We have a fresh, unblemished new year ahead of us, and it’s the perfect time to rethink what you’re doing and recommit yourself to becoming more effective. Why not improve something you plan to do over and over in the year ahead, like email marketing? This post will help you identify the things you might be doing wrong now, so you can fix them and get better results in the new year. Take a look at a recent email, and see if it makes any of the mistakes below.

1. It’s hard to read

Email marketing is all about communicating your message. Emails that are hard to read waste your time and the recipient’s time too. Check your email for these errors:

  • The font is too small. Even if you’re emailing a list of 20-year-olds, many (if not most) are viewing your message on a small mobile screen. Do them and the rest of us a favor, and bump up the size to at least an 11 point font.
  • You’ve got too many colors, and they’re way too bright. If you want people to associate specific colors with your brand, pick two, and apply them consistently to all of your marketing, including email. Think outside of the crayon box too! Use subtle colors that look more sophisticated than bright, flashy ones. (More on brand colors here.)
  • You don’t have enough contrast. Adjust sections of your email where you’re using text on a colored ground for maximum readability. Do this by increasing the contrast of the type against the background. (In other words, no medium grey type on a dark grey background, please.)

Do the “walls of text” test on your email. When you step back and squint, does your email look like one long, unbroken wall of text? If so, shorten your copy (see below for more on this), and use visual breaks to make it more appealing. This means hitting the return key in the middle of long paragraphs to break them up, and adding subheads and bulleted lists to make your information easier to scan.

2. It’s too long

Time is of the essence for all of us. You don’t want people to file away your email to “read later” do you? You want them to act on what you’re sending! So make your emails easier to digest by keeping them short and to the point. It’s more important to stay in touch on a regular basis than it is to send a long email that looks like a chore to read when it hits the inbox.

3. It’s all about you

Before I state the rule below, I should tell you about the exception. If your email marketing is of the “daily deal” kind, this doesn’t apply to you. But for the rest of us — and I dare say most of us — pay attention to this concept. If every email you send is a promotion that says, “Look at me! Buy from me!” people will wander away. Why? Because every email is opened with this question in mind: “What will I find inside for ME?” If you’re not delivering helpful information, tips, and resources on a regular basis, you’ll end up being ignored, or worse — unsubscribed from. As Gary Vaynerchuk says in his book, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World:

“We have to remember to give, give, give before we ask.”

Be helpful, entertaining, or both. Give — a lot — before you send promotions. Keep the lines of communication open by earning your place in people’s inboxes.

4. It’s not consistent

To build recognition and a relationship with people on your email list, it’s important to be consistent in two ways: Design consistency means sending out emails that have a similar look and feel. After going through and making them more readable by using the advice in section one, stick with your layout and resist the urge to make changes. It takes many months — and sometimes years — for a visual brand to “sink in” and be recognized. Stay the course and don’t tweak. Arrival consistency means sending emails on a schedule people come to expect. It’s difficult to commit to doing something on a regular basis when resources are limited. But sending emails on a consistent basis is key because it builds trust and recognition. Plus, you’ll be working against a self-imposed deadline, which is a big motivator for getting things done.

Over to you

What are you going to work on in the year ahead? Let me know in the comments and let’s talk.