Despite the constant predictions of its decline, email marketing still gives businesses a convenient, cost-effective way to connect with their audience, establish trust, provide value, turn leads into sales, and increase Return on Investment (ROI).
Even though it’s still one of the strongest and most rewarding marketing strategies that you can leverage, email marketing has not been immune to change. Customers suddenly had different needs, desires, interests, preferences, and behaviors, which means that businesses have had to reevaluate their strategies and develop better approaches to target their customers to stay relevant and profitable.
Email marketing has not been exempt from these evolutions. The tactics that were acceptable pre-2020 might not cut it in today’s climate.
The point of this post is to help you reassess your email marketing, pinpoint mistakes that might be limiting the impact of your efforts, and address them to crisis-proof your emails and improve the effectiveness of future campaigns.
Why COVID-19 changed email marketing
The pandemic challenged everything from established consumer dynamics to customer experiences and brand loyalty. Customers grew more aware than ever and threw strength behind the issues they believed in.
Choosing which brand to patronize evolved beyond just price, quality, and convenience. Other factors such as trust, sustainability, social responsibility, and ethical sourcing are becoming more and more important in consumer decisions, so your brand has to be careful and intentional than ever about the values you espouse.
Customers are invested in marketing messages that are relevant to them more than ever. Email marketing is no longer about targeting demographic data like age, gender, and location.
Customers want messages to align with their personal values and situation. According to the EY Future Consumer Index research involving 20 countries and 14,500 individuals, consumers today can be divided into five categories:
- 32% of them are most concerned about affordability, so product functionality means more to them than brand names
- 25% prioritize their health and their family’s well-being before anything else, so they only buy products they consider safe and trusted
- 16% are most concerned about the environment and its preservation, and they try to buy from brands that are also committed to these values
- 15% are all about community and doing things for the greater good, so honesty and transparency are high on their list when choosing brands to patronize
- 12% put their stock in experiences; they want to soak in as many moments as possible, making them more likely to try new brands and products
If your business is serious about getting results from email marketing, you need to consider segmenting your audience based on these personas and using them to guide your campaigns. The pandemic increased customer expectations of what businesses should do for them.
You can no longer get by sending an automated email whenever you publish new content or adding a pop-up box saying “sign up to receive updates” to your website to get subscribers. Instead, you have to anticipate your audience’s needs and desires and deliver personalized experiences at every point in their buyer journey.
10 email marketing mistakes to watch for post-COVID
To attract, nurture, and retain subscribers in the current consumer landscape, you have to be willing to let go of traditional email practices that have been rendered ineffective by the pandemic.
Let’s cover some practices and mistakes you need to rectify or avoid making to stay ahead of the curve.
1. Forgetting the welcome email
Congratulations! You just gained a new subscriber.
What’s your next move?
For many email marketers, it’s nothing. They just wait until they send out their regular email messages to reach new subscribers. This is a huge mistake because you’re missing out on a chance to connect and engage with these freshly acquired subscribers while the interaction is still fresh on their minds.
When you fail to send a welcome email or email series, you’re taking a risk by assuming the subscriber would still care about your brand when you eventually reach out to them. That excitement that got them to sign up for your email list in the first place would be gone, so they might just unsubscribe or not even bother opening the email at all.
But when you reach out to them right after they subscribe to say thank you for being here, they are more likely to open up your email and keep interacting with your brand because you’re still fresh in their mind. So you want your welcome email to welcome the reader, explain what your brand is about, what they can expect from you, and provide something of value like a free report, discount offer, or promo code.
This welcome email example from Hush Puppies hit all the right notes. It welcomes you, introduces you to the business, and offers a hard-to-resist time-bound offer of 20% off your next order.
There’s no specific way to send a welcome email. It can be professional and straight to the point, or humorous and lighthearted. The important thing is that it should be memorable, reflect your brand voice, and set the tone for future emails.
2. Annoying and salesy emails
Now, more than ever, customers are less interested in having pushy and aggressive sales messages shoved in their faces. If you’re coming on too strong in your emails, you’re basically asking them to click the unsubscribe button, and they will be happy to oblige.
