3 Mistakes e-Mail Marketers Make and How to Avoid Them

E-mail to read in an envelope with an arrow

In the nearly five months since the start of 2016, I have opted-out of as many e-mail marketing subscriptions.

When I opted in, I was pretty sure that I knew what I signed up for – quality, relevant information and marketing resources.  Knowing that at some point I would have to make a purchase decision, I realized that opting-in meant receiving frequent, scheduled e-mails and a few telephone calls from the senders.

But each time I clicked “unsubscribe”, I knew I was doing the right thing.

Experts in e-mail marketing advise marketers to have a robust subscription strategy, segment subscribers according to their needs, provide relevant, useful information and build interaction through strong calls to action.  While it was clear that the e-mailers carefully planned their subscription and content strategies with the intention of using best practice guidelines, they repeatedly committed some fatal errors that just killed my interest in being a subscriber to their e-mail list.

  • Although interesting information was being provided, it wasn’t what was initially expected.
  • The constant upfront sales pitches were overwhelming and untimely.
  • There was no perceived value in some of the calls to action, particularly those which didn’t ask for a purchase.

Here are three mistakes that result from badly used email marketing guidelines:

1.  Sending useful information – but it’s not mapped to the subscriber’s stage in the customer journey.

The classic purchase funnel is used to identify the various stages of the customer journey from awareness, to consideration, preference and then to the purchase decision.  To be effective, e-mail marketing must provide content that is correlated to the customer’s needs and stage in the journey towards the purchase decision.

Consider the following model that maps the customer journey to e-mail content

Customer Journey & Content Map CroppedCustomer Journey & Content Map – Camille Isaacs-Morell 2016©

2.  Having a good initial opt-in strategy – but it fails to build engagement momentum over time

The key to building a robust list of subscribers is to have an opt-in strategy that targets the right subscribers.  Astute marketers know that targeting the right subscribers starts with gathering contact details from various sources which are likely to include prospective clients e.g. industry association member lists, event attendees, direct business contacts – and launching engagement tactics to incite interest – e.g. special offers, landing pages, retargeted digital advertising, SEO… etc.

The mistake that many marketers make is to jump too quickly to make a sales pitch. 

When a subscriber opts-in, it is generally a sign that the initial e-mail has engaged their interest.  Throughout the customer’s journey, there must be on-going tactics to validate needs and purchase intentions.  In this way the engagement momentum can be sustained, increased and propelled toward the purchase decision.

Consider the following ways to build engagement momentum:

  • Ask for feedback – typically at the consideration phase – on the white paper, solution options or other resources offered to the subscriber
  • Request confirmation of the kind of information the subscriber would like to receive in the future – educational material, research results, product-specific material, etc.
  • Most importantly, segment subscribers according to the feedback received and tailor content and frequency of distribution accordingly.


3.  There is a call to action – not necessarily to purchase – but subscribers don’t see what’s in it for them

After opting in, subscribers want value for their response to calls to action. When calls to action solicit information prior to a purchase decision, a mutual exchange of benefits has to take place.

It’s important to understand that e-mail marketing campaigns are most vulnerable to subscriber opt-outs when a call to action appears to benefit the vendor more than the subscriber.  Some real turn-offs include –

  • Long surveys – even with an incentive and a promise to send the subscriber the results
  • Asking for too much information – what’s the motive for gathering additional information?
  • Forms are not mobile-friendly – time consuming and frustrating to complete

Is the call to action intended to get feedback? Is it to gauge interest and engagement?  Is the call to action a precursor to the ask for business?

The answers to all of these questions should drive the content of the e-mail, ensuring that the subscriber understands the vendor’s intention and has all the information required first before being asked to take action.

Let the subscriber derive value from the information provided with the option to follow through with the call to action.

 The BIG picture

E-mail marketing will continue to be an important source of business lead generation and revenues.  While there is ample evidence to prove this, it is important to remember that e-mail connects people.  Building relationships is a natural result of connecting people, who have many and varied needs.

Focus on what’s important

It’s important to gain insights into subscribers’ needs throughout the journey to the purchase decision.  Tailoring content, timing e-mail distribution and providing value throughout the campaign are important tactics that marketers should focus on to prevent well-intentioned strategies from being derailed.



See the BIG picture.   Focus on what’s important

Published by Camille Isaacs-Morell

Enabling businesses and people to be successful. This is my mission, my life’s work. It’s always been what I have done wherever I’ve been employed, called to serve or to volunteer. An experienced business leader, my core values are truth, integrity, and respect. I believe that values-based leadership is critical for organizational success that is enabled by an engaged and empowered workforce. Working over the years in several senior marketing, communications, and executive leadership mandates for global, financial, healthcare, and non-profit organizations, it has been through times of transformation and difficult change that I have done my best work. In my blog posts, I share my perspectives on leadership, marketing and strategy that are based on my key learnings and observations over the years, all with the objective of helping others reach for success. In my spare time, I enjoy the beauty of nature which I reproduce in my pastel paintings.

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