Learning center
April 11, 2022

The 5 Most Common Email Marketing Mistakes

Email marketing has many benefits. It drives the highest return on investment (ROI) among all direct communication channels. It also comes without any added customer acquisition costs (CAC). There are, however, a number of common mistakes that brands tend to make which can render all of their email marketing efforts ineffective.

In this article, we'll be sharing the five most common mistakes our clients have encountered, along with ways to overcome them.

Mistake Number 1: Sending Everything to Everyone

Without personalizing emails and taking their customers' interests into consideration, brands tend to send bulk campaigns that inadvertently flood subscribers with unwanted offers or promotions.

Some great examples include campaigns that advertise diapers to people who don’t have children or promoting products that a customer has recently purchased. For customers, this is a clear indicator that their interests are not taken into account.

Another example is when companies don't consider the channels their customers prefer. For example, a customer may regularly open the messages they receive in Viber and find them useful – but if the exact same messages are also sent to their email, they may not read them. As a result, you end up with a lower email open rate and your emails may even get marked as spam.

To correct this:

Replace some bulk campaigns with tailor-made trigger scenarios. Also, remove a section of your customers from the bulk campaign list or try to personalize your bulk campaigns.

Replace Some Bulk Campaigns with Tailor-Made Trigger Scenarios. Trigger emails are automatically sent to a customer when they make a certain action. A classic example of a trigger scenario is an abandoned cart email, sent when a customer adds items to their cart but does not complete their purchase.

A customer added items to their cart but didn’t place an order — Incanto automatically sends the customer an abandoned cart reminder email.

Abandoned carts, abandoned browsing and other simple campaigns can be sent via a CMS or other relatively cost-friendly services such as Convead.

An example of a more advanced approach is sending discounts to customers who do open emails, but have not visited your website for a long period of time – these types of campaigns will require a more sophisticated tool that can consolidate all of a customer’s information in one place. But if you have a small database that does not require any manual uploads from different sources and is stored in one place, you can quite easily make do with an inexpensive solution – especially if you're just getting started with these kinds of campaigns.

Exclude Some Customers from Bulk Campaigns. For example, exclude those who have made a purchase within the last three days. This can be done manually by importing the whole database and a list of recent customers into MS Excel. You can then delete these customers using the VLOOKUP function.

Once you get to the stage where there are too many segments and campaigns, you can connect an automation service that comes with a system of filters.

Personalize Your Bulk Campaigns. One good option would be to enrich your emails with product recommendations that show only in-stock items and items that the customer hasn’t yet bought.

Another option may be to divide the database into segments. This can mean sending different emails depending on how long ago the customer last made a purchase.

inactive segments
for other segments
Mario Berluchi sends campaigns with a promo code only to customers whose last purchase had been made a long time ago. Other customers receive emails with the most popular items of the month.

Mistake Number 2: Focusing on the Open and Click Rates, Instead of on Your Revenue

The open rate and the click rate are indirect metrics that indicate whether a customer is interested in a brand or specific email content. However, they do not give a clear indication of how much the company is earning from those campaigns and how well the business is doing.

To avoid this mistake, you can:

  • Set up UTM parameters for your emails;
  • Add a promotional code or a secret code word to emails.

Set up UTM Tags to analyze exactly how people make purchases. The UTM tags are added to links in order to get detailed information about each traffic source. You can track your conversions using UTM tags in Google Analytics.

For example, the link to an article in Mindbox's Journal contains the parameters showing that visitors used that link in an organic Facebook post. It also tells us that the article addresses the company culture: https://mindbox.cloud/journal/teal-organization-in-action-how-mindbox-uses-teal-principles/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=culture

Add a Promotional Code or a Secret Code Word. A customer can enter a promo code or secret password at checkout or when placing an order. This method is, however, not 100% accurate as some customers forget to use the code they saw in their email. Nevertheless, it can help us to understand customer trends and compare how effective different campaigns are.

subscription without purchases
customers with purchases
did not open emails
TOPTOP gives a promo code to different customer groups: subscribers who haven’t made any purchases, those who have bought something, and those who haven’t opened emails for over two months

Mistake Number 3: Sending Emails Too Often

It may seem that the more emails you send, the more revenue you will receive from your mailing lists, especially if you have last-click analytics set up. That is, when the last channel with which the client had an interaction is given credit for the purchase. However, in reality, there may not be a connection, as there is always the possibility that customers will make a purchase without being sent an email.

In addition, aggressive spamming can lead to database burnout, where customers open emails less often, and therefore click on the links within them less often as well.

response rates

The dependency of the response rate on the mailing frequency. The more often you send emails, the less often customers open them. The graph depicts our clients' average data.

You can resolve this by:

  • Using a control group;
  • Paying attention to the open rate and the click rate.

Use a Control Group. For example, exclude some of your customers from the mailing list. This will allow you to compare the behaviors of the experimental group and the control group. This will then allow you to deduce whether campaigns really do affect the conversion rate.

For companies with a large customer base, excluding 5–10% of the audience base from communications will be enough. For a small business with an audience of several hundred or thousand people, it it would be best to divide the customer base in half. Of course, this does mean less profit / revenue in the campaign you use a control group for. However, in the long run, this will pay off. We advise sending at least a few campaigns with a control group to make sure that they are effective.

