Your email marketing strategy is a critical piece of your overall marketing plan if you’re a small business or solopreneur. Combined with social media, content marketing, and your website, email marketing contributes to your online presence in a unique way.
Email is a one-on-one communication opportunity — if you can capture your reader with a subject line that makes them want to open your message, you’ve got their attention.
Common Email Marketing Strategy Mistakes
1. No Personalization
I’m not just talking about adding the first name to the subject line. You can personalize emails based on clicks, past purchases, geographic information, interests, or any other information you may have about your reader. More about email personalization in this post.
What the reader clicks on in your message signals their interest. You can track clicks and tag contacts accordingly, then segment and target by tag.
Every major email provider offers ways to segment your list. Segmentation is how you get the you bought this, wouldn’t you love that, too? emails from businesses you’ve purchased from in the past. They work, don’t they? The more personalized the message is, the more relevant it is to the reader.
2. Using a Template
There are numerous templates available from email marketing strategy experts — many of them are free. While it’s a great idea to download, read, and learn from those who are successful, stop short of the copy/paste.
Your emails should be in your voice, or your brand’s voice. Only you can speak or write in your unique way. Your readers have signed up for your email list because they want to hear from you. Don’t cheat them out of that because someone else wrote something good. Use templates to give you ideas, not as a substitute for your message.
3. Blah Subject Line
Don’t write your subject line as an afterthought. It’s often what determines whether or not your email gets opened. Don’t waste the chance to stir emotion.
Subject lines that provoke fear of missing out (FOMO), create urgency, and stir curiosity will get opened and read. Just don’t overpromise — if the sale really doesn’t end this week, don’t try to trick anyone or you’ll lose credibility fast.
4. Ignoring Analytics
Adjust your email marketing strategy as needed based on what your provider’s analytics tell you. What links get the most clicks? Is there a specific kind of content that is most popular? What time of day results in the highest open rates for your list?
Analytics are the GPS of your email marketing strategy. Use them as a guide to tell you when to recalculate and change directions or keep going.
5. Lack of Testing
Always test. Whether it’s the subject line, images vs. text only, one image or another, testing is the only way you know what works best for your audience. I use Active Campaign for email marketing, and, like other providers, they have A/B testing capability, which I use often.
Test only one component at a time. Say you’re going to test two different subject lines. Active Campaign will send both versions to a small sample of your contact list, then choose the winner and send that version — all automatically.
6. Neglecting Mobile
Make sure your email is not only readable, but easy to read on a phone. When you send your test email, open it on a phone, a tablet, and a desktop or laptop computer.
About three in five consumers check their email on the go (mobile) and 75 percent say they use their smartphones most often to check email. – Fluent “The Inbox report, Consumer perceptions of email” (2018). Don’t alienate more than half your readers.
7. Overdependence on Images
This email by Instagram expert Sue B. Zimmerman is an excellent example. The version with the image looks great, with a smiling Sue looking at the title of the blog post in the photo. But the email loses nothing when it loads without the image.
It’s also wise to add alt text to your image, which you can do in your email provider’s interface. Alt text is necessary for accessibility for visually-impaired readers who use voice-based screen readers.
If all of your copy is in your image, anyone who doesn’t have images set to display in their email client will miss it. So don’t make your entire message an image; use actual text as much as possible and leave the images for branding.
8. Lack of Automation
Your email marketing strategy should in include automated emails — at the very least, a welcome sequence. Spend a little time writing a personal greeting for new subscribers. Follow up as needed to fit your business plan, but you might include an introduction to your staff, location, product line, or services.
Set these emails to send automatically based on time intervals, but make the first message immediate. Imagine your reader visiting a physical location, and you’re showing them around and pointing out things that may interest them.
If your sales cycle is long, automation can help you nurture customers through the process. You can tailor content to the customer’s current stage in the cycle, from initial discovery to purchase.
Don’t use both a question mark and an exclamation point in the same subject line. According to Hubspot,
The PLING_QUERY rule is a directive by the Apache web server that flags an email as spam if it contains both a question mark and an exclamation mark in the subject line.
Other potential spam signals are subject lines in all caps, and words such as free, $$$, or cheap.
10. Excessive Verbosity
Don’t be too wordy. No one wants to read long paragraphs on a mobile phone. Use short sentences, bullet points rather than paragraphs, and keep your subject line at 50 characters or fewer.
Use strong action verbs and make your point concisely.