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Andrea Serventi
28 December 2016
Reading time: 10 min

10 email marketing mistakes (and their solutions)

Loading recipient lists, creating emails, launching them. Many brands squash their email marketing activities into these three broad phases. But email marketing is so much more complex: from importing a database to sending out a campaign, there are a myriad of other different and specific activities that hide the real potential of email marketing.

Thus we offer you this blog post, where we have put together all the missteps and mistakes that marketers can make when managing email marketing activities: ten mistakes that result in ten missed opportunities to get more, much more, from their campaigns.

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recipient’s consent to receive your communications has three inherent implications:

  • Ethics: it’s never the brand that chooses to send its communications, it’s the recipient who agrees to receive them. Any sending that doesn’t respect this golden rule violates the covenant of ethical and moral responsibility at the base of any email marketing initiative, and the sender becomes a spammer.
  • Legal: those who send emails without the recipient’s consent risk fines and penalties. In recent months, coinciding with the entry of the new European Regulation into force, we explored all the rules that closely concern marketers in a series of blog posts.
  • Strategic: those sending to a database of contacts that have not given their authorization will see campaign results (open, click and conversion rates) close to zero. The success of email marketing strongly relies on the recipient’s consent. How can you be sure to get it? In this blog post we explain the pros and cons of the two basic registration methods: single opt-in and double opt-in.

A second error is often added to the first: buying packages of email addresses, which are more or less conspicuous, and sometimes extinct. There are still those who yield to the temptation, but this solution only brings disadvantages in the short and medium to long term: from the lack of recipients’ involvement to the risk of sanctions, all the way up to the deterioration of brand identity and sending reputation. In this blog post we shed light on the phenomenon, highlighting the disadvantages and offering the best alternatives.

2. Isolating email from other channels

Email platform, external databases, CRM, CMS, ERP, e-commerce, business intelligence systems: these are not separate worlds, but neighboring and communicating ones. Or at least they should be in any digital marketing strategy. A sending platform like MailUp allows you to connect every system, synchronize the information on each and have them communicate with each other. In addition to our customized configuration service, here are some of the integrations that are possible with the MailUp platform, where you can trigger automatic campaigns that are profiled down to the last detail. And don’t forget about the potential of the SMS channel, which when combined with email allows you to cultivate every touchpoint of the customer journey.

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3. Neglecting your contacts database

Dropout rates – including unsubscribed, inactive and incorrect addresses – can on average erode 25% to 30% of your database each year. Obviously this percentage fluctuates in relation to a company’s core businesses and its recipients’ acquisition criteria. This is why database building activities should be prioritized. Marketers have access to continuously developing resources that allow them to translate each point of contact with customers and users into opportunities to convert them into recipients: from the pages of your website thanks to a dynamic pop-up, to your Facebook page, up to events or at your actual sales point thanks to an iPad application form created with the application Jade.

Another mistake is forgetting about so-called “database cleansing“: eliminating inactive addresses (those which haven’t opened your emails in a long time) is of fundamental importance in improving email deliverability; this also applies to the identification of errors in your lists. These two activities are carried out automatically by the MailUp platform: it processes the database to identify syntactical errors or typos in email addresses, managing bounces and unsubscribed and duplicate addresses. For clean and reliable contact lists.

4. Not segmenting recipients

Sometimes this approach is called “one size fits all”: metaphors aside, this means sending the same email to your entire database, without making any distinction between recipients. This is a fatal error, although it is still quite widespread: according to SuperOffice, only 11% of companies segment their database. Segmenting means sending the same type of email, which is however diversified in its offer or in some key aspects of its content depending on the type of beneficiary, his personal data, interests and previous actions.

Simply put, segmenting means customizing emails to make them relevant to each contact. The dynamic content and filters of the MailUp platform (by personal data, geographically, by activity and by device) let you automate the entire process. Furthermore, if it is integrated with marketing automation features, you can set automatic email workflows that are calibrated to individual recipients’ activities.

5. Thinking from a desktop perspective

The point of no return came and went some months ago: email openings from mobile devices (56% – Litmus) have exceeded those from desktops. And this trend will become stronger and stronger, considering that there will be 6.3 billion smartphones in the world by 2021 (Ericsson Mobility Report).

