20 Email Marketing Mistakes that Are Costing You Sales

emailHere’s a sobering thought.

You sit down to write an email newsletter or email blast.  You labor over each word making sure it’s just right.

You make sure the pictures look pretty and the layout is just perfect and finally schedule the email to go out first thing the next morning.

You lay your head down on your pillow dreaming of sales, and working with new clients.

But reality hits you when you wake up in the morning.  Sales are much lower than you had expected, if you have any at all.

“Email marketing doesn’t work!” you scream.

I’ve been there too.  We’ve all been there.

But have no fear.  All is not lost.  I’ve identified 20 email marketing mistakes that have cost me sales over the past few years in a variety of marketing endeavors.

Don’t Make These Beginner Mistakes

1. Not Collecting Emails: 

Here’s the deal, if you aren’t collecting emails, then before you do anything else, get started.  Right now.

Here’s why:  According to Hubspot and the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing has a 4300% return on investment.  If you’re not collecting emails, then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.

So bookmark this article, sign up for an email service provider, and start collecting emails.  Don’t worry, we’ll still be here when you’re done.

2. No Clear Cut Goal: 

Alright, now that we’re all on the same page and collecting emails, the biggest mistake that I made in those early days, and many email marketers make, is they don’t have a clear goal.

What do you wish to accomplish with your email marketing plan?  And how do you plan on accomplishing it?

Ideally, your goal should be specific and measurable.  So saying “get more sales” is probably not a great goal to have.  However “Generate 100 leads and close 10 sales a month” is one that you can measure.

3. No Landing Pages: 

Landing pages are the backbone for collecting emails.  Whether through social media, paid advertising, SEO, and content marketing, marketers spend a lot of time and money trying to drive traffic to landing pages.

If you’re an experienced marketer, you might take landing pages for granted.  However, only 68% of all B2B companies actually use landing pages to generate leads.

In case you’re wondering how important landing pages are, companies with 30 or more landing pages generate 7X more leads than companies with 1-5 landing pages.

4. No Sign-Up Form on Blog:

I can still remember one of the first blogs that I ever launched.  I worked my butt off creating great content and then spent hours promoting my blog.  I was able to get a lot of qualified readers to leave comments and share it on various social media sites.

But the one thing I never did was ask for my readers’ email address.  D’oh!

By not collecting email addresses on the blog, I constantly needed to find new readers and my blog never grew.  Eventually, I quit and let the poor thing die.

5. No Unsubscribe Link: 

Even though it is part of the can-spam act, I still see emails that don’t make it really easy for me to opt out.

I don’t know about you, but I hate those spammers!

6. Too Many Choices:   

In many corporate emails, it’s popular to have multiple links and multiple action items.  They link to a variety of other articles, talk about their new webinar, and also ask if you want a consultation.

According to several academic studies, when you offer someone too many choices, they become paralyzed.

Instead of having multiple offers and force your readers to make a choice, give them one thing to do and the success of your email marketing campaign will skyrocket.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve often found that a plain white HTML template works best.

7. Website Navigation in Email: 

I was going to sneak this one in under the “choices” mistake above, however, I’m seeing a trend of more and more emails coming with the company’s navigation.

In short, don’t do it.

By providing your navigation bar in emails, you’re giving your readers too many choices.  Instead, gently introduce them to your website by sending them to a landing page or video.

Avoid these Intermediate Mistakes and Watch Your Profits Grow

8. Poor Subject Line: 

Your subject line is the single most important part of the email.  The singular goal of your subject line is to get your reader to open your email and read the first line.  If no one opens your email, then what’s the point in writing it?

Copyblogger has a great post if you’d like to learn how to increase open rates by writing better subject lines.

9. No Reason to Join Email List: 

Most marketers ask themselves:  “How can I get more people on my email list?”

This is the exact opposite of what they should be asking.  The question you need to ask, “Why would someone join my email list?”

It’s a subtle difference.  The first question comes from a position of selfishness.  You want people to join your email list so they can help you.

The second question comes from a position of giving.  People will join your email list if you help them.

10. Inconsistency: 

One of the ways you build a relationship with your prospect is by being there for them on a consistent basis.

Your readers can smell when you’re sending an email desperate to make a sale.  Be there for them on a regular basis, and they’ll be there for you when you need them.

11. Poor Content: 

There are two kinds of emails that contain poor content.

