The Most Common Email Marketing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

/ marketing
Andriy Zapisotskyi

Running email marketing campaigns is no good if the emails don’t end up in your subscribers’ inboxes or people are not interested enough to open them. Since there is no-one-size-fits-all in email marketing, it’s hard to pinpoint which practices make or break your campaigns.

Nevertheless, business owners should ensure that their promotional efforts aren't going down the drain when scheduling an email campaign. The best way to improve your marketing strategy is by making sure you are not making the most common and impactful blunders.

Here we uncover the biggest errors that can determine whether subscribers fall in love with your emails, click that unsubscribe button or worse, flag them as spam.

1. Poor segmentation

It’s common for entry-level marketers to pile up all user emails into a large database and bombard people with the same content, without changing the writing style or delivery practices.

You might think that sorting subscribers based on locations, income, or education levels is discriminating. Well, not when it comes to marketing. Recognizing the power of ‘Not better, not worse, just different’ is crucial for marketers - that’s why we segment audiences.

After a second thought, you will quickly realize that our needs and preferences change as we age or improve by social status. A twenty-five-year-old woman would hardly have much in common with a 56-year-old man - sending the same email to them is not a way to go for an email marketer.

Instead, take a look at your full subscriber list and segment all people on it in groups by the following characteristics:

  • Geographic - the coordinates (country, state) and type (urban, rural) of location
  • Demographic - gender, age, education, income, ethnicity, language, race, religion
  • Psychographic - lifestyle, personality type
  • Preferred delivery channels - how a user likes to gather information (via text, video, or audio) whether he chooses e-commerce or brick-and-mortar stores for shopping, etc.
  • Behavioral - the way subscribers interact with the product - are they first-time, recurring, or occasional users?

Statistics confirm the positive impact of subscriber segmentation on improving email deliverability - according to Mailchimp, segmented emails have 14% more opens than non-segmented ones.

2. Neglecting mobile users

As of February 2020, there are over 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide. We are extremely connected to mobile technology and carry a phone around anywhere. According to Google’s research, 71% of smartphone users check inboxes - the engagement rate is higher than for other types of apps.

Today, business owners can no longer afford to send out unresponsive emails that are slow to load or hard for mobile users to read. Rather than optimizing a PC-first email to mobile, scaling a mobile-based design for a computer display is a better approach in 2020.

Here are the practices business owners can follow to increase the business-friendliness of their email templates:

  • Choose one-column designs;
  • Use 600px wide images
  • Separate links with spaces to increase the comfort of clicking
  • Using at least 14px fonts
  • Limit the use of buttons and other graphic elements
  • Prefer plain text over HTML-rich formatting.

3. Using too much visual content

The growing popularity of on-the-go email browsing should lead marketers and business owners to a realization that less is truly more. Your desire to look professional and create catchy content is reasonable - however, you should keep in mind that not all users can view images inside emails - thus, they will not be able to see the full content of the letter.

Although email marketers don’t have to let go of visuals altogether, they need to make sure that the letter is readable, convincing, and clear without them. Rather, a successful newsletter is about uniting texts and images and ensuring one does not depend closely on the other.

Here are some tips that will help you make sure you are not relying on imagery too heavily:

  • Using alt tags to make sure a subscriber will be able to understand the email even if an image doesn’t load;
  • Repeating an important selling point or a CTA from the image in plain text;
  • Sending images as body text, not an attachment - otherwise, you might trigger a spam filter response
  • Keeping the 80:20 text-image ratio.

4. Not knowing when to (and not to) automate

Automation is extremely convenient as it helps scale your campaigns and send hundreds of emails per day in just a few clicks. Without using built-in email editors and performance trackers, marketers would have no way to monitor engagements and choose the campaign strategy with the highest conversion potential.

Missing out on automation is a huge blunder that’s going to halt your growth and increase the risks of making unfounded marketing decisions.

However, trusting in automation and forgetting to oversee the campaign’s performance manually is another mistake marketers can’t afford to commit. Otherwise, you might forget to retire a running campaign, be unaware when an email is sent, and lose control over the brand’s communication with the audience.

In most cases, knowing whether to automate an email marketing campaign or to handle it manually will come with experience. Having said that, there are clear ‘to automate’ and ‘not to automate’ cases, such as the following ones:

When to automate:

  • Welcome emails
  • Cart abandonment emails
  • Thank-you emails
  • Reminder emails

When not to automate:

  • Webinar invitations
  • Limited-offer emails
  • Customer service responses

As for finding the right automation tool, there’s no shortage of powerful platforms. You could consider using Mailtrap to test emails securely. It’s an all-in-one suite for checking how an email looks in the end user’s inbox without having to spam subscribers or flood your personal inbox.

It’s an emulated SMTP server that checks for mistakes in the delivery process and makes debugging effortless, efficient, and fast.  The tool supports collaborative editing - the entire development team can use it.

Moreover, make sure to regularly measure the success of your automated campaigns by using a dedicated email analytics platform that decodes your progress and measures your productivity.

