7 Reasons Why Your Email Marketing Program May Fail

  |  May 2, 2013   |  Comments

Make sure there is clear value to your subscribers, you're paying attention to the right metrics, and leveraging the tools you have.

The problem with mediocre email marketing is it often still works. So lies the pitfalls of any underachieving email program. The CMO may see cheap, easy revenue each time an email is sent. So why would you invest more when it works and it's so bloody easy? Any savvy digital marketer knows it ain't that easy. Let's look at some common problems and if these hit close to home - do something about them.

  1. No clear value to your subscribers. A small "Sign up for our e-newsletter" button doesn't cut it in this age of digital clutter. Not only is it often hard to find your email signup form but it certainly isn't clear why any right-minded and busy consumer or professional would provide you permission to send her communications based on that. Oh, and you are wondering why your list isn't growing? Start here.
  2. Email program purpose is adrift or not defined. Start with reassessing (or defining) business goals. Too many email programs drift without purpose. An email program where the primary purpose is driving company revenue has a different approach than one where the main purpose is to drive awareness and engagement. Any and every email program must have a purpose and you should be able to articulate that to the CEO in the elevator.
  3. Paying attention to the wrong metrics. Not all programs are measured alike but the majority of email marketers still obsess over open rates and list size. This is often the case because they are evaluated based on this. One head of a big brand email program told me his bonus is based on these metrics. So, forget if this program is overachieving in delivering page views, social engagement, brand awareness, or even revenue (the horror!). Think outside the inbox in terms of how your program (and each campaign) should be viewed.
  4. The details matter. Sweat them or hire someone to do that. Coding, creative design, frequency, content, deliverability, and subject lines all matter. Oh, and don't forget to understand how mobile is impacting your subscribers' email consumption habits, as I would bet it would be impactful for just about any client these days.
  5. Ill-equipped to hit home runs (or even singles). We often find poor digital marketing managers responsible for web, social, mobile, and search, not to mention a complicated and multi-layered email program. How can you keep an eye on inbox placement when you are monitoring social comments and have to launch a paid search campaign that is responsible for your monthly leads? It's hard enough to do any of these things well, much less swing for the fences on one of them. Often the head of digital may not understand this situation and an ambitious and pragmatic marketing pro will be able to find support (internally or externally). You and your brand deserve this, so make the case for it. You may be surprised what you get when you make the case for what you need.
  6. Your creative and content is stale. Email creative is making a comeback in a big way. The new technology and smarts available go beyond the simple templated approach that many marketers still employ. Reusing offline (or even web) assets may be a quick and painless route to "getting the email out," but will it accomplish your goals? Investing in creative and content development (don't forget that the coding matters!) is done in other parts of your marketing departments, so do this for your email as well - your subscribers will respond in kind. If nothing else, test!
  7. Not leveraging the tools you have. Most email budgets still get dominated by email software and volume. Not that this is a bad thing and there is certainly more to a robust program than a killer platform, but use what you have. Now more than ever there is a plethora of great tools and features at all price points. Too often marketers buy on the wish list and use email send 1.0 features. You want to impress your boss and engage your subscribers? Start using automation features, data capabilities, and other "beyond the blast" technologies that your email provider likely offers. Or get your hands dirty (or hire someone to do so) and figure out what moves the needle. It is much better than a new request for proposal (RFP) because your program hasn't moved the needle (see item three for defining that) and your boss thinks a magic new email system will do the trick.

What have you seen make an impact to prevent the email inertia that often rears its ugly head this time of year?

Bad Email image on home page via Shutterstock.



Simms Jenkins

Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, North America's leading email marketing-focused digital agency. The award-winning firm specializes in elevating email marketing and digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs, and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a world-class client list including Affiliated Computer Service (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, Phillips66, Porsche, and Southern Company. The agency was recently ranked among the fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.

Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association for being the top agency marketer and the Email Marketer of the Year at the Tech Marketing Awards held by the Technology Association of Georgia. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is regularly cited by the media as such and called upon by the financial community to provide market insight and consulting.

Jenkins is the author of two definitive and highly regarded books on email marketing; The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson's Financial Times Press in 2008). Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news and commentary in the world, online or off. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers.

He has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Bloomberg TV, Wired Magazine, and scores of other leading publications and media outlets. Jenkins is a regular speaker at major digital industry and general business conferences.

Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of and, the leading authorities on email and social media metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media.

Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors among other civic and professional boards. He is also a mentor at Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech-based startup accelerator program. Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood with his wife and three children.

Follow and connect with Simms on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, The BrightWave Blog, and his book websites at and

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