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The 5 Biggest Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

One of the biggest email marketing mistakes you can make is to not send email. 

But I assume that you already know that. 

5 #EmailMarketing mistakes to avoid with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #ContentMarketing

You need to know how to build an email list, you’ve been told, in order to sell your services, increase your visibility, expand your platform, get more readers, and generate more traffic. Email is fast, inexpensive, and easy to create – so easy that any biz owner or solopreneur can use it to stay in touch with customers and prospects.

So you’ve avoided one of the biggest email marketing mistakes already – you’ve started an email list. And maybe you’ve even started sending emails to that list. 

But all that digital goodness has a few pitfalls. If you’re not careful, you’ll make the most common email marketing mistakes without even knowing it.

I did. In the process, I sabotaged my own email list. That’s why I’d like to share biggest email marketing mistakes you should avoid … and how to get around them. 

Mistake #1. No landing page

One of the most effective ways to build your email list is to offer a free download on your landing page. A landing page is a page on your site that is 100% dedicated to converting visitors to subscribers or customers. (Here’s an example of a landing page.) The free bonus on your landing page is sometimes called a lead magnet, because it adds leads to your conversion funnel.  

A good landing page is targeted. It focuses on one product or offer only. And in order for visitors to receive that product or offer, they need to give you their email address. 

If you don’t have a landing page, then your chances of getting email subscribers plummets … even if you have other means to collect subscribers.

So create one. Make sure that your landing page offers a helpful download for your readers. To that point …

Mistake #2. A free download that lacks value

“Free” is not the exception anymore. A good lead magnet is not only free. It’s also valuable to the reader. It offers information to readers that solves a problem or gives them something they need. The best lead magnets have a higher perceived value than “free.” They’re like getting a content upgrade without having to pay for it. 

One of the biggest email marketing mistakes you can make is to offer a free download that has low value, no perceived value, or worse – it’s not even worth its free price tag.

You can get around this common mistake by identifying your readers’ pain points. What do they need? What do they want? Then create a free download that addresses one pain point (just one!) that solves a problem that your prospects face. (Here are some tips for writing a more powerful lead magnet.)

Mistake #3. A generic call to action

The simplest email opt-in call to action uses generic wording like “Join our list” or “Subscribe.”

But that kind of language is too broad to pull in many visitors. It doesn’t demonstrate how the visitor will benefit by forking over their email address to you. 

As far as email marketing mistakes go, a generic call to action lacks specificity. Instead, write a call to action that explains the freebie’s value. Rather than saying, “Download the free guide,” write, “Download the free guide and start using the tips in 10 minutes or less.” The benefit here? The visitor will start saving time right away.

Mistake #4. An impersonal welcome 

You’ve gone to all the trouble to create an engaging landing page with a powerful free lead magnet. And your visitor simply can’t resist. She types in her email address to retrieve the freebie. Truth be told, she’s excited. Your offer promises to solve a nagging problem.

But she nearly misses your welcome email in her inbox. In fact, she barely remembers opting in because …

  • The subject line is generic: “Thank you for subscribing.”
  • Or the body of the email simply says, “Here’s your free download.” No title. No reminder of that irksome problem and your handy solution promised therein.
  • Or maybe you asked for her first name, but you don’t use it in the welcome email. Your first personal introduction to your content feels … impersonal. 

There’s a good chance that your email service provider offers boilerplate Thank You pages and Welcome Email templates. And by all means, start with them. But don’t make the granddaddy of depersonalized email marketing mistakes right out the gate by using those templates “as is.” Customize your welcome to new subscribers.

Mistake #5. Sending only promo emails

Let’s say you’ve started an email list and continue to add new subscribers each week. But as you send your emails, you notice a disturbing trend. You’re getting more unsubscribes than opt-ins. 

If that’s you, then take a look at your email content. Are you continuing to give readers helpful and valuable information in each issue? Or maybe you’re simply using your email address to sell stuff.

This, by far, is the worst of the email marketing mistakes. You’re using your list simply to make money. That means you’re using the people behind those addresses solely for your own gain.

If you’re anything like me – and your subscribers – you’ve got a jammed inbox. There’s a good chance you’re looking for excuses to opt out of lists. So if a new sender keeps pounding you with stuff to buy, you find yourself a mite irritated and very, very willing to click on “Unsubscribe.” 

But those emails in your box that offer insightful content and practical information? You may not read every one of them. But you click “Open” often enough to know that it’s worth it every time you do so.   

If you view your email list as merely a way to make money, readers know it. Where’s the benefit for them? It’s nonexistent. Instead, look at your email list as a large, large group of people who want and need good information – information that’s interesting or important to them. You have that information.

Give them some in each email. In fact, make sure that 80% of your email content is valuable information, leaving 20% or less for promotion.

Do that and you’ll have fewer unsubscribes. Instead, you’ll develop a tribe of loyal fans. Your email list will grow and so will your credibility with your subscribers. 

And along the way, you’ll sell. You cannot help but do so, because you’re putting your readers’ needs first.

The words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (ca. 1182-1226) ring true: “For it is in giving that we receive.” By emphasizing helpful content over promo, you’re earning loyalty. And in return, you’re gathering a pile of email addresses of eager, interested subscribers who will click on affiliate links, buy your products and services, and share your content with others.

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