5. Delaying campaigns

Putting email marketing campaigns off until the subscriber base is large enough is a common excuse among marketing teams. When it comes to email marketing, ‘an early bird catches the worm’. Delaying campaigns until you’ve hit a needed subscriber estimate will lead to lower open rates, reduced engagement rate and conversion.

Other than that, starting a campaign for a smaller audience might lead to an organic increase in email traffic since it’s common for people to forward interesting emails to their peers or friends. Building a strong referral network is a more efficient way to improve your email presence than sitting around waiting until the subscriber list grows on its own.

6. Using ‘do-not-reply’ addresses

As a frequent email user, you are no stranger to the ‘’ type of address. Business owners often use a do-not-reply address format to ensure recipients don’t send responses, flooding the manager’s inbox.

Although such an approach has a grain of reason, in the long run, it’s a huge disservice to your engagement rates. For one thing, Gmail, AT&T, and other email client developers flag do-not-reply emails as spam - here goes your reputation and conversion.

Other than that, ‘cannot deliver’ notifications that pop up when a user tries to message a company back are frustrating - you might lose subscribers this way.

Finally, connecting with customers and website users might be a source of valuable insights and help you improve the product, service, or the way the company operates. Business owners should look for ways to connect with customers, not cut the ties off on purpose.

7. Not putting enough efforts into gathering a user base

If your email marketing strategy is not paying off, chances are you never treat is as a priority in the first place. You have to be selective as to where you put a sign-up form and what it says.

The difference in conversion between a sign-up form in the footer of the page, with nothing but a ‘Leave your email to subscribe to a newsletter’ CTA and the one in the header, with a description of the content you share will be impressive. Spreading the word of your newsletter on social media is another way to encourage more people to sign up.

When planning out a campaign, you need to keep in mind that most people get hundreds of new letters a day. Thus, you need to be extra convincing to get subscribers on board - here are some ways to do it:

  • Offering a discount or a special offer for signing up
  • Increasing the visibility of the sign-up form
  • Offering a unique sign-up experience to attract people’s attention
  • Sharing the news about your upcoming newsletter via social media and other promotion channels.

8. Hiding the ‘unsubscribe’ link

Somehow, business owners often think that email recipients will put up with irrelevant content if they have no way to unsubscribe from the list. It is, however, a misconception that costs multiple teams their place in the email white list and a stellar reputation.

The thing is, as a user grows more irritated by the email, rather than deleting it or leaving it unread, a subscriber will be more likely to flag the letter as spam. Other than that, unsubscribing is not always a vote against your content - it could be that a person is no longer interested in the type of news or the area emails cover.

Placing the ‘unsubscribe’ link in the footer, where people are used to seeing it, is one of the smartest email marketing practices. Make sure that the link is fully legible and clickable - though it’s alright to use a smaller font. Also, refrain from putting the link inside an image or a button since graphic visuals might not load well on low-end devices or under a weak network connection.

9. Using heavy sales language

When marketers or business owners dive into the uncharted waters of email marketers, they typically use standard manuals on e-commerce blogs that help create the most engaging content. While there is always room for learning, you need to account for the fact that most of these materials are widely used within the industry, making all emails look alike and blend together.

As you develop a marketing strategy, avoid using buzzwords and focus on the meaning, not the phrasing of your content. Cliches and sales-y adjectives don’t help - here are the ways to do a better job of engaging with your audience:

  • Personalization. Be sure to target the hobbies and interests of a person instead of targeting the masses.
  • Make it about them. Instead of going on and on about the strong sides of your company, focus on expressing how the product can solve customers’ needs and satisfy their in-depth desires.
  • Don’t use click bait. Using ‘catchy’ subject lines might be tempting - that’s why everybody’s doing it. Rather than going for a cliche ‘X Most Y Things’, brainstorm 3-5 creative subject lines, content, or infographic ideas that are relevant to your readers and aren’t considered stamps in 2020.

10. Missing out on testing

Although creating an ultimate #NoFailMail is next to impossible, it’s obvious how many obvious campaign blunders could be avoided if the marketing team didn’t rush to hit the ‘Send’ button. The thing is, even if an email looks perfect on your device, this might not be the case for every subscriber in the base.

Testing emails before sending them out allows marketers to avoid the following conversion-killers:

  • Broken links
  • Dynamic content that doesn’t load
  • Rendering errors
  • Emails getting flagged by the spam filter
  • Wrong alt-tag text

Other than that, marketers need to A/B test emails to capture key email metrics - click-through rates, deliverability, open rate, revenue per subscriber (email), etc. By launching two versions of the same email simultaneously, you will be able to see which design and writing practices resonate better with the audience, saving yourself a lot of time and effort in the future.

Before your campaign goes live, make sure that the design is well-adapted to mobile and desktop devices (including lower-end ones) and a reader can effortlessly get to the desired destination - a check-out page or a contact form.


When you hear people doubting the relevance of email marketing, it’s likely they are not prioritizing campaigns the right way. Successful projects like Hustle are proof of how powerful our inboxes are as a communication tool.

To leverage the full potential of email marketing, try to avoid the most impactful errors - not segmenting your audience, neglecting mobile users, relying too heavily on images, using do-not-reply addresses, etc. Once you take your time to think through and test out your emails, the increase in conversion and engagement rates will come your way.

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