There’s good reason email marketing one of the most precious marketing channels in a professional’s toolkit.
You get some of the highest returns with the lowest costs (or for free!) of all marketing channels, so why does email marketing fail to perform for some companies when it’s the secret weapon for getting sales and leads for others?
Yep, you’re probably doing it wrong.
First-up when it comes to fixing your email marketing mistakes, most people focus on the emails themselves first – but back up there mister – for kick-ass email marketing success you need to start right back at the list building step.
We’ll cover that and more below:
- How to massively grow your email database sign-ups.
- Email sign-up copy that increases conversion.
- The best days and times to send emails for better opens and click-throughs.
- How long your email subject line should be.
- Subject line formulas that boost your open rates.
- Content that gets clicked and more…
Wowsa, that’s a lot of value right there (if I do say so myself).
Ready? Set? Right, let’s do this!
Email marketing mistake #1: Not using pop-ups
Yes, I know you HATE them, but done right, you can massively increase your email marketing database sign-ups without losing your precious website visitors, I promise.
Hang on though, are you even building your email list from your website now?
If every visitor that came to your site but did not convert into a sales or lead, at least signed up to your email database, you’d be winning BIG time.
Realistically of course you’re not going to get every visitor joining your email database before they leave your site, but when you consider the average website email sign-up rate is 1%, that’s a LOT of people you could continue to communicate with that you’re currently totally missing out on by not having an email sign-up on your site!
By the way, using these same techniques in this article, I’ve seen sign-up rates jump to 5% to 10% and higher.
How much of a difference could a pop-up make?
On average, I normally see pop-ups double email sign-up rates for my clients here in New Zealand, from retailers to corporates, but don’t take my word for it.
There are countless case studies out there:
- Like how Skinny Me Tea got a 758% increase from adding a pop-up.
- And social media ‘scientist’ Dan Zarella whose sign-up rate jumped from 1.5% to over 3% with no change in bounce rate (ie: no-one got pissed off enough to leave as a result of the pop-up), and this dude gets a LOT of traffic.
- Or how about Backlinko who increased their sign-up rate from under 2% to almost 5% overnight, oh and made an extra $82,125 a year as a result!
So yes, pop-ups can work incredibly well, but why do people hate them so much?
Pop-ups mistakes to fix:
Full-page pop-ups. Not only are these the most likely to annoy your visitors, they will also harm your search rankings on mobile due to Google’s new policy for mobile pop-ups.
Make pop-ups relatively small (try using colour for attention instead).
Make sure they are timed not to come up immediately. If your average time on site is 3 minutes for example, then have it pop-up after 30 seconds, or when the person reaches the end of a page.
Make sure you use a big obvious ‘close’ or ‘X’ ideally in the expected position (the top right corner), and once a visitor has closed your pop-up, or signed up, for goodness sake don’t repeat the pop-up during their visit!
Do not rely on pop-ups only!
Yes, they are appealing because they work so bloody well, but don’t forget about the trusty sign-up box at the top or bottom of your articles, or on your exit pages, or in your sidebar, but most definitely in your footer on every page at the very least.
Mistake #2: Using ‘sign up for our newsletter’
So meh, so blah, so ineffective.
Give your visitors a reason to sign up! What will they get out of giving you their precious email address? What’s in it for them?!
Here are a couple of great examples:
Hell to the yes, I’ll have that $10 off please and thank you!
It may seem like a lot, but this way they not only got the sale, but even if I don’t use it they can now market to me directly forever and a day (unless their emails suck, more about that in a tick).
They’d be better to change the button copy from ‘submit’ to ‘join’ or ‘sign up’ – or ‘hurry up and send me my discount code now’ 😉 – but otherwise great job.
Plus I love that this clothing store (The Iconic in case you were wondering), lets me select ‘Women’ or ‘Men’ so I don’t get clothing features and offers that don’t interest me.
I unsubscribed recently from Seed Heritage because they sent me too many entirely male-focused clothing emails. Big mistake.
What’s that I hear you saying? “But I don’t have an eCommerce website!”
Ok then, what about what you DO sell? What are the benefits of your services or products? What could you provide free with, or discounted, to get yourself a first-time customer?
A great technique for B2B companies is a free download of super high-value content that can only be accessed by someone entering their details. They get huge value for free, you get a lead.
Still stuck with what the benefits are to your visitors for signing up? In which case you have a WAY bigger problem to address, which we’ll chat about in this article shortly in mistake #8 and #9 when we talk about different types of email content.
Then what about something like this for you?
Yep, even just telling people what sort of content they’ll get if they sign up for your emails could be all you need to do to skyrocket your sign-up rate.
