Five missteps of email marketing

Five missteps of email marketing

Every online marketer must know the risks.

Email is by far one of the best digital marketing solutions to have in your toolbox. However, with this form of communication brings plenty of room for error amid an industry rife with regulations, delivery, filtering and other technology concerns as well as a glut of ever-evolving best practices.

While email marketing is definitely not rocket science, a certain degree of skill and artistry is involved in crafting a winning email campaign. Proceed with abandon, and it’s likely you will end up wasting time and money on failed campaigns.

Email campaign failure can happen for a multitude of reasons. The five missteps discussed in this article are among the most common and easily avoidable offenses every online marketer should take proactive measures to avoid.

Being too formal

Online marketers can bore their audiences in several ways, from lackluster subject lines to verbiage-laden, text-only emails to emails that only discuss the company and provide nothing of tangible or even perceived value — the all-important “what’s in it for me” factor.

While email can feel one-sided, it is really intended to be a conversation, or the start of one. And, most savvy marketers understand this conversational concept. For better chances of success, include an enticing offer and an eye-catching subject line to encourage positive open rates. Design colorful and well-branded graphics to appeal to people’s love of visual content. Provide valuable resources, articles, offers and calls to action that truly give something to your audience. Ultimately, think about how you can provide value to those on your email list.

Bombarding inboxes

You know the feeling you get when you are interrupted by a pesky fly buzzing around your head, appearing again 30 seconds later and then yet again 30 seconds after that? Don’t be the little fly pestering people too frequently.

Of course, finding the “sweet spot” for the timing tolerance of each audience takes a little experimentation, observation and an understanding of the specific industry. Your targeted customers will love hearing from you if you are providing value in a way that gives them room to breathe — to consider your business and how it fits into their own needs and objectives.

Understanding the “pulse” of an industry and the standards by which they operate is a great starting point to determine a suitable frequency and timing of emails. When you find that sweet spot you’ll know it, and your audience will respond to your campaigns in kind.

Sending a confusing message

All too often online marketers try to cram too many messages into one email in hopes of accomplishing or conveying multiple things at once. There should always be one, clear call to action; and, any messaging, imagery and links should always direct customers to a landing page where they can act upon that main call to action.

When an email campaign is cluttered with multiple messages — for example, to purchase one thing, call for a free consultation, follow the brand and more — the recipient can be distracted from the chief reason for the email. Stick to one primary message, around which everything else is focused, and be sure to tell your potential customers what you want them to do next. Don’t trigger your prospective customers to wander aimlessly around your website or landing page.

Overwhelming the customers

Marketers get excited when they are embarking upon an email marketing campaign; it’s where the rubber meets the road. As mentioned, many marketers often try to throw everything they have at their audiences in the form of too much written copy and too many design features, such as starbursts or complicated shapes. While you can include all the bells and whistles from a technical standpoint, it isn’t necessary or even beneficial.

The best email campaigns are those that keep the design interface and messaging simple; this means clearly written and formatted content as well as clean, fresh graphics and design. Keep in mind, even the best email marketing campaign will not convey a message as effectively as a well-conceived and executed website. This is why the email campaign should compel the recipient to head in that direction, and facilitate in an intuitive, efficient and streamlined fashion.

Missing the target

At a high level, email marketing seems simple enough. However, when you dig into all your options with data filters in particular to specifically target certain audiences, it becomes clear just how complex the endeavor really is.

Today, online marketers have countless list segmentation options, but they often make poor choices when filtering their email lists. Many mission-critical segmentation selections can be considered, such as geographic, socioeconomic and demographic filters, which allow the user to refine a list.

For example, a localized Mercedes-Benz dealership may target potential customers who live within a certain ZIP or area code radius of its location, have specific interests and make enough money to afford a high-end vehicle. In this way, online marketers can use list segmentation filters to target an audience with a high likelihood of being receptive to a particular message.


Nothing in the advertising and marketing realm with notable upside comes without risk; there are definitely ways to waste money and ruin opportunities with email marketing. With that being said, there are even more ways to increase site traffic, lead generation and revenue, among other goals.

The key is to invest the time upfront to design an effective email campaign, which starts by heeding the blunders detailed in this article. For extra assurance, digital marketers often enlist the help of field experts and outside voices who can consult on the preparation process and catch errors that may have otherwise been missed.

When executed properly, email marketing can grow a business in a very strategic and calculated manner, not only delivering a good return on investment for a single campaign but also ultimately growing your business over the long-term.

Kevin Layton is CEO of Data-Dynamix, a premier source of demographic data, a go-to partner for delivering digital marketing campaigns and an expert in advertising sales training that was ranked 1,226 on the 2015 Inc. 5000. The company partners with a litany of top-tier ad agencies and media groups across newspaper, radio and television. Layton, author of the upcoming book, Building Your Digital Marketing Machine,is also a revered inspirational speaker on digital marketing, international business and business strategy. Reach him online at or via Twitter @DataDynamix1.

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