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6 Reasons That Can Lead to Email Automation Failure

If done wrong, email automation can do more harm than good. Learn about the pitfalls that can lead to email automation failure and how to avoid them ...

Automation is a great way to streamline your email campaigns, but it is imperative to watch for common pitfalls before you set this path. 

Automated email responses are one of the best examples of this because they give off a sense that your company has no human employees and is solely focused on making money – not giving good customer service. When it is evident in your message that you have automated your emails, people may see your business as impersonal or inattentive. This could lead to poor engagement rates in the future.

The following are some ways in which email automation can go wrong:

1) Boring and spammy subject lines

Readers do not open email messages with subject lines that they deem boring or spammy. They can make you lose the reader’s interest. It is important to capture your readers’ attention in just a couple of seconds as they might be receiving hundreds of emails every day.

It is better to have an original and attention-grabbing subject line instead of using “Re:”, “Reply” or the old-fashioned “Hi”. The subject line should be short and sweet.

Once you know what kind of subject lines are working the best for you, begin implementing the right ones in your emails. Ensure that each email campaign has a different and unique subject so that readers do not lose interest, keeping drop-offs from soaring.

Expert tip: There are software that can help you create interesting subject lines. They will help you test what kind of subject line is your target audience most receptive to in order to maximize the effectiveness of your email campaign.

Here are some ways in which you can write catchy email subject lines:

  • It should answer the questions, “What is in it for me?” and “How can my life get better?”.
  • The subject line would draw your subscribers’ attention. Remember that this is usually the first thing they see when checking their inboxes, so you need to make sure that it catches their eyes right away.
  • The subject line should make your subscribers curious. You should ask questions like “What…?” or “How…?”. For example:- “What you can learn from your mistakes” – “Increase your sales by 30%” – “How vacuum cleaners keep indoor air clean”.
  • Meet reader expectations by ensuring that your subject lines match the email content. This would boost retention and engagement in the long run.

2) No top-of-funnel growth

Marketing automation should not be a channel by itself. It should always be integrated with your top-of-funnel strategy and work in sync with other marketing channels to drive lead generation for growth.

The ultimate purpose of marketing automation is lead generation. If you are not generating enough leads, then why would you use it at all? 

This is another avenue where email automation can fail miserably. If your email marketing automation tool does not have an integration with the most crucial channels such as SEO, PPC advertising or social media, then you are missing out on a large chunk of traffic that can convert into leads.

Encourage your team to include traffic generation from all top-of-funnel sources in the automation process instead of converting them into a one-way route where you are just giving information or pitching products. That will ensure that every lead generated is qualified and ready to receive your offer.

However, you should not stop at just top-of-funnel traffic generation. Think about how every blog post or article you share on social media drives people down to the landing page. That is where your marketing automation process becomes critical to build those leads into a customer who ultimately pays for your products and services.

3) Using the same email automation message

a) For Every Customer:

This can make a professional business look unprofessional. Unsolicited emails are hard to accept, and people find it easy to ignore them. So if you use the same automation message for multiple customers or prospects, they may not respond positively to your email.

b) For Different Products:

Although this may seem like a logical idea, it is quite unwise to use the same email automation message for multiple offers. The reason for using this strategy can be convenience: one template saves time and effort. However, customers may find such messages annoying and unnecessary. Also, your business will appear less professional.

4) Poor email segmentation

Automated email marketing campaigns can also fail if the email senders do not make sufficient efforts to segment their list. It is very important to disseminate emails. Hubspot reports that Marketers who do so can clock as much as a 760% increase in revenue! 

But this is not the only reason to implement email segmentation.

If you don’t use segmentation, it will be considered spamming and may result in your automated emails being blocked or unsubscribed by the recipients.

Why does it happen? Spam filters look for keywords used in spam messages to rate your emails as junk emails. Mostly, these words are related to products and services that you sell directly via this channel (low-quality content). If there is no relationship between the sender’s brand and the recipient’s consumption needs at a given time, the emails will be marked as non-relevant. 

Some quick steps to segment email lists can be:

  • Think from the recipient’s perspective: what are their interests? If they don’t match with your content or offer, then it may not be a good data set to utilize in the first place.
  • Use the segments to call a relevant and custom message with the right offer
  • Insert appropriate keywords into the email’s content
  • Test and monitor frequently

Repeat the steps above with smart data analysis. The goal is to segment your data before you create the email campaign.

5) Multiple bad email addresses in your email list

It is important to set up a reliable list for your automated email campaign. 

For email lists, the acceptable unsubscribe rate lies between 0.2 to 0.5%. So if you are above this range, it is a cause for concern. If you send emails with an incorrect address, or if the person on the list has not engaged in conversation before, then it puts the open rates at risk. It can also sometimes lead to ISPs skipping these recipients when they are checking bounces/no response lists because of this inconsistency.

If you’re trying to achieve higher email deliverability, follow these best practices:

  1. Ensure that the information you have on your contact list is valid and up-to-date
  2. Check email addresses against a verified database such as your own CRM list
  3. Make sure that you have enough information to be able to ensure deliverability. It’s important to get permission from all the people you’re about to send emails to
  4. Find out how other businesses are doing it wrong
  5. Have a professional email address that avoids numbers, symbols or special characters
  6. Include a subject line with the person’s name in it
  7. Keep individual emails at no more than 6 lines long
  8. Keep subject lines to about 25 words
  9. Limit the number of links in one email to 3 links

6) Poor click-through rates of emails

Your email-automation campaign is designed to nudge subscribers to take action, whether it’s to deepen engagement by checking out a new video on your site, using a discount coupon, or making a purchase. While it’s not an exact representation of the lead completing the action, the click-through rate reflects how successful you’ve been in getting them at least some of the way there.

Now you may not be familiar with the term click-through rate, but you’ve definitely seen it. It’s that little number on your email marketing reports next to a headline or subject line and it tells you what percentage of recipients clicked on a particular call-to-action in an email. Click-through rates are generally super low, so it’s easy to get discouraged and wonder if email-automation campaigns even work at all. According to Campaign Monitor, the average CTR of your email campaigns are only about 2.5%.

Since you want a high click-through rate (CTR), you should be asking yourself questions like:

  • Is the headline appealing?
  • Is it clear what my email is about?
  • Does this subject line invite action?

And in an effort to get better CTRs, you should optimize your email marketing headlines, subject lines, and calls-to-action. But here’s the thing – not all email automation campaigns rely on click-through rates for success. Some are designed to nurture relationships with subscribers using engagement metrics that don’t always require clicks.

No matter the case, you need to figure out which strategy works the best for you with sufficient trial and error (read A/B testing)!


Email automation is a powerful marketing tool that can help you grow your email list and market to customers with personalized messages. However, it’s important for marketers to keep in mind some of the common reasons that an email campaign may fail and have a fallback strategy for each of these!

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Kevin George

Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing full-service email marketing companies. He is an email enthusiast at heart and loves to pen down email marketing content. You can reach him at or connect with him on LinkedIn.



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