6 Common Email Marketing Mistakes

6 Common Email Marketing MistakesEveryone makes mistakes – even email marketing geniuses (hard to imagine, we know ;)).

Yet with so many things to double and triple-check before sending a campaign, it’s easy for important components to slip the minds of seasoned pros and newbies alike.

In fact, The Retail Email Blog regularly posts about the mistakes and “oopsies” of big email marketers on their blog, so if in fact you do mess up from time to time, you are still in good company!

All joking aside, it’s always best to avoid a mistake before it happens. Here’s a list of things to steer clear of in order to make your campaigns run more smoothly than you ever thought possible.

1. Buying Email Lists

Buying Email Lists

Effective email marketing campaigns cater to specific demographics, tastes and interests. Using confirmed opt-in to obtain the proper permission from people who are truly interested in your targeted emails ensures that they really want to hear from you.

When you buy an email list, there’s no way to guarantee that those people are really interested in your messages, so you must avoid purchased lists at all costs. You can never assume anything about the addresses of random people that are not given to you directly by their owners.

2. Hard to Recognize “From” Names and Subject Lines

Hard to Recognize From Names and Subject Lines

Once subscribers are on your list, you want to make sure that they open your messages regularly. Your subject line and from name/address are your only chance to grab subscribers attention in their jam-packed inboxes.

To help jog their memory, always use the same email address and contact name so that there is no confusion when your messages arrive. Your subject lines must clearly present the value of the emails while staying consistent with your past subject lines to evoke recognition and familiarity.

3. Avoiding CAN-SPAM Compliance

Avoiding CAN-SPAM Compliance

The Can-Spam Act requires that all messages contain the sender’s valid physical postal address, but some home-based and international businesses are hesitant to include this information in their campaigns.

Aside from the legal obligation, putting your contact address in your emails is the best way to show subscribers that you have a legitimate identity and that you won’t run for the hills as soon as they make a purchase from you.

4. Irrelevant and Infrequent Emails

Irrelevant and Infrequent Emails

Sending emails that don’t relate back to their original request for info irritates readers and is a guaranteed way to rack up a high number of unsubscribes. Add an infrequent schedule to the previous scenario and you have a recipe for email disaster.

As a rule of thumb, if you haven’t contacted subscribers in 6 months, delete them from your list. Revisit your landing page from time to time to assess your email content and make sure it matches up with your original offer. Set expectations so that subscribers know what to expect from you, and when to expect it.

Expectations are easiest to address in three stages:

  1. Create Subscriber Expectations Before The Opt-In
  2. Create and Reinforce Expectations Right After The Opt-In
  3. Create Subscriber Expectations Over Time

5. No Call to Action

No Call to Action

With all of the emphasis placed on quality content and sharp design, it’s understandable that marketers sometimes miss the obvious. When a reader opens a message and they’re interested in learning more, don’t forget they will be thinking, “What do I do next?”

Give them a way to move forward easily. Include multiple calls to action and links back to your site so you don’t lose them. Set up your products favorably, and remember when creating your messages that there must be a logical sequence of events – you want readers to open, read, click-through and ultimately buy.

6. Not Testing Before Sending

Not Testing Before Sending

With all of the time spent prepping marketing emails, typos can easily go unnoticed. Testing your messages before sending them only takes a minute or two and can help you pinpoint problems before they materialize.

Send test copies to test accounts at several different email services to ensure that the message is readable, the images are viewable and the links are functional.

Are You Making These Mistakes?

We know email marketing isn’t always easy. Like we’ve said from the get-go, everyone makes mistakes.

If any of the situations on the list above hit close to home, try changing your approach; you’ll be amazed at the impact a few simple changes can have on your campaign.

Once you put the changes into practice, come back and leave a comment to let us know how they have worked for you!


  1. Lise MacFadden

    9/9/2010 10:26 am

    Fantastic article! I totally agree. It’s so true that everyone makes mistakes… that’s how we learn and progress but if you can make the learning curve a bit smaller for your team, that is wonderful! Sharing these insights is so valuable! Thank you.

  2. Rhonda Hess

    9/9/2010 10:38 am

    There’s another one I’d put on this list:
    8. Not getting permission before you put someone on your list.

    I’m amazed how every day, otherwise reputable business people will slap me on their list just because they found me somewhere. I immediately unsubscribe from those lists. Some of them don’t even have an easy unsubscribe — another mistake.

  3. Gregg Murray

    9/9/2010 12:02 pm

    I’d also add putting too much content in the email message. Go for a summary of your message in your email, with a link to read the rest on your website/blog.


    9/9/2010 6:48 pm

    The 6 marketing tips are good, keep it up

  5. Mike

    9/10/2010 2:10 am

    Hi everyone!

