5 Pervasive Email Challenges – and How to Fix Them

  |  April 17, 2014   |  Comments

There are many things that can wrong in an email marketing campaign, from conception to delivery. Here are five of the most common challenges, and simple steps to take to fix them.

The email marketing train is a constant and fast-moving one. It is hard to get off at the high speed and seemingly even harder to slow it down and take in the view. I know many email marketers that find it very hard to change less-than-successful practices or gain momentum on new techniques and strategies. However, there is hope! Email marketers share many ailments, but the remedies may not be as painful as one would expect.

The Most Important Things Are Done at the Last Second: 

You would never choose your brand name, where your office or stores should be located, or who should run your company at the last minute, but we make most of the crucial and impactful decisions at the last moment of our campaigns. Sometimes email marketers literally think about the subject line right before pressing send, as an almost necessary evil.

The subject line and your second subject line (aka preheader/preview text) are so important, especially since 65 percent of emails are opened on smartphones and/or tablets (according to Movable Ink). This is how consumers and busy professionals are reading (really skimming, at best) your emails and deciding if they will delete immediately or engage with your email whether on their mobile device or back on a laptop or desktop.

Quick Fix: Create or update a campaign brief where you outline what the key business goals are, value to your subscribers, and options for the subject line and pre-header during this phase (ideally to test). Given the context of the strategic planning, your subject line will likely be stronger than at the end of a tactical to-do list.

Asleep or Inertia as the Mobile Tide Surges:

I was recently speaking to a smart group of 100 digital marketers, almost all who were involved with their email programs, if not outright managing them. Not a single hand went up (yes, I know that is not statistically pure) when I asked if anyone knew how many of their subscribers were reading their emails on a mobile device. After I was given CPR, I counseled them to make this a priority.

Quick Fix: Knowledge is power. Lack of knowledge can be a career killer. You can't develop a mobile strategy if you don't even know how many subscribers are edging toward a true mobile audience. Ascertain this data so you can build the game plan. A simple tracking pixel can get it. Ask your email partner to assist if you are stuck on how to implement this.

Having a Generalist Creative Team Design and Code Your Email:

Great email creative is often not great Web creative and vice-versa. The old mindset of no one wanting to design emails because you can't design email is long gone and a new generation of tech-savvy designers knows what separates a functional and fantastic email and it is a very different build than designing a website.

Quick Fix: Not an easy one at some companies, but invest in experts who solely focus in this area. Whether you're a creative director, freelancer, or email agency, don't settle with generalists who very likely don't have a passion for email. A good guide is sharing emails that you love, why you love them, and discussing internally can help steer any email newbies with potential.

Operating in a Vacuum:

You want respect, right? Then earn it. Star with ensuring your email program is not siloed within your company, much less your marketing organization. One way to do that is to share your high-level scoreboard/dashboard type business metrics with many people outside of your immediate team. Articulate what is working, how progress has been made, and anecdotes from your subscribers or internal stakeholders. This will allow you and your program to be more visible and everyone wins in that scenario.

Not Understanding How Email Works:

It's kind of what you do for your job, right? You probably should have a deep and complete understanding of the basics of how email works.

Quick Fix: Read this from fellow ClickZ columnist Derek Harding.


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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