10 Biggest Email Marketing Mistakes To Avoid (Examples Included)

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Top email marketing mistakes to avoid

We all know email marketing is a powerful and important tool for ecommerce companies to use.

Most SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) rely on email as their primary retention marketing channel and many as their primary acquisition channel. And for a good reason. Email marketing provides an opportunity to promote new products, drive sales, and build a relationship with the audience, all without any additional ad spend.

But since email marketing is largely a manual process, it is also ripe for making mistakes. And if you’re not careful, the most basic mistakes can cost you customers or simply a dent in brand reputation and/or a lot of embarrassment.

(Ask HBO when they made the email marketing gaffe of the year!)

The good news is that we’ve done the research for you and compiled a list of the most common email marketing mistakes marketers often make.

Here are some of the biggest email marketing goof-ups to avoid!

1. Writing poor or too long subject lines

Getting an email recipient to open your email is the first step to successful email campaigns. Depending on your audience, you may find that using emojis or playful language in your subject line increases open rates. Other businesses may find better luck using professional or more straightforward wording. The tone of your subject line depends largely on your email recipients. 

The below is an example of an ineffective and random subject line that has no connection with the content of the email.


Another case of poor subject lines is when they’re too long and get cut off on the mobile screen like so:


The ideal number of words in a subject line is 5-8. Here’s 200+ subject lines to seed some ideas for you.


2. Not including a clear Call-to-Action

clear CTA in email

A great looking email with compelling copy is great, but what do you want to your audience to do has to be clear. Is it ‘buy’? Or check out a range of products? Or just to learn more? If you just assume that your audience will by default know what action to take without putting it out there, you’ll be surprised. Research has it that almost 90% of marketing materials that don’t include a clear CTA (call-toaction) don’t produce any conversions.

A CTA is a button, text or link used to direct your audience to an action. Generally bright in appearance, thoughtful in placement and persuasive in copy, a call to action will grab a customer’s attention, prompting them to click and engage with your message.

So, before you start writing your email, it is crucial that you have a clear purpose in mind. This could be getting views on your blog post or getting the audience to purchase a particular item. You can then focus your email’s structure and design towards guiding your reader to the final action.  Also, remember to have a singular CTA across the email. 


3. Sketchy or unprofessional looking emails

ugly email template

The web can be a sketchy place, so your readers are usually wary of new websites and emails until they’ve proven to be legitimate and professional. If your emails look amateurish or too loud, most readers will not be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. A professional look can be achieved by not getting your emails clipped, landing in the Primary section, and good design and copy (always always double check for typos!). Check out of some of the trappings of unprofessional or ugly email templates here.  Here’s our exclusive Email design Guide that lays out many fundamental principles of good email design.

4. Missing the template tags or customisable codes like First Name

For every time we saw an email that missed out on getting their customised code wrong! It’s the code that automatically plugs in your customer’s first name or any personalization field on all emails without needing to be inserted manually in every email. While it’s a simple one piece of code, if you miss even a single character or don’t format it correctly, the results can look disastrous like this.

Missing the template tags or customisable codes in email


5. Failing to optimize for mobile & dark mode

Based on our analysis, approximately 70% of all emails are opened on a mobile device and over 50% of those users are using dark mode. This said, it is extremely important that your emails are visible on dark mode and texts are readable on mobile (when they’re not optimized, they tend to be too small).

dark mode optimised

In the first example the text is too small which means the email has not been optimized for mobile and the image block has not been optimized for dark mode which makes the whole email look unprofessional.

6. Skipping Email Segmentation

segmentation of email list improves deliverability

Mass sending is a thing of the past. We have access to so much information on customer behaviour, make sure you’re not neglecting it. Give your target audience content based on their past behavior, demographics, and needs. It is better to send fewer emails to the right people if you want to see better results, this way you will ensure less people are unsubscribing and by targeting someone with a copy and design that is tailored to their needs and wants, you increase the chances of them making the purchase. (Tip: including personalized greetings in each email is a good starting point.)

7. Not Paying Attention to Data

email resend strategy

It is crucial that you keep an eye on Open Rates, Click Rates + what users are clicking on, unsubscribe rates, spam complaint rates, placed order rates, amongst others. Tracking the right email marketing metrics and optimising future campaigns for them is at the heart of a growth driven marketing strategy. This data will give you a clear idea on what types of campaigns are working best for your audience, what kind of copy/design you should stick to, what they’re most interested in, what’s not engaging them and what you should improve. 

8. Sending your email at the wrong time

Timing is a very important aspect of email campaigns, and one that is often overlooked. Users receive so many emails per day, it is crucial that you test and find what time works best for your particular audience. If you send your campaign at odd times you run the risk of getting lost in a crowded inbox. A wrong time can also mean sending an email too soon or too late. Check when a campaign is scheduled to go and double-check that any promotions or offers mentioned in the email still hold valid and discount coupons if any still work. Another thing to note here is the time zone of your audience. If you have one email list consisting of users from both the US and Japan, and you send the same email to the entire list at once, imagine the Japanese audience getting a Christmas email a day later! Here’s where segmentation comes in and you should time your emails according to the time zone of different geographic audience.

9. Having a one-way conversation

Are you using a donotreply@companyname.com type address? Don’t. “Donotreply” addresses are very cold and make you seem unreachable. Instead, try to be personable. A good practice is to use emails that include names like john@companyname.com and make sure your subscribers know you are always available to have a quick chat.

Ignoring replies to your emails is also a clear sign that you’re only interested in broadcasting your message and not genuinely engaging with your audience. It’s very important to reply to any email replies you get. Plus it’s also great for boosting performance metrics for your emails.

10. Frequently landing in Spam and not fixing it


It feels a bit unnecessary to explain why landing in spam is not good for business. Instead let’s go over some practices that speak to why your emails land in spam so that the next time you can avoid them. Using deceptive subject lines or including spam-triggering words in your email such as amazing, promise, free-deal are the easiest way to land in spam. Image heavy campaigns, having too many links, not having SPF, DKIM or DMARC validation, low engagement rates and high spam complaint rates are several other ways you can guarantee you’ll be landing in spam. While there’s no magic formula to avoid spam, and once in a while, the best of brands do, it’s important to keep a check on your spam rates and ensure that you take corrective action after you spot a higher than usual spam rate.

Hey we all make mistakes, but the point of this post is to anticipate them and prevent them! Also, it’s not the end of the world f you slip up once in a while. Email marketing like most other marketing vehicles is a constantly evolving and constant trial and error. The more you do it, the better you get it. We also have a list of brilliant recovery emails that you can send if you do happen to make a booboo!

Want us to handle great, error-free emails that convert? Get in touch with us today.

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