5 Reasons Your Email Efforts Don't Work (and How to Fix Them)
In an industry as obsessed with the latest trends and cool technologies, a channel like email marketing doesn’t always get a lot of attention. Email has been around since the dawn of digital age and its death as a viable marketing tactic has been predicted more than once. But email continues to generate powerful results for marketers, consistently delivering lower cost-per-acquisition and better ROI than other digital channels.
Still, email campaigns require care and attention in order to prosper. There’s no such thing as “set it and forget it” in email marketing, or in digital marketing generally. So if email campaigns are delivering lackluster results, it may not be a problem with the channel in general, it’s more likely that they simply haven’t been properly optimized.
Here are five common reasons that email marketing campaigns flounder, and tips for getting them back on track.
1. You Haven’t Set Clear Goals
You can’t properly measure the success of your email campaigns if you haven’t set clear goals and objectives for how they should perform and which areas of your business they should support. And, if you’re unable to appropriately measure success that means you can’t even say with certainty whether your campaigns are failing or not. You may be wondering why you aren’t receiving enough leads for a certain service offering, meanwhile your email marketing team has been spending all their efforts creating thought leadership around a different area of your business. Without clear goals and directives, your team has no way of knowing what to optimize towards and your email marketing campaigns are going to start sinking, fast.
The Fix: It’s never too late to go back to the drawing board and establish clear goals for your campaigns. If you’ve already been running campaigns for a while now, the data you’ve collected can help establish a baseline from which to project your goals for the future. Make sure the team is aligned on how to use your company’s email campaigns to support specific business objectives. Set clear metrics to measure performance against those objectives.
2. Your List Is No Good
Even if your emails are beautifully designed and contain engaging, unique content, they’re doomed to fail if they aren’t being distributed to the right people. List quality is critical to the success of your email campaigns. Here are a few common list problems:
Users haven’t opted in
If you’re distributing emails to users who haven’t signed up to receive marketing communications from your company, you can pretty much guarantee your campaign performance will suffer. There’s nothing users hate more than feeling like they’re being spammed. Not only will these users not engage with your messaging, but they’ll come away with a negative association of your brand.
The Fix: Keep your distribution practices on the up and up — only message users who have opted in to receive your emails.
Your list is stale
Even if users have opted in, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll stay engaged forever. Maybe they signed up years ago and your service or product is no longer relevant to them. Users don’t always take the time to unsubscribe. Instead, they stay on your list, continue to receive your emails, but never react to a single one. Maintaining a lot of disengaged users on your list can skew your metrics and is also a waste of marketing dollars spent distributing to them. Furthermore, continuing to mail to those users can have negative impacts on overall deliverability.
The Fix: Periodically run quality control on your lists to remove users who have a long and demonstrable history of being unengaged. You can also consider sending messages to users who haven’t interacted with one of your emails in a while, confirming whether or not they would like to remain on this list. This approach prevents you from losing users who truly do wish to continue receiving your emails, while still culling disengaged subscribers.
Your list isn’t segmented
Mailing the same email to thousands upon thousands of subscribers is not the most strategic or effective approach to email marketing. If you’re doing this, your email campaigns are surely not performing to the level they could be if your lists were properly segmented. Your users have diverse needs and desires which will vary considerably based on what type of customer they are, what services or products they’re interested in, and where they are in the customer journey.
The Fix: Segment your email distribution lists so that you can mail to more specific sets of users. Don’t send every email communication to every subscriber. Instead, design content that will speak to the needs of each discrete audience.
3. Your Content Is Flat
It all comes back to content. Users won’t engage with your emails if they don’t find the content somehow interesting or informative. A lot of businesses make the mistake of assuming that the things that are important to them are automatically interesting to their users. This is why you see many businesses using their company newsletters as glorified press releases. But that kind of content is not exciting to users because it doesn’t focus on their needs. Users don’t care about you, they care about themselves.
Another thing that makes email content fall flat is when it’s too general. Again, the problem is that generic content that gets blasted out to a list of 30,000 subscribers with diverse needs and interests will ultimately seem irrelevant to most users. The less relevant your content feels, the less likely users are to engage with it.
• Ask yourself what kinds of content your email subscribers are interested in receiving. Which kinds of subject lines generate the most opens? Which emails get the highest clickthrough rates? You should be able to identify trends that indicate the types of content that resonate with your audience. Use those insights to craft an email content strategy that speaks to user interests.
• Look for ways to better personalize your email content. If you have a well-segmented email list, you should be able to develop content for different user groups that is more closely tied to the needs and desires of that specific group.
4. Your Emails Aren’t Optimized for Mobile
Most of us check email on our phones multiple times per day and, according to the research on the topic, over half of all email opens happen on mobile. That means that if your emails aren’t optimized for mobile, roughly half of the people who open them will be served with a subpar experience. And the harsh truth is that users will not be forgiving of poor mobile email performance. If the email is difficult to read, or if there’s a lot of horizontal scrolling involved, or if images too small or too large, users will simply delete the email without thinking twice.
The Fix: Look to best practices for mobile-optimized email. Make sure text is large enough to be read without trouble on smaller devices. While you’re at it, keep text to a minimum and don’t overwhelm users with too much copy. Use a stacked layout, instead of a column layout. Make buttons large enough to be clicked by fingers and thumbs. Many email marketing services have responsive templates you can use, so be sure to take advantage of those if you can.
5. You Aren’t Testing
One great advantage of email marketing is how quickly you’re able to gather performance data and compare results. If you plan ahead, there are countless opportunities to do A/B testing to improve the performance of your emails. Not running tests on your emails is a big missed opportunity — and one that could be causing your results to stagnate.
The Fix: Most email marketing service providers offer the ability to run tests on elements of the mailing. These tests get distributed to small segments of the overall list and the winning version is delivered to the remainder. Running tests this way ensures that the majority of your list receives a version of the email that has been proven to perform better and can unearth learnings you can use to improve future campaigns.
Email has the potential to be a tremendously powerful marketing channel for your business, just as long as you don’t allow your campaigns to go untended. Like any other element of your marketing, email deserves a clear strategy and proper objectives. If your campaigns are underperforming, make sure to pay attention to list quality, content quality, and mobile optimization. Always look for opportunities to test elements of your email design, content, and delivery strategy to keep your campaigns growing.