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How to Learn from Others’ Mistakes: 5 Biggest Email Marketing Campaign Fails

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to stay in touch with your customers and increase your return of investment (ROI). In fact, studies show that for every $1 spent on email marketing you can expect the average ROI of $42. 

Indeed, email marketing can be of great value to your brand. However, with so many marketers trying to launch a successful email marketing campaign, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some campaigns fail. 

The good news is that you can learn from the mistakes of others. Learning about the biggest email marketing fails will help you create a flawless email campaign of your own. 

5 biggest email marketing campaign fails 

In the world of email marketing, mistakes and blunders happen all the time. Learning about the most common email marketing fails will help you take measures to prevent these very mistakes from ruining your campaign.  

1. Dear [user name]

Various studies show that personalized experiences matter. In fact, 74% of consumers say that marketing personalization influences their decision to open and read emails. 

As a customer expecting a personalized approach, is there anything more touching than receiving an email that starts with “Dear [user name]”? Failing to include a personalization token is a common email marketing mistake that negatively influences customer experiences. 

Since personalization testing requires additional efforts, this paramount step is often overlooked. As a result, companies keep flooding customer inboxes with emails that have a blank or incorrect personalization token. 

Email marketers can learn a lesson from this email example. In this case, broken personalization speaks louder than words.

Source: Theo Chung
Source: Theo Chung

How to avoid this fail? 

Broken personalization happens all the time, and the good news is that there’s something you can do about it. 

Testing your personalization is a vital step in the overall email quality assurance process. Even though personalization testing varies across different email providers, this step should not be overlooked. 

How to recover from this email blunder? 

As strange as it sounds, the best advice is to do nothing. Even though it’s frustrating to receive an email with broken personalization, it’s a relatively small mistake. Likely, your customers won’t notice it, and if they do, they will ignore and quickly forget about it. So, it’s better not to drive extra attention to this small inconvenience and quietly fix the problem to avoid it from happening in the future. 

Yet, if you decide to do something about it, do it the right way. Take your time and follow up with an elegant and personalized “sorry” email explaining what went wrong. Here’s a great example you can use as inspiration. 

Source: litmus.com
Source: litmus.com

2. Missing CTAs

Failing to include a call to action (CTA) or placing an incorrect CTA is another common mistake that will directly impact customer satisfaction and your campaign’s click-through-rate (CTR). 

Can you imagine sending out a beautifully designed email sequence and including a faulty call to action or a voucher that is not working? Or sending an email announcing a new product launch, and linking to the product page that doesn’t exist yet? 

Missing CTAs is frustrating for both you and your customers. So, it’s better to take action to avoid this mistake in the first place. 

How to avoid this fail? 

To avoid this mistake altogether, it’s important that you test all CTAs before sending out emails.

How to recover from this email blunder? 

If you see that the CTR for your campaign isn’t as good as expected, the problem may be rooted in a faulty CTA. 

To fix this email marketing blunder, ask your tech team to set up a correct link for those of your customers who haven’t yet opened the email. 

For those customers who discovered the broken CTA, you’ll need to send a follow-up email with the correct link. Additionally, you can include an extra discount as a way to say sorry for those customers who have noticed the issue. 

Here’s a great example of a well-done follow-up email.  

Source: Jeff Bullas
Source: Jeff Bullas

3. Wrong segmentation 

Email segmentation proves to be incredibly effective. In fact, marketers who use segmentation in their email campaigns see a 760% increase in revenue. However, when done poorly, audience segmentation can initiate customer churning. 

Imagine the confusion of receiving an email congratulating you on becoming a new parent when you don’t have any babies on the way. This is exactly what happened to the customers after Amazon accidentally sent out their baby registry email campaign to the wrong audience segment. 

Source: https://1hxl9u88scepn2v49ot6y15q-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/DKIePm9W0AArhZu.jpg
Source: wpengine.com

In most cases, this mistake doesn’t lead to any serious consequences except customer confusion. However, in some cases, email segmentation can go horribly wrong and some people can get seriously offended.

For example, sending out a baby registry email to the customers who have recently lost a baby or are struggling to have children is anything but appropriate. 

How to avoid this fail? 

To avoid making this mistake, check your email segmentation multiple times before sending out emails. Even if it means you have to do double- or triple-checking before your campaign goes live. This is helpful to make sure your email won’t land in the spam folder.

How to recover from this email blunder? 

If you end up sending an email to the wrong audience segment, a well-crafted ‘oops’ email and an extra bonus can save the day and your reputation.