The first kind is the overly promotional email.  These emails usually come with a picture of a new product, followed by a call to action, like, “New product on sale; click here to buy” or “Buy our product; here’s a list of features and benefits…” In a vacuum, these emails aren’t necessarily evil. But when your list receives them month after month after month, you begin to see diminishing returns.

The second kind of poor content is the email that is just flat out boring.  You know the type.  It’s the email that regurgitates what was already said a hundred times before.  It’s the email that was written haphazardly and without purpose “just to get something done”.

To avoid having a mass exodus from your email list, please do not send emails with poor content.

12. No Consistent Flow of Traffic:   

Let’s face it, if you’ve made it this far, you know there is one really big elephant in the room.  If you aren’t driving traffic to your website, then all of the auto-responders, goals, landing pages, and opt-in forms won’t do you a lick of good.

There are a lot of ways to drive traffic to your website including guest posting, Facebook ads, blogging, and social media.

Before you get overwhelmed with all of these options, simply find one strategy that works best for you and master it.

13. Bad Call to Action: 

A couple of years ago, I wrote an email with the call to action to buy my service.  In a vacuum, this doesn’t sound like a bad idea.  However, my service was priced at $2,000.  I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking!  Few people in their right mind would purchase anything for $2,000 from a single email.

This is an example of a bad call to action because it didn’t jive with my customer’s buying habits.  From my customer’s point of view, this is uncomfortable.  Instead, my CTA should have been for a consultation or a phone call.

With your CTA, make sure your customers are comfortable doing business with you.

14. No Auto-Responder Sequence: 

An auto-responder sequence gives you the ability to automatically keep in touch with your email subscribers over time.

Think of it like a salesman who follows up with your prospects, educating them on the benefits of your products and services.

By increasing the amount of times you touch your prospects, you increase the chances of making a sale.

Advanced Mistakes that Keep Your Sales from Exploding

15. No Conversation: 

Many marketers use email as a one way communication medium.  In other words, they send messages without the expectation that their readers are going to respond.

But email is a great way to have a conversation.  Think about it for a second, I’d be willing to bet that at any given moment, you’re having multiple email conversations.  Why should email marketing be any different?

In my opinion, having a conversation with your potential customers is the single most effective way to use email marketing.  They’ll get to know you, like you, trust you, and eventually buy from you.

And it’s not that hard either.  In your welcome email you send once someone signs up for your list, ask this question:  “What’s the greatest challenge you’re facing right now?”  You’ll be surprised by the answers you get.

16. Not Optimized for Mobile: 

According to email marketing service provider Constant Contact, 43% of all email is opened by a mobile device.  Needless to say, if it’s hard to read your email on a mobile device, you risk losing a lot of sales.

17. No social proof: 

A recent study shows that 70% of consumers will check out product reviews or ratings before making a purchase.

Noted psychologist Robert Cialdini explains social proof by saying “we determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct. The principle applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior. We view a behavior as correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.”

You can show social proof in your email marketing by leveraging case studies and success stories.

18. No List Segmentation: 

By targeting specific groups within your list, you can greatly improve the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.  If you sell to multiple buyer personas, or sell multiple products and services, you can segment your list so you can provide the most relevant emails possible.

19. Not Personalizing Landing Page for Signups: 

When you send readers to your website from a guest post, never send them to your home page.  Instead, send them to a personalized landing page.

For instance, if you’re writing a guest post on SteamFeed.com, your headline might read “Welcome, SteamFeed Readers.”

That’s sure to get the attention of your target audience.

Neil Patel of Quicksprout has done some testing and has seen a 10% increase in email subscribers by using a personalized landing page.

20. Not Testing: 

Most of the popular email service providers will enable you to split test your emails with a small portion of your list before mailing the entire list.  This will allow you to see which headline gets more opens or which call to action gets more clicks.

Over time, you’ll get a good feel for what types of emails engage your audience most.

The Truth about Email Marketing

Email marketing isn’t about hitting “send” in your service provider.

It isn’t a way for you to annoy your subscribers into buying your products and services.

Email marketing is a dialogue.  It’s a two-way conversation where you get to learn about your prospects and your prospects get to learn about you.

Treat your email subscribers like you would your friends.

Help them.  Engage them.  Be there for them.

And in return, they’ll be there for you.

photo credit: ntr23 via photopin cc

Greg Digneo
Greg Digneo is the founder of Birchfield, a software company that helps content marketers build their email list through referrals. We are in beta. Click here for early access..

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