Top 7 Email Marketing Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Reputation [Expert Roundup]

Have you made any awful email marketing mistakes? If you have, you’re not alone. As it turns out, even expert email marketers get it wrong sometimes.

Email marketing is one of the best ways to reach your audience, with 90% of people using email daily. But to use email marketing effectively, you’ve got to do it right. That’s why we asked 7 experts: “What’s the worst mistake you ever made with email marketing?”

They’ve shared their examples of poor email marketing strategy in some pretty revealing responses. The good news is that their list of the top email marketing mistakes will help you to avoid some common pitfalls so you can nail your own strategy. Let’s get started…

The first of our top email marketing mistakes is about email campaign placement. As Kath Pay found out, if your optin campaigns are relegated to the bottom of your site, you could be losing subscribers:

1. Not Making Website Signups a Priority

Kath Pay: I run an email marketing consulting agency. Our bread and butter is in sharing our knowledge and experience of email marketing, holistically. Whilst we push for best practices for our clients, there was one thing that we settled for less-than-best with our own practice – email signup placement on our website.

top email marketing mistakes - kath pay's insight

Due to limitations with our previous website platform and ESP, we were only able to have our newsletter form in the footer of our website. Even though this signup was a prominent part of our footer on every page, we suffered by seeing only infrequent signups, and it perpetually grated on me as I am a staunch promoter of ensuring signup forms are easily accessed and visible. I wasn’t practicing what I preached due to technical limitations – argh!

So, when we went through the design stage of our new website last year we made sure to include a signup at the top of every page in an eye-catching box. By rectifying this mistake, we have seen our email signups jump dramatically in volume.

With over 18 years’ email marketing experience and 10 years on the UK DMA Email Marketing Council, Kath Pay is regarded as an industry thought leader. You can get more of her tips and insights at

Want to put Kath’s tip into practice on your own site? OptinMonster makes it easy to create a signup at the top of every page with our floating bar campaigns:

One of the things to avoid in email marketing is failing to get started at all, as Ian Brodie points out:

2. Starting Email Marketing Late

Ian Brodie: I’ve made pretty much every classic mistake with email. Sending out broken links, incorrect dates, wrong prices, badly formatted emails. I even sent out a private invite to a small group call for 10 people to 10,000 subscribers by mistake.

I’ve had emails with fun stories in them using celebrities as examples – and failed to change the emails when the celebrities got embroiled in all sorts of scandal.

And I’ve made the mistake of not monitoring my key emails closely enough and finding out days later that my most important “last day” email didn’t get sent out and as a result my sales took a huge hit.

But probably my most costly mistake was simply not starting with email soon enough.

common email marketing problems - insight from ian brodie

For the first few years after starting my business I invested in SEO, in social, in content – but just felt that email was a bit old fashioned. It took one of my good friends to pull me up and tell me what an idiot I was being before I came to my senses.

I’ve never looked back.

Ian Brodie helps consultants and coaches win more clients by becoming seen as authorities in their fields. He’s the author of the Amazon Best Seller “Email Persuasion” (with over 150 5* reviews worldwide).

You can get more of his tips, insights and ideas on market free at

Are you making the same mistake Ian made? Wondering how to get started? Read our beginner’s guide to email marketing

Want to know another of the classic email campaign pitfalls? Here’s how Joel Klettke sees it:

3. Playing the Numbers Game

Joel Klettke: The worst mistake I’ve made with email marketing was approaching it as a numbers game (“How often should we email? How many emails in the series?”) from the outset instead of thinking through:

  1. Our goals
  2. Our audience’s awareness level/point of need
  3. The purpose of every email in helping bring them to a point of meeting that need.

email campaign pitfalls - example from joel klettke

Too often, I (or clients) would assume we needed “X” amount of emails, and we’d fill in the “purpose” but after the fact. Now, when I approach an email series, I carefully think through what each email is intended to do, and plan out the series to correspond with how the audience reacts/does not react. Every email is engineered to bring them one step closer to their critical “AHA!” moment instead of serving the whims of the marketing team.

Joel Klettke is a conversion copywriter and CRO consultant at Business Casual Copywriting, where he’s helped clients like HubSpot, WP Engine and InsightSquared turn more visitors into paying customers. Follow him on Twitter as @joelklettke.

Email marketing technical issues can derail even the best planned campaign. That’s why, once you’ve started email marketing, it’s crucial to keep a handle on your email automation workflow, as Jordie van Rijn reveals:

4. Knowing When to Disconnect Automation

Jordie van Rijn: Back in the days when I worked at an agency, we did a B2B campaign for an insurance company. It had a call-me-now button that sent a SMS to individual advisors in the field “call this and this person”. Worked like a charm; after the promotion the campaign was archived.

