The 5 Most Common Email Marketing Problems and How to Solve Them

Melanie Balke
May 3, 2023

For all its benefits, email marketing can cause major problems for some companies. Bourgoning business owners and solo entrepreneurs often find themselves on a time crunch, and email creation is the last of their worries.

But that doesn’t mean you can ignore this lucrative marketing channel! Emails remain one of the top earners for brands, and well-written campaigns have the potential to change the trajectory of a company. Your email marketing campaigns can become one of your biggest income sources; you need only to overcome those worrisome email marketing challenges.

Here’s the good news: I’m here to help.

If you’re trying to break into the email world, listen up! I’m here to tackle five of the biggest so-called “email marketing challenges” and tell you how to overcome them.

1. “I Don’t Have an Audience!”

Empty theater seats. "Problem #1: 'I Don't Have an Audience.'"

The first hurdle to any email marketing campaign is the audience.

After all, if you don’t have anyone to email, why should you put in the effort?

Well, beyond the potential boost to your revenue, email marketing campaigns have the power to attract new subscribers, and those readers can eventually become paying customers. It’s true that your first few batches of email campaigns may have poor results, but that doesn’t mean you should give up!

There are plenty of ways to net new customers. However, for today’s blog post, I’ll be focusing on two methods: lead magnets and targeted advertising.

Invest in Some Lead Magnets

A row of fishing poles. "Lead Magnets: Attract new website visitors and boost retention."

Lead magnets are some of the best-kept secrets in modern marketing. Think of them as a big, irresistable bowl of free candy on your grandma’s coffee table. They’re attractive, flashy, and they hit a sweet spot with customers. More importantly, they’re a fantastic way to kick-start the subscription process.

A lead magnet is a bit of content that encourages website viewers to subscribe to your contact list. Once someone signs up, they’ll receive the first of (hopefully) many promotional emails with the relevant file attached. They’re like personalized content without all the fuss, partially because the people engaging with them are already interested in what you’re offering.

At their core, lead magnets are a way to drum up guaranteed interest. They’re highly targeted ideas packaged neatly within some introductory email content. Much like a welcome email series, a lead magnet campaign often nets high engagement rates and even better open rates.

Well-made lead magnets are also great ways to offer solutions that help other companies. Guidebooks and checklists are common examples, and brands using those templates are constantly exposed to your company’s name!

To make a long story short: Lead magnets are a cost-effective way to create new relationships.

Use Targeted Email Campaigns to Reach the Right Audience

A bullseye on a dart board. "Targeted Emails: Use data to create personalized content that's truly relevant to a new subcriber."

Another way to gain subscribers is targeted email marketing. This is less about pre-made material and more about catering to your active subscribers.

Targeted marketing strives to send relevant emails that discourage users from hitting the unsubscribe link. The idea is that subscribers are less likely to disengage with content they’re interested in, while bored consumers are more likely to contribute to negative metrics (e.g., bounce rate and spam complaints).

Now, it’s worth mentioning that targeted email marketing is not a standalone strategy. It’s at its best when it works in tandem with another tactic, such as personalized subject lines or interactive content.

Nonetheless, targeted email marketing offers consistently high ROI and decent engagement rates. The flexibility of the tactic also makes it a multi-purpose tool that’s perfect for cold emailing!

2. “I Don’t Know How to Write Code!”

Older digital devices, including a Commadore. "Problem #2: 'I Don't Know How to Write Code!'"

The second most common email marketing challenge I see is that people don’t know how to write HTML code, much less CSS or JavaScript. These languages are essential parts of any email campaign, yet they’re far from universal.

But I’ve got some great news.

I’m not a coding wizard, either!

That’s right! You don’t need coding know-how to start your email marketing journey. In fact, many email marketers have no coding knowledge whatsoever, and they still rock those bulk emails.

The bottom line of this point is that 1990 was 30 years ago. We’ve come a long way since then, and there are countless user-friendly email design programs that make entertaining your hard-earned subscribers a simple click-and-drag process. However, if you’re still in doubt, here are two additional ways to overcome your code-phobia.

Try Your Hand at Some HTML Conversions

Deep space, as photographed by the Hubble telescope. Courtesy of the National Archives. "HTML Conversion: A widely available option for making simple emails."

Most of the click-and-drag designers these days are glorified forms of visual HTML conversion. They’re constantly running code behind the curtain, and that code is left behind for you to copy and paste into your campaigns.

That being said, there are some dedicated HTML conversion programs that take your vision in and push HTML-compatible formatting out. Each automated engine uses slightly different strategies, but the result is the same.

Some email marketing programs even come with built-in HTML conversion platforms!

Consider Starting With Plain-Text Emails

A 1918 order form for Underwood typewriters, courtesy of the National Archive. "Plain-Text Emails: A temporary soluton as you start your email journey."

Unfortunately, HTML converters are far from infallible. They make mistakes, and broken code is a huge turn-off for most new subscribers.

If you’re worried about that, it may be worth downgrading until you can find a trusted code-savvy partner.

More specifically, I’m suggesting that you consider using plain-text email campaigns. You obviously won’t show off anything flashy, but bare-bones advertising is always better than sending broken emails to new subscribers!

