7 Email Marketing List Mistakes You Might Be Making


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With so many digital communication points now in existence and pressure to be present on a new social media platform every week, it’s easy to set creativity to the side when it comes to email marketing. Best practices are often the first casualty when your to-do list takes on a life of its own and communication channels multiply overnight. The things that you’d like to do are put off and the quickest way to do things becomes king. Mistakes creep in as time runs out. 

If you recognize this scenario, help is at hand. We’ve outlined the seven key mistakes many email marketers make with their email lists and have set out how to turn things around to maximize audience engagement.

#1 Weak Opt-In Incentive

There’s no getting away from the fact that email lists have a high rate of attrition. This isn’t necessarily due to something you’re doing wrong. From time to time we all change our email addresses, rendering previous sign-ups obsolete. For those who have oversubscribed and drown in Monday morning email blasts, a total clear out is often the only way to go. This means that continually building your email marketing database is key, for both growth and simple replenishment purposes.

This is where mistake number one creep in when you're talking about email marketing list mistakes. As you surf the web, you’ll see email subscriber opt-ins become as basic as a “Sign Up” button. With the infinite call to actions and sign up requests your audience will encounter in every web journey, you need to remember to create a genuine reason for users to opt-in to your email list. 

Depending on your industry and the purpose of maintaining email contact with your audience, the incentive will differ greatly and range from offers such as access to exclusive subscriber only content to retail freebies and discount codes, etc. The list of possibilities is endless. You need to offer something with valuable for your intended audience if you expect them to complete the action and hand over their email address.

#2 Fear Of Mailing Your List Regularly

The negative stigmas attached to email marketing, such as the threat of being seen to send junk mail or spam, often lead to marketers fearing their own email efforts. There is a nagging doubt that sending too many emails will cause users to unsubscribe because you have added to their pile of junk messages. This is where mistake two rears its ugly head – the fear of contacting your email list regularly.

There is, of course, a risk of ending up on the wrong side of the spam filter with each message you send, but you can lessen this doubt by considering two major variables. 

First, have you pushed too hard when building your email list and, therefore, ended up with a high percentage of subscribers on your list who do not have a genuine interest in your brand/product/service/content? If you are guilty of this then yes, regular emails will likely be off-putting but for the simple reason that these subscribers just aren’t interested enough in your content in the first place. Ask yourself, if they were to unsubscribe, have you truly lost out? 

The other variable is the quality of your email content. If you don’t want to add to your subscriber's junk piles, don’t send them junk. Stay true to the reasons you’ve acquired these users in the first place and have a good handle on the truth about deliverability. Emailing a minimum of tonce per week is recommended if you are able to provide worthwhile content that is not a waste of your audience’s time. If you have a genuine subscriber list, and your email content is consistently true to its purpose, then you need not fear ramping up your email regularity.

#3 You’re Not Personalizing Your ‘Welcome’ Email List Process

Another frightfully common mistake. Mistake number three is commonly made by a new businesses or upcoming bloggers and content publishers who have made their way into email list ownership. The issue here is that you haven’t created a custom welcome email or email confirmation process which is synonymous with the rest of your content. You’ve likely just not customized beyond the default message offered by your email service provider. 

The welcome process is as important as the content you intend to follow with. This is part of the user’s experience. You have successfully convinced them to opt into your mailing list, don’t make a bad first impression. The users opt-in to your mail list isn’t complete until they confirm their address. Make sure the welcome and confirmation emails you send are on brand and immediately recognizable. If you're looking for some good examples, see our blog post 12 Best Practices for B2B Welcome Emails.

Don’t forget, with the sheer volume of emails received on a daily basis, you can’t afford to look generic or ambiguous. 

#4 Forgetting to Actively Promote Your List

So, you have an established email database, and you’ve been emailing your list for some time. You’re a pro; you have a schedule and a template. It’s all under control. That’s great but think back to when your email list first launched. Most marketers typically put a significant amount of effort into the promotion of their email list when it first goes live. Perhaps you talked about it in your web content and blog posts and promoted it via social media. The issue is that most don’t keep up the effort. That’s mistake number four. 

