3 Common Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Email Marketing Strategy

Developing a good email marketing strategy takes a lot of experience, a lot of mistakes, a lot of successes.

With so many layers to email marketing the act of starting out on your email marketing journey can seem pretty daunting at first sight.

So if you haven’t yet reached guru status I have outlined 3 common email marketing mistakes that I see spring up all of the time. Not only are these common to those starting out, but also to experienced emailers.

I have also thrown in a few helpful hints as a guideline on how to get refine your email marketing strategy.

That way you can shorten your own learning curve in the process!

#1 Bad A/B Testing Decisions

A/B testing (or Split Testing) is when two versions of an email campaign (A and B) are sent to small segments of an email list.

The results are then compared to see which one performs better. The one that gives a better conversion rate is the better email marketing campaign.

A/B Testing is essential for your email marketing strategy. The results of your test can help you decide which campaign to send to your whole list.

Outlined here are a few common errors made when running A/B Tests:

Sample size too small: When running an A/B test the two segments of sample data must be large enough to make the test accurate. A sample of 1000 contacts may be satisfactory if your email database is only say 10-20k. However, if your email lists number in the millions, then a much larger number will be needed.

Pro-Tip #1:  Hubspot recommend 1,000 opens of a specific email campaign as an adequate sample size.However, if you are a real stickler for attention to detail (a great characteristic) then check out this sample size calculator from SurveySystem.sample calculatorPro-Tip #2: Use split tests throughout your email marketing follow up series. By sending two versions of the same campaign for each follow up, you can optimise each one on a monthly basis. This is a really time efficient way to get the best out of your email marketing strategy.

Too many variables: With an A/B test it is essential that you test only one element at a time. Consider that you have two email campaigns with different graphics and calls to action. You won’t be able to tell whether it was the graphic or the call to action that caused one campaign to perform better than the other.Wanting to test as much as possible is certainly a good thing. Doing it all together, however, will only lead to confusing results. Worse still it can have a negative impact on your conversion rates.

Pro-Tip #1:. The best way to optimise your email campaigns is to do it slowly. Start with the call to actions buttons in the first month or few weeks. Then test the graphics, then test the colours and then the copy, etc. You will find that within a few months you will have pushed those open rates right up from where they were at the start.

Pro-Tip #2: Always keep a good record of your email open and click through rates. Most email sending applications have statistics by which you can measure everything. Often, however, you will find that they only show the most recent campaigns.

In my opinion nothing beats a good old excel spreadsheet.

Here is an example of one of my email marketing spreadsheets for when I was working for a large marketing company. A spreadsheet like this is particularly when you need to present results quickly at team meetings and to clients.

best strategy for email marketing

It sounds like a lot of effort, but if you do it once a week (usually at the start of the week, when it’s quiet) you can get into the habit.

It won’t take long, plus you will gain a deep insight into how all of your campaigns are performing.


#2 Bad Email List Hygiene:

This is one of the most common and devastating mistakes to your email marketing strategy. There is a notion with email marketing that you just upload a list, send an email and sit back and count the money.

Unfortunately, while this may have been possible 10 or so years ago when email inbox filters were much less sophisticated. Today your email marketing method requires a little more refinement.

Starting out with good email data is the beginning and end of your email marketing strategy.

If you are running acquisition email marketing campaigns to bad data, you will burn you servers and blacklist your IPs. if you are renting a system from a provider they may shut you down without warning causing you to lose all of your data.

Always source your email data by way of a data feed from a reputable data aggregator. Take a look at my resources page for a list of good direct feed providers.

Regarding your email opt in list; by virtue of your users already opting in you are already on the way to running a clean email list. But there is more that you can do.

how to improve email marketing strategy

Firstly, insist that your users opt in with full details or double opt in (that is with full name, address, email plus a confirmation email). That way you cut out the likelihood of syntax errors and fake email addresses being added to your list.

Also, it will provide you with more qualified email data as users that double opt in are less likely to user info@, support@, abuse@ or admin@ type email addresses. These generally yield very poor response rates.

Often email marketers choose to require only a Single Opt in because the sign up process is quicker. Potentially there will also be more data to market to.

Consider though that Single Opt in lists have higher soft and hard bounce rates than Double Opt in lists which can contribute to poor list hygiene and even get your account blocked by some of the more strict email service providers.

That said according to a report by Litmus, there is a high drop off rate for Double Opt in Users as many don’t realise that they need to confirm their email address to complete the opt in process.

Together with this, even if your list is Double Opt In some of your opt ins may have done so many months previously and now are no longer interacting with any of your campaigns.

This infographic from Ometria shows the pros and cons of email marketing opt in best practices:

how to improve email marketing strategy

The debate rages on over which opt in type is better. Personally I run both as I am pulling traffic from a wide range of sources.

Either way I’ll leave this point up to your better judgement.

Pro-Tip: It is better to set up segments that separate your openers and clickers from your overall lists.  In so doing you will avoid repeat sending to disengaged users.

You can take this further by running a Re-Engagement list. Some systems have a Re-Engagement feature that will remove users to a separate list if they haven’t opened any campaigns for x amount of days. Then you have the opportunity to send a kick ass email campaign to rekindle their interest before they become completely inactive.

Segmenting your email subscribers will create a highly targeted list whilst maintaining a great Senderscore for your email server.

#3 Badly Worded Subject Lines

Remember that your subject line is the first base in your sales funnel.

No matter how great your email content may be if your users aren’t opening your emails it will never get seen.

Keep them relevant to the content of the email. Anything too clever can get confusing. Avoid aggressive sales pitches, excessive use of capitals or numbers as these all contain the odour of an email scam.

According to an aweber report, clear and concise subject lines receive 541% more clicks that other ones that try to be too clever.

In fact, the clear subject lines performed better than the cutesy ones across all metrics as you can see here:

best subject lines for email marketing

Here are a few examples of clever subject lines:

You’re not alone
It’s finally here
Still doing it the old way?
Customer Spotlight – SEER Interactive
Selling Digital: The Perfect Last-Minute Christmas Gift

Subject lines like this might be opened by your subscribers out of curiosity. More likely than not, though, the links within won’t get too many clicks.

The best subject lines whilst seemingly un-alluring actually do work better and the numbers prove it.

Here are a few clear subject lines that I’ve used:

Pro-Tip: Personalisation also is a great way to improve engagement a users as it makes your users feel more relevant.

A study by Insight.venturebeat.com showed that personalisation yields 2.5x higher click-through rate and 6 times more sales.

best subject lines for email marketing

So there you have it.

If whilst reading this you find yourself in agreement because you have made some of these mistakes, then don’t worry I feel your pain, let’s share it together!

And if you are making these mistakes right now, then you have a few helpful tips to help you get out of making them right now.

I expect you all to clean up your email marketing strategy right away and start optimising your campaigns for great results!

Don’t forget if you have any suggestions to make or you would like to say hi please drop me a line in the comments section below.

Thanks and see you soon!

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