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The Top 5 Email Marketing Challenges & How To Overcome Them


Posted in Email Marketing, Inbound Marketing, Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, and Lead Nurturing. 9 min read

Email marketing is a key part of a successful inbound marketing and sales process, but there are numerous challenges to making the most of this critical marketing tool.

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In MarketingSherpa's email marketing benchmark study, surveyed thousands of companies and asked them to identify their most important email marketing challenges. Their top five results were:

  1. Integrating email data with other data systems.
  2. Improving deliverability.
  3. Growing and retaining subscribers.
  4. Achieving measurable return on investment (ROI).
  5. Using email for funnel optimization

These results were far from being the only ones pointed out in the MarketingSherpa survey, but they were the most consistently high-ranked results. So, without further ado, here are some strategies for overcoming the top five email marketing challenges:

Challenge #1: Integrating Email Data With Other Data Systems

Email marketing should be an integral part of your online marketing effortsEvery marketer wants access to as much data as they can possibly get in order to create the best marketing message that will draw more customers to their company. Integrating data from various sources allows marketers to optimize the content of their emails to create better sales leads and provide customers a positive buying experience.

There are several steps to properly integrating your data systems, including:

  • Acquiring useful data-integration tools. Having the right data integration tool can allow you to easily collect and collate your results data from your email marketing, blog posts, lead management efforts, and give you a clear, understandable report to base your future marketing decisions on. HubSpot's COS program is one excellent example of a quality data-integration and management tool.
  • Segmentation- Compiling all of your marketing databases allows you to identify different consumer segments so that you can create content that specifically speaks to them. Creating buyer persona to address each of your customer segments can help you create the ideal marketing message for each of your customer segments.
  • Develop Content- The goal of compiling all of your marketing results data is to create better content. Once you know what it is that your customers are actually looking for, you can make new content to address that need, which will lead to more sales success with those customers in the future.

Challenge #2: Improving Deliverability

Are your emails getting bounced? The issue of deliverability is a matter of acquiring and maintaining accurate information for contacts. Basically, your deliverability rate is the ratio of the emails you have sent versus how many messages that actually make it into the inboxes of your intended recipients. While one might assume that any email that is sent will make it into the recipient's inbox, not every message that is sent will make it into an inbox.

When an email fails to go to a recipient's inbox, this event is called a "bounce." There are two kinds of bounces:

• "Soft" bounces, which are temporary and usually the result of a full inbox.
• "Hard" bounces, which result from a more permanent error, such as the email in question not existing.

Bounces are a problem for two reasons. One, internet service providers may block you if you have an especially low deliverability rate. Two, a very low deliverability rate represents wasted time, money, and effort trying to reach nonexistent contacts.

The solution to this challenge? Practice great email hygiene by:

  • Regularly updating and maintaining your email contact list. Are there contacts in your email list who never open or click your emails, or engage your website? You should have metrics for such information in your marketing software. If a contact has been inactive for a long time, remove that contact from the email list.
  • Rethink your email opt-in process. Try adding an extra step or two to your email opt-in process, such as entering email information twice, or using an emailed confirmation, or both. This helps to eliminate the honest mistakes that can happen with any form of data entry. Sometimes, a customer is not intentionally giving your company the wrong data, but just missed a digit in their 26+ character long email address.
  • Give contacts the ability to update their information. From time to time, a customer might have to change their email address. Either they lose access to an old work email, or they just need to switch addresses to reduce the amount of spam they are getting. Whatever the case, if you make it easy for them to keep their contact info up to date, they are much more likely to self-report an address change.

Also consider asking them to self-report their preferences for email communication, such as the frequency and content of their emails. This allows you to give them content that is more meaningful to them as frequently as they are comfortable with. Another benefit is that this can help with the next challenge:

Challenge #3: Growing and Retaining Subscribers

This can be a tricky process for many email marketers, which would explain why it is in the list of top five email marketing challenges. While pruning inactive subscribers to lower your undeliverable email rate is a good thing, it is also important to add and retain as many active subscribers as possible in order to make sure your marketing is reaching enough people to generate business.

To this end, many marketers go to the extreme of buying email lists and using those to send unsolicited messages (also called "spam") to people who may have no interest in the products that their company offers. This is a problematic practice at the best of times, and a viciously self-destructive one at the worst of times. Even if the emails that you purchase are viable, it is unlikely that these random people will engage with your company's marketing message, causing them to unsubscribe or list your emails as spam.

Instead, a better strategy is to use good inbound marketing practices to earn your email subscribers rather than buying them.

There are a few things that you can do to earn subscribers, such as:

  • Give the customers a clear value proposition when they opt-in. When a customer asks "why should I subscribe to your email?," what is your answer? What is it that they will get out of being in your email list? Create a value proposition that answers the concerns of your key buyer personas, whether it is tips and advice for common issues in your industry, meaningful product updates, or even special offers that they cannot get elsewhere. If the customer does not have a reason to open your emails, then your emails will be ignored.
  • Target your emails to match buyer personas. Create emails that give customers a message that addresses their pain points. Segmenting your email lists based on the information you have about them, such as where they are in the sales funnel and their interests, can help you create a targeted message that appeals to them.
  • Test, optimize, and repeat. Optimizing content to earn subscribers is an ongoing process. Check your metrics, learn what messages are working and which ones are counter-productive, and constantly evolve and refine your process to make it better and respond to new trends.

 Download the Intro to Email Marketing Guide

Challenge #4: Achieving Measurable ROI

Take your prospects down the sales funnel the right way with your email marketing effortsThis particular challenge can actually be closely related to the first challenge on this list. Knowing your ROI for your marketing efforts depends on your ability to collect and collate all of your data from your email marketing. If you do not know how your email marketing efforts are influencing your sales process, how many website visits they generate and how many sales occur as a result, you'll never know just how worthwhile your email marketing efforts are.

If you want to verify just what your ROI is from your email marketing, you will need to set up a Closed-Loop Marketing system. This means having a system in place to track a contact from the point where they first visit your site and become a contact, through all of their interactions with your website and email marketing, to their final conversion into a customer. It's important your marketing and sales team are aligned with their goals as well; for some help with that, check this out. 

A strong closed-loop marketing system will not only help you track your ROI from email marketing, but will give you a sense of the ROI from all of your other marketing efforts such as your blogs, website optimization, and even social media marketing. This can even help you with your efforts to integrate your email data with your other marketing data systems.

Challenge #5: Using Email for Funnel Optimization

Using email is only one part of a larger strategy for optimizing your sales funnel. However, it is still a key piece of your overall sales strategy. While some marketers might only send one email blast and leave their email marketing at that, there are better practices for using email to optimize a sales funnel.

For example, you can set up a system of lead nurturing emails to automate the process of qualifying a new sales lead. Instead of having to wait for a contact from a representative, your new sales lead can be engaged right away with an email that will create an opportunity for them to give your company more information that can be used to identify their place in your marketing segmentation. Such automation reduces the time a new lead has to wait for contact, which improves your close rate for deals.

Creating effective lead nurturing emails relies heavily on your ability to collect reliable data about your customers and your sales process. A good lead nurturing email system is a series of automated contacts, not just a single email that is quickly forgotten. If you can stay on top of optimizing such a system, it can prove to be invaluable to your efforts to increase your sales closure rate.

Free Ebook: Introduction To Email Marketing


Download the Intro to Email Marketing Guide