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A hand with a paper airplane about to be thrown.

Top Email Marketing Problems and the Solutions

Paul Kiernan

Email marketing is not an easy endeavor; there are moving parts, precise timing needed, and engaging copy to share with the world. And sometimes, it’s not going to all click together and come out perfect.

Ah, the email marketing campaign. We work hard at our subject lines, eye-catching and compelling. We keep our copy tight and direct. We make an offer they can’t refuse. We got it all covered, but our email marketing campaign isn’t doing well. Or as well as we hoped.

We struggle to keep our audience engaged; we run for cover as our engagement metric falls like a leaf in autumn. Sometimes we want to jump out a window when we discover our carefully crafted copy has been relegated to the spam folder.

Email marketing is not an easy endeavor; there are moving parts, precise timing needed, and engaging copy to share with the world. And sometimes, it’s not going to all click together and come out perfect. That’s okay; perfection is overrated and dangerous.

However, when an email marketing campaign works, it works. So, to make this a little smoother, we’ll look at some of the most common email marketing problems and give you some tips on how to solve them.

Here we go!

Spam is in a Can, And So is My Email

You worked for weeks on this thing only to discover that your Michaelangelo-level email is not being pinned to the ceiling but rather dumped in the spam folder. Oh, the horror.

Don’t take this personally. It’s actually a common problem with email service providers. This includes Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo. These service providers are constantly tightening their spam filters. In their maniacal drive to keep in-boxes neat and spam-free, they may get overzealous, and that’s when trouble arises.

No worries, easy fix here.

Fix #1

First off, let's get serious. If you depend on email marketing campaigns, you should have your own domain to send emails. Yes, free services are appealing because they are free; however, with free comes the sucking black hole of the spam folder. If you’re still using free Gmail or Yahoo, just know that down the line, that may harm your campaign.

This is because ISPs have a hard time with bulk mail coming from free webmail addresses; they cannot authenticate the domain, so they end up labeled as spam.

The answer is to use your own verified domain. This is easy and essential to the success of your website. Once you have the domain, you can set up your email campaign from there.

The next step is verifying your domain in your email marketing platform. This will require you to update your DNS records on your website. Your email marketing platform will give you instructions on how to do this.

Fix #2

Are emails going to spam immediately? Set up a double opt-in. This is simple and will require the new subscriber to verify their subscriptions via a link sent to them mere seconds after they sign up. In this process, the potential subscriber knows they are expecting an email and will check their inbox for it.

Now, don’t worry, customers are very tech smart, and they will know if an email they're expecting isn’t showing up, they’ll check their junk folder. When they check that folder and find your email, they can click the link, and that will mark the email as not spam, and it will be sent to the inbox, and the customer is now engaged.

When you do this, your ISPs see your emails as trusted, and your future campaigns will end up in the inbox, not the spam folder.

Fix #3

Send a welcome email. The thing is, 74% of consumers expect a welcome email when they sign up for a mailing list. This is another chance to keep your emails from dying in a spam folder.

Use the welcome email to welcome and get them to add your email to the safe email list. One more assurance that you’re not going to be spam fodder.

Yikes, My Open Rates

Two men in the window of a Chinese restaurant

After all your hard work, thinking, and crafting, you send your email out and are very anxious to hear what response you get. Sadly, you’re watching your open rates slip weekly. Now what?

Now you seize this opportunity to change things up. Declining open rates usually mean prospective customers lose a connection to your message. That’s okay; things can constantly be reworked.

Fix #1

Segment your email list. Right now, you’re probably sending a broadcast email to an extensive list. But in that list, there is a better than average chance your email will only resonate with a small portion of that list. That’s why you need to segment.

When you segment, you group together customers of a shared demographic or preference, this gives you a better chance of having your emails opened.

For example, if you’re a food blogger, you want to know which of your readers is diabetic so that you’re not sending delicious dessert recipes to them—or sending that great BBQ rib recipe to your vegan crowd. Having information about your customers allows you to pinpoint your email campaign and raise the open rate.

Segment your list and specifically target within that segmentation.

Fix #2 Clean House

This will take time. Because having an email list is about time management. You have to examine your list and which people have just dropped off. They haven't canceled, but you’ll notice they are no longer opening emails and aren’t interested anymore. When you see this, it’s time to drop them from the list.

Before you banish them entirely, it's wise to send a quick, hey, haven’t heard from you; here’s what have going, you interested email. If they respond, pay attention to that response and adjust. If they don’t respond, let them go. It’s okay; that happens with email lists all the time. People just stop paying attention.

Save deliverability and increase engagement by letting the not-interested folks go their way.

