3 Email Marketing Automation Mistakes To Avoid

March 22, 2019
Written by
Kelsey Bernius
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

3 Email Marketing Automation Mistakes To Avoid

Email marketing automation simplifies a lot of elements of your job as a marketer and makes you generally more efficient when planning and executing your campaigns. But despite this, it’s wise to be aware of some of the risks so you don’t let your wins go to waste.

This post breaks down some of the more common email marketing automation mistakes, and how you can avoid them.

Mistake #1: Too much, too soon

It’s easy to let your ambition take over when you’re starting to implement any new program, especially email automation. But one of the primary risks of email automation is that your recipients will get placed on too many new automated flows at once. This may also be entirely unintentional on your part, but regardless is likely to have a negative effect on your recipients.

Your recipients may become irritated with the increased frequency (even if the content may be more targeted based on the email automation) and end up unsubscribing from your email list or marking you as spam as result. Either scenario is not good, but, fortunately, you can mitigate this risk with a little preparation.

Solution Start your email automation program simply with only a few email flows. From there, visually map out or whiteboard your automated email workflows (also known as recipes) so you can see where there might be too much overlap. Less really can be more, so don’t feel like having fewer automation flows diminishes how effective and powerful your email program can be.

Once you’ve started sending your first email automation, keep a close eye on your engagement. Focus your energy around your most telling engagement metrics such as open and click-through rates. If these types of metrics start to dip (how much will depend on factors such as your list size and baseline metrics), this might mean that you’ve crossed the threshold of too much sending.

Check out our Email Benchmark Report to learn about email metric benchmarks broken out by industry. And for more on finding the email sending sweet spot, check out our Fighting Email Fatigue blog post.

Mistake #2: Losing the personal touch

As you start to streamline and automate your email campaigns, there is a risk that your email content will start to lose personality. The last thing you want to do is sound like a robot to your audience. (Note that this can also happen with your 1 to many email blast campaigns too.)

No matter what type of email you’re sending, email content and voice is critical when you want to stand out in the inbox and get your recipients’ attention.

Solution Spend considerable time on email content creation. Writing to your audience and creating visuals should not be an afterthought to your campaign, it should be the focus of your workflow.

Another strategy that enables you to send the right message at the right time is to examine your email segments and ensure that they are accurate and up to date. The more granular your segments are–for example, recipient behavior is an excellent segment to create on your list–the more relevant your content can be. (Just make sure you are always following the solution for mistake #1 here too!)

For example, you may consider going beyond just segments that divide those who rarely open your emails and those that regularly open, click, and even share your content. Maybe you have recipients that are super interested in (and click on) only promotions, while others seem to engage more with content marketing pieces.

For more on how to optimize your email segmentation, check SendGrid’s Essential Guide to Email Segmentation.

Mistake #3: Not updating your preference center to reflect the increase in emails

There is going to be a good chance that most of your recipients will receive increased emails from you once you start automating your email program (see mistake #1). If you don’t update your preference center to reflect the new campaigns, there is going to be a disconnect between your audience and your email content.

Solution  Make sure that your preference center is crystal clear and doesn’t require extra steps. The faster someone can update their preferences and modify how many emails they receive, the better. Although each preference center will look different and provide different options, make sure you’ve accounted for new flows and whether that creates a new “type of email campaign.”

Learn more about optimizing your preference center by checking out Email Preference Center Perfection. And don’t forget that even if people have filled in a preference center, you will still need to monitor their actions and whether their engagement reflects the preferences they’ve selected.


Email marketing automation is an exciting technology that can provide much relief to email marketers no matter what industry you work in and how big or small your email programs are. As you work towards adding email marketing automation into your program, keep in mind and be aware of:
  • Email overload: Sending too many messages (automated or not) to your recipients will increase the risk of unsubscribes.
  • Generic content: Don’t lose the personality in your email content and make sure you have an accurately segmented list so that whatever emails your recipients receive, they are relevant and valuable.
  • Preference center adjustments: If you’re adding different types of emails into your email automation program, make sure your preference center reflects that so that your recipients can opt out of certain emails (keep your delivery rates high!).
And finally, don’t forget to have FUN with your campaigns. If you’re just starting out with email automation, put yourself in your audience’s shoes and let those creative juices flow!

For a deeper dive into all things best practices for email marketing automation, check out our Automation Best Practice Guide. And if you’re interested in learning more about  SendGrid’s automation tool, we've got all you need to know.

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