Conceiving and designing an email while only taking a desktop display into account is one of the gravest errors that can be committed. The mobile first approach should be favored, which orients design and content to the type of reading imposed by smartphones and tablets, which is increasingly fast and intermittent. In this post you’ll find 10 tips to create responsive and effective campaigns. If you instead want to explore aspects of email design (without being a graphics and HTML code expert), here’s a whitepaper with the new trends, tips, and best practices for your campaigns’ graphic design.

Image-only emails merit a special warning: often used by brands, these emails use one large image to fill the entire body of an email. They are most often not optimized for mobile devices, and are also not viewed by all those recipients who have the “images off” option enabled; to this we must also add that very heavy images are blocked by many providers’ spam filters because they are perceived as mass advertising rather than an email.

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6. Ignoring certain small (but essential) elements

Email footers: what may seem to be a marginal aspect of an email is instead fundamental. We’re talking about the very bottom of an email that contains important information for the recipient: a brand’s transparency and reliability are largely transmitted from the footer. Neglecting their design or (even worse) leaving them out entirely is a structural error in any email marketing strategy. Here are the elements that should always be included in every footer:

For more details on footer elements and the best graphic design to use with them, read the dedicated blog post.

7. Approaching the text incorrectly

An email is not a page of a website or an informative brochure. We should instead compare it to a teaser or a flyer for its immediacy and impact: a message that introduces and presents new items and offers, a prelude to further content (a web page or pdf) that can be accessed with a single click. This is why cluttering an email with too much text in order to include every detail is useless, especially if you think about the mobile first approach we mentioned in point 5. But the opposite approach is also incorrect: being too allusive and partial in presenting the news.

Similarly the subject, which is not a label but a real title which, in just a few words, must fully explain the email’s content and entice its opening. For example, the subject “September Newsletter” will always be less effective than “The 7 best ways to send email”.

Along with the subject, always remember to fill in the preheader – the short text that appears next to or below the subject in an inbox. A good preheader offers the recipient additional information about the message’s content and significantly increases open rates, especially from mobile devices.

8. Not experimenting with A/B tests

This is not a mistake but more of a shortcoming, as A/B testing is an indispensable tool for understanding which of your emails’ elements are more effective and attractive to your recipients. With an A/B test you can compare two versions of the same message (changing the subject, layout or call-to-action) in order to choose a winning version, which is the one that gets the best open, click and conversion rates. In this post you’ll find an easy tutorial for developing A/B tests on an email’s design.

9. Not carrying out sending tests

An email’s most trivial errors can be avoided by taking a moment to run a few tests: spam checkpreviewslink analyses and much more. We offer tools for conducting sending tests (within a single area of the platform) and ensuring that your recipients see your campaign with the best display by checking compatibility with email clients, the accuracy of HTML code, the presence of spam words and much more. With B2C, it is essential to test sending to major email portals (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo!, MSN…). We also recommend you test the email’s links: MailUp automatically analyzes their correctness and checks that they aren’t on any blacklists. But it’s always good to run a last check before launching a campaign.

10. Not analyzing results

Email marketing is one of the areas of the digital world that best, and in a more detailed way, provides information on a campaign’s progress: ignoring the analysis tools available is a serious mistake. One of MailUp’s mantras is “what cannot be measured cannot be improved”: we always talk about open rates, clicks, unique openings, bounces, unsubscribed addresses… For this reason we have included an advanced statistics reporting system in the platform that is updated in real time and sorted according to different criteria: reports per recipient, per message, per geographic area and per device. In addition, benchmark studies allow you to compare campaign results with the average of your industry.

There is no better time than the first few weeks of the New Year to update your strategy and get rid of any structural errors. Besides these 10 points, do you have other mistakes that you think we should mention or stories to tell us? Leave your comment here below.

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Andrea Serventi

I was born in 1986 in Milan, where I graduated in Modern Literature and started writing for online newspapers, magazines and TV news programs. Having now converted to marketing and the digital world, I am a Content Editor at MailUp: I read, listen, collect ideas, and write about what email marketing is and how to use it strategically.

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