The 7 Mistakes You’re Making with Your Email Lists

With so many digital audience communication points now in existence and pressure to be present on a new social media platform every week, it’s easy to set creativity to one side when it comes to email marketing. Best practice is often the first casualty when your to do list takes on a life of its own and communication channels multiply overnight. The things that you’d like to do are put off, the quickest way to do things becomes king and mistakes creep in as time runs out.

If you recognize this scenario, help is at hand. We’ve outlined the 7 key mistakes all email marketers make with their email lists and set out how to turn things around in order to maximize audience engagement.

  1. 1

    You’ve let your list management and growth tactics grow stale

    You’ll lose subscribers and fail to pick up new ones at the desired rate from time to time. There is a natural rate of attrition when it comes to email marketing as subscribers change email addresses, decide to cancel their subscriptions or send your messages to junk. You must allocate time to maintaining and growing your subscriber list. For existing subscribers that means committing to great content. To build your list, you need a strong opt-in incentive.

    If you’re guilty of installing a sign up widget and then calling it a day, you’re making a common email marketing mistake. Be creative you’re your incentive to get your activity back on track. Try exclusive subscriber only content, coupons, discounts and competitions.

  2. 2

    You don’t have a regular schedule of sends

    If you’re afraid of contacting your list to regularly, or fear sending out more than one or two emails a month, you’re probably committing our second cardinal sin of email marketing. Getting over the fear of spamming subscribers to reach a point where you have a regular schedule of sends can be tough but, you need to get to a point where you’re reaching out with relevant email sends often in order to see any kind of return from your email activity. Too few sends and you’ll lose the connection with your customer and leave them wondering why they bothered to subscribe in the first place. Too many, and you could end up on the wrong side of the spam filter. Find the sweet spot.

  3. 3

    You’re Not Personalising Your ‘Welcome’ Email List Process

    Another frightfully common mistake. Mistake number three is commonly made by new business or upcoming bloggers and content publishers who have made their way in to email list ownership. The issue here is that you haven’t created a custom welcome email or email confirmation process which is synonymous with the rest of your content. You’ve likely just not customized beyond the default message offered by your email list management software of choice.

    The welcome process is as important as the content you intend to follow with. This is part of the user’s experience. You have successfully convinced them to opt in to your mailing list, don’t make a bad first impression. The users opt in to your mail list isn’t complete until they confirm their address. Make sure the welcome and confirmation emails you send are on brand and immediately recognizable. Don’t forget, with the sheer volume of emails received on a daily basis, you can’t afford to look generic or ambiguous

  4. 4

    Forgetting to Actively Promote Your List

    1. So, you have an established email database and you’ve been emailing your list for some time. You’re a pro, you have a schedule and a template. It’s all under control. That’s great, but think back to when your email list first launched. Most marketers typically put significant effort into the promotion of their email list when it first goes live. Perhaps you talked about it in your web content and blog posts and promoted it via social media? The issue is that most don’t keep this up. That’s mistake number four.


    If your email list is a healthy size and performs ok, you’ve likely fallen into thinking that it can take care of itself. If you were to look closer, what you would actually see is that the growth of the list has slowed significantly since you stopped actively promoting it. The acceleration of growth you enjoyed early on has faded but this isn’t as most would convince themselves, simply down to scale. It’s because the effort you put in to the list’s promotion is now a fraction of what was put in previously.

    Industry averages would suggest 20%+ of your email list will drop off annually, meaning simply maintaining your list is tough. You must be consistent and proactive in your promotional activity if you want to see a more consistent level of growth. Put simply, it’s not going to sell itself.

  5. 5

    Assuming Your List Remembers You

    1. Another very common mistake made by big brands and individual content producers alike is assuming your list remembers you and remembers how they came to receive emails from you direct to their sacred inbox. Online users are far more likely to consider unsubscribing or even reporting you as junk/spam if they can’t match up what they receive in their inbox to an action they’ve completed or remember how they came to receive your emails.Fortunately, this is an easy mistake to rectify and takes nothing more than a few very simple actions. Keep your email marketing identical in aesthetics and tone so they match your website and brand as a whole. Your emails may not be created by those also responsible for your website design. The same goes for your content.


    If your web content and email content are created by different people within your organization or even different agencies in some cases, are they synced up? Is the tone consistent? Keeping everything tight ensures your list can easily recognize you. The consistency of branding and message means each subscriber will receive content that looks as if it has come direct from the site they opted in to. It is then far less likely to be badly received and reinforces your identity – making the prospect of being forgotten a distant one.

    You can also spell out why the user is receiving the email from you with a short and simple footer note. “You are receiving this email from us because you signed up to our newsletter via our website”. It may sound simple but it relieves any potential ambiguity on the part of the user wondering if their email was acquired in a way they consider fair and under their own terms.

  6. 6

    Your Emails Are Too Complex or Too Wordy

    Mistake number six is directly related to the points made above regarding the importance of consistent branding. Some marketers take this too far and produce what is essentially be a duplicate of the website structure within their email template. This makes the email message too complex and often, too wordy, very difficult to navigate and almost impossible for the reader to absorb.

    Limit yourself to a minimal number of sections with clear headings or, use a single concise message to form the bulk of your email content. Keep the message and content along with the aesthetics in line with your website’s theme and tone but without the complexity your main site may have. For example, you may be tempted to replicate your website navigation structure in your email shot in order to drive traffic back to the site. This is counterintuitive with too many links distracting from the message of the email. This complex architecture also looks far too much like generic site promotion and less like you’re bringing the user something worthwhile to their inbox.

    The same goes for email content length. By all means create long form content on your site and promote this via your email communications, but don’t fall in to the trap of trying to include too much of this in the email communication itself. The size of the email will dictate whether the message is opened and read or binned. Not every piece of content will be appropriate for everyone on your list. Show a strong snippet and trust that those with a genuine interest will click though to the long form piece.

    Remember that good content made impossible to digest is as bad as producing irrelevant content. If your audience don’t feel like they are getting anything worthwhile from your email communications, then why would they continue to subscribe with you? Keep things simple to maintain a productive relationship.

  7. 7

    Treating Multiple Lists as One Generic Database

    For those brands and businesses with multiple opt in points, user lists may be built from a number of sources including various web properties, different parts of the organization and via different promotions, channels or resources. It’s all too easy to lump all of these lists together and treat them as one sales and marketing resource. This is at the detriment of considerably greater potential.

    The acquisition point of a new contact will likely tell you something about the contact and what it is about your organization that resonates with them. Use this information to your advantage and try to personalize communications to buckets of contacts closely linked or similar in nature to get the best possible rate of engagement.

    Taking this one step further, those organizations with a CRM system set up against their email lists likely have a wealth of demographic data on their contacts which can easily be applied to break the greater list in to demographic buckets or perhaps even geographical segments, or of course, both! Using this data puts you in the advantageous position of being able to produce content which is highly relevant to those receiving it with a greater degree of accuracy. Personalization to a few where possible is always better than sending a blanket or generic message to thousands.

Keeping in mind email marketing best practice and being conscious of these basic mistakes will help to keep your list growing. Trying some of our quick fixes will also mean you are using your subscriber data effectively and generating the best results for your business. Re-visit your email marketing lists with these tips in mind to bring this channel back to the standard it deserves.

If you need more help with your email marketing, why not get in touch to find out more about our email marketing solutions?

Chris Woods
Director & Head of Digital

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