• Most email mistakes happen for the same fundamental reason: Marketers focus more on making the sale than on connecting with a person.
  • Many tactics are not one-size-fits-all. Each email campaign should consider the audience and adjust the language and format accordingly.
  • Email best practices are fluid and can evolve with online business culture and norms. Advice from several years ago may not apply to current campaigns.

Email is one of the most effective marketing tools available. But sometimes, it’s also one of the most depressing.

After pouring hours of creative effort into a sales campaign only to see a single-digit open rate and conversions you can count on one hand, it’s tempting to throw in the towel. Yet most failed email campaigns make the same fundamental mistakes.

Autoklose has analyzed thousands of cold emails to find what works — and what doesn’t — across different industries. As digital marketing has evolved in the past decade, some sales gimmicks have lost their effectiveness. On the other hand, some tried-and-true principles have become even more important to win the reader’s trust.

Hosts Ollie Whitfield and Shawn Finder of the 0 to 5 Million podcast reveal some of the most common mistakes in sales emails and how best to avoid them.

1. Too many CTAs

Maybe it’s obvious that an email needs a call to action (CTA) in order to convert. Otherwise, you’re just sending a greeting card with fancy graphics to your sales list. But a common mistake that marketers make is to overload the body text with too many CTAs.

Watch this video! Read our case study! Hit reply and let me know your thoughts! Too much prompting can overwhelm the reader and turn responding into a chore. When multiple-choice becomes the norm for CTAs, the most common selection will be “none of the above.”

“If I don’t know what to do after I’ve read the email, then I’m probably not going to do anything,” says Ollie.

Instead, marketers should either segment their email lists or space out their messaging. Perhaps only the most engaged repeat customers would be interested in replying with their thoughts, or the video and case study could be separated into two emails. Focus your messaging on one item per email. Additional CTAs only get in the way.

2. Email is too long

Lengthy emails are another marketing mistake, but it’s not because of the prospect’s short attention span. Many people will take the time to read content they find helpful and engaging. Sales campaigns fail when they make the full pitch in just one email.

email mistakes

“You don’t have to write everything in one email,” Shawn explains. “Your whole goal is to get them on the phone. If you spill all your beans in that one email, what else do you have to talk about?”

Especially in building a B2B partnership, a phone call creates space to answer questions, strengthen relationships, and speak to any concerns about the deal moving forward. An initial email should be between 75 and 125 words. Keep it concise, address the challenge the prospect is facing, and invite them to take the next step.

Shawn points out that 72% of people read emails on their mobile devices, making it even more critical to limit the word count. The rule for body text applies to subjects, too. Research shows that smart subject lines provoke the reader’s curiosity, but marketers have to be quick. Readers on mobile may only see the first three or four words, so the subject has to hook early.

3. Misjudging the audience

Email marketers often debate whether to sell the dream (“Double your sales this quarter!”) or sell on pain points (“Cut costs by 25%”). Neither one is inherently better. The email template should suit the audience.

For an ambitious CEO who sees the big picture, selling the dream could work well. They’re a decision maker with oversight on the corporate strategy, and they may want the pitch about how to double sales.

Yet for a director of sales, the dream subject line may not seem credible. They may be more focused on the day-to-day challenges of managing a team and want practical solutions instead of a big idea.

“It depends on the function quite a bit,” Ollie says. Is the prospect a decision maker or will they require approval? What’s the reader’s risk tolerance? How would they benefit from the product or service? Every email should speak to the persona receiving it.

4. Being too salesy

It’s a subjective criterion, of course, but Shawn and Ollie agree that some common practices of a few years ago now come across as too pushy or superficial.

One email mistake is to just drop a Calendly link as the CTA. Enterprise and mid-market companies are often oversaturated with requests to schedule a call. If it’s a slower sales cycle and the need isn’t immediate, most prospects will skim past the Calendly link.

email mistakes

“If you’re selling to really technical people, like if you sell to a software company like [Autoklose], we deal with these things all the time,” Ollie explains. Placing the onus on the prospect to schedule a meeting can come across as annoying or even pretentious.

As a workaround, make sure to include a personalized message and acknowledgement that the prospect’s own schedule and preferences are important. Instead of “here are my times, choose one,” try for something closer to “I’d love to talk about this; do you have time tomorrow? Here’s my availability on Calendly, but if that doesn’t work, let me know.” Communicate that you sincerely want to speak with the person, not just schedule them into the next stage of the sales pipeline.

When following up, avoid sounding too scripted. “Sometimes it’s even good to say to your prospect, look, you’re one of my target accounts,” Ollie says. Explain why, specifically, you want to work together. Don’t just give a canned sales pitch.

5. Trying bait-and-switch tactics

On the topic of honest outreach to prospects, never rely on vague or mysterious promises to lure the reader to action.

Something such as, “We have a list of 50 companies interested in your product, but you need to subscribe to our service to see it” sounds like a scam. It may be true that you’ve identified warm leads for a prospect, but that prospect may have heard other businesses cry wolf too many times to be interested. Marketers simply can’t rely on silly gimmicks to win conversions.

Instead of cryptic references to hidden lists, focus on transparency. Share white papers, case studies, and free demos to convince prospects that your service works. Employ feature-benefit selling. If prospects see the value of your service, they’ll want to know more. Of course, don’t make the mistake of overloading. Remember the first point to space these resources out appropriately, still only having one CTA per email.

Wrapping Up

With so many email marketing automation tools available, don’t make the fatal mistake of forgetting to personalize your campaigns. Know your audience, keep the messaging clear and concise, and avoid language that implies you care more about the sale than the person.
Ready to close more deals with email automation and make your team into a revenue generation machine? Start your free trial of Autoklose 🚀 today.

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