5 Mistakes You’re Making With Email

Confession: I had bad skin for most of my life.

From the age of about 12, I suffered from breakouts that nothing seemed to quiet.

– Not medicated creams that left me dry and flaky
– Not extra-strength face washes that stripped my skin raw
– Not even oral antibiotics, which I took daily for years. (Which makes me shiver now, when I think of what I put my poor gut through.)

I was trying so hard to fix it…

But nothing “worked”.

Over a lunch break years ago, I told my co-worker Kate about the latest chemical-y face cream I was trying. She gave me a suggestion that changed everything…

“You know, Whit,” she said,“I think all those medications may be making things worse.

One of my friends used to have terrible eczema. She was on medicine for years and it never got better.

Then she switched to a gentle goat milk soap …and her skin’s been pretty much amazing since.

Maybe it’s worth a try?”

Goat milk soap sounded totally weird. But I had nothing to lose.

So that night, I stopped the harsh medicines cold-turkey and ordered a pack of two soap bars on Amazon. And within a few weeks…

My skin was 1,000% better. Not perfect (it still isn’t.) But it was SO much better than anything I’d ever tried before.

It was a simple solution that had a powerful effect on the rest of my life.

All thanks to a little insight from a friend. 👯‍♀️

Over my eight years helping businesses with email marketing, I’ve learned a ton. I’ve gotten elbows-deep in dozens of clients’ email campaigns and have seen what works…along with what doesn’t.

And I’ve come across a few common mistakes that almost everyone makes when sending emails. And many are things they think are helping…but are actually hurting.

If your subscribers aren’t:
– opening
– clicking
– buying from

your emails, chances are you’re making at least one — and more likely, a bunch — of these mistakes yourself.

Just knowing the mistakes isn’t helpful, though…

If all Kate said was,“Harsh cleansers make sensitive skin worse”…I wouldn’t have known how to fix the problem.

So along with talking about the 5 big mistakes, I’ll also share 5 treatments and tools so you can easily fix them…and start writing better emails today. (No weird goat milk soap required, I promise.)

We’re all just doing the best we can with what we know. If you want to know better so you can do better, keep reading to learn the 5 mistakes most people make with their emails and the action steps to fix them…

Mistake #1: Overwhelming your readers

The biggest mistake most people make with their emails is not making a clear point.

They get distracted, wander down side alleys, and never really get back to the main path they started on. (As a linguistic alley-wanderer myself, I’m totally guilty of this one!)

And it leaves readers saying:

Uh, what did I just read? And
What am I supposed to do now?

Here’s the truth:

Your readers are busy. They don’t have forever and a day to spend with your content.

So in order for your emails to be effective, you have to make a clear point in each email.

…ONE clear point.

That’s refreshing, right? For an email to make an impact, all you need to do is make one main point. Most emails would actually be improved by pruning to reveal the strong backbone underneath.

Mistake #1 Treatment: Before you start writing, decide on ONE key takeaway for your email.

I call this your “walk-away message” — the ONE thought you want a reader to walk away with after reading your email.

When you start by defining your email’s walk-away message, it will help you write more clearly and powerfully…because you’ll know where your words are leading.

(Click here to read more about crafting your walk-away message and see real-life examples.)

Give this a try on your next email and decide on your walk-away message before you start writing. I guarantee it will guide you to create an impactful, meaningful email that delivers a clear message.

Mistake #2: Looking at each email as a one-off

When you look at each message as a standalone email, there’s no flow, no context, no bigger journey.

It’s kind of like being given a Swedish Fish in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner. I mean, this is a nice flavor and all but it’s not exactly what I want between mouthfuls of stuffing and marshmallow sweet potatoes, Aunt Edna.

Your email marketing will get much, much (much) better when you look at it holistically — seeing each individual email as a part of something bigger.

There’s power in planning your email strategy up front…how something you mention in Email 1 pops up again in Email 4, or a problem you picked at in Email 3 is finally resolved in Email 7. It makes for really engaging content.

You can make sure the email you send today makes sense based on what a subscriber saw yesterday…and sets them up nicely for what’s coming next.

This is part of why Welcome Sequence Wonderful is so powerful. Because we’re working on ALL of your welcome emails at once, we can build your brand naturally over time, repeat your key messaging, and take readers on a journey to create a really strong first impression.

Mistake #2 Treatment: Plan your emails in advance

I know the thought of mapping out your emails upfront feels daunting. But it’s totally not! I made the Blog Planning Made Easy Challenge to prove it to you.

This free challenge will help you plan out 13 engaging topics, all at once. And while the training is geared towards blogging, you can use the same concept to plan out your emails.

Click here to join the Blog Planning Made Easy Challenge!

Mistake #3: Treating your subject line as an afterthought

Imagine you’re hosting a dinner party…

You laid out the cheeseboard to end all cheeseboards for guests to munch on when they arrive.

You’ve got a succulent pork shoulder falling apart in a pot of red wine and crushed tomatoes…

And your meringue nests are firming up perfectly, just waiting for a drizzle of nutella and a mound of strawberries to top them off.

You spent hours planning and executing this culinary masterpiece…so why is no one here to enjoy it?

Crap. You forgot to send out the invitations.