With an update of the ESP SAAS environment, however, all running campaigns were paused and later activated (without us knowing), including this archived campaign. The campaign had a single loop, that worked if someone went through the campaign once. But that, as we found out, didn’t account for a reactivation. Yikes!

when aggressive email marketing goes wrong - example from jordie vanrijn

So the SMS function kept on looping, ending up sending hundreds of SMSes during the night. One advisor had his SMS box full, and the messages got switched over to his voicemail, which he then had to remove manually. Luckily, only the internal people were affected.

Lesson learned: Make sure you add a “stop block” and disconnect the source from any automated campaign once you retire it. Rename the campaign accordingly when archiving and build in logic that accounts for unwanted looping. Only professional email marketing agencies and consultants learn these type of things (the hard way). If you have really professional help, they will own up to the mistake (and don’t blame the ESP or a “technical problem”).

Jordie van Rijn is a thought leader in the email and marketing automation space, with over 13 years of experience. He is a consultant and online marketing speaker at emailmonday and founder of Email Vendor Selection.

Here’s another example of what not to do in email marketing. It may feel like there’s a magic number you need to send email marketing campaigns, but as Jeff Cox found out, playing the waiting game can cost you:

5. Waiting Till I Had “Enough” Subscribers

Jeff Cox: The worst mistake I’ve ever made with email marketing was putting off sending a new type of email campaign until I had “enough” subscribers signed up for this particular list. This mistake led to an unnecessary 3-month delay in the launch of our new newsletter, which ultimately came during the craziest time of the year. This meant I had a bunch of other priorities competing for time and my contacts’ inboxes were being flooded by other emails.

jeff cox of sendinblue shares what not to do in email marketing

Of course, you want to have as big of an audience as possible, but if you keep waiting for some magical number of subscribers, your contacts will forget about signing up in the first place. This can lead to lower engagement when you do finally send out your emails because recipients won’t be expecting to hear from you. Instead, focus on following through with the commitment you’ve made to your current subscribers and give them what they’re looking for.

Additionally, many email subscribers share insightful or interesting emails with their peers. By waiting to send out your emails, you’re limiting any list growth potential that comes through these types of referrals.

That’s why you should start sending as soon as possible so you can learn what your audience likes and dislikes while continuing to grow your list naturally and keep your subscribers coming back for more.

Jeff Cox is a digital marketing specialist in charge of US content at SendinBlue. You can find him on Twitter at @jeeff_cox.

When you start out with email marketing, it’s difficult to be confident about what you’re doing, and negative feedback can put you off your game for a while, says Joanna Wiebe:

6. Letting the Haters Dictate My Email Strategy

Joanna Wiebe: Listening to the haters and, in so doing, pulling back on sending important emails. When you’re running a promotion, you’ll often send as much as two emails a day over a short period (e.g., 5 days).

Early on, one or two people would reply to my emails with something like, “Stop selling to me.” And I’d internalize that feedback in a really unhealthy way – I’d second guess every email from that point on. That’s bad for biz.

joanna wiebeshares top email marketing mistakes

So now I 1) don’t let the people who don’t understand my biz dictate how I grow it and 2) use segmentation to make sure I’m only sending the most relevant emails to the right people – whether that’s 2x a day or once a month.

The original conversion copywriter, Joanna Wiebe is the founder of Copy Hackers by Airstory. She’s written conversion copy for brands like Wistia, Buffer and MetaLab, and she’s been invited to speak on 100+ international stages, including Mozcon and INBOUND.

Listening to the wrong feedback is one of the common email marketing problems, but it’s also essential to ensure you’re talking to the right people, as Henneke Duistermaat discovered:

7. Having the Wrong Mindset

Henneke Duistermaat: I’ve probably made all the most common email mistakes. I’ve sent emails with typos (even in the subject line). I let my list go cold for a few months. I accidentally sent the same message twice to the same list. And once I even sent a welcome message to people who’d been on my list for years.

But all those mistakes feel minor to having the wrong mindset.

When I started my email list, I was scared of upsetting my readers and I was distraught when people unsubscribed. Did they hate my writing? Was I emailing too often? Was I too boring?

Over time, I learned you can’t please everyone. The emails that bring you closer to your raving fans are the emails that turn off subscribers in the periphery.

henneke duistermaat shares her top email marketing mistakes

Now, I prune my lists a few times a year. Removing people who aren’t that interested in hearing from me feels like a good cleaning job. Plus, I’ve learned to write for my core fans only. It’s more fun for me, and more valuable for my subscribers, too.

Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent writer on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook. Her free 16-Part Snackable Writing Course is recommended by AWeber and others as an excellent example of an opt-in bonus.

Now you know the top email marketing mistakes that the experts wish they hadn’t made, you’ll be able to avoid them in your own strategy.

Next, check out our previous roundups on content marketing mistakes and nailing SEO for more expert advice. And follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more expert roundups and in-depth guides.

Sharon Hurley Hall is a technical writer at OptinMonster. Sharon has been a professional writer for more than 25 years, and is certified in content marketing and email marketing. Her career has included stints as a journalist, blogger, academic writer, university lecturer, and ghost writer. Find out more about Sharon at

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