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Love it or hate it, email marketing is still a powerful way to connect with your audience.

However, many people quickly get overwhelmed when they first start building their email list. Worse, many are not aware that certain email marketing mistakes can mean the difference between a thriving list and one that drives subscribers away.

As you can expect, you have to be mindful when you email your subscribers. Most solopreneurs who are trying to integrate email marketing into their business will look to outside sources for advice on how to get started. Some will search Google, post on Facebook, read blogs or watch YouTube videos.

Unfortunately, many questionable or outdated tactics are still being pushed by some big names in the industry, highlighting the fact that learning proper email marketing etiquette is essential.

how you learn email marketing matters

Solopreneurs have some relatively unique issues when it comes to learning systems to run their businesses: lack of time and resources. Especially at the start, you may not have the time and money to invest in expensive courses to learn how to do email marketing.  Because of that, many solopreneurs will receive bad advice, or be pushed to use outright scammy tactics and guilted into thinking that if they fail, it’s on them.

I’ve been there.

Too often, solopreneurs will see very high unsubscribe rates for their mailing lists and have no idea why. Because of the bad advice they’ve received from the so-called gurus, they blame themselves and think they’re not cut out for it.

That’s not true at all!

You can do email marketing, and more importantly, you can keep your subscribers. All you need is a little knowledge about common mistakes that make people unsubscribe. Of course, unsubscribes due to not being the right fit for a few people here and there is normal. But, if you’re losing too many subscribers on a regular basis, check to see if you might be doing any of the following.

1. don’t: use a font that’s hard to read

Ahhh, yes. We’re starting with my personal favorite here.

Please, don’t use tiny, or skinny, or script fonts in your emails!

Your readers may not be able to read what you’re trying to say, but they’ll definitely find the unsubscribe link. You see, more than ever people are reading their emails on their mobile phone. While your email may look acceptable to you on a desktop computer, it may be frustrating for your subscribers to try and decipher your message written in a size 9 font.

To show you what I mean, here are two emails I’ve received in the last week. This first one here made my eyes bleed. I felt like stacking 8 pairs of glasses still wouldn’t be enough to help me make it past the first paragraph.

email text

In this second example, the font itself is slightly easier to read, but still way too small. And, combining a wall of text with a small font just ends up creating a whole other monster.  

email text

do: use a good font and plenty of white space

Don’t fear white space! It actually makes your text much more readable, especially for mobile users. Embrace the Enter key. By using shorter paragraphs, you’re giving your reader some room to breathe and think before you guide them further along.

“Boring” sans serif fonts have proven time and time again to be the easiest to read on electronic media. Stick with those and make them BIG. Bigger than you think they need to be. Depending on your email service provider and the templates you are using, I would recommend a font size along the lines of 14-16.

Always test your emails before you send them out. Send yourself a copy and open it on your smartphone. Is it readable? Do all the links work? Is it properly formatted? If so, congratulations! Hit that Send key right now.

Here’s one more email example, screenshotted from the same smartphone as the two above. Unlike the first two, it’s easy to read, which makes it much more engaging. I ended up reading the whole thing.

email text

2. don’t: add too much bling

I’m a visual creative type. I love when my stuff looks good. However, email is not the place to do that.

When I first started, I used to play around with the email templates, add blocks and pictures to make them look pretty. I thought my subscribers would enjoy my beautiful emails and eagerly await the next one.

Well, that worked out about as well as cutting my own bangs. At some point, I stumbled upon a YouTube video that explained why you should write plain text emails. And just like that, everything made sense.

do: write plain text emails

If you’re tempted to pimp your emails too, you might be unknowingly hurting your business.

It’s pretty simple:

  • Too much bling is distracting and overwhelming for your reader
  • Pretty emails with pictures and subtitles scream NEWSLETTER! I’m trying to sell you stuff!
  • Plain text emails are less likely to end up in the spam folder
  • Plain text emails feel more personal, like you’re having a one on one conversation with a friend
  • Plain text emails have better deliverability
  • Images in emails often require the user to click a “view images” link in the header. Who has time for that?