Now, it would be wrong of me to suggest this as a permanent solution. Multimedia digital marketing gets more engagement and is better at displaying things like social proof.

Plain-text emails are temporary solutions to a larger problem, so don’t grow complacent! Seek out implementation and design specialists while sending emails because visually stunning design will improve your marketing efforts.

Peruse the Many Templates Available for Email Marketers

Cookies and cookie cutters. "Templates: Easy-to-use ideas for your everyday email marketing needs."

Alternatively, you can use the most universal solution.

Email marketing templates are easy-to-use pre-formatted designs that anyone can use. At most, you’ll need to rewrite the content and add some photos. For additional flair, you can tweak the colors to match your brand, but that’s not strictly necessary.

Even better: Email templates are a dime a dozen! Most email marketing platforms come with built-in templates, and you can find plenty more online. Brilliant minds have crafted templates for nearly every occasion — from welcome emails to anniversary reminders — and the resulting visual appeal boosts customer retention.

The ease with which you can create a campaign may become a bit too much, though!

Don’t send too many emails. Practice moderation and pare your message down to the bare necessities. After all, with great power comes great responsibility.

3. “I Can’t Think of Anything to Send!”

A computer with lines of code on the screen. "Problem #3: 'I Don't Have Enough Content!'"

Here’s another perirenal favorite: “I don’t know what to send emails about!”

First of all: Relax! If you’re out of ideas, that’s okay! Check your own inbox and see what other companies are doing, then reinvent those ideas. You can also browse the web for an example or two. Check your user data and see what people are responding to, then build from there.

Harvest That All-Important User-Generated Content

A drawing on buffalo skin, courtesy of the National Archives. "Using UGC: How user-generated content can amplify your marketing."

Still out of ideas?

User-generated content (UGC) is as old as trade, and it remains a popular way to entertain subscribers. Emails that use this data cultivate the ancient marketing practice of “word-of-mouth advertising.” And, even better, you can use the same content on any other marketing channel!

But! (And this is a very, very big “but!”)

You must always acquire permission before you use other people’s content in your bulk emails. Not everyone is as flattered by mimicry as you may be, and failing to attribute the words or images to the proper source is just as damning. The same goes for any other digital marketing campaign. Ask first, then use that content.

If the user denies your request, do not persist. Gracefully accept the denial and find another fan. Remember: It’s hard to find new customers, but it’s easy to lose old ones.

4. “It’s Just Too Expensive for Me!”

Piles of assorted paper bills. "Problem #4: 'Email Marketing Is Too Expensive.'"

While I offer many solutions, this may be the deal-breaker for you.

Let’s face it. Marketing costs money. Even the most cost-effective methods can be a hefty investment. Many more brands are discouraged by poor initial results, and their message is ultimately abandoned.

This is something I can’t fix, unfortunately.

But if you really want to amplify your marketing power, email marketing is well worth the initial investment.

Consider Using Free Trials

A naturalization petition, courtesy of the National Archives. "Free Trials: Get started for free and build your legacy."

One of my only tips to reduce email marketing expenses — beyond hiring a great marketing agency — is to make use of free trials.

Many companies offer free versions of their product. These “trial” offers are understandably limited, but they often cover the most basic forms of email marketing. You can use these no-cost tools as you grow and invest in the paid version when you’re ready.

But beware! Some companies aren’t the best at playing well with others, and you may end up learning a platform that won’t scale with you.

5. “Well, It Didn’t Work for Me…”

A John Deere tractor. "Problem #5: 'I Already Tried, and It Didn't Work.'"

Finally, we come face to face with the most frustrating of email marketing challenges. I can’t count the number of times someone has told me they tried email marketing, and it “didn’t work” for them.

Whether it’s because of spam folder magnetism of irrelevant content, many of the naysayers claim that email marketing is dead.

In truth, the problem is strategic. Email marketing is a multifaceted production, and good marketers understand that email deliverability must be at the forefront of any new marketing campaign. You can’t run headlong into email marketing without “warming up” your email, slowly increasing the volume and frequency of your marketing messages. Otherwise, the internet Powers That Be often deem your content to be ingenuine, and it’s relegated to spam folders.

There are many other causes for apparent spam folder magnetism, too.

Using “spam triggers” in your subject lines (e.g., certain words, phrases, and improper or excessive punctuation) reduces your email deliverability. Failing to properly declare your identity can prompt mass spam complaints. Even irrelevant content can turn subscribers away from your brand.

Hire a Strategic Partner

Overlapping leaves, the generic image of The Email Marketers. "Hire Experts: Invest in an agency and acquire a team of marketing experts."

The real solution here is to hire a specialized email marketing agency.

Want an example? Well, how about The Email Marketers?

My team understands the ins and outs of this lucrative marketing channel, from buyer personas and personalized content to segmentation and scheduling. We know how to reduce that unsubscribe rate and boost the reputation and power of your branded email address.

If that sounds great to you, give me a call! We’ll have a free strategic chat and see how The Email Marketers can help you.

Don’t forget to check out the rest of my blog for more data, tips, and guides, too!