You shoot out a quick, “Free for dinnz? Come over!” text to your buds. But nobody responds.

Which means no one enjoys the bountiful feast you painstakingly prepared.

And unless you’re devoting time to your subject line, the same dang thing is happening to your emails!

Most people spend a whole heap of time writing an awesome email, then spend 0.2 seconds throwing up any old subject line…so it never gets opened…and doesn’t get read.

According to Convince and Convert, 35% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone.

Your subject line is the gatekeeper of your content. Don’t neglect it!

Mistake #3 Treatment: Spend 6 minutes on your subject lines

Donald Miller (one of the very few marketing voices I trust and follow) recommends brainstorming subject lines for six minutes after you finish writing your email.

Don says, “It’s going to feel like an eternity. But I promise you’ll have aha moments you’d never had otherwise, and I know the extra time and effort will help you find a breakthrough idea for your subject line.”

Six minutes is a small price to pay to get more eyeballs on your emails, right? Just set the timer and brainstorm as many ways to “pitch” your email as possible.

Consider using:
– questions
– curiosity-inducing statements
– straight-up clear benefits
– problem-focused teasers
– short, punchy phrases

…and whatever else would catch YOUR eye in your inbox. (Because if it’d make you open, it’ll likely make someone else open, too!)

If you need help with subject lines, keep an eye on your inbox…

Next week, I’ll be sharing 9 subject lines that subscribers will actually open, with specific examples from my own email marketing platform. (Ooh, baby, it’s juicy.)

Mistake #4: Being profesh to death

You know whose emails I always open? My husband Joe’s, my mom’s, my friends’, and my biz buddies’.

You know whose I don’t always open? Stiff, boring companies’.

That’s because most companies don’t write emails that are fun to read. They write emails in a buttoned-up corporate voice that are all about THEM — their products, their story, their sales and promotions.

I only have so many hours in a day. I’d rather use my screen time to read emails that make me giggle or ponder or improve my life.

Bottom line: we’re all human. And unless your emails are fun to read (and “fun” is totally objective btw, depending on your audience) your subscribers won’t keep opening.

Mistake #4 Treatment: Make your emails more fun!

There are so many ways to do this but here are some of my favorites:

1. Be conversational. When you sit down to write your email, imagine you’re chatting over coffee with a friend. How would you explain what you’re trying to say in the cafe — as a human to a fellow human? Write your email like that.

2. Speak to ONE person. Remind yourself who’s going to be reading your email. Is it a single mom who’s stressed about preschools? A grandpa who wants to start dating again? A dude who’s struggling to fit in at college?

Zero in on that person and write to him/her…not “your audience” at large. Your copy will naturally come out sounding more personal when you focus on the individual over the group.

(Need help defining your ONE person? Click here for my free Audience + Brand Clarity Workbook.)

3. Incorporate fun stuff, like emojis and gifs. There are some crazy stats saying a single gif can lead to 42% increases in click rate and 103% increases in conversion rate (source). But that’s not why I recommend them.

They’re just fun! Adding a gif easily translates emotions and makes your copy instantly relatable.

“The average GIF contains 60 frames, and is capable of conveying 60,000 words.” – Alex Chung, CEO and co-founder of Giphy (my favorite resource for finding gifs)

4. Add in drops of YOU. I mention Harry Potter more than is necessary (or normal) for a copywriter to do. But when you share glimpses of who you are as a person, it gives readers something tangible to hold on to.

We open emails from people we know and like. So make sure you’re dropping in fun tidbits from your personal life in your emails.

Related: Bring More Personality to Your Copy with the Brand Handful Method

Mistake #5: Hard on the ol’ peepers

Pop quiz: Which email would you rather read?

If you chose column 2, you’re like most of us humans who don’t want to work harder than necessary.

When we see a task that feels like work…we put it off until later. And a big ol’ thick block of words feels like work.

If you’ve also got small text…

In a hard-to-read font…

With little or no text styling…

Most people will click away, thinking it’s too much work to get through.

That’s why you want to make it super easy for people to read your emails. You can throw away the grammar lessons from high school English class…because email copywriting is way different than what you learned in school.

Mistake #5 Treatment: Make your emails easy peasy to read

Break long sentence apart into smaller, punchier ones.

Keep your paragraphs short, around 2-3 sentences max.

Use black text on a white background.

Choose a simple, clear font in a large text size. 16pt or larger is great!

Include lots of white space between paragraphs and lines. This gives your words space to breathe and makes it easy for readers’ eyeballs to quickly move down the page.

Incorporate text styling to your emails to add visual interest to your words: bold, italics, ALL CAPS…ellipses, — emdashes — *astrisks*, and underlining.

Related: 5 Tips for More Readable Emails

I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been guilty of all five of these email mistakes in the past. So there’s totally no shame here!

I just want to be the friend that shows you there’s a better way — to write more impactful content, to keep interest high between emails, and to make readers look forward to reading your stuff. So implement these treatments in your next email and let me know how it goes!

join the convo

Which of these mistakes hits hardest for you?

Mine is totally #1! My rough drafts are often 2-3x as long as my final drafts — and it kills me to delete my hard-worked words! But I know it’s needed for the good of the copy.

Let me know which is your Achilles Heel in the comments!

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© Whitney Ryan LLC

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