10 Email Marketing Mistakes Even Experienced Teams Make

When you get into the habit of it, email marketing can be pretty straightforward. You take the time to set up workflows and campaigns that you need, adding in new promotions and keeping evergreen workflows fresh, and you send out your regular newsletter.

But without noticing it, your team could be falling into some email marketing mistakes that can lower your open rates, mess with your analytics, and even keep your emails from showing up in subscribers’ inboxes at all.

Nobody’s perfect, but you can overcome some of the most common mistakes we’ve seen here at Drip with a few simple fixes—if you know what you’re doing wrong.

1. You Talk to Customers and Noncustomers the Same Way

Ever buy something … and then get emails from that company asking you to buy the exact product you just bought?

You get a little bit annoyed, right? But if you don’t have a good way to separate customers from non-customers in your email platform, you could be making this mistake and bothering people who have invested in you.

With a tagging system that works with your payment processor, you can keep track of customers and be sure you aren’t sending them sales messages.

In Drip, it works like this …

Start by setting up a rule to tag subscribers who make a purchase in your payment processor.

Then, you can send different broadcasts and campaigns based on whether or not a subscriber is tagged as a customer.

Or, you can send the same email, and include a message just for noncustomers, which existing customers won’t see.

Just add this Liquid tag at the beginning of your customer-only content:
{ % unless subscriber.tags contains “Customer” % }, and this one at the end: { % end.unless % }.

2. You Only Send One-Off Emails

When we surveyed 854 marketing automation users, asking why they used marketing automation, only 19.9% said they used they used it for lead-nurturing email campaigns.

Broadcasts are great for sending your newsletter updates or announcements that need to go to your entire list. But if you’re sending practically every email as a one-off, you’re missing out on all the benefits of automation.

One of the easiest automated campaigns to create is a welcome campaign for new blog subscribers. You can send this campaign automatically when someone becomes a customer. Get started by creating a campaign in Drip, or using one of our email blueprints. I would recommend sending a sequence of a few emails.

Start with a welcome email, and if you have a digital library of resources or a content upgrade, you can include that. Then, warm up your new subscriber by telling them a little about your company and sharing some top blog posts or an FAQ.

Finally, ask them to keep in touch by sharing your social media accounts. You can also include a pitch in this final email, if you’d like to.

This automated campaign allows you to build a relationship with your newest subscribers before jumping right into your newsletter content.

And that’s just the beginning of the emails you can automate. Try automating emails to warm up leads, encourage upsells, and follow-up after webinars.

3. You’re Sending Generic Emails

When you’re working with a team, it can be challenging to keep your brand voice consistent across your communications. So you play it safe … and your subscribers grow less and less engaged.

That’s definitely a wasted opportunity.

How much more engaging is this email than the typical, generic email in your inbox?

Blogger Sarah Von Bargen clearly has her brand voice down: she’s funny, she is trying to show that she’s not perfect, and she shares a personal story. When you get to the link in this email, you can’t help but click on it, because you want real advice from someone funny and vulnerable.

Entrepreneur, writer, and speaker Marie Forleo injected her podcast announcement email with personality (and tons of exclamation points), which gets you excited about her excitement. She makes you feel like a part of the podcast, so when she asks you to subscribe a few lines down, it’s a no-brainer.

These examples come from solo entrepreneurs, but larger companies can learn a thing or two from subscribing to their lists. Person-to-person emails will always get opened more frequently than mass emails. So even if you work in a conservative industry, try to write like a person, not like a company.

If your brand voice isn’t clear, you might need to put some time and energy into defining it. Start by defining your ideal customer, and then just write to that person. You may also want to use a consistent editor (at least at first) to double check that your emails sound like your brand.

4. Your Onboarding Sequence Just Kind of … Stops

It can be really hard to know what to say in your onboarding sequence, especially if you have a physical product, ebook, or something that doesn’t really require “onboarding” at all. You might send a thank-you email, but after that … what’s left to say?

If you’re at a loss for how to transition customers out of your onboarding sequence, you can start by automatically sending them your regular newsletter once they finish onboarding.

Create a rule that automatically applies your newsletter tag once they complete your onboarding campaign.

Then, send a wrap-up email that fills them in on what’s coming from now on before adding them to your regular weekly update list. You can make this the final email in your onboarding sequence.

In your final email, you can even add an element of “choose your own adventure” by building a trigger link survey to ask them how often they want to hear from you. When they click on a trigger link, you can automatically add a tag. Your customer will be happy to get exactly what they asked for, and you’ll have a way to transition them from onboarding to occasional updates.

5. Your Team Doesn’t Have a QA Process in Place

If you have multiple people touching your emails, it’s easy to lose track of them pretty quickly. The affiliate manager sends emails to affiliates, marketing and sales have their own email routines, the product team sends announcements … but are all of these people staying on-brand? Are their emails overlapping? Are your subscribers swimming through a sea of emails?

You need to build a quality assurance process into your email marketing to ensure that you don’t over-email your list and that every email is top quality.

Start by building a shared email marketing calendar in a Google Doc or on a Trello board. Check for times when subscribers might get overwhelmed by the number of emails.

Then, establish a process for copyediting and assign a person to be the final one to check that your emails are formatted correctly, on-brand and consistent.

It might take some adjustment, but establishing a process like this will turn your email marketing from a random collection of emails into a real strategy.