This sign-up is from Moz by the way, who sell SEO software, so telling me I’ll get the most valuable SEO content and making sure I know it’ll only be every 2 weeks? Yep, nailed it!
Mistake #3: Wrong day, wrong time
Ok, so you’ve got yourself a pretty awesome email database full of past and present customers, and leads you’re yet to convert to sales, but now what?
TIP: We interrupt this broadcast for some breaking news: Did you know you CAN email your past and current customers without needing their permission? If that’s news to you, you really need to read this without delay (go do that now, I’ll wait over here till you’re done): Email Marketing Without Permission IS Okay >
Back again? Hi. So what IS the right day and time for emailing your precious list?
Caveat time: Of course your own data is best and this varies depending on your audience. For example, hospitality emails can kick ass when sent near the end of the week and on weekends. But you know what? Do you find ‘it depends’ isn’t exactly helpful? Yep, me too, so…
What’s the BEST DAY to send emails?
Hands down it’s Tuesday.
Again, don’t take my word for it! This is from research by the likes of MailChimp (my fave), Wordstream, Campaign Monitor, HubSpot (another fave) and more that studied over 20 million emails combined.
What about if you send 2 emails a week? Then Thursday is your next best day.
Not surprisingly, the 3rd best performing day to send is Wednesday.
Like that hospitality example though, don’t discount weekends. Far fewer emails are sent on weekends, so if that’s when your customers are likely to be thinking about buying your products and services, you can stand out by choosing a day when fewer emails being sent for you to compete with.
TIP: Check your website analytics to find out what days of the week your traffic spikes. Obvious hint: That’s a good day to start for sending your email marketing.
If you do feel like reading through the many fascinating (well, to me anyway) studies, you’ll also find out what days are better for open rates vs click-through rates.
To save you time, Wednesday and Thursday averaged the equal highest open rates, and Sundays and Tuesdays had the highest click through rates, followed closely by Thursday and Fridays.
Warning: Remember this information is no secret! You can find countless studies online recommending Tuesday through Thursday, so remember you will be competing with more emails on those days (one of the reasons I favour Mondays). Just another reason to test each day to see what works best for you.
What’s the BEST TIME to send emails?
10am followed by 11am were the stand-outs for the best time of day once people have cleared out their morning’s emails. Late-morning is a common time to send but popular doesn’t equal results, so aim for a little earlier instead, hence 10am winning.
Surprisingly though, between 8pm and midnight came in second (no doubt people checking their emails before bed).
2pm came in 3rd with a common time for people to check their emails and last but not least was 6am so you get into inboxes first-thing.
Keep in mind through all this though that ‘it depends’ really is the best answer, because it’s your own data and your Google Analytics that you should use to test and base your decisions on. Take these best days and times as a starting point only.
The great thing with platforms like MailChimp is you can test everything! It’s incredibly easy to set up tests also, such as splitting your database in half, then sending half at 10 and half at 11, or testing two email subject lines sent to 10% of your database, then it automatically sends the winning subject line to the rest of your database.
Or you can just try all the days and times over different emails and see how they do that way (a slower way to learn but you’ll get to the same conclusion eventually).
Mistake #5: Boring email subject lines
This is THE single most important technique to increase your open rate.
It’s all very well aiming for a high click-through rate, but you still need an open in the first place to turn your dream of a high click through rate into reality.
Again, there’s masses of advice from huge studies into what makes subject lines appealing.
Again, to save you time (#yourewelcome), here’s what the data tells us:
What are the best email subject lines?
Overall the winners were: how to, a numbered list and questions.
You know those tried and tested headline formulas you should use for your blog articles? Turns out they’re fantastic for your email subject lines also.
I’m talking things like benefits:
- How to make [subject] that will get [benefit]
- 10 Ways to Grow Your [subject]
- Have you got your free [offer] yet?
So just like what it takes to convince someone to sign up in the first place, your subject line should focus on what’s in it for your reader. What’s the benefit to them? What results can they expect?
Social proof is also a strong contender, for example:
- How [well-known company name or person] does [subject]
- How [name/company/celebrity] got [benefit/outcome] in [numbers/days]
You can also use social proof without naming names and instead name your audience so it’s relevant to your readers who are in the same boat.
- How [mums/dads/hipsters] use [product/service].
Okay, so you might not say hipsters, or even think hipsters are cool, but I have recently discovered I have a thing for an impressive beard, so that one was for me. Moving right along.