My Links are Not Being Clicked

Click rate walks hand in hand with the open rate when it comes to an email campaign. If your links aren’t clicked, your email isn't doing the job.

The links they need to click send them to your website, and that’s where you sell; if they aren’t clicking, you’re not selling. That, my friends, is bad for business.

Relax, here are a few answers.

Make it Personal

Falling click rates are as frustrating and damaging as low open rates, which means your content isn’t landing. So, add a personal touch to your emails.

This could be as simple as using the customer’s name in the subject line, making them feel like they are seen as individuals. Or, you can go as far as tailoring the email to their specific preferences and wants.

In the second choice, you can rely on segmenting again. Take the in-depth information you have on your clients and use that to personalize the email. If you're working with a list of sports fans, target their team or teams, and mention scores or adjustments made to rosters. Hit them where they live.

You could also do a questionnaire email asking them what they are interested in, ask them what they’d like more information about, and then segment those answers and target them more precisely.

Put Some Muscle in Your CTAs

A muscular man on a pull up bar mid motion

A CTA takes subscribers to your website’s landing page, and from there, they hopefully buy what you're selling. If you have mushy, weak, or unspecific CTAs, that will affect your click rate.

Something to keep in mind, over 62% of emails are read on mobile devices. When your CTA is long, it gets broken down on a mobile device and doesn’t look so good. So, keep your CTAs tight. One line, a few words. The tried and true ‘click ‘here’ or ‘read more’ will ensure your mobile CTAs are in line and look good.

Also, keep the number of CTAs low. If you have too many, your reader will have what’s known as a jam experience. In this situation, the customer has so many choices that they decide to make none. So, if you tighten your message to just one CTA, you have a better chance of engaging rather than overwhelming them with choices. Make the few count.

If you’ve segmented your list and you’re starting to tailor your messages to specific groups, one well-thought-out CTA can do the trick.

Slow Grow on the Email List

If your email list is like the White Cedar, which grows only four inches in 155 years, you need help.

If your list isn’t growing, you’re preaching to the choir, and they will eventually get tired and leave. You have to add more to your list so those on the list feel like they are onto something special. And to earn more revenue. You need to speed up your growth.

Here’s how.

Get a Little Psychological

On your website, a sign-up form gets your customers on your mailing list, so make it count. By employing the principles and the psychology of persuasion, you can get more people to sign and receive. Start by using these three psychological tricks.

  1. Reciprocity: Give and receive. Offer a free download, a discount, and a first-time custom incentive if they sign up for the mailing list. Segmenting can help you nail down the perfect incentive for the group. Give a little something and get a lot of people signed up.
  2. Social Proof: People are influenced by the actions and opinions of others, especially famous folks or influencers. So, mention how many others have taken advantage of your fabulous email list, which may influence them to sign up. Also, up your social media game so that you have a stringer online presence for them to check with.
  3. Exclusivity: We all want to be part of the cool crowd, whatever form that takes. Being in a group is fun and exciting, especially if it’s a group that gets past the velvet rope. Don’t ask them to sign up for an email list; invite them to be a part of a super exclusive group. It plays subtly on their need to be part of the “in” crowd.

This is all basic psychology, which has become a significant part of advertising. Use these tools.

Get Your Newsletter Out on Other Channels

Your website is one channel, and your newsletter is more important than one channel. Here are some quick ideas,

Integrate your social media channels with your marketing email campaigns and make this your CTA on your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.

Repurpose your email content on your social channels, and give the masses a glimpse of the great content they will get when they sign up for your newsletter.

If you’re B2B, lay all this out on LinkedIn.

It Takes Time

Though we like to tell ourselves that the speed of business is like lightning, the reality is that a lot of stuff we discussed here takes time. And that means you have to be patient. You can not engage an idea, get bored, and move along. You need time for the campaign to take hold, time to analyze, and time to repair. Time and patience are essential here.

Use Google Analytics and track engagement metrics like bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration. Then use that information to adjust messaging, segmentation, and follow-up.

We have offered some quick fixes, but you still need to prepare for the long haul. You need to be realistic with yourself and your clients; no one will have a 100% open rate, so don’t set that goal; you’ll be setting yourself up to fail. Don’t do that, be kind to yourself and give yourself all the chances to succeed.

ThoughtLab Does Email Marketing

If you’re still in the weeds, confused, unsure, or flailing, that’s okay; drop us a line at ThoughtLab; we do email marketing like no one else. We’ll give you a free consultation and get you to see further and more clearly than ever before.

This stuff isn’t easy, and one slip can bring the whole thing crashing down on you. Get help from creative pros and get your email campaigns working for you.