8 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2021

Email marketing? Is it still relevant in 2021? The truth: It is if you do it right.

Even in this new era of social media where influencers and virtual ads may seem like the next big thing, email marketing remains a reliable option that every marketer should have in their toolbox. Just consider that, according to HubSpot, email generates $38 for every $1 spent. That’s a 3,800% ROI! Not to mention the fact that McKinsey reports email marketing is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than that of Facebook and Twitter combined.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to botch an email marketing campaign, and brands that employ these missteps will feel consumer heat in the process. No one wants to see their email marketing campaign opt-out numbers skyrocket. So how can you master the email marketing game? 

Start from the perspective that email marketing is more than dashing off a brief message and hitting send. It’s a strategic process that must be thoroughly planned and executed. Avoid these 8 email marketing mistakes in the coming year:

Forget to Welcome Subscribers

Getting a subscriber is tough work, so why wouldn’t you thank them for requesting your newsletter? 

Source: Omnisend

After going to the trouble of finding your site, then signing up to get emails from your brand, first off, it’s just polite to send a thank you (take a cue from Emily Post), but it’s also good business. These purpose-driven welcome emails “generate 4x more opens and 5x more clicks” according to Dispatch

Make them count by providing not only a “thanks for showing up” salutation but by following up with added value. That could be a promo code or a special offer. Or you could use the welcome email to collect more information. Bottom line: Skipping the welcome email is missing a huge marketing opportunity.

Sending Too Many Emails

This is probably consumers’ biggest pet peeve when it comes to email marketing and one that should be avoided at all costs. According to Campaign Monitor, 121 business emails are sent and received each day. That’s a lot of traffic to disrupt. 

So one might think, the more emails the merrier, right? Wrong.

A YouGov study found that 75 percent of consumers say they resent a brand that sends too many emails, according to Chief Marketer. And resentment does not increase sales. You don’t want people to associate annoyance with your brand. So spare them the feeling by strategically delivering your promotions to a healthy timeline, say once a week. 

By doing this, you’ll keep your subscriber list strong and improve loyalty rather than repeal potential customers. 

Include a Call to Action

Hopefully, most marketers understand that including a CTA is the bedrock of a successful email marketing campaign. But even more important is to keep that CTA clear and concise so that a subscriber has no trouble understanding the message. 

Fail at clearly stating your CTA and in the midst of scrolling their inbox a subscriber is likely to swipe delete.

As data from 2018 suggests, 40.61% of all internet searches happen on mobile. That’s a big opportunity for marketers to meet customers while they’re taking a screen break. But if your message is difficult to understand, it’s likely to be deleted within 3 seconds Campaign Monitor says. 

Source: Litmus

3 seconds. No pressure. 

So how can you include a great call to action? 

A few examples:

  • Save today
  • Buy now
  • Shop now. Get 50% off
  • Claim your coupon
  • Free gift with purchase
  • Act now 
  • Save today
  • See your hand-selected deals
But don’t go overboard with CTAs

Much like bombarding an inbox with too many emails is verboten, so too is stacking too many CTAs in one email. 

Remember, once a subscriber opens an email, you have three seconds to persuade them to act. Given them too many CTAs and you’re liable to confuse the reader or, worse, frustrate them. 

Overwhelming the subscriber is not the goal. If you want to improve conversion rates, make sure your emails make it easy for a subscriber to act and give each email its own goal.

For instance, say you want to roll out a promo and invite subscribers to an event. Putting these two CTAs in the same email could result in customers acting on neither. They should be sent as separate epistles with individuals CTAs — one asking subscribers to use a promo code, the other inviting them to RSVP for the event.

Use Good Design

Sounds simple right? But you’d be surprised how many email campaigns fail because the email template is poorly designed. 

Some key design elements to avoid? 

  • Inconsistent fonts: Too many fonts look messy and confusing. Good design is clean and crisp with one consistent font throughout.
  • Consistent font-size: Rather than mix up font size with all different sizes, using H2 and H3s to emphasize topics rather than going crazy with bolding and underlining specific points.
  • Low res images: Using images is a great way to get a reader’s attention, but they’ll fail miserably if they’re too low resolution. Check and test your image size before sending.
  • Too many images in one email: Equally bad practice is to put too many images in one email. To start, this can push CTAs below the fold or too low in the email forcing the subscriber to scroll. This can be dangerous because it wastes valuable attention span time when a subscriber may lose interest and leave the email altogether. 
  • Broken links: Whoa to the marketer who fails to check links before sending an email newsletter. More often than not, a failure to test a link will result in having to send a mass apology email (not a good look) explaining the error and providing the corrected link. 
  • Poor color palette choices: Believe it or not, color plays a big role in email marketing. Just look at brand logo colors. For instance, the eye-catching red that defines Netflix defines its brand identity. 

Without even reading the email, a color can be a subtle indicator of who the email is from and might persuade a subscriber to open it. 

Segmenting Subscribers

No two subscribers are the same. 

Having a huge list of subscribers is great, but not separating them into different groups is a missed opportunity. How so?

Well, does a 50-year-old subscriber want a weekly email about purse sales? Maybe, but likely not. Or how about a 22-year-old woman in California? Does she want to get a weekly email about in-store deals only happening on the East Coast? Nope.

Use the data you’ve collected to segment your audience. This could be by:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Browsing history
  • Purchase history
  • Birthday 

Really, you can segment by whatever you prefer, and the more you dig into the data, the more insights you’ll discover about your subscriber list that you can then use to improve your email marketing campaign. In an era where Millennials and Gen X are demanding more personalization, failing to do so is a big missed opportunity. 

Not Optimizing for Mobile

As we mentioned before, nearly half of all searches happen on mobile. So if your emails aren’t opening properly or have the wonky resolution on mobile, you’re going to lose subscribers fast. 

Test, edit, and test again to ensure your email campaign is optimized for mobile.

Failing to Proofread

Oooh boy, this one is a biggie. Do you know what people don’t like to see? Sloppy copy. 

Source: Email Overload Solutions

This is why it’s so important that one person not work in a vacuum on a brand’s email newsletter. Not only should multiple people read it before it’s sent out, but it should also be checked for:

  • Spelling
  • Tone
  • Professionalism
  • Ease of understanding

Another way to ensure an email is successful is to deploy an A/B test. Keep the emails the same except for one item you want to test. This could be the CTA button or the subject line. Send them both out and see which one got more clicks to determine the best approach.

If all of this information is overwhelming and makes you nervous, some good news. You don’t have to go it alone. By using a marketing team with years of experience in deploying successful email campaigns, you can use their expertise to grow your subscriber list, improve your ROI, or improve brand recognition, let us help. To speak to the Zen team about how we can optimize your email marketing, reach out today. 


She is the founder & CEO of Zen Media. She has been named the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Forbes, Businessweek, and Inc have all recognized her as one of the Top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs in the field of marketing. Shama has built a global audience and is known for helping brands succeed in the digital age. She is a bestselling author, an international keynote speaker, and has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Marketing for four years in a row.



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