The exception to this rule is a CTA (call to action) button. Having a single button with a call to action such as “Claim Your 50% Off Coupon” or “Shop the New Fall Collection” in your email makes it clear to your reader what their next step should be.

TIP: To improve your email deliverability and open rates, have a look at these email marketing tips.

3. don’t: be too pushy or salesy

I get it – you gotta sell. So do I. It doesn’t mean we need to do it in a pushy way. In fact, being too pushy or salesy is the best way to ensure your readers will scroll down and hit “Unsubscribe”. Worse, they may report your emails as spam in the process.

There’s this weird concept in the online marketing space that you need to scare the living crap out of your subscribers to create urgency and push them to buy right now.

“WARNING: 2 hours left to buy!!! If you don’t take advantage of this special offer and AMAZING b0nus worth over $100k, YOU’RE GOING TO FAIL AT BUSINESS!!!!!!!! And get eaten by a shark!!!!”

If you haven’t seen these yet, bless your heart. I’ve run into my share of them along the way and the intense aggressiveness of these emails almost gave me panic attacks, but not in the way they intended – I couldn’t find the unsubscribe link fast enough!

Yuck. What a turn-off. Unfortunately, this method of selling using FOMO (fear of missing out) and artificial scarcity is still being taught to newbie marketers as the way to do email. If this is what you’ve been told to do, you’re not alone, and I’m glad you’re reading this. There’s a better way.

do: nurture your subscribers and provide value

Your audience subscribes to your email list to hear what you have to say. They expect value. Value can mean many things, but it has to meet your audience’s needs and wants. You can provide value by:

  • Sharing personal stories
  • Sharing your knowledge and wisdom
  • Sharing one of your customers’ success story
  • Engaging in a discussion with your subscribers
  • Linking to your newest blog post, video or podcast
  • Sharing useful tools
  • Sending your subscribers a free gift
  • Sending your subscribers coupons, discounts and offers from your partners
  • Promoting your products in a gentle, non-threatening way

Yes, promoting your products can add value to your emails, if you do it the right way! The general consensus is to wait until the 3rd or 4th email to introduce your products. If you communicate the benefits clearly and your product is something your audience needs or wants, you won’t need to do much “selling” at all. Help first, promote second. This way, you’ll feel a lot more authentic and positive about your email marketing.

4. don’t: use a boring or misleading subject line

Your subject line is what gets your reader to click. If your subject line is boring, they’ll most likely send your email right to the trash, and eventually unsubscribe because they’re not interested.

“New Offer for You”

“The Female Solopreneur Weekly Newsletter for 11/11”

“Please Fill Out This Survey”

“New Products Available in the Store”

These are some seriously snooze-worthy subject lines that will most likely get zero opens. Or one, if your mom opens all your emails. They don’t stand out in any way, and don’t really offer any insight about the email’s content.

Even worse than the boring subject line is the misleading subject line.

“Vicky, You’ve Earned a Commission!”

Then the body starts with something like “Wouldn’t you love to wake up to these notifications every morning? Well, you CAN if you purchase my no-brainer offer. Even a monkey can make $1k a day pushing one button.” Uhh, that’s a hard pass for me.

“Re: Your Order”

Some gurus will tell you that using Re: makes people click because they think someone replied to their email (like a support team or something). Again, the goal is to trick the reader into opening their emails. If your stuff is genuinely good, no tricks are needed!

“Open to Download Your Powerpoint Templates”

Then, opening and clicking the link takes the reader to a sales page, where they can purchase THEN download the Powerpoint templates. Not technically a lie, I guess? But not very ethical, and most people will immediately look for the unsubscribe link.

