9 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2021

Every year the email doomsayers state that email marketing is dead. Despite this, nearly every email inbox worldwide continues to bulge with emails from different brands all competing for our attention.

Despite what the naysayers may say, email marketing remains one of the most common and profitable marketing techniques, but only if it’s carried out correctly. From writing catchy subject lines to analyzing analytics, there’s a lot that goes into effective email marketing.

In a perfect world, you’d write an email, hit send, and watch the sales/conversions roll in, but unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that.  Most consumers, including your audience, are overwhelmed by how many emails they receive, and most emails go ignored.

Only 22.86% of emails that businesses send get opened, but with $38 generated for every $1 spent on email marketing, it’s a marketing channel that’s well worth investing in and spending the time to get right. 

To help you in this goal, we’ve compiled nine of the top email marketing mistakes you’ll want to avoid in 2021.

Let’s take a look at them.

#1 Not Having an Opt-in Offer

Opt-in offers are an incentive that businesses and brands provide in exchange for a new subscriber’s email address. This incentive will usually relate to the brand’s audience and offer a solution to a problem that the brand’s audience may be facing. 

The idea behind opt-in offers is to gather up email addresses of potential leads, these leads are now in your sales funnel, and if they resonate with your brand, they’ll become paying customers.

For example, a personal finance blogger could offer a free step-by-step guide on ‘‘How to Create a Household Budget that a new subscriber will receive when they sign up for the blogger’s email list. After receiving this guide, if the subscriber finds the guide useful, they’re more likely to become a paying customer in the future than a cold prospect.

Or a digital marketing agency could offer new subscribers a mini digital marketing course. Both of these opt-in offers are relevant to the respective audiences and solve potential problems these audiences may be facing and should move prospects down the sales funnel.

Some common examples of opt-in offers to offer include:

  • Free products and services.
  • Ebooks, reports, or whitepapers that solve a problem.
  • A mini-course or step-by-step guide.
  • An offer to some kind of exclusive group or community membership. 

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According to a Marketo study, 96% of consumers who land on a website aren’t ready to buy when they first visit a website. By offering an attractive opt-in offer, you can make sure you’re capturing some of these prospects and giving yourself the best possible chance of turning these prospects into paying customers.

#2 Not Sending a Welcome Email 

Welcome emails are your first opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with your subscribers, and it’s a great chance to give new prospects a positive first impression of your brand.

The average open rate for welcome emails is 50%, while 76% of people who sign up for a new email list expect to receive a welcome email immediately after subscribing. As soon as someone signs up for your list, they should receive an email that explains who you are/what you/your brand does, and what they can expect from subscribing to your list.

The goal of your welcome email will and the next steps you want a new subscriber to take will depend on the type of business you’re running.

For example, if you’re running a blog, the welcome email you send may simply thank the new subscriber for subscribing and let them know what they can expect from signing up to your list, and encourage them to read the most popular posts on your site.

If you’re running a business where new subscribers need to create an account, your welcome email may give the subscriber the next steps they need to follow to complete their account set-up. 

Whatever the reason for sending the welcome email, you need to make sure your welcome email or welcome email sequence delivers value to a new subscriber.

Over time you’ll be able to start measuring the effectiveness of your welcome email by taking a look at the open rates and conversion rates of the emails you’re sending.

For example, if you’re asking new subscribers to complete their account setup, how many are actually doing so? If you’re asking a new subscriber to read a post on your blog, how many subscribers are clicking the link to your post and reading the post? How long are they staying on your website?

By continually measuring your welcome email conversion rate and open rate, you’ll be able to gauge whether your welcome email is proving effective or not and make necessary adjustments when needed.

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#3 Not Having a Call to Action 

If you’ve done any email marketing before, you probably understand that including a call to action (CTA) in your emails is key to any kind of email marketing success.

A Call to action is vital to giving a new subscriber clear instructions of the next steps they should take after reading your email. 