Pay Attention to the Open Rate and the Click Rate. If the click and open rates are lower, the customer base is likely to get smaller and/or become more inactive. As stated above, click and open rates are indirect metrics. However, they are enough to be able to determine whether customers are tired of emails.

Mistake Number 4: Sending Emails without Subscribers’ Consent and/or with a Database that You Have Purchased

Some people think that purchasing a customer base is a good idea because it is a quick and effortless way to create mailing lists. But, in truth, this is a big mistake as you could literally be buying anything, even randomly generated addresses. Even if the addresses are real, their owners do not know anything about your brand, may not be interested in buying your product, and did not agree to receive any campaigns from you in the first place.

Moreover, your emails will most likely automatically be delivered as spam, filtered by either the host’s AI or the recipient themselves. This is especially important to note, as the more spam reports a domain gets, the lower its reputation. So, the fate of the first email decides that of every email from your company thereafter. Meaning if the first email ends up in spam, so will every other one from you that follows.

How to improve this:

  • Add a pop-up to your website, offering a promo code in exchange for customers' email addresses;
  • Filter out emails from a customers' purchase histories.

Add a Pop-up to Your Website, Offering a Promo Code in Exchange for Customers' Email Addresses. You can use static or dynamic pop-ups, which are easy to set up. You can do this with the help of developers or connect with a reasonably priced third-party service.

popup furniture discount
game furniture discount
pop-up discount
wheel of fortune discount
The marketers of the MOON-Trade furniture store split tested two pop-up variations: the Wheel of Fortune showed a 3.5X higher conversion rate

Get Emails from Your Order History List. This kind of customer base is also considered historical data, so you should be careful when working with it.

eSputnik Testimonial

If a business has just started up, building a subscriber database is quite an easy process. Customers will remember that they gave their consent to receive campaigns and are therefore prepared to receive them.

It is more difficult to work with a database that has not been touched for several years. If you send emails to all the customers from the database at once, it may negatively affect the domain, and hosts such as Gmail or Yahoo will block your emails.

It's more worth your while to split the database – for example, into 10 parts. You should then send emails in stages, carefully assessing the open, click, and unsubscription rates. This is called warming up the domain.

In addition, it's important to consider the difficulties involved in restoring a dead domain. If you face this problem, contact email services and relevant agencies, and change your IP addresses as needed. As this is a more time-consuming undertaking, it is better to do these things right from the beginning.

Anastasia Gorkaya

Anastasia Gorkaya, Regional Director at eSputnik

Mistake Number 5: Not Complying with Technical Requirements for Emails

Email services have strict requirements regarding campaigns. For example, to confirm that the sender’s server is authentic, a digital signature is required. If you do not have the right technical settings, your emails will automatically be added to the spam folder, where they will likely never be seen.

What to do in order to meet the requirements:

  • Set up the sender authentication and digital signatures;
  • Set up Postmaster Tools;
  • Gradually increase the campaign volume.

Set up the sender authentication and digital signatures using SPF, DKIM, and DMARC:

  1. Clarify your SPF record to indicate which mail servers are able to send emails from your domain.
  2. Allow your DKIM signature to prevent spoofing when sending emails from your domain. Spoofing is when an email's content is changed by a hacker impersonating someone else.
  3. Publish a DMARC Record. This enables senders and recipients to automatically authenticate messages by identifying the sender’s domain. It also determines what to do with suspicious emails sent by scammers who are posing as you. If the email fails the DMARC check, then whatever action that has been instructed in the DMARC rule will be carried out. This can include marking the email as spam, rejecting it, or taking no action at all.

Set up Postmaster Tools. These are needed to gather data from email services such as Gmail, Yahoo, and others. They assess the potential for emails to be delivered.

Postmaster Tools let you know:

  • how often your subscribers mark your emails as spam
  • why your emails do not get delivered
  • if the email identification is correct
  • your domain or IP reputation, and its effect on your email delivery rate.

It is important to use Postmaster Tools because not all mail providers have deliverability data, and email services may not provide a complete set of information. This means that collected statistical data may, in fact, be skewed.

Gradually Increase the Volume of the Campaigns You Send. If you have just started sending emails to your mailing lists or if you are working with a historical database, you should gradually increase the volume of messages sent while simultaneously monitoring the reaction of recipients in the postmaster. A sudden jump in the number of emails sent may lead to an increase in complaints from recipients.

Summary: Mistakes and Ways to Avoid Them

Mistake number 1: Sending Everything to Everyone.

  1. Partially replace bulk campaigns with tailor-made trigger scenarios;
  2. Exclude some customers from bulk campaigns;
  3. Personalize your bulk campaigns.

Mistake number 2: Focusing on Open Rate and Click Rate Instead of on Revenue.

  1. Ass UTM tags to links in your campaigns;
  2. Add a promo code or a secret password to the emails you send.

Mistake number 3: Sending Emails Too Often.

  1. Use a control group that excludes some customers from the mailing list;
  2. Monitor the open rate and the click rate.

Mistake number 4: Sending Emails without Subscribers’ Consent, with a Database You Purchased.

  1. Create a pop-up with a promo code that your customers will receive for entering their email address;
  2. Collect emails from the purchase history.

Mistake number 5: Not Complying with Technical Requirements for Emails.

  1. Set up the sender authentication and digital signatures using SPF, DKIM, and DMARC;
  2. Set up Postmaster Tools;
  3. Gradually increase the campaign volume.
The following case study is from Mindbox, the original brand behind Maestra’s technology