5 email marketing sins and how to avoid them

Nate Skinner, chief customer officer at Campaign Monitor, counts down the top five email marketing sins and how to avoid them

It is becoming increasingly clear that email achieves a better return on investment than any other marketing tactic, so it’s worth knowing your dos from your don’ts when it comes to establishing the best email marketing practice.

It might be tempting to slip into bad email marketing habits, especially if you feel strapped for time, but it won’t pay off in the long term. We’ve collated a list of the five worst email marketing behaviours along with some tips to get you on the right track towards a winning email marketing strategy.

1. The scattergun approach

Sending out a blanket email might be the quickest and easiest option, but ever since the emergence of data-driven tools, sending out email blasts has become a thing of the past.

Segmenting your recipient lists into different categories has a significantly higher return rate, with the Direct Marketing Association reporting that it can boost email ROI by up to 760%. How you choose to segment your email list will depend on the nature of your business and the data you can access: information variables can range from your subscribers’ age, location, job or interests.

Secondly, always make sure your recipients have actually permitted you to email them. For example, emailing your newsletter to a long list of attendees at a recent networking event may seem like a quick win, but this surprisingly common bad practice can land you in trouble. Implementing a double opt-in strategy, where recipients must respond to an email to confirm they want to sign up, is the best way to ensure long term email list health. In fact, research shows that double opt-in strategies can increase click-through rates (CTR) by up to 55%.

2. Flooding the inbox

Data from the US has shown that the number one reason people unsubscribe from company emails is because they receive too many. If you continually flood your customers’ inboxes, you will lose customers fast. The best approach is to ask new subscribers about their preferred email frequency within the signup form, deliver on that promise and give them advanced warning of any future changes.

When it comes to choosing your email frequency, our own research has shown that sending fortnightly emails is the ‘sweet spot’ for subscriber engagement. Careful analysis of your own data will be crucial here, as it will vary depending on your business and customer segments.

3. Bypassing DKIM authentication

Bypassing DKIM authentication will cripple your efforts to reach any inbox. Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) is a way for email senders to authorise Email Service Providers (ESPs) to send email on your or your company's behalf. It allows a sender to take responsibility for their email, and is used to help separate legitimate email from spam and phishing campaigns.

To make sure that your emails reach your subscribers’ inboxes, make sure that they are sent with DKIM - this is kind of like traveling with a chop and a PIN card. It’s a one time set-up that can save you a lot of deliverability issues in the future.

4. Hiding or minimising the unsubscribe link

Did you know that it’s a UK legal requirement to include an unsubscribe or opt-out button in a marketing email? Make sure every email sent from your company has a valid unsubscribe link and constantly manage the removal of unsubscribers.

Don’t try to sneak around legislation by minimising the unsubscribe link so that it’s barely visible. Doing this won’t exactly encourage respect for you among your potential customers and will prevent you from segmenting your email list effectively.

5. Hiding the CTA

Every email needs to have a clear call to action (CTA) that takes subscribers swiftly to the next stage in the engagement process, whether it’s a hyperlink to your website or a link to a purchase page.

In order to draw attention to the CTA, use a colourful button or graphic combined with language that indicates some urgency (without being forceful). It’s also crucial to make sure the link works easily first time - you want to reward your most engaged recipients by making their experience as seamless as possible.

These five email marketing behaviours represent the bedrock of email marketing bad practice, and can be applied to businesses in any sector. If you pay attention to the key principles outlined above, you will be on your way to better connecting with your customers and building a strong reputation for your brand.