There are dozens of emails vying for attention in your reader’s inbox, and most of them sound alike. The best way to differentiate yourself is to go easy on the cliches and salesly language and just talk like you’re having a conversation with a friend.
Focus on providing a lot of practical, valuable content so that when you slip in promotional offers, they won’t be put off by it. They will even be inclined to take you up on your offer because it’s relevant to them, and they’ve come to trust you.
Personalize your emails and make your messages about the reader. Rather than telling them how amazing your product is, let them know how to benefit from it. Tell your readers how your product can add value to their lives. Your open rate, engagement rate, and conversion rate will thank you for it.
3. Outdated designs
Many email marketing campaigns fall flat on their faces because their design leaves much to be desired. You can’t expect your subscribers to engage your emails when the font size of your copy is all over the place.
Just stick to using H2 and H3 tags to break down topics. Avoid using multiple fonts in your campaigns, or they’ll look juvenile and disconcerting. Pick a nice, clean font and stick with it all through.
While it’s okay to use images in your email design to make it more engaging and visually stimulating, you want to stay away from using low-resolution images or too many images in a single email. Other interactive elements like audio and video can also transform your click-through rates.
There are platforms that give you access to tons of audio and video datasets that you can use to spruce up your email design, so don’t hesitate to check them out.
Your color choices are also very important, so when designing your email, go with the colors your brand is known for. This will make it easier for subscribers to recognize your emails in their inboxes and even motivate them to open them. Here’s an example of this trick in practice with Allrecipes:
You also want to review every link in your email to make sure they’re not broken before making the campaign live, or you could end up with an embarrassing situation on your hands.
4. Poor proofreading
Your audience expects a certain level of professionalism in your emails. Not delivering on this can come off as you disrespecting them and believing they don’t deserve the best that you have to give, which can cause them to stop engaging with your messages.
Before you hit that send button, make sure to proofread your emails for wrong spelling, grammatical inconsistencies, and other errors. It might not look like much, but even a simple mistake like “Shpo now” in your CTA can prevent readers from clicking through and converting.
Make sure the tone of your message aligns with your brand and the emotion you want to spur in your audience. Have multiple people go through the email for errors and give their opinions on how easy it was for them to understand. For best results, work this into your process and use collaboration tools so everyone can see your new email drafts as you work. This will help you get better feedback.
Additionally, screen your copy for words that might come off as offensive to your audience. No matter how friendly the rapport you’ve built, you still want to address them with respectful and professional language.
In a similar vein, add a professional-looking email signature. Check out these email signature examples for inspiration.
5. Skipping A/B testing
One of the biggest mistakes brands make with their email marketing campaigns is neglecting to carry out A/B tests or hanging up their boots after performing a few tests. The truth is effective email campaigns don’t happen overnight, and even good results can be improved with a little bit of testing and modification.
Don’t presume to know what works best for your audience until you’ve tested your theory. You should create different subject lines, visuals, and Calls-To-Action (CTAs), then send each one to a different segment of your email list to see which performs best.
However, try to test only one of these elements at once, so you know which factor to attribute the performance of a campaign to. Performing A/B tests can not only help boost your open and click-through rates, but they can also make you a better email marketer by teaching you how to craft highly persuasive CTAs and subject lines.
6. Using bad CTAs and subject lines
Your audience are not mind readers, and they have so many other things they could be doing with their time. So if you don’t tell them what you want them to do next after reading your email, they would probably just close it and move on to the next thing on their list.
Even when you include a call-to-action, it needs to be clear, straightforward, and convincing, or they won’t follow your lead. Your CTA should be easy for your readers to find.
Use bold text, bright colors, and large buttons to make it stand out in your email. The words you choose matter greatly, so use action words that arouse curiosity, spark emotion, or create a sense of urgency to compel your audience to take action.
Try not to use multiple CTAs in one email, as this may leave your audience unsure of what action to take and cause them to take none at all. However, it’s okay to repeat the exact CTA multiple times throughout the email to give the viewer more chances to notice and act on it.
The same goes for your subject lines; if it’s poorly written, your subscribers won’t be drawn to open your email, and your conversion rate and campaign ROI will tank. Forget about being clever, overdramatic, or luring your audience with clickbait and focus on crafting purposeful and relevant subject lines.