When you’ve discovered the segmentation mistake, don’t follow your first instinct. Instead, take your time to create a well-thought-out email copy to express your apologies. You can also offer an extra bonus to smooth out the negative impression.

4. Sharing offensive content 

Some mistakes, like sending a wrong personalization token, are typically ignored and quickly forgotten. However, when it comes to more serious mistakes, like sharing offensive or inappropriate content, one blunder can cost you a lot in revenue, customers, and reputation. 

This Adidas email marketing campaign is a good example of poorly done marketing. An email with an encouraging subject lineCongrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” was sent to the participants of the 2013 Boston Marathon. There wouldn’t be anything wrong with the wording if not the fact that during that very marathon two bombs detonated killing three people and injuring hundreds of others. 

When Adidas understood the extent of their failure, they released an apology. Yet, the damage to the company’s reputation had already been done. 

Source: chamaileon.io
Source: chamaileon.io

How to avoid this fail? 

In the case of the Adidas marathon campaign, the problem was probably caused by email automation. Adidas likely sent this same subject line to participants of many other marathons long before the 2013 bombing attacks took place. The context of the events added up additional meaning to what was initially an innocent message.

To avoid this email blunder, always have someone proofread emails generated by automatization tools. Always take context into account and ensure your email content is not offensive to all or some groups of people.

How to recover from this email blunder? 

Recovering from an email blunder like this requires you to implement a crisis response strategy. This includes releasing a public statement, as well as an apology to the recipients of the email or anyone who might have been offended by your content. 

5. Wrong design solutions

Inappropriate design at the wrong time is the final email marketing blunder closing our list. As you’ve already learned from the Adidas Boston Marathon campaign, context can add secondary meaning to the wording or, in this case, design.

This Airbnb’s floating world email campaign is a great example of a wrong design solution. The floating world email campaign was launched exactly when Hurricane Harvey was destroying Texas. One of the email’s sub-headings read “Stay above water”, and it is not exactly the best tagline in the times when Houston is flooding amid the deadly hurricane. 

Source: cms.qz.com
Source: cms.qz.com

How to avoid this fail? 

Proofread all campaigns before launching and always think about the context. This helps to avoid sharing content or visuals that are offensive to your email subscribers. 

How to recover from this email blunder? 

Just like recovering from sharing offensive content, addressing poor design at the wrong time requires releasing a well-thought-out response. 

Bonus tips to avoid common marketing fails 

Specific email marketing fails require specific responses. Yet, there are common principles that will help you minimize your email marketing mistakes altogether. 

  • Use automation tools 

As many as 91% of marketers say automation is “very important” to the overall success of their online marketing activities. Email automation has been around for years now, and it’s time for you to harvest the benefits of this technology.  

Automation tools allow you to optimize your email marketing efforts and create more personalized and targeted content. Note that automation always goes in tandem with proofreading and, if needed, editing.

  • Always think twice before sending

Marketing lesson number one from Adidas and Airbnb – context matters. That’s why you should always think twice concerning the ongoing events and context before sending out your emails. 

  • Study your customers 

Study your customers to avoid sending emails to the wrong audience segment. Collect and analyze data to better understand customer motivations, needs, expectations, and pain points. 

  • Always proofread your content 

Ensure several people take a look and proofread your email copies before you send them out. If you fail to see the problem, the chances are someone else will spot it.

All email copies must be double-checked for grammar mistakes. It’s useful to get help from professional writing services, like Ivory Research, or manually edit your copies using grammar checkers, like Grammarly

  • A/B test your email copies 

A/B testing allows you to compare two unique versions of your email and evaluate which copy performs better. This way, you can narrow the field and ensure the effectiveness and relevancy of your email content. 

Wrap up! 

There’s no recipe for a perfect email marketing campaign. Yet, there are some common mistakes all email marketers should pursue to avoid. Before you go, let’s quickly wrap up the most common email marketing fails: 

  1. Sending out emails with a blank or incorrect personalization token
  2. Including incorrect CTAs or not including them at all 
  3. Sending out emails to the wrong audience segments 
  4. Sharing content that may seem offending to some groups of people 
  5. Designing an email campaign in a way that is offensive in a particular context

The bottom line is that before publishing any content, it’s useful to get a second opinion on your copy. Review your emails and have someone else in your team take a closer look at your pieces. Always fact-check and consider context before your email campaign goes live! 

About the author:

Alyse Falk

She is a freelance writer with experience in digital marketing, technologies, content marketing, marketing trends and branding strategies. Alice also writes for several reputable sites where she shares her hints for creating content.”