For example, a personal finance blogger from earlier who’s just published a new post titled ‘6 Steps to Repairing Your Credit in 2021′ may want new subscribers to their list to read this post to boost their organic growth. How are they going to encourage subscribers to do this? By putting a clear call to action button in the email that redirects the reader to the relevant blog post. 

If the subscriber has signed up to a personal finance blog, they probably have some interest in reading about the topics of credit and credit repair. Providing the blogger gives the subscriber an easy-to-understand clear call to action to follow, the chances of them clicking the CTA button are high. 

Another example would be a law firm sending an email to encourage their email subscribers to sign up for a free consultation. In this example, the law firm would want to clarify the benefits of booking a free consultation, give them reasons as to why they’d want to book a consultation, and clear steps on how to do so. This could include placing a CTA button at the bottom of the email that directs the reader to a sign-up form to book the consultation.

You could even include a form on your website that visitors could fill out if they want a free consultation. Hollander Law Firm does this on their site which prompts visitors to give them more information and take the next step down the sales funnel:

The type of call to action you need to include will depend on the type of email marketing campaign you’re running and what next steps you want your reader to take. 

The key takeaways to remember are that you should only include one call to action in any single email, and you should aim to make the call to action as clear and straightforward for the reader to understand and act upon as possible. 

For a ton of great ideas about different CTA’s to include in your emails, you can check out this in-depth guide from Campaign Monitor.

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#4 Not Encouraging Your Readers to Respond

You don’t want the emails you send to turn into a one-way conversation. A lot of businesses make the mistake of not giving their readers an easy way to get in touch with them after reading an email they’ve sent.

Not only does this lead to a disengaged list, but it also leads subscribers to wonder why they subscribed to the list in the first place.

Encouraging your readers to respond can be done in a non-invasive friendly way; try and use phrases like “respond to this email if you’ve got any questions” or “let me know if I can help in any way” in the body of your email. These types of phrases make the prospect of responding to your email less intimidating for your audience.

You should also try and make sure the emails you’re sending are coming from a “personal” email. This means ditching the Do Not Reply email addresses. Instead, send emails from an email address your customers will be familiar with or from an email address where you use a name, e.g., [email protected] 

While this seems like a simple change, your customers will feel far more comfortable replying to a personal business email address rather than a cold, uninviting Do No Reply or [email protected] email address.

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#5 Bombarding Your Audience With Offers

There’s a time and a place for sending offers to your audience, but you really don’t want to be doing it in every email you send, or at least not in a blatant way. 

You should ensure that your emails are packed full of useful information that’s relevant to your audience. If you focus on giving valuable, insightful information in your emails that your subscribers resonate with, you should notice that your subscribers are open to hearing about your products and services.

For example, let’s say you’re selling HR software to companies, and your software makes it easier for companies to recognize employees that do good work. 

It would make more sense to educate new email subscribers about why it’s important to recognize employees who do good work and how they can measure employee happiness rather than pitching or promoting your products right out of the gate.

Offering real value in your email marketing allows you to build genuine relationships with your subscribers and positions you/your brand as an expert in your field.

There are tons of ways you can do this effectively- you could include an infographic, some helpful advice, or a link to a relevant blog post from time to time. This makes your audience far more receptive to your offers when you do decide to send some over.

#6 Avoiding Customer Segmentation 

The “one size fits all” approach to email marketing no longer works. In other words, the emails you’re sending need to be relevant to the person you’re sending them to, which is where segmentation comes in.

Email segmentation is the process of dividing email subscribers into smaller segments based on set criteria. Segmentation is usually used as a personalization tactic that brands can implement to deliver more relevant email marketing to specific subscribers. This segmentation can be based on subscribers’ geographic location, purchase history, interests, and much more.

Amazon uses segmentation particularly well. Instead of sending generic content and offers to customers, they typically will send customers product recommendations based on their previous purchases.

Segmenting your customer base and your email lists will help you increase open rates, increase conversions and decrease unsubscribes. The way you segment your email list can be entirely dependent on the type of business you’re running, how many products you have to offer, how many customers you have, and a whole lot more. 

For example, for an insurance business like Business Insurance USA, having a highly segmented audience is imperative for their email marketing success because most people joining their email list are only interested in highly personalized information.

