Inbox Issues: How to Fail at Email Marketing / Marketing Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Want to fail at email marketing? Try not to do this.

Email is one of the easiest forms of marketing to fail at. In fact, some businesses fail by not even trying.

Others overthink the process and completely miss the mark.

You should be looking to jump into the world of email marketing or looking to increase your email conversion rate.

If you want to succeed in email marketing, then try NOT to do some of the things listed below.

Related Article: How to Create the Right Call-to-Action: 7 Tips on Converting Your Website Visitors

Failure to Ask for Email Addresses

One of the most common failures in email marketing is to NOT ask for someone’s email address. No one is going to come knocking on your door, begging you to put them on your list. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it. Seems like simple advice, but many businesses still don’t get it.

Sometimes, it is the frustration of business owners with the difficulty of the process. “Email marketing is a proven workhorse, and business owners should be building their list at all times,” says Nikolas Allen, author of the book Heavyweight Marketing.

What most business owners do not realize is that once you start building your list, things become easier. The more you work, the more you learn, and the easier things become.

I went through many trials and read hundreds of articles on email marketing before I felt confident enough to start giving advice on the subject. Hopefully, this article will help you skip over some of those “trials” and put you on a better path than where I started.   

Most people do not mind signing up for emails if there is a benefit for them. Allen adds, “When asking for people’s email, it needs to be crystal clear how they will benefit by sharing their personal information with you.” One such thing he recommends is to craft a concise pitch that clearly answers their primary question, 'what’s in it for me?' Do it right and they’ll be eager to share their info with you.”

Asking involves more than simply putting a call to action on your page. You need to ask colleagues and everyone you come into contact with.

Another method I use is asking people at trade shows if they would like to be added to the list. Hey, if you are willing to hand me your business card, then you must be willing to get on my list (of course, you must ask permission first).

Here are a few other methods that I use or have used to obtain email subscribers:

  • Call to action on the website, including within the “body” of articles.
  • Timed popup that displays on all pages after a specific time.
  • Exit popup that displays prior to someone exiting the site.
  • Asking current email subscribers to forward the email to others.
  • Giving away something in exchange (ebook, guide, paywall access, etc.). homepage

From the image above, you can see the is spot on with asking for emails. First, the homepage has a call to action above the fold. It simply and plainly asks for your email. Also, they use a popup that offers you a free guide. Both of these methods are very valuable for increasing subscriber rates.

Of course, there are a ton of other methods out there. Make sure to read as much as you can about email marketing. Bottom line, you must ask or you will not receive.

Creating a List Without Qualified Leads

What good is an email list if no one responds or even opens your mail? Absolutely worthless. This is one of the failures of all marketing campaigns, including email, social media, and content writing. Marketers still think that “quantity” is better than “quality.” Not so in the world of marketing. You have to hit a target audience if you want to increase conversions.

When it comes to email marketing, having a list of qualified leads is an important step to success. “First, you need a list of qualified leads,” says Ben Landers, CEO of marketing firm Blue Corona. “Email marketing works best when you take a highly-targeted approach. This means starting with a list of prospects that have opted-in to receive your company’s messages.”

Collecting qualified leads is not hard. All you need to do is ask the right people. Don’t purchase email lists or add everyone you come across. Ask people who visit your website (as they are obviously there for a reason) and others you feel are a good target audience.

One of the main reasons why qualified leads are better is it helps with conversion rate optimization. Basically, you need to know how effective your email campaign is. You may have a well-written email with a perfect call to action and get absolutely zero leads. You could see this as a failure when, in fact, your list is the failure.

Sending it to a qualified list will more than likely net you quite a few leads if they are in fact your target audience.

“The key to a high conversion rate with email marketing is having a highly-qualified list of leads; crafting a relevant message/offer, and sending it at an optimal time,” adds Landers. “Usually you’ll have to do quite a bit of testing in order to determine what the right message is and/or when is the right time to send your message, but first you need a list of qualified leads.”

Tip – If you collect a broad audience for your list, segment the list into smaller audiences. For instance, if you are an ecommerce store and collect everyone who visits your site, split the list up into smaller groups based on what you sell (women’s clothing, men’s shoes, etc.). This will help you narrow your target down even further which will help with conversions when you get ready to send an email campaign. Brian Hughes wrote a great article that talks about list segmentation.

Email list segmenting

Related Article: Create to Convert: 8 Steps to Optimize a Perfect Landing Page

Sending Out Cluttered Emails

Yes, the presentation of your email is important. In fact, you can have all the qualified email subscribers in the world, but you will NOT convert a single one into a customer unless you can present the information clearly.

“The number one way to fail at email marketing is using a format that is very difficult and confusing for the customer,” says Lisa Chun from e-commerce retailer Black N Bianco. Keep things short and to the point so people can read quickly and understand everything you are saying. Lisa adds that making your emails too complicated will actually lead to people marking them as spam. She also adds to use images to help convey the message.

Subject lines are also very important when sending emails. It can be the difference between a 2 percent open rate and a 20 percent open rate.

“If your headline doesn’t compel readers to open your message, you’re wasting your time,” says Michael Heiligenstein, Communications Manager for Fit Small Business. “Be clear and direct about what you’re offering while enticing readers to read the email. And if you can’t write a compelling headline about what you’re offering, it’s time to rethink what you’re offering.”

Failing to Insert a Call to Action

A call to action is a must for every email you send. After all, you are sending emails to convert subscribers into customers. You need to make it easy for them to convert which means you must include a call to action.

Emails can have numerous calls to action. The most important is the one you probably think of last and this is to “unsubscribe.” You need to make it easy for people who want to jump ship. First, it shows that you are serious about your email campaign and are not into spam. Also, it helps scrub your list so you no longer send emails to leads that are not qualified.

You should also have these most common call to action buttons somewhere obvious on each email you send:

  • Social media share
  • Email share and forwarding
  • Social media follow
  • Email sign up (in the event someone forwards the email to someone who wants to sign up)

Tasha Mayberry from Social Media 22 points out the importance of having a call to action in your email. “The point of email marketing is to increase brand exposure and keep your brand in the forefront of people’s minds. Always have a call to action.”

Set It and Forget It

I am one of the biggest proponents of marketing automation. However, thanks to the effects of real-time marketing you cannot simply set it and forget it. This is true with email marketing as well.

Automating emails is great and saves time, but failing to audit it can be a disaster. “They lost an entire year of business,” recalls Pierre Lechelle from Saas Marketing & Growth Hacking, describing a client that came to him for help. “Their email marketing software wasn’t properly linked with their website. And, they were sending the same emails over and over to the same people.” These are the type of nightmares that can happen when you fail to audit your automation and email marketing strategy.

You should also check your templates (call to action, subscription form, etc.) from time to time to ensure they are up to date. It looks bad when your autoresponder has “coming soon” information that has already passed (e.g., announcement for a webinar that has already passed).

Related Article: 7 Ways to Maximize Your Website for Lead Engagement

Summing It Up

While email marketing is complicated, there are simple ways to get on the train and start converting customers. Keep in mind that it is sometimes the things you “don’t” do that will help you more than the thing you actually do.

I advise you to keep reading as much as you can about email marketing trends as they change quickly and can leave you behind. Develop best practices for your email campaigns and good luck building your list.

Login to

Login with Your Account
Forgot Password?
New to Join for Free


Sign Up with Your Social Account
Create an Account
Sign In

Use of this website constitutes acceptance of the Terms of Use, Community Guidelines, and Privacy Policy.

Reset Your Password

Enter your email address and we'll send you an email with a link to reset your password.