of your subscribers. That can lead to embarrassing null-set situations, where there are blanks (or even code) in copy where a person’s name, their company’s name, or other details should be. 

Having your copy read well with default values may require reworking some of your text, or even tweaking the design, so the fix isn’t super easy. But over time, you’ll learn how to write copy and design messages so that personalization defaults work well.

3. Using a No-Reply Email Address

For starters, telling subscribers that you don’t want them to reply is off-putting and sends the message that the relationship is one way, says Jacob Halstead, senior account manager at Oracle Marketing Consulting. 

“We sent an email to them,” he says, “so why would we not permit them to respond? Having an email reply go to some customer support software, like Zendesk, that can filter out out-of-office notifications and then auto-reply to actual replies with a ticket number and possible answers is low lift. And then having a real person reply later drives loyalty.”

Not monitoring replies can also cost you leads and revenue. Moreover, in the age of Mail Privacy Protection, replies are a reliable and measurable signal of engagement that can help you qualify subscribers as active. 

Related Article: Don't Write Off Amp for Email Yet, Marketers

4. Not Using Responsive Email Design

While mobile-aware design can get the job done pretty well, responsive email design is better all around. Plus, since it’s been around for more than a decade, there are lots of tools, guides and templates to use. It’s just a better experience for your subscribers.

That said, just because you’re using a responsive email template doesn’t mean that your emails are automatically mobile-friendly. You need to use responsive templates along with mobile-friendly best practices, such as:

  • Having legible fonts (16pt and larger).
  • Creating finger-friendly buttons (44px by 44px and larger).
  • Being selective about what’s linked to avoid incidental taps.
  • Using a single-column design for easy scanning and scrolling.

5. Using a One-Size-Fits-All Send Time

Using testing to determine the best overall time to send your campaigns to your audience is a good starting point. However, using send time optimization (STO) is a much better solution for answering the age-old question of, "When is the best time to send to my subscribers?" We find with our clients that using STO to determine the optimal send time for each individual subscriber boosts engagement rates by around 10%.

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection, which obscures open times by flooding email service providers with auto-generated opens, has cast doubts on the value of STO. However, STO algorithms have since been adjusted to heavily weight click times, in addition to factoring in real opens from non-Apple inboxes. While the change makes it so it takes STO longer to adjust to changes in a subscriber’s engagement patterns, the much greater focus on clicks means that your campaigns arrive at a time when subscribers are most likely to click through to landing pages rather than just open an email.

6. Only A/B Testing Your Broadcast Campaigns

Most marketers include an A/B test in their broadcast and segmented campaigns at least occasionally, according to Litmus. But automated campaigns are A/B tested even less, with the majority of marketers never testing them.

That’s a shame because automated campaigns tend to generate dramatically higher results than broadcast campaigns. That means that any lift you get from A/B testing can boost your performance even more.

Beyond testing the usual email elements like copy and images, with automation you’ll also want to consider testing:

  • The delay on triggering an automated campaign.
  • The behavioral trigger threshold, such as testing how much time on page warrants triggering a browse abandonment email.
  • Whether a series of emails is more effective than a single triggered email.
  • Using send time optimization for the emails in a series after the first.
  • Whether to suppress certain emails in a triggered series based on subscriber attributes or behaviors.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Generate More Loyalty and Email Signups

Learning Opportunities

7. Ignoring the Natural Rate of Return

Speaking of automated email triggers, if you’re sending triggered messages such as shopping cart abandonment emails, ensure that you’re paying attention to the natural rate of return. That’s the time after a cart abandonment, for example, that the majority of abandoners return to their cart and checkout on their own without intervention.

By setting your cart abandonment email to trigger at this time, you’re avoiding sending it to lots of customers who don’t need the nudge. While I don’t advise brands to provide incentives in their cart abandonment emails (especially the first in a series), plenty of brands do. So, sending incentives to customers who would otherwise checkout without it, also costs brands in terms of margin given away unnecessarily.

Doing a withhold study or using a universal control group can also help you avoid sending triggered campaigns that don’t actually improve the customer experience.

8. Not Sending Your Welcome Email Immediately

While it’s smart to delay the sending of some kinds of triggered campaigns, welcome emails are among those that should be sent immediately. Although most welcome emails aren’t transactional emails, they act similarly in that they help confirm a successful signup. So, just like you wouldn’t make a customer wait for a purchase receipt, don’t make them wait for your welcome email.

At the same time, a welcome email should try to take advantage of the interest shown by a prospect or customer who’s just subscribed. Your brand is top of mind for them right now, so send your welcome immediately and ask them to do something that’s high value, whether it’s incentivizing a purchase, asking them to complete a profile or select preferences, or highlighting your best content for them to explore.

Related Article: 6 Ways to Review and Improve Your Automated Marketing Emails

9. Sending Your Email in the Wrong Language

If you send your emails in more than one language — and especially if you send them in a bunch of languages — pay attention to how you handle language defaults and language preferences. First, by tagging the language used on the form, checkout page, or registration page where the subscriber opted in, you can use that to establish a default language. 

However, during the opt-in process and onboarding, you’ll want to surface the other language options that new subscribers have access to. For example, you could have a language selection drop-down menu on your promotional email signup form and could include a “View in Spanish” link, for instance, at the top of your welcome email. And, of course, you’ll want to make language selection part of your preference center, if you have one.

10. Not Optimizing for Dark Mode

Around 14% of emails are opened with dark mode enabled, according to Email on Acid. When you consider that 14% of opened emails probably represents 20% of your subscribers because of some folks only using dark mode sometimes, like at night, then that’s more than enough subscribers to make optimization worthwhile.

While dark mode optimization can be tricky because different inboxes implement it differently, here are some steps to consider:

  • Use light-on-dark and dark-on-white pairings, such as dark text on a white background.
  • Add strokes to logos and icons that are the same color as your background.
  • Pay careful attention to how background colors and background images affect the legibility of your text in dark mode.

Testing is absolutely recommended. But in the course of doing that, you’ll quickly learn what combinations cause problems with dark mode and then be able to avoid those, baking safe combinations into your templates and email style guide.

Conclusion: Creating Better Email Experiences Is End Game

All of these mistakes have solutions that are — while not simple — fairly easy to implement. While some of them require ongoing attention, like putting in quality assurance protections and doing A/B testing on your automations, many are front-loaded in terms of effort.

All are very much worth the investment of time and resources and will help you create better email experiences for your subscribers.

About the author

Chad S. White

Chad S. White is the author of Email Marketing Rules and Head of Research for Oracle Marketing Consulting, a global full-service digital marketing agency inside of Oracle.

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