Find a balance between revealing too much and being sensational or hyperbolic. In your quest to be persuasive, avoid using spammy words in your subject lines; otherwise, you’ll hurt your sender reputation and risk your emails getting blocked from your subscriber’s inboxes.
Finally, make sure that the content of your email aligns with your subject line, or readers will feel like you tricked them and unsubscribe from your list.
7. Not optimizing for mobile
Our mobile devices are like a second limb. It’s always in our hands or within reach, so it makes sense that it’s what we tend to use for most online activities like shopping, sharing updates on social media, and checking our emails.
Despite this, many email marketers give all their care and attention to designing their email messages for desktops while neglecting mobile. Unfortunately, that will not fly for consumers anymore because they expect you to deliver an optimized experience across all their devices.
So if they open up your message on their mobile devices and the layout makes the content look wonky and difficult for them to read, they’re likely to unsubscribe or ignore all your future emails.
Make generous use of white space. Try to use short paragraphs in your emails so mobile readers are not put off by long blocks of text, and don’t cram it full of visuals because they can affect how quickly your message loads. Don’t forget to test your final copy to see that it looks right on smartphones before sending it to your subscribers.
8. Treating email subscribers like regular customers
If all your email subscribers wanted was to learn about your business, they could just have read the “About Us” section of your website and kept it moving. Instead, they submitted their emails to you because they feel some fundamental connection to your brand and want to keep you close.
They want to be the first to hear about everything you’ve got going on. They actually care about your business, so they will be more inclined to consume your content, share it with their network, fill out surveys, leave feedback or suggestions, and even purchase your products or services.
Your email list is basically a direct line to your biggest supporters, and they deserve to be treated like they are in the VIP club. You can show your email community members how much you appreciate them by giving them special offers, exclusive content, sneak peeks of products/services coming soon, first dibs on newly released products, and more.
Another way you can make your email subscribers feel really special is by creating a brand ambassador program for them and rewarding them for their loyalty to your business. These perks will push them to be even more devoted to your brand and more likely to jump at opportunities to patronize you.
9. Not focusing on sender reputation
Your sender reputation is a score set by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) based on the volume of emails you send daily as well as your bounce rates and unsubscribe rates. If your emails often bounce or lead to viewers hitting the unsubscribe button, your sender reputation will suffer, and you will get a low score.
Not paying attention to your sender reputation is one of the costliest email marketing mistakes you can make. The lower your reputation gets without being corrected, the less trustworthy you’ll become in the eyes of ISPs, and the greater the chances of your emails ending up directly in subscriber’s spam folders.
Luckily, you can always increase your score, but you have to monitor your reputation to do so. There are many great tools and websites—e.g., Sender Score, TrustedSource, BarracudaCentral—that can tell you your score. All you have to do is submit your URL, monthly email volume, and other vital details, and your reputation score will be revealed to you.
10. Skipping email analytics
Your work doesn’t end after your campaigns go live. You still need to watch them to see if they’re effective at driving the results you want and determine the particular messages that resonate with your readers and spur them to take action.
Without tracking your campaigns, you won’t be able to tell whether your strategy is performing optimally and where you need to effect changes to improve marketing outcomes. Leverage analytics to track your open rates, click-through rates, number of new subscribers gained, and the rate at which people are unsubscribing from your emails.
Check your campaigns with the highest option and click-through rates to see what similarities they share, then use the insights you glean to inform future email marketing campaigns and ensure your efforts yield fruit.
When choosing your email marketing software, look for tools that offer comprehensive in-built analytics. This will save you the trouble of investing in a separate tool to help measure the performance of your campaigns.
Drive your email marketing success
In the world of email marketing, everyone is prone to making mistakes from time to time, even the most seasoned marketers. However, knowing exactly what to look out for can reduce these incidents and prevent you from hurting your email marketing efforts by repeating the same mistakes over and over.
Armed with this knowledge, you can set about revamping your email strategy to maximize opens, engagement, and conversions while drastically reducing your spam and unsubscribe rates.