Creating a sense of urgency works really well too:
- Stop [that thing you hate] now
- Today’s deals for [time limit] only
Another winner was anything new, such as:
- New [category/product] arrivals now in-store
- [Subject] trending right now
- Finally! [Product/service] is here
Mistake #6: Loooong subject lines
Have a look at your own stats to check how important this one is for you, but since around 54% of emails are now opened on mobile devices (and that number’s growing every day), you don’t want any precious words in your subject line to be unreadable right?
So the old rule of around 50 characters maximum length hasn’t changed, it’s only become more important with the increase in users accessing emails on their phones.
One piece of advice I really like is to think like their friend. When you email me, you don’t write a novel in the subject line do you? Half the time you don’t even say much at all.
So keep it short and use sentence case (that’s where you only capitalise the first letter of the first word), instead of title case (where the first letter of every word is capitalised, like an article title typically is).
Believe me, I know how hard it is to write short copy (I know, I know, quelle surprise), so if you are stuck on how to keep it short and sweet, then at least put the most important bits in the first 50 characters.
Mistake #7: Getting reported as spam
Luckily (for you and me), I just wrote all about the anti-spam legislation and how to make sure you cover yourself legally so your company is not the next headline news about a massive fine.
Bookmark that baby to read later (it’s the same one linked to above in case you already read it up there), and make sure your marketing team knows the rules!
Once you know the rules, it’s really easy to follow them and protect yourself.
Mistake #8: Loooong email content
You do realise your email is not meant to be a novel right?
Yes, you can wipe that incredulous look off your face right now thank you, I can’t believe that’s me saying that either, but I can actually write short content you know!
What you want to do is fill your email marketing with snippet content. Example coming up.
As a usual rule of thumb I aim for at least over 50% value-added content and the rest can be purely hard-sell (more about what counts as value-added content coming up).
Ideally it should be more like 80%+ value-added content, or 100% if I had my way (and you leave your website to do the selling), but that’s a topic to debate another day.
Of course there’s a different approach for different business types.
If you’re B2C and have an eCommerce site then of course your content will be more focused on offers, specials and new arrivals, but there’s still a clever way to add value to get your opens and clicks up (coming up in mistake #9).
The key thing here is to offer a variety of snippet content so you’re confident at least one thing should appeal to your audience.
For me snippet content might mean an eye-catching image, like Gollum up there at the top (it’s a long way to the top right now I know), with a snappy headline and intro paragraph only, so your reader clicks through to your website to read the full content or to find out more.
The upside of this approach is that content being on your website means it can be found by search engines as well, so it’s great for SEO, you can repurpose it for social media (what I call the COPE principle, that’s Create Once, Promote Everywhere), so it’ll have a much longer life than the typical 24 to 48 hours an email typical lives for.
Mistake #9: Going for the hard-sell
Okay, so I know the point here is to get sales and leads, but how you go about that can make or break your email marketing success.
So instead of ‘check out our new maxi skirts’ how about ‘5 ways to style maxi skirts and our top 10 faves’. Then you can throw in a ‘10% off maxi skirts till Friday’ in your email as well.
One might link to a blog article and the other to that product category on your site #winwin
This is one the most powerful ways to add value to your database so they actually want to open and click your emails, especially if your database is full of past customers and you want to stay top-of-mind for the next time they need you.
Of course, using this example, I’d include content like ‘The best shoes to wear with maxi skirts’ and an offer on those too.
Mistake #10: Too often – or not often enough!
Last but not least (and yes, I could keep going), is your email marketing frequency.
You need to find that perfect balance of not too often, so you don’t annoy your audience and run the risk of high unsubscribes, but also avoid not sending often enough so they don’t forget they even subscribed between sends (which also increases unsubscribes by the way).
How frequent that is depends on a few things.
One is your type of content (a news site where old news really is old news, or an airline with amazing deals only for a limited time, are going to have a much higher frequency for example) and the other is your customer’s buying frequency.
So if your audience really only buys your products or needs your services every 3 months, then every 4 weeks is probably a better call for you.
In general though, I wouldn’t recommend a lower frequency than once every 4 to 6 weeks, so you keep those unsubscribes in check.
When you use the COPE principle (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) we talked about earlier, you won’t be wanting for content to fill up the next month’s email/s as you’ve already created it for your blog or website anyway.
The more often you want to email your database, the more of your content should be value-added.
Things like time-sensitive offers on popular products and value-added content that’s educational to upskill your audience and prove your expertise, inspirational or entertaining.
So there you have it! Those are the top 10 most common email marketing mistakes I see clients making every day that could massively increase the returns you get from doing email marketing in 2017.
Before you go, please take a second to like or share this with your network if you got value from my mini-novel. Thank you 🙂
PS: Could you do with a hand sorting out your email marketing? Hit me up (plus, as you can no doubt tell, I love this stuff!).