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Omnichannel commerce | Email

Are You Making These 8 Common Email Mistakes?

image: illustration of an email on virtual electronic background
If you are, here's how to rectify the situation

Studies continue to show that email provides an average return on investment of anywhere from 38% to 122%. If you're not seeing a similar return, you might be making one (or more) common email mistakes. Fortunately, marketing solutions provider Marketo has produced a white paper, "The 8 Biggest Mistakes Email Marketers Make and How to Avoid Them," to help you boost response, revenue, and ROI.



Mistake #1: unclear subject lines

Your copywriters may balk at having to write straightforward subject lines such as "Save 20% now through Monday" or "Shop our new summer collection." But according to Marketo, subject lines that clearly state what's inside the email consistently have higher open, click-through, and click-to-open rates. That said, your audience could be an exception to the rule, so you might want to test clever vs. clear subject lines before making any widespread changes.



Mistake #2: poor list hygiene

We're not talking the basics such as compliance with regulatory requirements and the like. To improve your emails' chances of making it past spam filters and into recipients' priority inboxes, engagement metrics are more important than they were just a few years ago. It's not enough to have a negligible rate of emails reported as spam and a bare minimum of hard bounces (emails sent to invalid addresses); you also need to show that recipients are opening and clicking within your emails. To do that, Marketo suggests three tactics:


Run soft-bounce management campaigns. Soft bounces are emails sent to valid addresses that are rejected due to a temporary issue, such as a full inbox on the part of the recipient or a server snafu. That said, if an ISP deems your soft-bounce rate too high or if certain addresses consistently bounce, it will hurt your sender reputation and could result in your messages ending up in the spam folder. Running an automated trigger campaign or a one-time batch campaign will identify addresses that repeatedly bounce so that you can remove them from your list.


Remove "role" addresses. These are addresses that have a title or a role in lieu of a person's name—for instance, rather than "Blacklist providers like Spamhaus use role accounts as honeypot spam traps to catch spammers," Marketo notes.


Run reengagement campaigns. As much as a quarter to a half of the average email list consists of inactive subscribers—and their lack of activity can hurt your email engagement rating. While the primary goal of a reengagement campaign is to encourage inactive subscribers to engage with your brand again, the secondary goal is to determine which subscribers really don't want to continue receiving messages from you so that you can clean them from your list.



Mistake #3: lack of a reengagement strategy

While we're on the topic of reengagement, you should have an entire reengagement strategy. To start, you need to determine who qualifies as an inactive subscriber: Is it someone who has not opened an email in six months? Someone who hasn't clicked through in a year? Once an email address slides into official inactivity, you should remove it from your normal email cadence—but not yet from your email list. Instead send the address a series of reengagement emails. "Try to identify what your inactive subscribers share in common," Marketo advises. "Perhaps none of them saw your welcome email series, or didn't understand the types of offers they'd receive and the cadence." You could then clarify any misconceptions and perhaps even offer a discount or other incentive as a sign of how much you value them.



Mistake #4: failure to measure email inboxing

Feeling smug about your 99% email deliverability rate? Perhaps you shouldn't be. Just because your emails are being delivered does not mean they are being delivered to recipients' primary inboxes. As touched upon above, they could be landing in their spam folders. According to email services provider Return Path, that's where about one in five commercial emails lands. You should monitor what percentage of emails make it into primary inboxes for each ISP; if one ISP's rate is significantly lower than another's, you can reach out to the ISP to see how to improve performance.



Mistake #5: failure to segment by engagement

Keeping on the theme of improved deliverability, if you send marketing emails on a broad scale, Marketo suggests segmenting your audience by how engaged subscribers are, then staggering your sends: "Send to the highly engaged subscribers first, wait 30 minutes, then send to the unengaged subscribers and you'll see higher deliverability rates and higher inboxing. Why? Because the ISP will see high levels of engagement when you send the email to the engaged subscribers first, which boosts your sender reputation score." You might also want to use a different IP address for your most engaged or most productive subscribers. This way, if spam traps and the like among the addresses in the rest of your file lead to ISPs directing your emails to spam folders, at least your most important audience segment won't be affected.



Mistake #6: using image-based CTA buttons

A JPEG or other image-based call-to-action button might not render properly on all devices and browsers. An HTML button will. Don't worry: HTML buttons can be designed to look as compelling as image buttons.



Mistake #7: not optimising for mobile

More emails are opened on mobile devices than on laptops and desktops nowadays. What's more, Marketo cites statistics that show 65% of all online purchases begin on a smartphone. So be sure that when your email is opened on a mobile device, the type is large enough to be readable, the buttons can easily be pressed by even not-so-petite fingers, and the CTA is above the fold—and that's just for starters.



Mistake #8: bad testing practices

Earlier we mentioned the importance of testing. But failing to follow proper protocol will skew your results, which in turn could lead you to implement changes that will actually depress response. Among the most common errors are using too small a sample size, failing to run your test long enough (don't make decisions based on the results of one email send), and testing too many variables simultaneously—for instance, if you're testing a design change, don't also test subject lines or send times.



author: Zilan Yuan

Zilan Yuan

Zilan Yuan is a freelance writer specializing in marketing and design and editorial assistant of Your Commerce.


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