6. You Don’t Have Enough Data to Get Personalized

Nobody wants to be the marketer who sends a “Hello, FIRSTNAME!” message to thousands of recipients when trying to personalize an email. But don’t let that scare you away from personalization altogether. There are huge gains to be made from tailoring your emails to who your subscribers are and what they want. And it starts with gathering rich data.

You can add to your data reserves by tagging customers when they interact with your website. For instance, if you know you have a new product offering coming soon, you might want to tease the launch with a couple of relevant blog posts.

With the Drip tracking code, you can then tag readers of those blog posts, and send them an email with a preview of your new product.

You can also gather information about your subscribers by including a simple trigger links survey in your welcome sequence. Just make it clear that you want them to get the most relevant information for them, and then ask them to click on the link that most aligns with their interests.

Create a rule that automatically tags them based on which option they click on. Then, you can not only send your broadcast emails to the most relevant audience, but you can tailor your emails themselves to include calls to action based on subscriber interests.

In this example, I use the same kind of Liquid code I used in Section 1 to show sections only to subscribers who have a relevant tag. This allows me to send one email to everyone, but tailor the CTA at the end depending on what my subscribers are interested in.

7. Your Sender Name is Keeping People from Opening

I mentioned earlier that person-to-person emails naturally get opened more often than mass emails.

That essential truth leads some companies to think: well, why not just pretend our emails are one-to-one emails?

So they add a random employee’s name to the sender field … at which point the recipient thinks, “Some name I’ve never seen? Salesy subject line? Spam!”

On the other hand, using only your company’s name in the sender field can feel totally impersonal and make your emails easier to ignore. (And of course, you already know not to use a bare email address or, worse, a no-reply address–right?)

Instead, try presenting your emails as both personal and professional by using a hybrid format. If you’re concerned about your open rates, try switching to one of these sender name formulas:

  • First Name @ Company
  • First Name at Company
  • First Name from Company
  • Company Specific Department Team

Ideally, the name you use should be a person connected with what you’re mailing about who’s also visible on your site. Try sending huge company announcements from your CEO, your blog updates from your blog manager, or your onboarding sequence from your support lead.

If you’re using Drip, there’s a built-in way to see which sender name approach will work best for your business. Inside any campaign, you have the option to actually split-test the sender name—it just takes a couple of clicks to set up, and data will start rolling in whenever a new contact enters that campaign.

8. You’re Not Constantly Asking Yourself “Who Doesn’t Need to Get This?”

When you’re building your email marketing calendar, you should be keeping track of who should be getting each of your emails. Just as important, though, is keeping track of who doesn’t need each email.

For instance, customers might be the ideal target for new product updates or announcements, but they shouldn’t be getting promotional materials.

Build a column into your email calendar to ask yourself who doesn’t need to get each email, including automated emails. For instance, if a new blog subscriber is getting my welcome campaign, I might not want them to also get my newsletter.

By applying the newsletter tag after a subscriber completes the welcome campaign, I avoid overloading my newest readers. I just make sure to send my newsletters only to subscribers with the newsletter tag.

9. You Use the First Subject Line You Come Up With … Even for Campaigns You Plan to Run for Months

Your subject line is your first impression, and your best opportunity to get your emails opened.

Finding a great subject line for your broadcasts is important, but when you’re going to be running a campaign for a few months, the stakes get even higher. You can’t just stick with the first subject line you come up with.

Start off by brainstorming a list of potential subject lines for your email campaign. Try funny subject lines, mysterious subject lines and whatever you think might work. Think outside the box–Derek Halpern increased clicks 35% by changing an email subject line from positive to negative: from “When is the perfect time for a meeting?” to “When is the worst time for a meeting?”

Doing this as a team, you’ll come up with a bunch of ideas and it will be pretty easy to narrow it down to a couple you might want to test out.

Then, set up a split test in Drip to see which of your best ideas actually gets opened. You can find split tests under analytics in Drip.

Once your test is running, you’ll be able to check which one has more success, and once you’ve seen enough evidence of a winner, you can click “stop and use this variation” to end the test and continue with your most successful subject line.

10. You Don’t Know How Many Site Visitors are Coming from Your Emails

Tracking email open rates is a great way to see the success of your email campaigns, but if you don’t know whether your readers actually end up on your site—where they can actually make a purchase—you’re missing out on a critical part of the data.

You want to track where users came from in Google Analytics in order to get a full picture of your data. It’s easy to add UTM tracking to your links in Drip emails, which will let you check how many site visitors came from your emails (and even which campaigns and which emails sent them to your site) inside Google Analytics.

You can add global UTM parameters in Drip so that every link you place in an email will have UTM parameters added on to the end of it. You can find this page in your Drip account by going to the settings menu (in the upper right corner) and then clicking on “Email Setup.”

Under the Google Analytics tab, you’ll be able to set your global UTM parameters for each type of email you send. Leave the Source as Drip and the Medium as email. Then, you can change the Campaign and Content tags to automatically use your campaign names and subject lines in Drip.

Be sure to update these tags for broadcast and automation emails, too. Since automation emails don’t have the same naming conventions as broadcast and campaign emails, I would recommend just making the Campaign “automation email.”

With all of the solutions outlined above, you’re probably ready to get vanquish any email marketing mistakes your team’s been making.

What email marketing mistakes have you made? Tell us how you fixed them in the comments!