If your email list is a healthy size and performs ok, you’ve likely fallen into thinking that it can take care of itself. If you were to look closer, what you would actually see is that the growth of the list has slowed significantly since you stopped actively promoting it. The acceleration of growth you enjoyed early on has faded, but this isn’t as most would convince themselves, simply down to scale. It’s because the effort you put into the list’s promotion is now a fraction of what was put in previously. 

Industry averages would suggest 20% or more of your email list will drop off annually, meaning you want to know the best practices for email list hygiene. You must be consistent and proactive in your promotional activity if you want to see a more consistent level of growth. Put simply, upir list is not going to sell itself. 

#5 Assuming Your List Remembers You

Another very common mistake made by big brands and individual content producers alike is assuming your list remembers you and remembers how they came to receive emails from you direct to their sacred inbox. Online users are far more likely to consider unsubscribing or even reporting you as junk/spam if they can’t match up what they receive in their inbox to an action they’ve completed or remember how they came to receive your emails. 

Fortunately, this is an easy mistake to rectify and takes nothing more than a few very simple actions. Keep your email marketing identical in aesthetics and tone so they match your website and brand as a whole. Your emails may not be created by those also responsible for your website design. The same goes for your content. If your web content and email content are created by different people within your organization or even different agencies in some cases, make sure tthe branding is consistent. Keeping everything tight ensures your list can easily recognize you. The consistency of branding and message means subscibers receive content that looks as if it has come directly from the site they opted in to. It is then far less likely to be badly received and reinforces your identity – making the prospect of being forgotten a distant one.

You can also spell out why the user is receiving the email from you with a short and simple header or footer note. “You are receiving this email from us because you signed up to our newsletter via our website.” It may sound simple, but it relieves any potential ambiguity on the part of the user wondering if their email was acquired in a way they consider fair and under their own terms.

#6 Your Emails Are Too Complex or Too Wordy

Mistake number six is directly related to the points made above regarding the importance of consistent branding. Some marketers take this too far and produce what is essentially a duplicate of the website structure within their email template. This makes the email message too complex, too wordy, and also very difficult to navigate.

Limit yourself to a minimal number of sections with clear headings or use a single concise message to form the bulk of your email content. Keep the message and content along with the aesthetics in line with your website’s theme and tone but without the complexity your main site may have. For example, you may be tempted to replicate your website navigation structure in your email to drive traffic back to the site. This is counterintuitive with too many links distracting from the message of the email. This complex architecture also looks far too much like generic site promotion and less like you’re bringing the user something worthwhile to their inbox. 

The same goes for email content length. By all means create long-form content on your site and promote this via your email communications, but don’t fall into the trap of trying to include too much of this in the email communication itself. The size of the email will dictate whether the message is opened and read or deleted. Not every piece of content will be appropriate for everyone on your list. Show a strong snippet and trust that those with a genuine interest will click though to the long form piece.

Remember that good content made impossible to digest is as bad as producing irrelevant content. If your audience doesn't feel like they are getting anything worthwhile from your email communications, then why would they continue to subscribe with you? Keep things simple to maintain a productive relationship.

#7 in Email Marketing List Mistakes: Treating Multiple Lists as One Generic Database

For those brands and businesses with multiple opt-in points, user lists may be built from a number of sources including various web properties, different parts of the organization and via different promotions, channels or resources. It’s all too easy to lump all of these lists together and treat them as one sales and marketing resource. Bad idea!

The acquisition point of a new contact will likely tell you something about the contact and what it is about your organization that resonates with them. Use this information to your advantage and try to personalize communications to segments of contacts closely linked or similar in nature to get the best possible rate of engagement. 

Taking this one step further, those organizations with a CRM system set up against their email databases likely have a wealth of demographic data on their contacts which can easily be applied to break the greater list into demographic segments or perhaps even geographical segments, or of course, both! Using this data puts you in the advantageous position of being able to produce content that is highly relevant to those receiving it with a greater degree of accuracy. Personalization is always better than sending a blanket or generic message to thousands. 

Keeping in mind email marketing best practices and being conscious of these basic mistakes will help to keep your list growing. Trying some of our quick fixes will also mean you are using your subscriber data effectively and generating the best results for your business. Re-visit your email marketing list with these tips in mind to bring this channel back to the standard it deserves.


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