7 Deadly Sins of Email

Blog Categories:  Email Marketing  

A recent study by ExactTarget revealed that of customers who’ve unsubscribed from permission-based emails, 25% did so because the content wasn’t relevant to them, making it one of the top reasons customers unsubscribe

It’s a harsh reality: When it comes to email marketing, customers hold all the cards.

If they develop distrust in your “from” line, there’s nothing you can do to get them to open.

Worse yet, if they ignore your messages over the long haul or label your email as spam, it’ll hurt your future deliverability to other customers.

Here are the top 7 email sins that will tick customers off:


You can’t let the thought creep into customers’ heads that your company has forgotten who they are or what they like.

You’ve got to create a great customer experience, and that requires including some personalized info in emails. That doesn’t just mean using customers’ names. They need to see that you remember what they like and that you tailor messages to their preferences.

It’s also critical you not stray from what you originally promised when your customer signed up. You must be consistent, but not unoriginal, about the type and frequency of content your customer signed up for in the first place.


Has your send frequency increased over time? If so, is that in keeping with what customers originally signed on for?

Resist the temptation to go overboard. It’s only natural to want to expand your email program once it starts delivering results.

But don’t get greedy.

When customers first opted in, you may have promised delivery once a week or to only send them important updates. It's quite a breach of the agreement to suddenly increase your frequency.

It’s therefore crucial that you do not ramp up your send frequency significantly and without warning.

At the very least, if you decide to expand your email program, send out a preliminary email explaining what customers will receive moving forward – and when. Also, be sure to include an option allowing them to adjust their email preferences.


The business emails that get marked “spam” most often are those that start out promising educational information but end up delivering hard sell after hard sell.

If you write your email in the “always be closing” sales mindset, customers will drop off of your list.

Each of your messages should contain some type of useful content for the recipient.


It’s easy to fall into the trap of sticking to a merchandising or editorial calendar so vigorously that you end up ignoring what customers’ preferences actually are.

When in the trap, you may forget that a customer’s already purchased the product you’re touting or that they have no interest in it.

A recent study by ExactTarget revealed that of customers who’ve unsubscribed from permission-based emails, 25% did so because the content wasn’t relevant to them, making it one of the top reasons customers unsubscribe (behind frequency and repetitive/boring content).


Dirty email lists lead to deliverability problems. If you’re not removing inactive subscribers or processing opt-outs, it’s hurting your Sender Score.

Mail servers will look at your Sender Score before determining what to do with your email. If yours is low, mail servers won’t deliver your email to the inbox.

Of course, processing opt-outs should be a given. But deciding what to do with inactive subscribers is a different animal altogether.

There may be people on that list who could still turn into paying customers, so it’s understandable that you don’t want to just throw those addresses away.

So what should you do? Scrub them from your primary list and create a secondary email database to which you send a reactivation campaign. During that campaign, spell out reasons why they should reengage with your email.

If they still fail to become active, it’s time to let them go.


When your email program is finally chugging along, making a decent ROI, that means you’ve found the right formula for your list and for writing good email copy. Now you should just ride the wave until it comes to a stop, right? Wrong.

You need to  willing to constantly reinvent yourself. If you keep doing the same things over and over, customers will eventually get bored and either become inactive or unsubscribe.

Keep testing, researching and trying new things – even if you’re just experimenting with a small sampling of your email database.


Here's an important hint that can save you unnecessary email "turnoffs." Always test your images and formatting to see that they render correctly before hitting “send.” You should test your email on something other than a PC as well, making sure that it works properly on every kind of device from Macs to smartphones and tablets. It's worth the step.

Generally speaking, the same content will not work well on every device. You may need to be alter your content, images or layout in some fashion for it to read easily on every type of device.

With email viewing now spread so evenly across all three kinds of devices, it may be time to adopt a responsive email design strategy, which requires the layout/content of your email to adapt to the size of the screen it’s being viewed on.

Christian Schappel writes for Progressive Business as Editor-in-Chief of Customer Experience Insight, a new resource for sales, marketing, and service professionals to optimize the customer experience.

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