Avoid These 6 Email Marketing Mistakes


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Make sure these common mistakes aren’t holding you back from one of the most powerful and accessible marketing tools out there.

Wouldn’t it be great if you had the ability to reach countless customers and prospects nationwide (and even all across the world) easily at a time that suits both you and them?

Well, you do — that’s the power of email marketing. Every business, however small, can build an email list of prospects and/or customers to get a little slice of attention in their inbox. Your emails can sit alongside those from the biggest companies around. But whether you’ve just started an email list or you’ve been reaping the benefits of email marketing for years, there are six crucial mistakes that you really need to avoid.

Mistake 1: Not Getting Permission Before Emailing

There’s one easy way to kill your list before you even get started, and that’s not getting permission to email people. Your country almost certainly has laws against spam, and you could find yourself in serious legal trouble if you add people to your list without getting their express permission. Here’s what you shouldn’t do:

  • Collect business cards at an event, and add those email addresses to your mailing list.
  • Go through all your contacts in Outlook/Gmail /etc., and use these email addresses as your starting list.
  • Put your customers on an email list without getting them to confirm that they want to be added.

Reputable email service providers like AWeber and MailChimp have a “double opt-in” system that prevents you from ever emailing people without full permission. Don’t see this as an annoyance — see it as something that protects you if you’re ever accused of spamming (or from malicious attacks).

Mistake 2: Not Providing Proper Subscribe Opportunities on Your Site

Does your site give visitors lots of good opportunities to subscribe, or do you only have a single email subscription form tucked away in the sidebar? Visitors will often be in a hurry. They might be scanning for information on your products, they might be browsing through your blog posts or they might have several other sites open in different tabs. You can almost be certain that they’re not going to be searching for a subscribe box.

This means that you need to give them plenty of opportunities to subscribe. Some of the best places to include your newsletter sign-up form include:

  • In the sidebar
  • Below a blog post or after your content
  • On top of your page in the header area
  • On a floating bar
  • On a slide-out box that appears from the bottom corner
  • On exit-intent popups that only appear when the visitor is about to leave

Mistake 3: Not Segmenting Your Email List Effectively

Once you have people on your email list, you probably do what many small businesses do — send out email broadcasts to the whole list. At first glance, you might think there’s really nothing wrong with that. But by segmenting your list, you’ll see far better results — lower unsubscribe rates, higher engagement and more sales. Here are a few ways to segment your list:

  • By different product interests: If you sell toys and games, there’s a big difference between your customers in their early 20s who are buying board games to play with friends and your customers who are over 60 and looking for toys for their baby grandchildren.
  • By different locations: Perhaps you’ve got a special offer or a piece of content that’s only really going to be relevant to your prospects living in a specific country.
  • By different buying behaviors: The emails you send to brand-new prospects should be different from those you’re sending to people who’ve bought from you once before. And those, in turn, will be different from emails sent to long-standing customers.

Mistake 4: Not Engaging With Your List

Do you send out emails often enough? While it’s certainly possible to go over the top, there’s also a danger in letting weeks or months go by with no contact. If you’re struggling to find the time to send out interesting content and attractive offers to your list, set aside five or 10 minutes per day to compose emails instead of aiming for a solid hour or two every couple of weeks.

Engagement also means responding. That could mean encouraging subscribers to hit “reply” on your emails to get in touch with you directly if your email list is small enough that this won’t be overwhelming. For bigger lists, you could run a survey — perhaps something as simple as asking subscribers to choose between two options for one of your upcoming products.

Mistake 5: Not Making Data-Driven Decisions

Is your email marketing strategy currently based mainly on hope and instinct? Perhaps you email once a week because that’s what a business-owner friend does, or you chose your opt-in form design based on what your spouse thought looked good. The problem is, what works for other businesses won’t necessarily work for you. What you (or your spouse or your team) thinks looks great may not actually be bringing you as many conversions as it should.

The only way to truly succeed in email marketing is to make data-driven decisions: ones based not on wishful thinking or even expert recommendations, but ones that are backed up by the data you gather. These are two particularly crucial areas to track:

  • Your conversion rate of visitors to subscribers (try tracking this before and after you change opt-in forms or add new ones.)
  • Your open rate and click-through rate on different emails (are one or both of these higher when you send more emails? When you send fewer emails? When you use different styles of subject line?)

Mistake 6: Not Building Your Own List

One really dangerous mistake is buying or renting an email list instead of building your own. It’s easy to see why some small businesses go down this route – getting an email list of 10,000 names with very little effort certainly sounds attractive. But buying email lists will almost certainly backfire. In fact, it’s such a poor idea that major email service providers like AWeber explicitly forbid it. Even in the (unlikely) event that the email addresses on a bought list were gathered in a legitimate way, the people on the list won’t have any idea who you are. They will have never heard of your company and may feel that you’re spamming them.

Also, keep in mind that if a list is for sale, there’s a very good chance it’s already been bought by loads of other small businesses — who are also sending out likely irrelevant and unwanted emails. Any subscribers who haven’t already abandoned their email address are unlikely to be particularly receptive to your offers!

Are you currently making any of these (easily avoidable) mistakes? What changes will you make this week to correct them?

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

Image Credit: CC by Business Collective.

About the author: Syed Balkhi

Syed is an award winning entrepreneur, marketer and the CEO of Awesome Motive. He’s also the guy behind WPBeginner, List25, OptinMonster, SoliloquyWP, Envira Gallery and more.

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