Because of this, you will see that on their site they offer free quotes to people that they send to their respective email addresses.

This allows them to learn a lot about the customer- industry type, insurance type needed, their budget, etc. 

If you think your email lists could do with some segmentation, try and seek out the expertise of an email marketing expert who understands the industry you’re operating in. Someone who has expertise within your industry should be able to give you clear advice on how to segment your list while understanding the unique challenges and nuances of your particular market.

#7 Using Unengaging Subject Lines

The process of getting your emails opened is hard enough, but it gets a lot harder if you’re using unengaging subject lines. The subject line is the first thing your subscribers see in their email inbox, and it’s what makes people want to open your email or not.

There are a lot of different types and styles of subject line you can use, and you’ll want to mix up the types of subject line you use.

Some of the most well-known subject line examples include:

No-Nonsense Email Subject Lines

These subject lines work best for notification-type emails or emails that your audience is expecting to receive. For example, if a customer orders a product from your store, a simple subject line such as ‘your order is being processed‘ works well. 

Other examples of ‘no-nonsense’ subject lines include:

“{Company name} Quarterly report.”

“Happy Holidays from {Company Name}”

‘’Invitation to (event)’’

Humorous Subject Lines

Humorous subject lines help your emails stand out from the dull, dry emails that populate most email inboxes. If you know your subscribers well, you’ll know the type of humor they may find funny and what they won’t. 

If you’re in a particular field or industry, you might want to include an inside joke or pun which you know your subscribers will understand. 

Some classic humorous subject lines from brands include:

Taco Bell: Keep your pants on! We’re revealing our new Naked Chicken Chalupa NOW.

Baby Bump: Yes, I’m Pregnant. You Can Stop Staring At My Belly Now. 

Controversial Subject Lines

You need to tread carefully when using controversial subject lines, but your emails will get opened if you can use controversy correctly. Some examples of controversial subject lines include: 

‘Why your current (x) plan stinks.’

‘Everything you’ve ever heard about (x) is wrong.’ 

The type of subject line depends on the type of email you’re sending and the scenario you’re using it in. If you’re looking for some creative and engaging ideas for different subject lines you can use, OptinMonster has this great post detailing 164 email subject line ideas to boost your email open rates.

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#8 Not Scrubbing Your List Regularly

While we’ve spoken about actions you can take to increase the number of subscribers you can attract to your list, having a lot of subscribers is useless if most of them haven’t opened your emails in months. This is why scrubbing your list regularly is important. 

Scrubbing an email list means getting rid of those subscribers who aren’t opening or engaging with your emails. While it’s good to cultivate a large list of email subscribers, it’s better to aim for a list of active subscribers.

Some email marketing tools will come with a built-in auto-scrub feature, but a lot don’t. If you notice that your open rates are unusually low for a prolonged period, then it might be time to scrub your list. 

You can start the process by emailing your subscribers directly, asking them if they’re still interested in receiving your emails; you can contain an unsubscribe link within the email so the subscriber can remove themselves from your list if they want to. 

Alternatively, if you have insights into those who aren’t opening your emails, you can look at implementing a win-back email campaign to re-engage those lapsed subscribers.

#9 Sending Too Many Emails 

Just because someone has signed up for your email list doesn’t mean you should bombard them with emails. 

While there’s no set rule about how many times you should be hitting the send button to the list, you’ll want to strike a balance between keeping in touch regularly with your subscribers but not overwhelming them. 

If you’re just getting your email marketing started or you’re still building your list, start out by emailing your subscribers once a month. This is a good starting point to test your list’s receptiveness and the quality of your emails. 

If your subscribers are receptive to your emails and begin to enjoy your content, you can start increasing your email frequency to twice a month or even once a week. 

Wrapping it up 

The tips in this article should have given you some good pointers of email marketing mistakes you’ll want to avoid. Email marketing is here to stay, and if you get your email marketing strategy right, you have a powerful marketing channel that you can utilize to converse directly with your audience, share valuable information and drive revenue. 

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