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Marketing 9 min read November 8, 2016

Top Biggest Email Automation Fails and How to Avoid Repeating Them


Founder at Reply
Here are some email automation horror stories from marketing pros, and what you can do to avoid repeating their mistakes.
So, you've just setup your email automation system and have written the first of what will be many different email marketing campaigns for your company. You've read over the email and everything looks great, and you test it once in Gmail to make sure it works. Convinced you've got it all set, you send it out.

Your co-worker is on the email list and opens the email in Yahoo Mail, only to find that the images won't load properly. Upon closer inspection, she finds a bunch of spelling mistakes in the first line. She alerts you to your mistakes but it's too late: you've already sent that email out to the more than 2 million people on your email list.

Whoops.

This happened to Brazilian marketing expert Andre Armenni a few years ago, and could have easily been avoided had he given the project a bit more time to ensure that everything worked properly. See? Even the experts can make mistakes. But you can learn from them.
Fail #1

Bombarding customers with too many emails — or not emailing them enough

I have a client who I've been writing golf emails for. I came into the mix after he acquired the leads, and I started doing daily emails. Well, the first email did incredibly well, but then I noticed if I sent them daily, a huge jump in unsubscribes would happen.
Shawn Lebrun, email copywriter & member of Warrior Forum
Shawn isn't alone in fumbling with email frequency. Luckily, he was insightful enough to immediately research the source of the problem by taking a look at the reasons for unsubscribes (too many emails). After testing a few campaigns, Shawn came up with the perfect formula that kept his client's list growing instead of shrinking: 3 days a week.

Fine-tuning your email frequency is one of trickiest aspects of automation marketing. Depending on your niche or the quality of content you have to offer, subscribers may be open to multiple emails a day or only once a month. The best solution is to test out frequencies with portions of your list to see how often your subscribers are comfortable being contacted.

At the very least, be sure to state how often they can expect emails on the opt-in form. Setting expectations and coming through on them is a fast route to trust...and opens.
Fail #2

Not personalizing and segmenting your list

We received an unsolicited email] offering Chicago-based SEO services, and we're a Chicago-based SEO agency. Not exactly the best target. Do your research.
No one wants to feel as though they've been lumped in a group with a thousand other people. If they receive your emails and what you're offering them isn't relevant to their needs, then you're bound to lose potential conversions over it.

This is why user personas and segmentation are key to engagement.

Before putting together your next campaign, take time to research:

  • who your target customer is,
  • where they are in the decision-making process or your sales funnel,
  • the specifics of their problem, and
  • how each feature you offer solves it.
Then create a segmented email campaign personalized to the needs of each target user.
fail #3

Not sending from a real person's name or sending from a "no-reply" address

We still see many marketers routinely go against best practices by sending emails from a no-reply address. If your company sends email from donotreply@companyname.com, it's an indicator to your recipient that you're creating a one-way communication and that you don't want to hear from them.
Adam Holden-Bache, Director, Business Development at Striata eMarketing
This seems simple, but you'd be surprised how many people don't personalize their emails by attributing it to a real person from their company, or explicitly preventing their subscribers from communicating with them.

Seriously: no one likes talking to a robot. You'll get higher click through and open rates if you make it seem like the email was sent from someone in your company, such as the CEO.

Plus, the more you invite people to reply to your emails, the better your deliverability will be so future emails don't end up in their spam folders.

If it looks and feels like it's been written by an actual human, then you're doing it right.
fail #4

Not having useful content

I've seen too many cases of people trashing, marking spam, ignoring and unsubscribing because of irrelevant content. Remember, inbox is not social media; inbox is a private space and you don't want to desecrate it with promotional junk or unwanted stuff.
Udita Purkayastha, Business Development Marketer
The purpose of email automation is to help nurture conversions from your readers by offering them something that will help solve their problems. If all you're sending are promotional emails, you're making the relationship about you instead of about your target user and their needs.

Be sure that 80% of your emails have valuable content that your subscribers can use in their lives, or helps them learn more about how to use your product if they've started a free trial.

For example, if you're sending a 5-email sequence, write 3 emails that are focused on value and engagement and only 2 that are focused on sales.

When you've built value that goes beyond sales, it's much easier to get your subscribers to buy when you only send direct sales emails 20% of the time.
fail #5

Not having an adequate enough platform for what you need

The worst error I've ever seen in email was a while back and is just plain silly. A company decided to send a mass marketing email to their entire customer base. The marketing team sending it out didn't use any sort of email tool. They... sent it to their entire mailing list using the CC: line in an email client. Every single one of their customers got their entire customer email address database. Many people replied-all to complain. Not pretty!
Jeremy Kraybill, co-founder of Dashcord
Does your email automation platforms offer enough options to create successful marketing email campaigns?

The tools you use to create your emails are just as important as the content in the emails themselves.

Make sure that you're using a platform that can accommodate all your needs.

Reply.io offers a fantastic platform that allows companies of all sizes to send personalized emails, drive up conversions through analytics and tracking, and create target lists and segments.
Fail #6

Sending without previewing & testing

An uncooperative email client can distort your carefully crafted copy and optimized layouts, hurting response rates in the process.
Mark Brownlow, email copywriter & publisher of Email Marketing Reports
The horror story we opened with about Andre and the 2 million broken emails was an example of a lack of thorough testing. Although he did a quick preview of the email in Gmail, he failed to take the time to test it in more than one platform.

The lesson: always preview, fix problems, and preview again. If your email marketing platform doesn't offer the option to preview or send a test email, there are several low and no-cost email testing apps you can try out.

Speaking of testing, A/B testing is an integral part of improving conversion rates. Split test different variants of the same campaign by sending them to a small percentage of your list. That way you'll see what works in terms of opens and clicks.

When email automation is done right, all of the pieces of your plan and your potential for growth will fall into place. Many of these common mistakes can be avoided by collaborating as a team and really listening to what your customers are looking for.
Do you have any embarrassing stories about your biggest automation fails that you're brave enough to share? Leave a comment!

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