    We seem to do all those things EXCEPT call-to-action. I’m really shy of salesy pushiness. I hate it myself and so I figure "If they’re interested, they’ll click my website link in the signature and browse."

    Prob not ideal but it’s a dilemma 🙂

    Any suggestions about how to call-to-action WITHOUT being salesy would be appreciated! 🙂

  6. Enrique Martinez

    9/10/2010 6:02 am

    Completely agree with you. I’ve made 2 of these mistakes, but I’m having some evolution on email marketing lol. Thanks, great post.

  7. Nick Stamoulis

    9/10/2010 8:30 am

    Email marketing isn’t easy that’s for sure. Make sure those you include on your list are good quality folks that want to be there, don’t include them for the sake of numbers!

  8. Haywood

    9/10/2010 8:49 am

    Excellent tips! I love you guys!

  9. Tutor Phil

    9/11/2010 12:28 am

    I’ve been guilty of numbers 2, 5, and 6.

    Excellent work, guys. Thanks.

  10. Rebecca Swayze

    9/13/2010 8:26 am

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

    Mike – Sometimes even genuinely interested individuals need a nudge in the right direction. Otherwise, they might think, "Oh, I’ll order this later." and never actually get back to it.

    That’s not to say that you have to be pushy in your approach, just a little more forward than you might normally be. Try including links within the content of your message that urge readers to learn more. This way, when they click through to your website they are one step closer to purchasing.

  11. Reg Gupton

    9/16/2010 2:09 pm

    Great tips. I am loving them.

    Keep up the good work.

  12. Michele Welch

    9/18/2010 7:03 am

    Great article! I have to admit, although I am aware of all these points, I tend to fall short on one in particular, and that is a ‘call to action’.

    I have no qualms about including it, just get so caught up in delivering great content, that it sometimes get’s missed.

    I think its time to revisit my follow-up emails. =)

    Thanks for the reminders!

  13. Andre Kalis

    9/18/2010 8:49 am

    The relevance of your emails in relation to the expectation you created to get people to join your list is in my view one of the main reasons for poor open rates, spam complaints and unsubscribes.

    Then of course there’s the hard-selling, hyperbolic emails with dramatized subject lines. More than enough to invite people to unsubscribe from your list.

    Email marketing is not writing hypnotic sales copy. The personal, information rich, helping attitude type of emails get the best response. It’s a skill to craft promotional emails in such a way that your readers benefit from the information you provide.

  14. Mike Webb

    9/19/2010 10:08 pm

    I personally disagree with putting only a short version of your message in the email.

    I like to be able to get the whole message without having to click a link and wait for the blog to come up. I delete a lot of emails because they want to send you to another place.

    Put your info in if you want someone be interested in your message or product, maybe add a link if they want to check out the blog. Just my opinion.

  15. Ed Marriott

    9/20/2010 9:58 am

    Can I ask: who prefers HTML emails and who prefers plain text? The former need a lot of work to look good and are presumably superior, but I see the majority of internet marketteers use good old text…..

  16. Mike

    9/20/2010 10:42 am

    Thanks Rebecca!! That’s a fantastic idea. Love it in fact 🙂

    Will definitely try to include those links to more info. This is a great option for me because I really dislike feeling like I’m being pushed in any way. I figure a lot of people will feel the same?

    btw, I used your "follow comments without commenting" option — twice in fact, and I wasn’t informed of updates to this post??

    Thanks again Rebecca, very much appreciated!


  17. Mohamed Sanih

    9/22/2010 4:23 am

    Thanks Rebecca for the tips…

    Even i thought of buying some email lists and then i thought against it; since like you say we never know whether that buyer will be interested in the products we offer.

    Sometimes, after checking my test messages i do correct a lot of things.

    The best thing is to build your list around your content and website.

  18. Cheryl Heppard

    9/22/2010 5:12 pm

    I agree, being subscribed to an email list you don’t want to be on is irritating. So is the unsubscribe process when it’s necessary to login to a website to change your preferences and you can’t remember the login. Yikes.

    Testing is a great feature, I always catch a typo.

  19. Marcus Azzi

    9/23/2010 2:48 pm

    Very good tips Rebecca.

    The only thing I would like to add is that if you really want to create a long lasting relationship with your readers you should deliver more times free and relevant information than try to sell something in all e-mails you send.

    Some people confuse call-to-action to sell-all-the-time approach and this is a common e-mail marketing mistake as well.

    Thanks for the very good tips!

  20. Vasile Reut

    9/24/2010 12:59 pm

    Excellent tips!


  21. Rhonda G

    9/28/2010 8:44 am

    Fantastic article.. You guys ROCK!

