You’re Doing It Wrong: 5 Email Marketing Conversion Killers

Stop These Email Marketing Conversion Killers

Today, Chris Hexton, founder of targeted email marketing software, Vero, is going to look at 5 email conversion killers and teach what you can do not to make the same mistakes.

Better yet, Chris is going to be the special guest on our free webinar next Tuesday, September 24th entitled: 5 Steps to An Email Campaign That Converts.

Watch and learn as we take a look at some common mistakes that can really put a dampener on your conversions and what you can do about it. In tomorrow’s webinar Chris will cover even more examples like this and provide you with a plan on how to structure your email marketing campaign lifecycle to produce a conversion machine.

1. Do You Overuse Images?

HTML-rich emails are here to stay. They have a place in every email marketers arsenal and can provide some dramatic results.

but it’s all too easy to forget that up to 60% of customers have images disabled and that many customers will be viewing your emails on small, mobile devices.

You don’t want your email to look like this:

mixpanel no images
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Having a single image with a poor ALT tag could literally mean you’re cutting out half of your audience. If you are an eCommerce store or find that HTML-heavy emails convert really well then it can be hard to avoid this situation but you can start to work around it by including descriptive ALT tags that at least give the customer a good idea of what the email is about and why they should view it in full:

mr porter image email
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The above is a great example from Net-a-Porter, who make over 1 million pounds a year from their email campaigns alone, but for a world-class example, check out this campaign from photography site 500px:

With images disabled
With images disabled (Click for full-size image)
email with images enabled
With images enabled (Click for full-size image)

This example is simple and equally as clear (and potentially appealing) when images are disabled.

2. Did You Segment Your Email List?

Segmentation, segmentation, segmentation! By using technology to make each outgoing email category-specific, Totes Isotoner (an online retailer) was able to lift email revenue by 7000%. No, you didn’t read that wrong.

Using the data available to you is what sets a good campaign apart from a bad one. Technology now allows you to send one-to-one emails. Take this campaign from American airline jetBlue:

JetBlue Reactivation

A fantastic example of a re-activation campaign, the personalization here is an example of truly modern segmentation.

MailChimp broke down some of their customers’ data and found that, on average, customers that segmented (i.e. used data they had related to customer profiles) had click-through rates that were 21% higher than the norm. That’s a strong case for segmentation.

3. Do You Provide Too Many Choices?

If you’re going to have a call to action: have a single call to action. Too often email campaigns have multiple offers, 10 different images to click, multiple links or different buttons that push readers down conflicting paths.

As with landing page, a single, dedicated call-to-action is the most powerful way to maximize your conversions. Repeating this call to action is even better.

Here’s an example of a busy campaign:

Email Marketing Multiple Calls To Action
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The links in the header, the multiple different offers and the conflicting imagery will, more often than not, create confusion and drive down your conversions. This may seem illogical, as you might think it ‘caters to everyone’ but this is rarely the case.

Here’s an example of a similar campaign with a single call to action:

Single CTA Email Marketing
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…and this isn’t just true for HTML emails. Take this example from KISSmetrics advertising a webinar. You’ll notice they repeat the CTA in the body and again in the footer:

kissmetrics webinar repeat CTA
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Another example, with a lot of data to support it, comes from this case-study by Help Scout. Rather than sending the three most recent articles in their blog newsletters they A/B tested a new template with a single call to action and lifted the conversion rates by 17%. Not bad for cutting out some content:

Helpscout click through
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If you’re freaking out, remember that segmentation doesn’t have to be complex: it can start as simply as understanding the most important attribute about your customers. ASOS proves this with a simple, unobtrusive subscribe form that gets the most important segmentation done in an instance:

ASOS Basic Segmentation

4. Do You A/B Test Your Emails?

Online marketers spend hours and hours tweaking and testing every element of their landing pages and funnels. As an Unbounce reader you’re no-doubt data-driven so you should be but, all too often, marketers forget to run even simple A/B tests on their emails!

Dan from WPCurve recently sent over a great example of a simple subject-line test that yielded an increase in 28% in clicks from variation A to variation B, all just by changing the subject!

Increase clicks subject line AB test email
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The great thing is that it’s easy to run an A/B test and there are a lot of things you can test including: your signature, the from address, the subject line, HTML vs. plain text, the primary image, responsive templates and the wording your call to action and so on.

