The 9 most annoying things about email marketing software

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Editor in Chief, Sell to Win

Getting unreasonably angry at email marketing software is one of the things that unites us as marketers.

We love these platforms in theory—how else would we be able to communicate with our prospects and customers on a large scale? Unfortunately, every leading email marketing platform seems to suffer from the same set of problems, from inadequate reporting to user-unfriendly UI.

Nutshell’s growth team has personally tried everything from HubSpot to Mailchimp to Constant Contact, and despite our best efforts, these tools never work exactly how we want them to. (In fact, we’ve gotten so tired of the little frustrations that we’re building an email marketing tool of our own. Stay tuned, folks.)

With that in mind, we put together this list of gripes that all marketers have about email marketing software. If we missed any major ones, shoot us a tweet @nutshell, won’t you?

1. The universal unsubscribe

Let’s say you add a new customer to your marketing list, and even though they’re interested in receiving product updates, they’re not a fan of your blog newsletter. (Hey, it happens.) So, they hit “unsubscribe” one day—and never get any of your marketing announcements ever again. Whoops!

Marketing communications generally come in three flavors: Ongoing communications such as newsletters, email drips that contain a specific number of messages, and one-off announcements that aren’t part of any series. Unsubscribing from one type of marketing communication shouldn’t unsubscribe the contact from the others, but that’s generally how it works, and it drives marketing teams up the wall.

2. Mushed-together engagement metrics

Different marketing communication types have different metrics of success. At Nutshell, we expect our in-trial drip sequence to have much higher open and click rates than our newsletter, because the in-trial drip is time-sensitive and directly relevant to the challenge that recipients are trying to solve—exploring and setting up a new CRM. By comparison, a newsletter is something you may or may not open, depending on how much time you’re willing to kill at your desk at the moment it hits your inbox.

Lumping together the metrics of your welcome and winback campaigns, your newsletters, and your one-off announcements tells you next to nothing about the effectiveness of your efforts. Ideally, you’d want to track the results of individual message types separately, but setting that up in email marketing software tends to be difficult, if not impossible.

Nutshell’s email marketing stats over the last 90 days, aka “the least helpful charts in the world.”

To be honest, no email marketing platform seems to do reporting well. The data these platforms provide isn’t granular enough to tell you anything useful, and it’s hard to find the info you actually need, especially when it comes to the only engagement metric that really matters…

3. No sales attribution

This is a big one. In order for your sales and marketing teams to operate as a single unit, you need to know which specific marketing efforts are turning into revenue. So for email marketing, that means…

  • Which of your new customers over a given timeframe were generated by email marketing efforts?
  • Which types of email marketing messages are most effective at generating new business?
  • Out of every 1,000 new email contacts that you add to your list, how many will become customers, on average?
  • What’s the total business impact of your email marketing, in terms of new sales and renewals?

CRM integrations can tell you how your sales prospects and customers are engaging with your emails, but even the best integrations can’t easily tell you what your email marketing is doing to your bottom line.

As we see it, fully uniting your sales activity and email marketing into one platform is the solution to this problem. Don’t worry, we’re working on it.

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4. Terrible support

One day, a certain email marketing platform that shall not be named froze Nutshell’s account without warning. It turned out that we were getting bombarded by fraudulent signups, which meant our automated trial drip was being repeatedly deployed to email addresses that didn’t exist. But we couldn’t shut down the fraudulent signups fast enough, and as a result, our bounce rate skyrocketed, causing MailChi—excuse me, the unnamed email marketing platform—to freeze our entire account.

Now, we can’t get too angry at an email marketing platform installing guardrails to prevent spammy behavior. But the truly frustrating part happened next: Trying to address the issue with their customer service team ended up taking several weeks’ worth of tedious back-and-forth, and in the meantime, our email marketing account was completely shut down. No email communications were going out to our new trials, or existing customers, or content downloaders, or anyone who filled out our contact sales form.

Anything that prevents your business from communicating with your contacts feels like a life-or-death fire drill, and you want your email marketing provider to assist you with the same level of urgency. Unfortunately, fast and friendly support is very hard to come by when it comes to email marketing platforms, and the resulting delays can put a hole in your company’s revenue.

5. Lists you used once and will never use again

Since your email marketing software isn’t tied to the customer information in your CRM, it’s very difficult to keep audience segments like “active customers” or “lost leads” up to date.

As a result, sending out a one-off email announcement usually requires you to export all the contacts you want to reach into a brand-new list. And that means your email marketing account is probably clogged with tons of legacy lists that pile up as time passes.

This does not bring joy.

Not to sound like a broken record, but we think the only way to solve this is to have your email marketing and your CRM running out of the same platform. Imagine selecting the “customers” segment in your email marketing platform with a single click, and having your email announcement actually reach those people because the data is being pulled directly from your CRM. We’re getting emotional just thinking about it!

6. Clunky UI

Using email marketing software means occasionally pulling out your hair and screaming “why isn’t this doing what I want it to!?” In one email automation platform we used at Nutshell, you couldn’t simply add a new email to an existing drip sequence. Expanding your welcome sequence from four emails to five meant creating a new sequence from scratch…which reset all the engagement metrics back to zero. 

We feel you, bud.

Email marketing platforms can also be victims of their own massive size and aging infrastructure. As Flourish & Grit founder Emily McGuire recalls, “I worked on one ESP where their load times were so slow that I’d have to click on something, do another task, and then come back to see if the page was ready for me to do my work.”

7. Off-brand design

The most important rule of visual branding is consistency. Your brand has to look the same no matter where a prospect encounters it, or you risk looking amateurish or untrustworthy. So it can be very upsetting when your painstakingly designed marketing emails include an automatically tacked-on footer at the bottom with button shapes, fonts, and colors that don’t appear anywhere else on your website.

And then there are the design compromises you’re forced to make for the sake of deliverability. To ensure that your email displays in all devices and all email clients, some email marketing software platforms block you from using HTML in drip sequences or force you to stick to specific email templates. Ultimately, you’re left with a final product that’s kind of what you had in mind, but not really.

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8. Confusing terminology and categorization

Do you use one list or multiple lists? How is a “tag” different from a “segment”? It’s hard to know if you’re using an email marketing platform correctly when there are multiple (sometimes contradictory) ways of organizing your contacts. And since your CRM uses a different set of terminology for your contacts altogether, going back and forth between the programs can feel like you’re speaking two different languages.

Contacts, prospects, customers…to us, they’re all people.

9. The ever-growing monthly bill

Email marketing platforms punish you for your success. Since most of them charge based on the number of contacts in your list, a growing audience can mean higher monthly bills that outpace your budget. (It’s actually insane what some of these companies try to get away with.)

At the time of this writing, we’re still hashing out the pricing structure for Nutshell’s own email marketing product. Suffice it to say that it will be just as reasonable as the pricing we offer for our CRM and sales automation tool. And that’s a promise.

Okay, question for the group: If you could add one feature to the email marketing software you use now, what would it be? Email growth@nutshell.com with the subject line “Email marketing wish list” and let us know!


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