Email marketing is one of the most proven, reliable digital marketing tactics. Having been in existence since the earliest days of the internet, there are few companies that don’t include email as part of their marketing strategy. But just because email marketing is ubiquitous, does not mean it’s universally well-executed.
In fact, without effective management and regular oversight, many email marketing campaigns are left to languish, and the results they generate gradually dwindle. If your email marketing campaigns aren’t performing, it’s less likely to be a failing of the channel itself and more likely to be a result of missed opportunities for optimization.
Below we cover some of the biggest mistakes companies make when it comes to managing and executing their email marketing campaigns.
1 - An absence of goals
It’s true of all digital marketing campaigns that setting proper goals is the essential first step to success. Old, legacy campaigns like email marketing are often the least likely to have specific goals attached to them. As campaigns and responsibilities are handed off from one manager to the next it’s easy to lose sight of overarching goals and fall into a pattern of coasting.
What’s important about email marketing goals is that they be informed by business objectives. For example, getting higher email click-through rates is not a meaningful goal. Absent context it’s practically useless.
However, let’s say your business is keen to acquire more repeat customers. A goal that contributes to this objective may be to send more repeat traffic to the website (with the ultimate goal of getting them to convert). In that case, higher email click-through rates from existing customers would indicate progress toward the goal.
If you haven’t set clear, measurable goals for your email campaigns, the first step is to take some time to reassess. Even if you did set goals some time ago, it’s worthwhile to evaluate whether they’re still relevant.
2 - Improper list segmentation
List segmentation is one of the most critical factors in determining email marketing success. The days of “spray and pray” are long behind us. Nobody wants to receive a promotional email that’s totally irrelevant to their needs and interests, which is what makes proper segmentation so important.
Increasingly, users expect the marketing messages they receive to be personalized and relevant to them. Because of the sophistication of segmentation options, email marketing is one of the channels in which the challenge of personalization is most easily accomplished. It’s essential to spend time maintaining and optimizing your distribution lists. Also, be sure to account for extra creative time to write and design different emails to appeal to unique segments of your list.
3 - An unstructured distribution schedule
Nearly as bad as mailing to a giant list indiscriminately… is maintaining a mailing schedule that isn’t strategically implemented. As with all elements of your email marketing campaigns, distribution times should be tested and optimized. Don’t send an email because you feel like it, send one because you have something to say and you have reason to believe it’s a good moment to say it.
Though there are some general rules of thumb you can follow, the most successful distribution schedule for each brand is entirely personal. That’s what makes testing a must. Day of the week, time of day, and mailing frequency can all significantly impact your ability to capture audience attention. Test each of these variables to ensure you’re making the most of every email you send out.
4 - Boring content
There’s more than enough content on the internet right now to keep all of us endlessly entertained and informed. In the inbox you’re competing for attention with work and personal emails, not to mention promotional content from other brands. You’re also trying to capture the attention of an innately distracted audience that bounces back and forth between apps and platforms all day. That means that in order for your email content to get noticed, the one thing it absolutely cannot be is boring.
The key here is that there’s more to email marketing than just the email itself. There has to be something worth emailing about, and this necessitates creating high quality brand content. “Not boring” (aka, interesting) content can take a number of different forms depending on the target audience. For a clothing brand it might be highlighting a particular trend and offering tips on how to style it. For a B2B business it could involve promoting a new case study or original research paper.
Email body content is crucial, but don’t forget that no one will open the email in the first place if the subject line doesn’t sell it. All in all, email content must be designed to appeal to users’ needs and interests, and it must be engaging enough to make them feel it warrants their time.
5 - Missing CTAs and mismatched intent
Every effective email has a call-to-action (CTA). Without it the user has no direction about what to do next and the odds of them taking the action you wanted are slim to none. To get a user to act, your email needs to tell them exactly what to do. That’s the job of a CTA.
But having a CTA in your email is only the first step. Crafting a CTA that’s enticing and that correctly sets the user’s expectations about what will happen when they click on it is the goal to aim for.
What do we mean by setting user expectations? Everything about the email itself, and the CTA in particular, should prime the user for what will come next. For example, if the email is promoting a sale and the CTA reads “SHOP SALE” but the user is directed to the homepage when clicking on it, there’s a mismatch between expectations and outcome. Similarly, if the email promotes a sale but the CTA reads “WHAT’S NEW”, you’ve created ambiguity that can be off-putting to users.
Email marketing is a tried and tested tactic, but many businesses still struggle to make it return results for them. By correcting a handful of relatively simple mistakes and oversights you can improve your email marketing initiatives to generate stronger returns at lower costs.