7 Deadly Sins Of Email Marketing Campaigns


How often do you spend more than three seconds glancing at each of the emails in your inbox? For me, after I’ve scanned and made mental notes of the important personal- or work-related correspondence, I ruthlessly “move to trash” almost all of the other emails I’ve received, sentencing them to an eternal purgatory in cyberspace.

Yet, research shows "89 percent of marketers consider email important to achieving their business goals.” It takes something remarkable to catch most people’s attention and get us to open, read and then act on an email campaign. As I scanned through my spam and trash folders, I noticed seven deadly sins most of these email campaigns committed. Here are seven sure ways to commit cardinal email marketing sins, and the steps you can take to avoid them.

1. Send out too many emails.

We’ll call this one a toss-up between envy; gluttony, over-indulgence to the point of waste; and lust, defined in part as an intense desire for money, wealth, food, fame or power. In this case, a marketer’s intense desire to tell his customers about something he thinks they will love---and purchase---grows into a barrage of emails sent all day and night. If a reader’s not expecting multiple emails per day, seven days a week, he or she is going to be annoyed. Don’t let that unsubscribe button tempt a potential customer! Instead, be transparent about how often you’re going to contact your customers from the get-go. While there’s no magic number that will guarantee the perfect reach, take time to research what your audience expects and wants. Which leads us to the second deadly sin of email campaigns...

2. Don’t treat people like people.

What we want to avoid here is the pitfall of pride, or the failure to acknowledge others. Don’t treat your audience like text-reading machines. Delight them with your understanding of their wants. Knowing your audience is a key component to successful email campaigns, so for the purposes of our example, we’ll think about pride in the sense that we have to understand what the customer wants, not what we think they want.

Did you know that 40 percent of people say they enjoy receiving marketing emails from their favorite brands? Or that 77 percent of consumers prefer marketing communications through email? Those statistics are proof that treating people like people and giving them the information they want in entertaining, engaging ways, leads to success.

Even not-so-good news presented in a thoughtful manner can boost your return in email marketing. Just recently, one of my favorite home design retailers found itself in a situation that required a massive recall of merchandise due to claims of plagiarism from one of its suppliers. I happened to preorder some of the items that were recalled, and I was pretty disappointed to find out my order would be cancelled. In the email I received, the situation was clearly explained and cancelled orders adequately apologized for. Additionally, the company went above and beyond, linking to its blog, where it provided a longer explanation of the situation and why it chose to respond the way it did. I was impressed by the brevity of the email, which got to the point, paired with the link to the company’s blog, which gave customers the option to find out as much as they wanted to know. Despite being disappointed by not getting the product I wanted, I ended up browsing the website again (and actually making another purchase!). That's good email marketing despite a tough situation!

3. and 4. Write a boring subject line and yawn-inducing copy.

Check out this statistic: 64 percent of people say they open an email because of its subject line. That means almost two-thirds of your readers are making their decisions based on the first hundred-or-so characters they see. Your subject line is not the place to get lazy (sloth). Work hard here, and you give your email campaign one of the best advantages it can have.

Here are some tips about designing a well-performing subject line:

Once you’ve crafted an awesome subject line, be innovative in your email body copy. Make sure it’s aligned with the subject, and use appropriate visuals to highlight the content. And keep your copy succinct.

5. Forget to focus on your call to action.

Customers don’t want to click delete wondering “what’s the point?”. Give them a suggestion of how they should respond, and create a sense of urgency. Here are some suggestions for drawing focus to your call-to-action:

  • Design it to stand out from the rest of the body copy.

  • Use action-oriented language (verbs like “get” and “claim,” for example).

  • Reiterate the call-to-action in case it’s missed the first time your potential customer scans through.

  • Engage, but don’t alienate. This article cautions not to let your call-to-action morph into pushiness.

6. Make it impossible to unsubscribe.

Does it surprise you that one of the deadly sins I’m comparing this to is anger? Probably not! If you’ve spent any amount of time searching for that tiny button, only to be forced to click through four separate screens before receiving a message that may or may not confirm you’ve successfully unsubscribed, you get it. Don’t get greedy and pass that frustration on to your potential customers.

Though we don’t want any our audience to unsubscribe, it’s required. Use the unsubscribe button as a learning experience.

  • Provide more than one subscription option. Maybe the reader wants your emails, just not as frequently. Maybe they’re only interested in one type of email you’re sending. Don’t let a potential customer quit cold turkey because they couldn’t just subscribe to fewer emails.

  • When appropriate, show your reader you’re sad they’re leaving. Tell them they’re valuable to you, and you want them to remain subscribed.

  • Ask for feedback. Find out what on your website or in your business is not working for your target audience so you can make changes if needed.

7. Forget to say thanks.

Say thank you to your audience. Whether that’s a literal “thanks!” or an incentive for responding to a survey, an sincere attempt at showing appreciation is one small, but important, detail that separates you from everyone else.

Now that you know what not to do, and have some options for what to try instead, you’re almost ready to press send. Just make sure you are tracking what’s working and what needs to be adjusted in your email marketing campaigns. You can even get a specific call tracking number to see if your campaign is generating a great response. Good luck, and keep on testing!

Now you tell us: what’s the best email campaign you’ve been seen lately?