This example from Litmus showed how Tsubo was able to A/B test a new responsive template and lift conversions by 10%:

Responsive email template

So, next time you’ve crafted one of your awesome email marketing campaigns, sit back and walk through the following five steps to test something new:

  1. How could I re-write my subject line to inspire curiosity, greed or fear?
  2. Could I test a different CTA using a button, different copy or new colours?
  3. Have I tried a simpler, rich-text version of this email before?
  4. What other imagery could I use to better convey my message?
  5. Could I make my content shorter, longer or more succinct?

Often setting up an A/B test is part of the ‘home stretch’: the last 10% of your email marketing campaign setup. It can however be the 10% that leads to an 80% increase in your results – so give it a try!

5. Do You Only Send One Single Email?

No matter what industry you’re in, 9 times out of 10 you’re not sending enough emails!

A SaaS business that sends one welcome email? Missing out on conversions.

An eCommerce store that sends just one cart abandonment email? Missing out on conversions.

A blog that sends a single campaign to introduce their area of expertise? Missing out on conversions.

It’s easy to assume that sending more email means sending spam but this is rarely the case. If you have your customers’ permission and a focus on valuable concert you should embrace series campaigns to increase your conversions.

Rules of thumb:

  • Focus on education whenever you can.
  • Send up to 3 emails per week, spaced a few days apart.
  • Link your emails together: build momentum.

When you nail series campaigns, here are the sorts of results you can achieve. In this example you’ll notice that Kareem’s open rates climb with every email he sends and, by the last, the click-rate has soared to 25%. Imagine if Kareem had sent just a single email!

Lifecycle Email Marketing Example

Kareem used this tactic to educate customers about his area of expertise and increase trial signups for his only product SocialWOD.

For an entirely different example, Amazon are the masters of series campaigns. Take a look at the emails one customer received after searching for DVDs:

Amazon Email Marketing DVD

Each email will be different, some featuring specific offers based on what the customer browsed:

…and others featuring educational content:

amazon lifecycle email campaign
Click for full-size image

If you want to learn how you can structure better series campaigns then tomorrow’s webinar is for you: we’ll be going over how to use targeted landing page to capture engaged leads and what a series of educational emails can mean for your conversions.

So there you have it: 5 things that you should avoid if you want to maximize your email marketing conversions.

To see more examples and grab more tips to put you ahead of the pack, check out our free webinar on 5 Steps to An Email Campaign That Converts.

See you tomorrow,
— Chris Hexton

About Chris Hexton
Chris Hexton is a co-founder of Vero, email remarketing software that helps businesses send and optimize lifecycle emails. He loves helping businesses improve their email marketing and, in his down time, reading and playing guitar. You can get in touch with him via @chexton or check out
» More blog posts by Chris Hexton


  1. Nile Lars

    Hi Chris,

    I am agree with your all points. I am also managing email campaign for my company. Earlier, There were many images are there in email and also it was not mobile friendly. I am using mailchimp and I had observed that there are very few mails are there which are opened for some time and also got very few click. After this analysis that we can have good revert by decrease using of image and making mobile friendly email copy.

    After these changes, I have noticed that click have been improved and also got some sales with this campaign.

    Overall, We need to think for all these point while creating email campaign for promotion.


    • Chris Hexton

      Spot on Nile, you’re so right and it’s great to hear of a case-study where this panned out.

      If you’d ever like to chat or even share some of this great data with the world I’d love to write about it.

      It sounds like you’re a smart marketer. Keep it up!

  2. Dan Mazzini

    Very interesting post, but, for the open rates that climb with each follow up email, I’d like to see the unsubscribe rate too.

    PS you might want to fix this typo: “customers have emails *disabled*”

    • Stefanie Grieser

      Hi Dan!

      Thanks for letting me know about the typo. Let that one slip through! It’s all fixed.


    • Chris Hexton

      Thanks Dan and that is a good point, i.e. what is the rate of subscribers left at each stage. I don’t have that data but I’ll see if I can follow up as I know Kareem a little. I don’t believe he has seen a massive drop-off throughout his educational course, but you never know!

