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5 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2024

5 Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid in 2024

Email marketing is where it’s at friends. While you may not be doing it actively now, you know this to be true or you wouldn’t be here looking for ways to do email marketing more effectively.


Well, that’s what I am going to deliver to you today. One of the sessions I attended by Nancy Harhut of HBT Marketing, which specializes in marketing campaigns driven by behavioral science, walked through email marketing mistakes that could be hurting your brand.


Here are my top five takeaways for small businesses from her session so you can avoid these mistakes in 2024. (PLUS, what you can be doing instead.)



Mistake 1: Not using brackets in your subject lines.

Mistake 2: Making it all about you.

Mistake 3: Spelling out numbers in subject lines.

Mistake 4: Using even numbers.

Mistake 5: Avoiding the F word.

Mistake 1: Not using brackets in your subject lines.

Research in the last year has shown that adding brackets to the beginning of your subject line can increase open rates by as much as 19% for B2B emails according to Worldata, the go-to for email marketing data analysis.

So instead of…


Here’s that free guide you requested!




[GUIDE] Your copy is inside!


Why is this so effective?


Quite simply, because most people aren’t doing it so when you do, it stands out even more in an overflowing inbox.

Mistake 2: Making it all about you.

Think about why you subscribe to someone’s emails? (Maybe the DCM VIP list for example.) Unless it’s your BFF or a family member, it’s not because you want to know the minutiae of their life.


It’s because there is something in it for you.


This could be inspiration, education, entertainment, whatever, but it’s ALWAYS about you as the reader.


Unfortunately many businesses tend to forget this perspective when it comes to sending out their own emails.

It should NEVER be all about you.


It should be about what the READER will get from it.


Want to share an update on what you’ve been doing? Go for it! As long as it is done through a lens where the reader will either be inspired, entertained, or learn something from your storytelling.




Bad SL: We’ve got some exciting updates!!


Good SL: You’ve got to see this!


Both of these may have the same announcement on the inside (such as a baller new website designed by yours truly), but the letter conveys the same news in a way that benefits the reader.

Mistake 3: Spelling out numbers in subject lines.

Traditionally we are taught to spell out numbers less than 10 and use numerals for anything higher than that. When it comes to email though, you want to throw that rule book out the window.


“The human brain craves ease and order and our eye is drawn to things that are different,” Harhut explained. Numerals combine.”


While the writer in me has a hard time with this grammatically, she is right from a marketing perspective.


Which would catch your attention more of these two subject lines:


A) Five Ways to Improve Your Brand Reputation

B) 5 Ways to Improve Your Brand Reputation


Clearly the answer is B right? Because a numeral stands out more to the human eye. Capitalize on that!


This also nicely leads me into the next mistake to avoid.

Mistake 4: Using even numbers.

This reminds me of my days in magazines when, you know, printed issues on a newsstand were a regular part of life. We are taught as journalists to always use odd numbers when writing cut lines (i.e. what shows up on the cover) because it’ll stand out more on a shelf.


Nancy backed this up further with a Harvard study concluding that odd numbers perform better than even ones because they seem more specific. The only exception being the number 10, which we find “cognitively fluid.” (i.e. easy to digest.)


So avoid even numbers in your subject lines (and article headlines) to really keep eyes gravitating towards your content over others. Be odd friends. Be….

Mistake 5: Avoiding the F Word.

No, I’m not talking about the one that can’t be uttered around tiny humans. I mean the word “free.”


“But Channing, I want to be seen as high-value and not cater to bargain shoppers. I prefer ‘complimentary’.”


You know what? I did too. Until it didn’t work 👎🏻  Both of these words convey the same message “getting something for no payment”, but one of them is emotionally charged and one is not. Triggering emotions triggers actions, like buying from you.


“Free” is emotionally charged. Our consumerist society has us hardwired to gravitate to free things, whether they are called free or not.


So yes, you may sound more high brow with “complimentary,” but you’ll capture more eyeballs (and elicit more conversion) with the word FREE. Eyes = potential clients or referrals.


Use it in the subject line and you’ll get as much as 2x the open rates on that email.


And let’s be real: people with deep pockets like free things as much as the next person.

BONUS: Resend your newsletter within three days to boost open rates.

This is a tip from last year’s conference that still holds true 12 months later. Whether you send out a newsletter monthly, quarterly, or just with a promotion at the holidays, the RESEND is almost as important as the original.


Why? Because during the holidays we are even busier than we are any other time of the year. This means that even with the best tips above, we miss things.


A non-open on your email isn’t always a “I don’t care about this” message from your subscriber. It could simply be a “I didn’t see this in the shuffle of life.


So wait three days from the original send, add a new subject line (using tips above!), and resend to those who didn’t open it. You probably won’t have a 100% open rate, but you WILL have more opens and that, my friend, is a win!


Want some 1:1 help planning your end of year campaigns? 

Book a FREE strategy session on my calendar and let’s get you moving in the right, less-stressed direction.




*Data: Unless otherwise stated, all data points referred to below have been gathered & provided by OutcomeMedia, which is in the business of email marketing data so yeah, they know this stuff.

Channing Muller is an award winning marketing & public relations consultant and the principal of DCM Communications. She works with event professionals and business owners to grow and scale their businesses with refined marketing strategies developed through one-on-one and group consulting, customized marketing programs and public relations. She has been named a "25 Young Event Pro to Watch" by Special Events magazine and "40 Under 40" by Connect Meetings. Channing is an avid runner, lover of labrador retrievers, good food, delicious drinks, and an advocate for the American Heart Association. Follow her on Instagram @ChanningMuller.

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