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4 problems with email marketing and how to fix them

by Andreas Wessolly on

Email marketing is one of the most powerful channels available to any marketer. Done right, email gives you direct contact with the people who are interested in your company and what you have to say. Every time you send a targeted email that meets the needs of your audience, you can bring them closer to the sale and strengthen your bond with them.

Some smaller companies are almost exclusively in the email marketing business. Large and mid-sized companies can also add a lot of value - even if they struggle with more complex buying cycles.

Email marketing relies on cultivating a long-term trusting relationship with their leads before they, sooner or later, become their customers. This can vary greatly from customer to customer. However, it also allows the reader to take action only when they are ready. Unfortunately, email marketing is not quite "perfect."

There's a reason unsolicited commercial email is so feared that it has triggered one of the most stringent and complete internet regulations on the books: The CAN-SPAM Act.

In the early days of web marketing, people learned to hate commercial email. Today, many are still wary. Spam filters are better than ever, and subscribers probably remember giving you permission to email them, but you still need to tread carefully.

Marketers who jump into email marketing with both feet - before establishing guidelines or best practices - often find that their emails do little to achieve their goals. In some cases, it can even drive away leads by clogging their already overflowing inbox.

Whether you're new to email marketing or an old hand, there are always problems with email marketing. By learning how to fix these errors, you can increase delivery rates, reduce unsubscribes, and ultimately get more conversions.

Email analytics is the key to solving email marketing problems

Before we talk about solving email marketing problems, we need to figure out how to spot them. Today's email marketing software usually provides basic analytics: you'll almost certainly get things like open rate and click-through rate for every single email campaign you send. However, many entry-level providers stop there, and the results are a bit sparse.

Ideally, you want to combine aggregate statistics and individual user activity to get a complete picture of behavior. To do this, you typically need to do some tinkering to set up your own data analytics and define custom conversion targets for your users.

So - whatever analytics you provide, start examining them after each email send. At the same time, make sure that a trusted web analytics suite is running on your website and use all the means at your disposal to combine the two tools.

How to fix email marketing problems: Four scenarios

Problem: Your emails have a low delivery rate


If your emails aren't getting delivered, there are two possible problems:

Your email marketing tools aren't sending the right signals to stay out of the spam folder.
The way your emails are worded or structured is causing spam filters to flag them frequently.

It's important to take action here as soon as possible. Once your delivery rate starts to drop, it has a depressing effect as more and more ISPs and email providers start flagging messages from your system. It can take a very long time to reverse such a trend.

Therefore, check your email marketing service closely. Make sure it provides you with all the "trust signals" you need to maximize delivery, including things like using a signature in your emails with your business address and other contact information.

Then take a look at your emails and how they are written.

Email spam filters can be configured to adjust for a variety of issues, including:
The use of keywords like "free" or mentions of large sums, especially in subject lines.
The use of symbols, punctuation, or emojis in a way that may be considered "excessive".
Linking to third-party websites that do not use SSL or are otherwise considered frivolous.

To get an idea of how many issues can lead to delivery problems, check out MailChimp's article on avoiding spam filters. They can use this to understand and avoid potential triggers and problems.

Problem: Emails are delivered but have a low open rate.

If people see your emails in their inbox but don't open them, the most likely culprit is the subject line. Since your subject line gives a first impression of the content - and the first line of text is a preview, especially on mobile clients - optimizing these lines can increase open rates.

A good email subject line is just as important as a good blog post title; in fact, it serves the same function: it determines whether or not people decide to look at the message in the first place. You can incorporate headline writing best practices into your email subject lines:

Using a short, punchy subject that promises something useful, helpful, or informative. Use personalization - First name personalization can lead to "overnight" improvements.

Use curiosity, urgency or timeliness in your subject line to give it a little more oomph.

Problem: Newsletter sends lead to a high number of unsubscribes As sad as it is, virtually every email you send to a larger list will cause some people to unsubscribe.

Needs change and users will find they are no longer interested in your content. This may be beyond your control e.g. if someone has made their purchase and now doesn't need any more info.

If you notice a large number of unsubscribes, there are two possible problems:

A particular email message has struck a sour chord with your audience.

People are receiving multiple messages in a row or in quick succession that they find unhelpful.

The first problem can be solved by scrutinizing the message in question and looking for the problem. There may be a discrepancy in tone, wording, or details that you can correct in the future.

If there is not a problem with the individual message, then it becomes more likely that you will need to look at the way your list is segmented. Narrowly segmenting your list by subscribers' interests and history with your brand will ensure they receive more content they find relevant.

Problem: Emails don't get clicks to more in-depth content

Email click-through failures are usually due to two issues:

As described above, segmentation is not strong enough to ensure users receive tailored offers.

There are too many distractions or conflicting conversion actions in the message itself.

Think of each email message as a targeted landing page associated with a single offer. Just like your landing pages, it should be fully optimized to lead to a single conversion action.

Adding even a single conflicting item to click on will decrease the likelihood of your desired action by 50%. Instead, your desired call-to-action (CTA) should be repeated more than once through the message text.

The exception? Most e-commerce brands benefit from driving users to their website in any way they can. Clicking on specific products or categories is less important in these cases.

The next time an email marketing campaign doesn't go as planned, check your performance against these four scenarios. Chances are, implementing the right advice will move your campaign a step forward without having to completely rewrite your copy or rethink your offer.

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