  3. RandyG

    Using a single image as per the example is great, but will that not upset the text:image ratio. Sure, you can use text as image, provided you’re happy to have a solid background, but the example used above doesn’t – surely that’s too much image?

    • Chris Hexton

      Randy, the example above is definitely on the ‘extreme’ end when it comes to it but it’s a good one to highlight the ‘SINGLE’ nature of the CTA. Image to text is massive. I always recommend to see what spam filters think of your campaigns before you send them out (if in doubt) and, in this instance, I’d have thought they had too much image as well ;).

  4. Mark Ford

    Personally I don’t include images in my emails as I’ve found a few of my customers cant view them, mainly due to opening on a mobile device.

    I’m not sure about sending multiple emails out though. Sounds a good way to ramp up the number of unsubscribes.

    • Chris Hexton

      Mark – images can be hit and miss. I agree completely and testing usually determines what your audience wants.

      As to multiple emails, this is a hugely common question (will it increase unsubscribes). Over and again I’ve seen it have a minimal impact on unsubscribes with a solid impact on conversions so the net effect is usually much greater. As Dan Mazzini mentions above, it’s definitely best to look at ALL the stats and make this call.

  5. Steven Macdonald

    Great post, Chris!

    I published a post yesterday titled “5 Killer Email Marketing Mistakes To Avoid” and we manage to cover similar points:

  6. Morten Storgaard

    yes Amazon is the crowned king of testing :) heard a keynote from one of the marketing guys several years ago – very inspiring!!

  7. Jose Argudo

    Usually I don’t like those emails that are mainly an image, recently I’ve received some that were more like an infographic than an email. I’m sure most suscribers weren’t able to see the full email correctly, but those who did, converted? I like testing because what we usually think is best some times is not the same our subscribers want to receive.

    • Chris Hexton

      Data is king Jose and I agree that in this post I had a lot of image-heavy examples. It depends on what the email is about (products vs. welcome emails) and the audience (business, consumer, young, old, mobile, etc.)

      Preaching to choir no doubt!

  8. Randall Magwood

    I thought for sure emailing your list EVERYDAY would be on the list. This kills conversions also.

    • Chris Hexton

      Next time ;). Do you have some juicy stats to share Randall? It’s hard to find solid stats on email frequency so I love hearing about those sort of details!

  9. Bravo

    The point about too many choices is good. We target ONE call to action for each campaigns making it effective. And ofcourse segmenting makes it much more targeted.

  10. Darragh McCurragh

    Boy, this collection is worth a book. I actually rarely use HTML, I rather prefer to have people look at plaint ASCII text, then click on a link for the ’embellished’ version and -as you stated- mostly just one call to action.

    • Chris Hexton

      You are too kind Darragh. Plain text is amazing, I have seen some stellar campaigns in plain text and also seen a lot of people make a lot of money with simple emails. Keep up the good work.

  11. Daniel

    Love the point on having a single call-to-action. Clutter just looks bad, and turns the reader off! I think it is definitely the case that, if there is less clutter involved in the body of your email, the more conversion rates you are likely to receive. In fact, this was 1 of the 3 tips we came up with for email marketing over here: Great minds think alike, Chris :)

  12. devendra

    Hi nice post

    Email Marketing is a highly cost effective, fastest and efficient way to reach huge numbers of potential / targeted customers. An advertiser can connect directly with their targeted customers. They can communicate for various offers, new products, changes and announcements etc to their audience almost instantly. It is an unavoidable tool for online marketing.


  13. Jeniffer

    Make your E-mail marketing conversion excellent by adding Live2Support live chat with your landing page. E-mail reader might be interested to ask some query at the same moment when they read your mail. Live chat will help you convert readers/website visitors into sure customers. Its a nice tool to conversion.

  14. Aidan

    Thanks for mentioning these mistakes. I totally agree with all your point however third point is really interesting.

  15. Clinkscales

    I totally agree with your second point.

  16. WhatMenSecretlyWant

    Thanks for mentioning these points. It will surely help me.

  17. VO Genesis Guide

    I will use these tips in my next campaign.

  18. Best Cure For Diabetes

    Thanks for showing these mistakes and I will try to avoid it.

  19. Rendy

    I found out, that the best email newsletter is without any image or anything like that. Just blank white page with black text and it works ! Maybe people are tired of colorful newsletters etc…