17 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2021

If you’re one of those marketers that doesn’t really care if anyone reads your emails, then you’ll be pleased to know that it doesn’t take much effort to land your email in a recipient’s spam folder. If you don’t want your emails to drive online traffic, create new leads and benefit your business, these 17 tips will make sure you don’t make common email marketing mistakes.

1. Making Your Subject Line Pointless

People won’t open an email if it has a boring or irrelevant subject line. To keep your subscribers engaged, you need to create a consistently positive experience for them. This means tailoring your content so that it meets their needs.

According to a study done by Walker Sands, subject lines using up to 50 characters result in 12% higher open rates and 75% higher clickthrough rates. With this in mind, plan what the subject line is before you start creating the content of your email. Take the time to create a subject line that YOU would open based on careful thought and input from your colleagues. Test this over and over again to see what resonates with your target audience so that you can continually improve your email marketing strategy.

2. Using Generic Email Addresses

This is one of the most common email marketing mistakes. Using a generic email address will certainly make your messages seem impersonal and as if they’ve come from a robot!

However, if you want to build a relationship with your subscribers, send the email from a real person. They’ll be more likely to open the email if there is a ‘face’ to your brand.

Email addresses to avoid include:

  • [email protected]
  • [email protected]
  • [email protected]
  • [email protected]
  • [email protected]

3. Not Personalizing Anything

Make your subscribers feel like they’re members of a massive email marketing list by not including any personal details. That will really make them want to read your email!

According to Campaign Monitor, personalized emails are more likely to be opened and clicked, strengthen customer experiences, and really stand out in an inbox. So, if you want to catch a recipient’s attention, use their contact data to create something warmer and more personalized.

4. Sending Emails to Your Entire Database

Don’t worry about segmenting your data or targeting your messaging. Why not just send everyone everything, regardless of whether or not it is relevant to them? This is something that 89% of all marketers still do in the hope that some readers will take action.

If, however, you have some common sense, take the time to segment your data and send emails that cater specifically to that market.

5. Writing Something Really Boring

People get mountains of emails every day and don’t have the time to read everything in detail, so go that extra mile by waffling on about useless information and make the content as hard to read as possible.

Of course, you could keep the content short and to the point, use formatting devices like bullet points and break up the content so it is easy to read. That is, if you’ve now decided that you want people to read your emails?

6. Not Proofreading Content

Nothing says ‘This email was written by an amateur” than having lots of spelling and grammatical errors in the message body. If you want your readers to rapidly lose respect or trust, just type quickly and press “Send“.

Alternatively, you could keep your writing tidy and make sure you thoroughly check the copy. You could even get a coworker to read over it for you.

7. Not Adding a Call-To-Action (CTA)

If you don’t want your subscribers to do anything with the email they receive, then make it is unclear as possible what they have to do next. That is guaranteed to not turn any subscriber into a lead, so you could include a very clear call-to-action and make it obvious what you want them to do.

8. Leaving Out Social Media Links

Don’t you want your subscribers to forward your content onto other potential subscribers on social media? Then, take the extra step of asking recipients to share your content on social media or forward it on to a friend. After all, you might end up growing your email list, attract more readers and gain additional site traffic.

9. Not Including an Unsubscribe Link

Want to frustrate all your readers and break laws like CAN-SPAM or CASL? Then, don’t add an unsubscribe link to any email you send. A potential $1 million fine is nothing to worry about after all.

You could, though, follow email best practices and the law by placing a simple unsubscribe link at the bottom of any message you send.

10. Forgetting About Mobile Devices

55% of your recipeints will read your emails on a mobile device. If you only format your email for desktops, forget about any mobile users reading your content. It’s too irritating to have to zoom and scroll wildly to find out what your email is actually about.

It makes more sense to try and capture the attention of your mobile audience in order to convert them into leads. That involves optimizing every email you send for mobile devices in order to get their attention.

11. Not Getting a Recipient’s Permission

Most countries have anti-spam laws in place and you could find yourself in serious legal trouble if you add people to your marketing list without getting their express permission. This has become even more important since the launch of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), where permission is more rigously enforced.

You should never:

  • Take business cards and add those email addresses to your mailing list
  • Go through every contact in Outlook/Yahoo/Gmail and use these email addresses as your starting list
  • Add customers to an email list without getting them to confirm that they want to be added

The best way to ensure that you have the permission of every single email contact is to use a “double opt-in” system, which in essence prevents you from ever emailing people you shouldn’t. Using such a system is something that not only protects your business from a legal perspective, but can also protect you from malicious attacks.

12. Not Providing Any Subscribe Opportunities Online

Not all visitors to your site will be willing to look at it in a lot of detail. They might be in a hurry, reviewing other competitors or simply not know what they want. One thing they won’t be looking for is a subscribe box.

In other words, you need to provide plenty of opportunities for customers and/or prospects to subscribe to your marketing content. Some good locations to place a newsletter sign-up form include:

  • In the sidebar
  • Below a blog post
  • In the header area at the top of your page
  • On a a floating bar
  • On a slide-out box that appears in the bottom corner
  • A popup that appears as the visitor is about to leave

13. Not Segmenting Data Lists

You might think that sending our your email communications to all of your contacts is a good idea. However, if you go to the trouble of segmenting your data, such as by different regions, you’ll see much higher engagement levels and lower unsubscribe rates.

Make sure that you send tailored content to segmented audiences, created based on actions taken by recipients e.g. opens, clicks, purchases and sign-ups. Segmentation can provide the most notable metric lifts companies are looking for when done correctly.

14. Not Engaging With Your Contacts

If you don’t contact people for weeks or months at a time, then you simply aren’t going to be a the forefront of a recipient’s mind. Craft emails that have interesting content and attractive propositions with the aim of sending something out at least once a month. However, don’t do the opposite and send too many emails either. This type of behavior will lead to high unsubscribe rates and the possibility that you might be blacklisted for spam.

For even better levels of engagement, you should encourage recipients to reply to your emails. For small lists, you can get them to contact you directly, while for larger lists, you could run a survey to get direct feedback.

15. Not Making Data-Driven Decisions

If you just send email marketing campaigns without much thought, then you probably won’t get the necessary results you’re looking for. Just because a certain strategy works for one business, it doesn’t mean it will work for yours. You need to be making data-driven decisions that are not based on wishful thinking.

The two main areas to focus on are:

  • Conversion rates of visitors to subscribers
  • Your open rates and click-through rates on different emails

16. Not Building Your Own Lists

Many businesses make the mistake of purchasing data lists over building their own. It sounds like a great idea – purchase 10,000 email addresses for a set fee which you can then market to. The catch is that major email providers like Campaign Monitor, expressly forbid this practice. They may have never heard of your company and will often consider what you send to be spam.

Another point to think about is that if a data list is for sale, the chances are that it will have been purchased by other businesses too, who will also be sending out pointless emails to these contacts. Do you honestly think that people on a purchased list will be receptive to your offers when they are getting bombarded by other emails on a regular basis?

17. Using Email on its Own

The best email marketing results occur when they are part of an integrated multichannel campaign. Email performance can be directly related to the quality of the product or offer, for example, or it can be boosted with relevant display ads or outstanding creative designs.

You can even tailor your email marketing messages to take into account what different parts of your marketing department ascertain from your promotions. A good strategy is to set up reporting meetings with players responsible for various marketing channels to discuss email performance and optimization plans.


We are all very busy. The demands of the business world mean that we have to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. If you want your email marketing to work, you need to make sure that you focus on audience engagement and lead conversion. Before you send any email, go through these steps again and see if your message is something that your readers will want to read so you can actually achieve your marketing goals.

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