7 Reasons Marketing Emails Fail


Poorly performing marketing emails are often an indicator of overall program deterioration. Reductions in clicks, conversions, and revenue are usually symptoms of a larger problem.

In this article, I’ll cover seven causes of poor email performance and how to fix them.

Email not reaching inbox

All email marketing platforms will report a deliverability rate – the percentage of emails received by recipients. Usually it’s 98% or more.

However, what is your email provider not the report shows how many of those delivered emails ended up in the inbox relative to a subfolder, such as spam or junk. Unfortunately, no tool detects this percentage.

Encourage the inbox by:

  • Avoid spam triggers such as using all caps or excessive exclamation points,
  • Maintain high domain and IP address reputation,
  • Stay off blacklists
  • Maintain high follower engagement.

No optimization for Gmail

According to Litmus; in April 2022, Gmail was the second most popular global email client (behind Apple), accounting for around 30% of the market. In 2013, Gmail added tabs to the recipient’s inbox, which resulted in filtering most marketing emails to promotions.

Gmail recently released a few new features to help marketers stand out in the Promotions tab. You can check how your emails will be filtered for free using the Litmus Gmail tab tool.

Litmus’ free Gmail tab tool will detect where an email will end up in Gmail.

Marketers can now optimize their promotional emails in Gmail by highlighting an offer, an offer code, adding a promotions preview image, and setting a logo URL that will appear as a a custom icon next to the From line.

Screenshot of improvements in the Gmail Promotions tab

Marketers can now optimize promotional emails in Gmail by highlighting an offer, offer code, preview image, and logo.

Gmail for Developers has documentation on how to code email for these features. Additionally, Gmail has several email partners that include promotional annotations in their software, including Litmus, Salesforce, Sailthru, Oracle Bronto, etc.

Gmail also offers relevant promotional emails in the main tab to help add more visibility to your messages.

The bad offer

Offers are tricky. Always test email offers to determine which one works best for your audience. In my experience, performance can vary widely depending on product and service.

  • For product sales, a gift or a pre-filled basket usually helps. The latter automatically loads a free item into a recipient’s shopping cart.
  • Free shipping has lost its appeal as most retailers offer it to some extent.
  • Dollar bids tend to perform a bit better than percentage bids.

Be sure to associate the offer with your recipients. For example, a small discount probably won’t appeal to a high-end jewelry shopper.

Obsolete data

Email data can quickly become outdated. According to Return Path, on average only 56% of subscribers remain on a mailing list after 12 months! Of those who remain, around 47% are “active” – ​​having opened and read at least one email.

While these stats sound scary, there are a number of ways to keep a list engaged.

  • Removal of unengaged subscribers.
  • Running email verification on any subscriber who hasn’t received an email for more than 30 days.
  • Encourage new email subscriptions.
  • Limit the frequency of emails to new subscribers to avoid immediate unsubscribes.

I covered mail database cleaning tips last year.

Too many emails

Even the most loyal customers will eventually unsubscribe if you send them too many emails. Frequency in email marketing is a fine art and requires testing and monitoring. A few unsubscribes may seem inconsequential, but too many will impact performance.

Each subscriber has unique tolerance levels. But no one wants to receive multiple emails a day from a single sender. I recently unsubscribed from a few of my favorite brands that were sending over 15 emails a week.

Remember that high unsubscribe rates will hurt your reputation score, leading to more emails in junk or spam folders.

In my experience, two to three emails per week is optimal for e-commerce retailers. Again, testing is key.

Incompatible content

Irrelevant content readers unsubscribe. It means understanding your customers – what they searched for and bought. Match email content (product recommendations, notifications) to those interests.

Personalization can help keep content relevant. I recently received an email from the Red Cross promoting upcoming blood drives which provided a good basic example of personalization. The email included blood drive locations near me instead of a generic “find an event” button.

Bad topic, From, Pre-header

Always preview the combination of your “Subject” line, your “From” line, and your pre-header, especially on mobile. Keep subject lines short with the pre-header as an extension. Don’t repeat the words.

Zurb offers a free subject line preview tool.


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