There are a lot of myths out there: For instance, some say the Loch Ness monster is real, and others say lightning strikes in the same place twice.
Oftentimes, it's fun to discuss myths with friends and debate whether or not they're true.. Sometimes, the most popular myths are debunked by those who really want to know the truth. After all, that was the premise of the show "MythBusters".
Here, we're going to debunk myths, as well. But, instead of looking at myths about nature or stars, we will look at myths in the marketing world — and, more specifically, those surrounding email marketing.
But it's possible that your company isn't investing as much in email marketing because of the myths you've come across. If that's true, you might be surprised to learn how some of these have been debunked by HubSpot email marketers.
Top Myths, According to HubSpot Email Marketers
Whether you’re an email marketing veteran or just getting started, you may be operating under certain common misconceptions about email that have been disproved by research.
Additionally, your email may be getting dull due to a lack of experimentation or inspiration. Maybe you’re aware that it’s time to switch up your email marketing, but it can still be hard to know where to begin.
Knowing these myths before you start your next email campaign can help you improve the effectiveness of your emails.
1. Using the word 'free' in emails will cause it to be sent to the spam folder.
While the language you use to construct your emails is important, keep in mind that there might not be as many rules as suggested when using making emails.
According to one of HubSpot's Email Enablement Project Managers, Amanda MacDonald, "My least favorite email marketing myth is that using certain words like 'Free,' or exclamation points in your email will cause it to go to the spam folder."
The wording you use in the body of emails keeps subscribers engaged as they read the message, so it's unlikely that certain words will cause the email to be regarded as spam by the email browser's filtering system.
For example, I received this promotion email, which uses the word "Free" in its subject line. The email was sent straight to my Promotions tab, where I engaged with the message:
"Email engagement is what determines if your email goes to the spam folder, so focusing on what drives engagement is key," MacDonald states. "If that's exclamation points or certain keywords, you shouldn't be afraid to use them. The key is knowing your audience and your data."
So if you've seen that engagement tends to be higher when you use language like, "Free deal!", don't shy away from turning to what works — email browsers won't filter the message as spam.
2. Millennials don't subscribe to marketing emails.
Adobe found that millennials check and use their emails more than any other age group. If your target audience includes millennials but you aren't implementing an email marketing strategy, you may be missing out on a way to build customer relationships from a different channel.
The key to successfully marketing to millennials through email is focusing on quality over quantity. Though millennials prefer to engage with brands through email, too many emails may lead to fatigue from the age group.
You can always A/B test emails to see if it would be an effective move for your campaigns. Additionally, you can gauge the type of emails your millennial audience prefer as a result of testing.
3. Inserting video is an automatic engagement booster in email marketing.
"There is a lot of buzz about how including videos in your emails is great for email engagement," recalls Jackie Lee, one of HubSpot's email deliverability specialists. "However, including an actual video file in an email can be really bad for deliverability."
This is because if large files, like video, are included in your email, it may impact the formatting — and, therefore, deliverability. Recall that deliverability focuses on the content of emails as much as its legality, so it's important to make sure your emails look clean and professional.
However, this isn't to say that you should never add videos. In fact, Lee suggests that, "Including a picture of the video with a play button overlapping the image that links to the actual video will ensure that you have a key element for engagement without risking poor deliverability."
Check out this email I received as an example:
The video isn't directly embedded into the message, but the play button has a link that will open another tab to play the video game's trailer. The email's formatting didn't suffer for the sake of a video and it was sent to my main email folder. I was still able to interact with the content without deliverability being impacted.
4. Email marketing is a 'dead' practice.
Sometimes, it may seem like low engagement from subscribers points to the phasing out of email marketing. However, it has been found that 78% of marketers have seen an increase in engagement over the past year. This data from HubSpot suggests that email marketing is still an effective marketing tactic.
If you're finding that email marketing isn't providing as much ROI as you're expecting, it may be time to redesign your strategy. Personalization is the growing trend in successful email marketing campaigns, as well as emails that are responsive.
