10 Email Mistakes That Cause Campaigns to Underperform (and How to Fix Them)
I've been in the email marketing industry a long time—more than 10 years—which means I've pretty much seen it all. But what surprises me the most are the mistakes that keep happening over and over again. Many of these should have been eradicated long ago. We talk a lot about best practices, but here is a list of the 10 worst practices that are killing email campaign ROI.
1. Batching and Blasting: That phrase wasstricken from my vocabulary several years ago. I even hate writing it down. The practice is old and outdated and simply doesn't work anymore. Even if you're just sending out a monthly newsletter, you should look at your engagement metrics (opens, clicks, etc.) and communicate with each segment differently. Doing so will help you turn a non-opener into an opener, an opener into a clicker and a clicker into long-term and valuable customer.
2. Buying Lists: This is another cringeworthy practice that some email marketers continue to do. Getting permission to email someone is the absolute, bare minimum an email marketer needs to have any chance of success. So instead of buying a list, fine tune your acquisition strategy. For example, sweepstakes are a great way to organically grow your list and your customer base.
3. Maintaining Separate Lists: Yet another old-school tactic that needs to be put to rest. Keeping subscribers in different lists pigeonholes recipients into specific categories. Instead, a marketer needs to use profiling attributes to target email campaigns based on various profile fields and turn his list into a series of interesting segments.
4. Uninspired Welcome Messages: Welcome messages typically have the highest open and click rates—sometimes even the highest conversion rates. Welcome messages should engage recipients and set the tone for your email marketing campaigns. Better yet, create a welcome series. More on that in the next tip!
5. Relying on a Single Message: Every type of email you send will benefit from this tip. Sending a three- or four-message welcome series will prolong engagement just as sending three shopping cart abandonment emails will increase sales. We've also seen great success with the tactic of sending the same email with a different subject line to non-openers two days after the first message was sent, almost doubling the responses.
6. Not Testing Campaigns: Email provides almost instant metrics, so I'm always surprised when I hear marketers skipping this step. Every part of your campaign should be tested—subject lines and calls-to-action especially—but even headlines, offers, timing, graphics, layout and messaging. Every tweak you make will cause a shift in the results, so take the time to test different campaign aspects to find what works best.
7. Not Throttling Your Deployment Schedule: Guess who else doesn't throttle their deployment schedules? Spammers. One of the quickest ways to ruin your reputation and deliverability is to send your entire list a message at the same time. Even if you only send once a month, you should throttle the schedule to send the emails to your different segments on different days, or at least different times of the same day. By the way: not sending often enough can damage your reputation just as much as sending too often, so pay close attention to your deployment schedule.
8. Not Re-Engaging Inactive Subscribers: Inactive subscribers might not be responding directly, but their silence should speak volumes. The emails you're sending them aren't relevant anymore. A re-engagement campaign directed to these subscribers will re-capture some of them; but the rest should be segmented out of most, if not all, of your future sends. Not only will this maintain deliverability, but will increase your email marketing ROI.
9. Not Optimizing for Mobile: More and more subscribers are opening your emails on smartphones—I've seen estimations of as high as a 40 percent increase this year alone. Design emails with mobile devices in mind; including extra padding around links for use on touchscreens, contrasting colors for text and background for easy viewing, and, of course, don't overdo it with graphics.
10. Falling Behind: No one wants to fall behind. But, because email works even if you aren't following best practices, it is easy to maintain the status quo. You should evaluate new technology, best practices, campaign strategies and trends often, and implement the ones that will provide the greatest benefits for your business.