3 Email Marketing Mistakes That Traditional Marketers Usually Make

Chase Roberts posted this in
Content Marketing, HVAC
on January 9th, 2014

Frustrated with your email marketing efforts? There’s nothing more disappointing than to work hours on a campaign, only to see that you have:

  • Poor open rates
  • Abysmal click-through rates
  • Skyrocketing unsubscribe rates

These are the things that make kittens cry.

We’ve talked about several reasons why these things happen. But I’ve found a common underlying cause of these sad outcomes: your mindset is still stuck in traditional marketing methods and tactics that don’t work in this channel.

With that in mind I want to:

  • Explore a few email marketing mistakes that I’ve noticed that traditional marketers make
  • What you should do instead to fix those mistakes

Side note: I really want you to succeed in your marketing efforts! So please don’t misconstrue my effort to point out these mistakes as combative towards those who have a traditional marketing background.

Mistake #1: Only offering deals and discounts

What’s the problem here?: People don’t care about discounts for items unless they know why they should buy your stuff to begin with.

It’s like when you were in school learning algebra or calculus, and you thought to yourself, “Why do I need to learn this? When will this ever be useful?”

Context has not been established for you to care. So why should you?

It’s the same with your services and products.

For example: I write tons of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) content for clients. (Don’t get too jealous.) What if I sent out an email saying “25% Off Air Conditioner Maintenance”?

From the readers’ perspective, they may ask, “Why does my air conditioner need professional maintenance?”

Context has not been set yet for why the reader should buy the service. So the discount means nothing to them.

What to do instead: Take the “backdoor” approach into your audience’s willingness to buy by writing educational content that solves a problem. Show them why they need something before you tell them how your products and services fit in.

That’s what Lee LeFever suggests you do in his book “The Art of Explanation.”

“Explanation is the art of not just packaging facts but presenting them in a way that answers the question ‘why?’—as in, why does it make sense to do this? Or why should I care?”

Read that again. Don’t just present facts (e.g, “You should get air conditioner maintenance. We’ll even give you a discount!”). Show them why they need it with context.

An email article with the headline “3 Signs Your Air Conditioner Will Break Down This Summer” starts off with the context/problem first. It’s something we can all agree with: no air conditioner in summer=bad news bears.

After it establishes the signs of the problem, then the call to action can lead to the service that prevents the problem: air conditioner maintenance.

Write articles that mention symptoms and signs of a problem to establish context. People will start clicking your emails like crazy.

Bonus: Check out this article and videos by Lee that shows you how to explain complex subjects people aren’t familiar with.

Mistake #2: Sending out a cluttered newsletter

What’s the problem here?: A newsletter that’s packed with everything your website has to offer (articles, FAQs, special deals, coupons, customer reviews, etc.) detracts rather than enhances your newsletter.


  1. Too many choices can lead to indecision. So too many links=no action taken at all. Ironic, eh?
  2. Emphasizing too many links means nothing is truly emphasized, so nothing stands out. Too bad that important special you had was hidden by the clutter of links.

This is just my theory, but this practice is carried over from the traditional print newsletters where you had to cram everything in the newsletter. It was more cost efficient print-wise.

What to do instead: Declutter the newsletter by:

  • Providing intro text and links to just a few articles or
  • Emphasizing a single article and have a special coupon or two that compliments it.

Remember, you can add links in the articles to get them to related pages. Don’t stuff everything in the email. Let them naturally explore your website.

Mistake #3: Forgetting about the mobile experience

What’s the problem here?: 48% of people open their email on their phones.

Let me illustrate why that fact is super important for your email marketing efforts.

Imagine this: Janet is a marketer at a small company. She’s trying her best to improve her company’s email marketing because, honestly, it sucks.

She spends hours putting together a well-designed, non-cluttered email template. And then she writes informative articles that talk about customer needs and offers solutions that overlap with the company’s services. Awesome.

She’s excited. Until she sees that the clickthrough rate of her new campaign is awful.

“What went wrong?” she asks herself.

For the answer, let’s jump over to Jessica, a customer who signed up for the previously mentioned newsletter. She received her email early in the morning. And when she checked it out on her iPhone, she had to pinch to zoom just to read the intro text of the email.

After side scrolling a few seconds to read the email, Jessica got frustrated and deleted the email, not bothering to click through to the website to read more. And 89% of the mobile users on Janet’s list also deleted that same email for the same reason: it wasn’t easy to read on their mobile device.

Can you see why preparing for the mobile experience is important? Don’t put all that effort into your email marketing just to see it wasted.

What to do instead: Create mobile-friendly email campaigns. These emails will respond (shift and resize) based on what device is accessing it, making it easy to read.

But don’t stop there. Make sure your website is responsive as well. What’s the point of creating a mobile friendly email that links to a non-mobile friendly website?

That’d be like a wheelchair-bound person finding a handicapped parking space, only to find there is no ramp to make it easy to get into the building.

Get ready to rock

If you can avoid these 3 mistakes and take the “what to do instead” advice, you’re going to rock this email marketing thing. Trust me, I’ve seen these tactics work time and time again.

Of course, advice always sounds easy in theory. And it’s hard to apply to your particular situation.

If you need any help with your email marketing efforts, let us know on Facebook. I’m always happy to help!

Chase Roberts

Web Copywriter

Yes, ladies, that southern drawl is authentic. Chase hails from a small town in Alabama. He loves sweet tea and all the bacon. But, in between consumption of these favorite treats, he plans and writes the copy for Rocket Media’s clients.