When you design emails to be highly targeted and optimized for multiple devices, you are increasing the chance of subscribers being delighted by your messages. For instance, when I see my name in the subject line of a marketing email, I feel like it was made to fit my interests.
Take this email I received from a real estate site. This website sends listings based on web behavior. Getting sent targeted emails like that made me interested to check out more properties on the website:
Eventually, I began to look forward to these emails so I could scour the site for more listings. The extra step of personalization in emails told me that the team working for this company cared about providing value to me through every stage of the buyer's journey.
5. Emails are incredibly easy to design using HTML.
Are you familiar with the coding language needed for email design? I'm definitely not — I'd rather use email software to help me construct beautiful messages. But if you've never made a marketing email from scratch before, they may be more difficult to design than they seem.
This is because HTML doesn't follow a basic set of rules for email providers, which is tricky when you want to design something specific and don't know how. You might write a line of code that won't make sense to the email browser, ultimately impacting email deliverability.
According to HubSpot's Conversational Marketing Manager, Oluchi Ughanze, "HTML for web browsers is like an art class where everyone paints the same still life using the same materials. The painting might look different, but that’s because of the artist, not because of the still life or the colors."
Marketing email design looks a little bit different. "HTML for email, however, is like an art class where, though you’re painting the same still life, everyone is given different materials. So it’s not as consistent to work with."
"The only thing tying them together," she continues, "Is the still life assignment, but nothing more. In this analogy, the still life is HTML, the materials are the clients or web browsers."
Some things for HTML can look intimidating, but are pretty easy to pick up. For example, I'm pretty confident in my ability to bold text in a line of code if I need to. Other things, like email design, are a bit trickier.
For an easier, cost and time effective remedy for powerful email design, check out some email software tools that do all the HTML for you — so you can focus on delighting your customers.
6. Email subject lines have to be short and straightforward.
It's become tougher to keep the busy mind of a subscriber engaged with marketing messages. But your subject lines don't have to be short in order to keep your reader occupied.
It's good to be concise with your wording, but it's better to inform readers of what will be inside your email to avoid misleading messages. For example, I get email notifications from Patreon, a membership service platform, when the creatives I support upload new content. It's helpful to know exactly what they're uploading so I have an idea of when to interact with what they've posted.
Sometimes, though, that subject line can look a little lengthy:
From the subject line of this email, I know exactly what the email will contain: exclusive live show details for patrons. Knowing this made me excited to open the rest of the email. But if the subject line stopped after the word "Show," I wouldn't have known the exclusivity of the content and might not have been as compelled to open the message.
Consumers prefer interact with their favorite brands through email, so be sure to communicate the impact of your message using as many characters as necessary. Chances are, those who subscribed to your emails generally enjoy the messages you're sending out, so you can be a little more lax with how you use subject lines.
Myth 7: A spam email is just a poorly designed email.
When you think of what a spam email is, what comes to mind? I think of a sketchy-looking message that looks like it was made in the 1990s, like this beauty that landed in my spam folder not too long ago:
However, that's not entirely the case. While this email isn't the best in the looks department, that's not why it was marked as spam. "Some people think spam is super badly formatted garbage mail, but spam is any unwanted bulk marketing email," explains Allpomonia Roman, email deliverability consultant at HubSpot.
The reason this email was marked as spam is because I never subscribed to the email list from this sender in the first place, not because it's not great to look at. As Roman notes, "I could get an exceptionally targeted email from T.J. Maxx, for example, but if I didn't sign up for those emails, it's spam."
When you're constructing your email list, check it twice, and make sure all subscribers chose to opt-in to your emails. Otherwise, there's a good chance that it will be marked as spam.
I don't have a favorite episode of "MythBusters." They're so compelling to learn about — and sometimes, dive into a rabbit hole with research. Now that some of these myths have effectively been busted by HubSpot marketers, which of them are you most interested in trying out for yourself?
Originally published May 25, 2020 6:15:00 PM, updated June 10 2021