4 Big Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

By Kat Dessenon, Persado Vice President of Campaign Management, North America  

Creating a winning subject line is great, but its all for naught if the email body isn’t in peak condition. Spammy-looking creative, no creative at all and content a customer has likely seen before can all cause people to drop off the journey to conversion. To keep your campaigns in tip-top shape, avoid these email marketing mistakes. 


Too much information

email marketing mistakes

TMI alert! 

Here at Persado, we talk a lot about something called narratives. Narratives can be cultural (think: holidays, events, seasons) or related to your campaign (“last chance,” “starts now,” “top picks!”). When you obscure the narrative of your campaign with a myriad of offers of free shipping and different discounts on different departments it gets...a little overwhelming. Remember: you only have so much time to capture someone's attention so make your email count by clearly communicating your main offer rather than piling on a ton of them.

email marketing mistakes

This image is cleaner and would work well for someone who has previously shown interest in your brand's menswear 

A better tactic would be to target people who may be more interested in one offer vs. another through segmentation. For example, you could send people with a propensity to buy clothes a discount for 50% off shirts and give those who have purchased home goods the offer for 40% off all dinnerware. If you still want to put all this information in one email, do it in a way that doesn't confuse your readers.


Too few pictures

email marketing mistakes

I love newsletters! As a busy professional, having someone else bring together and summarize interesting articles saves me a lot of time and clicking around the internet. I subscribe to a lot of different lists that focus on various topics from fitness to finance to food and everything in between. What makes the great stand out from the so-so, besides engaging writing, is the use of compelling images. They don't have to be large or even unique (there are plenty of stock photo options) but images grab people's attention and immediately let them know what topics you are covering.  Even if you use icons or illustrations to denote different sections, that beats large blocks of unbroken text. 


I've seen more and more ads in my inbox in recent years — not sponsored content but actual display ads embedded within an email. I already expect my inbox to contain advertising (I willingly signed up for most of these emails!), but the Russian nesting doll of ads within ads (which then take you to web pages filled with more ads...) makes me wish for the days when my eyeballs were not constantly being monetized. If you insist on selling ad space within your own marketing content, at least consider relegating them to the bottom of the email rather than sticking it on top, which immediately triggers me to delete (and potentially unsubscribe). 

Repeating content

In researching this topic, I realized that a handful of brands send the exact same email over and over again, just varying the subject line. I was surprised when a retailer sent me the same email body content four times in a row with different SLs (and then changed it up for one email and sent the same thing again twice).

Groundhog Day vibes? 

It wasn’t a mistake since there was other content below the fold that changed but it still felt kind of lazy. One marketing strategy is to have AM and PM sends — this allows you to potentially capture the early birds as well as the night owls. But think about trying STO (send time optimization) instead. Using this technology, you learn when a recipient is most likely to engage with your content (say, 3 p.m. on the weekdays and 10 a.m. on the weekend) and will customize the time a message gets sent based on that data.

 About the Author

Kat Dessenon is the VP of Campaign Management, North America. Over the past seven years, she has designed thousands of marketing experiments in nine languages for Persado’s clients and now leads a team of 17 to deliver compelling, on-brand content to increase customer engagement. She firmly believes in the power of testing to improve performance. Her past work has taken her all over the United States and beyond—from San Francisco, CA to Athens, Greece—and she now resides in New York City where she spends equal time in the gym and scrolling through the Gmail’s Promotions tab for inspiration (sometimes simultaneously). She holds a BA in English from Douglass College.