What NOT to Do If You Want Your Email Marketing to Convert

What NOT to Do If You Want Your Email Marketing to Convert

There’s no denying the value of email marketing, and a well ­executed campaign has the potential to provide a range of possibilities for businesses looking to get the most out of their subscribers. But there are pitfalls, and if these aren’t avoided you run a risk of causing damage to your brand.

This article will point out some of the common mistakes companies are making in their email marketing, so you have a better understanding of what to avoid. Use this information to help formulate your own best practice standards and construct an effective and successful campaign, based on the methods that are achieving results.

Email subject lines

The cornerstone of any email marketing campaign is the email subject line, and it’s critically important to get this aspect of your EDM right. Finding the perfect subject line is often a case of rigorous, regular testing. As you’re doing this though, keep in mind these common mistakes that may be preventing your subject lines from gaining meaningful inbox traction.

Don’t try to say everything

Overindulgence is something to be avoided at all costs in subject line copy. The most effective subject lines are short, sharp and to the point, constructed while being mindful of the fact that they will only ever have a split second to capture the recipient’s attention – so don’t try to say everything.

You do, however, need to say something. Every year, Mailer Mailer creates an email marketing metrics report, and despite previous years finding that the shortest subject lines (4-15 characters) had the highest average open rate, their 2015 edition found that messages with a medium-length subject line (28-39 characters) produced the highest average open rate. Those with slightly longer subject lines (40-50 characters) yielded the lowest average open rate.

Where possible, identify the most compelling aspect of your EDM and compose your subject line accordingly. A subject line analysis report by Adestra found that subject lines separated by pipes (eg Sale now on | New lines added | Win a trip to Dubai | Share your pics with #summer2015rules) were in the top 10 performing ‘words’ across billions of emails, so this could be an easy way for you to get across the multiple content and benefits of your email without waffling.

Be sure to track your results, and test to ensure your campaign is headed in the right direction.

Don’t be overly aggressive or negative

Subject lines should also clearly establish a sense of urgency for the recipient. Why is your email the one in the inbox that requires immediate attention? The benefits of opening the email should be clearly communicated, and the recipient should feel compelled to open it now and not later. This requires a deft touch, however. Overly aggressive and negative copy has the potential to alienate subscribers. Again, the emphasis is to find what works for your and your target audience with a thorough, comprehensive regime of tracking and testing.

Don’t overuse capitals or exclamation marks

Stylistically there are also a number of choices that could be sabotaging your click­throughs. Overuse of capital letters, punctuation (exclamation marks for example), unnecessary conjunctions and buzzwords can leave your carefully formulated email campaign looking like spam and potentially even relegated to the spam folder of your recipient’s inboxes.

Don’t be boring

Keep track of what phrases and expressions are overused and offer something different. Signing up to competitor’s emails is a great way to see what everyone else is doing and keep your campaign one step ahead of the competition.

The aforementioned report by Adestra found that mundane words like ‘Industry’, ‘Report’, ‘Whitepaper’, ‘Forecast’ and ‘Journal’ all dramatically decreased open rates.

Images not displaying properly

This can be one of the most frustrating facets of designing an email marketing campaign. A creative team has put days of thought and design into a visually stimulating EDM, only to have these images not display automatically in the recipient’s inbox. There’s no denying HTML­rich emails have the potential to achieve dramatic results, but disabled images and the fact that many people will be viewing on portable devices must be considered.

It’s important to keep this in mind when you’re formulating the design of your email. With a few clever design choices you can make your EDMs equally as clear when the images are blocked. Another great way to enhance this effect is including descriptive ALT tags. Even if the customer cannot instantly see the image, the right ALT tag can invoke an image of the offer in their mind and even instil a desire to enable the images and discover the full email. This is also a great way to get the idea across to viewers on mobile devices.

Images add flavour and flair to email marketing campaigns and are useful tools, but by the same token it’s essential to consider the restrictions when designing. With the right design you can ensure your email is just as effective and potentially even as appealing as it would be without images automatically appearing. Unfortunately these are restrictions, but they are ones that everyone in email marketing has to work with, and if you want your campaign to stand out from the crowd, a little bit of clever designing can go a long way.

Generic greetings and salutations

Generic greetings and salutations are one of the most common pitfalls in email marketing. Every email you send out is in competition with a range of other emails which may be your direct competitors, different businesses, even work and personal emails, so you have to do everything you can to stand out of the pack. The worst thing you can do is to send your email out with a generic greeting. The good news is the solution is easy.

Your subscriber list is the best tool to combat this problem. If you’ve captured your subscriber’s first name, incorporate it into the opening text, or even the email subject line. Consumers will feel that the content is specifically designed to them and this will instil it with more value and a degree of urgency, which will turn into more click­throughs and better results. This ensures your subscribers are engaged and being utilised in an effective manner.


This is another line to tiptoe across. At the start of your foray into email marketing you may notice that you can’t help but achieve positive results, and in many occasions this is true. But users can also be overwhelmed, particularly if additional emails are not adding any value. Often an increase in the email send rate can lead to an increase in unsubscribes and you really can eat into your subscriber list if you’re not careful. Exercise caution here.

A study by Campaign Monitor of over 2 billion emails found that the optimal frequency or ‘sweet spot’ for getting the most people to see your emails with the least amount of subscribers was once every two weeks.

However this varies across industries, so as always, it’s best to test – isolate a section of your list and see if they can handle extra traffic. If your subscribers feel as though they’re getting a good deal they’re not likely to unsubscribe, and if they’re used to regular emails they will eventually come to expect it and stick with your brand. Again this is a matter where it’s important to use your best judgement and test as much as possible.

Clarity and value

The copy of your email is arguably the most important part of your email marketing campaign and many companies live and die by their ability to create compelling copy for users. Clarity and concise copy is the key here. It’s up to you to make sure it’s explicitly clear what the offer is and how your subscribers are benefitting from receiving this email in their own inbox.

The importance of clarity cannot be understated and it’s vital that your content reflects the value proposed in the campaign. Nothing will have a cursor hovering towards the unsubscribe button like misleading content and if you don’t treat your subscriber list with respect before too long they’re not going to respect you. It’s also important to incorporate a call to action in your text. People receiving the email should be compelled to act and act quickly on the offer.

Consider the eye path of someone reading your email and how your text lends or detracts from the clarity of your message. Again, this is another aspect of email marketing that can only be mastered and maintained through rigorous testing and continued tinkering. A consumer needs to be made aware of what’s in it for them, a call to action and the benefits available from receiving this email, and this needs to happen as soon as possible, otherwise there’s every chance they will disregard the offer or unsubscribe completely.

Failing to maintain your list

Any email marketing campaign is only as good as the list of subscribers that are being marketed to. Because of this it’s important to always be testing your list and maximising their output. Make sure it’s easy for users to unsubscribe or change their email preferences and ensure these details are updated promptly. Also be mindful of hard bounces, which originate from email addresses that do not exist or have been deleted and action accordingly.

Email marketing can be a useful tool and when used properly can help you gain a leg­up on the competitors. But as with anything in marketing, it’s only as useful as its execution. Make sure you avoid the commonly made mistakes detailed in this piece and ensure your team is banding together to create a set of best practice standards that will help you achieve results.

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