  22. Aidan Gibson

    9/29/2010 9:12 am

    Very important tips there. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Keep them coming! Aweber is by far the best email marketing company I have ever worked with.

  23. John Mericle M.D.

    9/29/2010 9:54 am

    I agree with Mike. If I have to click a link I will usually go elsewhere. I definitely prefer plain text and I really am amazed at how many people send out HTML "only." Most of the links in HTML do not appear in my "Squirrel Mail." I try to send out content that is compact, all text and hopefully a quick read.

  24. Lesley Fisher

    9/29/2010 10:46 am

    As a complete newbee to all this – a great article. Thanks!

  25. Matthew Simmons

    9/30/2010 4:58 am

    Great advice for email marketing best practises.

    I would add that they must be mercilessly tracked – you can do this with Google Analytics; and test different executions of the same message and measure the response raqtes of each sample.

    Good stuff.

  26. Ken Abbott

    9/30/2010 7:55 am

    As I sit here "Penning" my latest email Newsletter I’m checking off the 6 tips as I go along and have had several "oops, I forgot/didn’t know that" moments.

    Thanks a million guys, your advice has proved to be invaluable.

  27. PS

    10/1/2010 9:32 am

    This is such good reminders. Keep up the good work guys.

  28. Gary and Cindy Tamsett

    10/2/2010 5:57 am

    Very informative, THANKS!!

  29. Massimo Consolaro

    10/4/2010 2:29 am

    Thanks! Great tips, I won’t forget that!

  30. Scott Polderman

    10/4/2010 12:39 pm

    Thanks for the info, this is really helpful for improving click through rates. Please continue with the advice!

  31. Bettie Wylie

    10/4/2010 1:53 pm

    Hi there everybody,

    This is a great article and advice to many of us, trying to market our products via eMail communications, while at the same time, not trying to play on others intelligence and emotions. Like they don’t know your approach. I’d like to add my two cents:

    We as internet (many affiliate) marketers, experts and gurus should know how to approach their subscribed members/buyers. Same email offers – under new names, coming to our inbox, on a too regular basis – sometimes twice daily. Come on entrepreneurs…

    Whereas, some of us have already bought into that software product system (program), still fighting with the learning tutorial videos, from our last purchase. IAM is about learning to earn. Emails messages should give the buyer some time to Learn and Put in to Action -Execute the knowledge learn of what they just bought… (e.g..exp. product)

    but instead, here comes our friendly lists owners (lists which we joined) with the same product offer again – stating ‘this is the real deal’, ‘last chance’ ’48 copies left’, and heck, I’m still learning that same course, system under a new ‘launch name’, diff.. cover. Hope someone else agrees.

    Yes this type of email messages to me irritates me a great deal. I feel like Cheryl Heppard, dislike being on those lists after awile, but finds it to be difficult for a subscriber to unsubscribe. Too many hurdles to jump over.

    Also I don’t particularly care to receive email messages every day from the owners of the list I joined, sending me to buy another expensive product with different name and images, too soon after my last purchase. I do understand we’re all ‘eMail marketing – but

    Try contacting some list owners’ support teams… its almost impossible, but you’re given a personal email address, and no one replies from there either. What’s wrong with this picture? I know we’re busy, but why say something if you don’t mean it?

    I, personally, want to do EM the right way, yet urge readers, like Rebecca mentioned – to want to ‘learn more’ at least view my video demos at my landing page (linked in email message).

    I agree with Marcus A, ‘give visitors and readers something free’, rather than trying to sell, selling takes place on its own, but when most hit that landing page, that oto will smack them in the face nowadays. Give them something interesting and beneficial to read, like – an eye opening article.

    Want to add, I’ve learned something from everyone here sharing their input and their invaluable knowledge. I will be following all steps here, because my building the list the right way, is the most important thing in the first place!

    I’ll leave you with this, ‘I get lots of traffic and no subscribers. So your article tips and readers have helped me out with quite a few issues. BTW… Aweber Is The Best,; Building list problem, well – is me!

  32. Jeffrey Fisher

    10/16/2010 12:43 am

    I find it fascinating that people would leave out a Call to Action. Perhaps that’s because people that a call to action has to be "pushy". In fact I see calls to action as invitational. You are inviting a guest to experience something that will benefit them (and usually for free!). I would say that Calls to Action are usually generous gestures that – if the product or course or free brochure ,etc. are good – can only benefit the person that acts.

  33. Ferd

    10/18/2010 2:31 pm

    Great write up. I do made mistakes and this article is eye-opening.

  34. Juri Hass

    6/7/2012 7:44 am

    Too much selling is also a big mistake. Most emails I get from subscribed lists are ballant selling. Get this, buy that, only today % off … I have unsubscribed from most list I ever subscribed only because of this.