These methods to trick readers into clicking are unfortunately being taught as “insider’s knowledge” by some prominent marketers who prey on new business owners or kind souls looking for genuine guidance.

do: craft compelling subject lines that create curiosity

Instead of relying on outdated and questionable subject line tactics, try a different approach. Think of your subject line as a headline for your email.

Great subject lines can be direct, mysterious or funny. Here are a few good ones I’ve seen in my inbox recently that got me to click.

“10 things to do in your first year in business”

“How to systemize everything”

“The red flags are always the same”

“3 things to do TODAY to be more efficient in business”

“7 headlines that practically write themselves”

“I have to fix WHAT???”

These piqued my curiosity (especially that last one) and they delivered on their promise. Yes, I want to know what to do to be more efficient in business. I could always use more tips. Yes, I want to know how others systemize their businesses. These subject lines are super clickable, and 100% sleaze-free.

Side note: Subject lines in full lower case or sentence case tend to get better open rates. They feel less corporate and newslettery.

5. don’t: forget to email your subscribers regularly

Many solopreneurs, both novice and experienced, make the mistake of emailing their subscribers too infrequently. The main problem with inconsistent emails is that your subscribers will start to wonder who the heck you are.

If you haven’t emailed them in two months and you suddenly pop into their inbox with an affiliate offer, they’ll think “Why is this person emailing me? I have no clue who they are.” Their next step is, you guessed it, the unsubscribe link.

Some of the common reasons for not emailing often enough include:

  • “I don’t know what to write about!”
  • “I don’t have time, I’m already juggling like 8 things right now.”
  • “I don’t want to come across as spammy.”
  • “I don’t know if my subscribers like me.”
  • “I’m not a good writer.”
  • “I already post on Facebook, do they really want me to email them too?”

The things is with almost all of these is that they stem from a limiting belief. “I don’t have time”, “I can’t”, “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not creative enough”, “They’re going to judge me”… Do any of these sound familiar?

Limiting beliefs hold you back from reaching success. Once you realize why you’re not emailing your subscribers often enough and which limiting belief is holding you back, you’ll feel more confident about emailing regularly.

do: email your subscribers on a regular basis

“Regular basis” here can mean many things, but the general consensus is that you shouldn’t send less than one email a month. That sounds pretty doable, right?

Most people opt for weekly emails, since it allows them to build a stronger relationship with their subscribers than monthly emails.

Some people will email daily, which can be appreciated by some audiences, and perceived as spam by others. As solopreneurs, daily emails can be realistically challenging to maintain.

A good “sweet spot” might be daily emails for one week after they sign up, so they get used to opening your emails and seeing your name. Then switch to weekly emails and share your best stuff.

One email per week is absolutely doable, whether you’re busy, or have no idea what to write about. For inspiration, check out this list of 100+ email ideas by MailerLite. A quick Google search for “email prompt ideas” or something along those lines will turn up lots of ideas you can pick and choose from.

let’s recap!

We just went through 5 of the biggest email marketing no-nos that may be costing you subscribers. Let’s briefly go over them again:

  • Don’t use a font that’s hard to read; do use a sans serif font in a large enough size and short paragraphs
  • Don’t use too much bling; do send plain text emails with a clear CTA (call to action button)
  • Don’t be too pushy or salesy; do nurture your subscribers and provide value
  • Don’t use a boring or misleading subject line; do craft compelling subject lines that create curiosity
  • Don’t forget to email your subscribers regularly; do email your subscribers weekly or monthly to maintain a relationship with them

Remember that your subscribers get TONS of emails every day, so you want to make yours valuable. A healthy number of unsubscribes is normal, and even desirable. Even your best content is not going to appeal to everyone! Unsubscribes keep your list clean and focused on people who want to hear from you.

If your unsubscribe rate is excessive, you may be losing some hard-earned subscribers who would otherwise like to hear from you, but will remove themselves from your list due to something that can easily be fixed. Try implementing these tips and you should see your overall unsubscribe rates go down!


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