Four Ways to Piss Off the People on Your Email List—and Damage Your Deliverability and Brand


Four Ways to Piss Off the People on Your Email List—and Damage Your Deliverability and Brand

When someone hands over their email address to you saying, “Yes, I want to subscribe to your emails,” you’ve been entrusted with something valuable: permission to show up in their inbox. Although many
email marketers are respectful of this trust and strive to follow best practices (and good behavior) in the inbox, not every marketer takes this approach. In my opinion, we still have too many marketers who are abusing the privilege, rudely annoying the people who trusted their brand.

Those email marketers who are annoying their subscribers will pay a price for their behavior. They will eventually suffer from email deliverability problems. They will damage their brand. Their ROI will be MIA. And that’s fine for them, right? Except that their poor inbox behavior hurts all of us, even those of us who are carefully adhering to best practices. When consumers are unhappy about what’s going on in their inbox, they tend to view all email marketing through the same negative lens.

Although we have plenty of opportunities to annoy the people on our email list, here are four of the most common offenders:

1) Sends emails to non-subscribers

First and foremost, you should only send emails to people who have subscribed. If you’re adding email addresses to your list in a shady way, just stop. For one thing, you’re violating CASL. For another, you are guaranteed to be annoying if you start sending emails to people who never said they wanted to hear from you. Would you show up at a dinner party you weren’t invited to? No? Then don’t show up in an inbox uninvited either.

2) Sends the same emails over and over

One great thing about email marketing is that it’s easy to do. One bad thing about email marketing is that it’s easy to do. And it can be easy to just wash, rinse, repeat when it comes to email, sending the same “buy now” messages repeatedly. If you’re sending the same message—or even the same kind of message—over and over, now you’re like the dinner guest who tells the same story like a broken record. Change it up. Sometimes make the emails useful rather than salesy, or make them just plain friendly, say, recognizing a change of seasons or a big sports win.

3) Continues sending emails even when there’s no engagement

I had been receiving emails from the same brand for about eight years, even though I hadn’t purchased from the company for about the last six. I no longer receive the emails because they finally went out of business. Ironic, right? I didn’t unsubscribe because I wanted to see if they would keep sending and sending—and sending. And they did, even though I not only didn’t buy from them, I didn’t even open their emails. Can you imagine how silly they looked, sending me all those emails over all those years without my ever once showing any interest? If you kept calling someone who didn’t ever answer or return your calls, you’d be considered a stalker, if not mentally imbalanced. So why do some marketers think that same behavior is okay with email?

4) Uses subject lines that trick people into opening your emails

Can you hear me sighing over here? Yes, there are ways to trick people into opening your emails, but do you really want to? You’ll get the open, yes, but probably not a click through or conversion, just a little bit of ill will for your brand. I’ve seen an email with the subject line, “Are you mad at me?” and this example from Litmus with the subject line, “Did I leave my jacket at your place?” is almost as bad. Other tricky subject lines talk about prizes and deadlines, or pretend there is an existing relationship or email thread. These are to be avoided. If your email is not compelling enough to have an honest subject line, then maybe you shouldn’t send that email.

If you’re doing any of these, it’s time to stop. You can be a fantastic email marketer without ever resorting to these annoying ways of trying to maximize your ROI. With a little more effort and knowledge, you can increase that ROI by adhering to best practices—and keeping your deliverability and brand intact.

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