Five Email Mistakes You’re Probably Making (and Don’t Even Realize)


Religious organizations have the highest email open rate of any industry, according to email research from

My theory is churches, synagogues, etc. place a high value on community engagement. Emails centered around the community, not the organization itself, do better because they answer the critical question “what’s in it for me?” (more on that in a bit).

When comparing email statistics from 669,419,234 sends, MailChimp discovered the Religion industry (48.6%), Manufacturing industry (48.1%), and the Photo/Video industry (48.1%) enjoyed the highest open rate. By comparison, the Daily Deals industry had the lowest open rate at 19.1%.

If you’re not seeing these results when you send your emails, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

Here are five reasons why your emails aren’t measuring up to the average.

Email Mistake #1: Your Emails Are Too Cluttered

Email Newsletter Cluttered

It’s a no-brainer, really.

I don’t know about you, but when I see emails like the one on the left, I start getting heart palpitations.

My eyes have no clue where to start. I’m immediately overwhelmed. Most likely, I’ll hit delete within 7-12 seconds.

More important than what you say is how you say it. In other words, the way you design your emails matter.

Give the eyes a break. Guide the readers with visual cues. Use images, bulleted lists, short blocks of text, and plenty of white space. Design for success!

Email Mistake #2: Your Emails Are Too Wordy

This goes hand-in-hand with Reason #1. Emails fail when you try to cram every last piece of information into them. Remember, you’re sending an email, not writing War and Peace.

Emails work best when they point the reader elsewhere. In other words, emails should function as an appetizer, not the main course.

Tease people with your emails. Give them just a taste. Provide a link which sends them to the main course. Here’s a great example from Evernote:

Evernote Newsletter

Can emails be sexy?

This way, readers can scan quickly through the email, finding information that’s relevant to them. Online readers are scanners—studies show we only read about 20% of online content.

Optimize for your readers and see better results.

Added bonus: When you use emails to send people elsewhere (e.g. a blog, website, social network, etc.) you get the perk of increased engagement on other online platforms. Hooray!

Email Mistake #3: Your Emails Lack a Call-to-Action

Are you asking your email readers to do something? If not, you’re missing out. Big time.

You’ve spent all this time and energy building your email list, finding helpful content, and writing your emails, and now you’re not going to capitalize on it? What! Are you crazy?

It’d be like getting down on one knee and never popping the question.

It’d be like eating Oreos without any milk.

It’d be like…well…something that really bites. Point? DON’T DO IT.

Lead your reader on a journey and then ask them to do something. It doesn’t matter what, although it should be tied to one (or more) of your organizational or individual goals.

Here are a few stellar examples of calls-to-action:

Frank & Oak

Frank & Oak CTA

Fine, I’ll click.


Zirtual CTA

Love it.


Want more sales? Ask people to buy in a clear way.

Want more volunteers? Ask people to sign-up in a clear way.

Want more donations? Retweets? Shares? Views? ASK.

People are smart and, most often, accommodating. If you ask nicely, you’ll get what you want (but not always. Email’s powerful, but it ain’t no genie!).

Be clear in stating your desired objective. Don’t make people guess. Respect the inbox.

Email Mistake #4: Your Emails Are Too Infrequent

That’s right. I said it. You’re not sending out enough emails.

This sounds counter-intuitive, but the more emails you send the lower the unsubscribe rate. In fact, email lists contacted once a month have the highest unsubscribe rates. Wild!

Data courtesy of Dan Zarrella.

Data courtesy of Dan Zarrella.

My theory on this is simple: People don’t like to be an after-thought. If someone signs up for your email list, they’re communicating to you, “I’m in. If you get too wordy, I’ll let you know (by unsubscribing). In the meantime, gimme what you got!”

If you up your send count, make sure you’re communicating something of value. Don’t arbitrarily send emails that say, “Hey, it’s Tuesday! What a great day!” or “Have you guys seen the latest viral video from the interent site, It’s hilarious!” Which leads me to our last point.

Email Mistake #5: Your Emails Are About You

Marketer's check list

If your emails read like your blog’s “About” page or your organization’s “History” page, you’re doing it wrong.

Email lists which actively bring value are the ones readers stay on. If you’re yapping about how great your company is or how many awards you’ve won or how cute your dog is, well, you’ll get the results you deserve.

Before you hit “SEND”, answer these questions from a reader’s perspective:

  1. Why should I read this?
  2. Who cares?
  3. So what?
  4. And probably the most important question of all, “What’s in it for me?”

The reader wants to know how they benefit. Bottom line. Answer this question and you’re off to the races. (I learned this lesson the hard way when I asked readers to unsubscribe if they no longer found value in my emails.)

Keep it reader-focused and you’ll find success.


I’ve made every one the mistakes above, multiple times. When you make efforts to correct them, even one at a time, you begin to immediately see results. It’s so simple, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the hardest to implement.

If you do nothing else: Take heart! You can write successful emails. This whole post boils down to one simple principle: respect the inbox. Think of the emails you enjoy reading. Notice why. Replicate those elements. Enjoy results!

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I help people share what matters most.