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Confessions of a marketer: Webinar recording + Q&A

Email Marketing Mistakes

There’s always something you don’t know—or something you’ve screwed up. We’ll be the first to admit what we don’t know about the industry or own up to sending test emails to a couple hundred thousand people by mistake. It’s embarrassing and hard to get over but, in the long run, the mistakes we make as email marketers are opportunities for improvement.

That’s why we spent some time talking through marketing confessions in our latest webinar. Whether it’s those acronyms you have to look up every time or that completely blank email you sent to 200,000 people, we covered some of the biggest email marketing mistakes we’ve seen (and made ourselves).

Didn’t get a chance to catch it live? Check out the webinar recording below and read on for some confessions from attendees (along with a few resources to help avoid similar situations).

Confessions + Q&A

Instead of the usual Q&A, we thought we’d share some of the best confessions we heard from attendees! Do any of these sound familiar?

Somehow the dynamic field for name got hard coded with one name and I sent the email to 100K…calling them all the same name.

This is one we see all of the time. While it can be tempting to hard code data into an email to see how it’ll look when you’re testing, you need to be sure to switch back to your merge tags when uploading to your ESP and sending. Or just get used to seeing those merge tags when you’re building and testing emails. Although they’re ugly to look at in emails, it’s the best way to ensure that the email will work as intended when you actually send it.

I sent out an email campaign without getting formal approval from a client first. Understandably, they were upset that the email was sent out later and we had to do some damage control.

It’s happened to us, too! But it only needed to happen once before more clearly defining our review and approval process. It’s also part of the reason why we built Litmus Proof. We wanted a centralized review tool that allowed us to get feedback and approvals from stakeholders faster than ever, and it’s saved our butts plenty of times.

I haven’t been able to convince my leadership team to do a large purge of inactives in almost a decade!

It’s easy to want to mark a “healthy” database as one with a large number of subscribers, but we know that more people doesn’t always equal more success. At a basic level, keeping inactive addresses part of your active mailing list affects your deliverability, and could even be costing your company more money than it needs if your ESP charges based on the size of your database. If there is some hesitancy around a mass removal of addresses, you could start by identifying what is considered as an inactive address and adding them to a hard bounce or suppression list that is included with every send (there’s a good chance your ESP can help you update this large of a list so it doesn’t become a manual process). Review these parameters 1-2 times a year, and over time you’ll begin to work toward a more accurate estimate of a truly mailable list. And, by retaining this information but inactivating their status, the subscriber can re-activate themselves within your audience by engaging with content that they’re interested in, and you won’t need to take them all the way back to step one as if you didn’t have their details and habits already.

Keep in mind, though. any applicable legislation that may require you to permanently delete the address, and engage your IT or engineering team to help maintain compliance.

I don’t monitor spam/complaints very closely and honestly don’t know what I would with that data even if I did.

Spam complaints are actually great indicators of a few different key pieces of your program. These numbers can tell you how relevant the content and offers are to your subscribers, giving you some direct feedback on what to optimize for future sends. Spam complaints are also an easy way to keep an eye on the frequency at which you’re sending to a specific segment. If you know you’ll be sending a message to a group of people that you may not engage as frequently as others, expect this complaint rate to perhaps be a bit higher than your average. More markedly, though, an increase in spam complaint rates could accompany changes to a recipient’s ISP that you may not have known about–if you see an increase in complaints from a certain domain, you’ll know to review for possible solutions.

I’m still trying to understand the metrics from the reporting I look at on my email sends.

Reading and interpreting the data you see from your email sends can be a complex process, unless you know the areas that are of most importance to your efforts and team. Figuring out the metrics to monitor are usually determined based on the objective of the message (conversion rate of your main CTA), other behavioral indicators (open rate, clickthrough rate, devices and read rates), and health-based points (bounce rate, deliverability, and unsubscribe or spam rates). A blend of these factors will tell you not only how well this particular campaign performed, but over time as you build an average benchmark will also help you shape optimization and messaging strategies.

I once sent a marketing email out with my email address as the from- and reply-to address. After receiving all of the out-of-office notifications, I’ve made sure not to make that mistake again.

Ooh. Yeah, that’s an easy oversight–while there are advantages to having your emails come from specific stakeholders or team members at your organization, it’s often a better choice to just change the from name and leave the email address with the default value. If it’s absolutely crucial to change the email values, a heads-up to that stakeholder of the coming auto-responses to their inbox will be appreciated.

I used to use all images for emails!!! Ouch.

You’re not alone. Even today, despite a growing focus on email accessibility, we see a ton of campaigns that are all images. But there are a ton of reasons why you want to avoid sending image-only emails. And, with the power of HTML and CSS, you can accomplish a lot stylistically, all while keeping your emails accessible to the widest audience possible.

I forgot to include an entire list, because it was in an Excel tab that I didn’t see. Oy!

That one hurts. It’s also a good example of why it’s important to centralize your data—especially your subscriber lists. Ideally, all of that data will be kept in your email service provider and collection will be automated so that you’re not copying, pasting, and praying that everything syncs up correctly. While some clients will always provide lists via Excel, it can be helpful to automate that handoff with clearly defined Excel templates, an FTP drop, and programmatically syncing those lists to your ESPs to help reduce human error.