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    January 29, 2013 // 9:00 AM

    The Anatomy of an Awful Marketing Email

    Written by Hannah Fleishman | @

    email anatomy badintermediate

    How often do you think about junk mail? Probably not too often, because there's a folder in your email that thinks about it for you, right?

    But consider this: according to Return Path, marketing emails are responsible for 70% of 'this is spam' complaints. That means even if you don't think about junk mail as a recipient, as a marketer, you should all be thinking about it all the time -- specifically, whether your own marketing emails are part of that 70%.

    So what if we just ... stopped producing awful marketing emails entirely? Well to do that, we have to know just what makes an email so awful, So, I created my own truly awful marketing email, and am going to walk you through everything not to do in your own email marketing. Here, take a look for yourself!

    The Anatomy of an Awful Marketing Email

    email marketing bad ex

     

    1) Write a Generic Subject Line

    According to a survey by Blue Kangaroo, 43% of adults in the U.S. said more than half of their emails are from marketers. With half of your recipient's emails promising deals, coupons, sales, and updates, why should they open yours? Subject lines like the one in the email above don't tell your recipient anything -- I mean, 40% off what product? And settle down with the exclamation points, why don't ya? Your subject line should invite the recipient to do something, to experience something, to enjoy some kind of benefit. To totally nail your email subject line, reference this blog post that will show you the secret sauce for sexy subject lines.

    2) Don't Let Recipients Send a Reply Email

    No one wants to get an email from their good friend 'Do Not Reply.' It's kind of like forcing someone into a one-way conversation. You know, the exact opposite of what a marketer should be encouraging. Take the robot out of the equation, and provide an email address that actually accepts emails as your reply-to address.

    3) Use Unsophisticated Design

    The layout and design of your email message is one of the first things that will hit a recipient's eye. Anyone who opens the email above is, however, going to be quite disappointed. The amateur WordArt header gives the impression the sender is old-school at best, and a spammer at worst. Keep your emails clean, and use a simple layout devoid of frills and images that take forever, and ever, and ever to load. If you're not blessed with an in-house designer quite yet, take advantage of these free design tools to strengthen your email design. And remember, less is more when it comes to design!

    4) Don't Check for Broken Dynamic Content

    Aw look, they tried to personalize my email. How sweet. We know setting dynamic content tags can be tricky, and sometimes the darn internet doesn't do its job. But if seeing 'Dear Sir' in an email is scary, seeing brackets that say {INSERTFIRSTNAME} is a downright nightmare. Bad personalization comes across as insincere, and makes your email message lose credibility. Make sure your ESP helps you avoid mishaps like these by providing default content where customer information is MIA. 

    5) Write Disingenuously

    A business is made up of people. Selling to other people. Sound like it. In other words, your emails should sound like a person wrote them, for another person to read. Language like "valued customer" is, frankly, kind of overused and impersonal. And more exclamation points doesn't make your copy sound exciting, either. Write the way you'd want someone to write to you -- clearly, naturally, and genuinely.

    6) Include Your Least Remarkable Content

    The number one reason that people unsubscribe from business or non-profit email subscriptions is the frequency of emails is too high (Chadwick Martin Bailey). Don't risk another unsubscribe by sending unremarkable content. If you don't have anything valuable to say, don't say anything at all. Reminding the reader in our fake promo email that Hannah's Monkey Wrenches also sells lawn mowers kiiiind of muddles the message. Every message should have a point; if your content isn't making it, delete and start again.

    7) Use Generic Images

    A picture says a thousand words. Stock photos say two words: amateur hour. Like unsophisticated design and layout, generic stock photos and clip art images make your business look unprofessional and spammy. Don't let a bad image jeopardize your credibility -- and an email inbox is a bad place to jeopardize credibility. Select images that have a logical tie-in to your email's message, and enhance your message's meaning, instead of detracting from it.

    8) Use Images That Don't Display Correctly

    The only thing worse than a corny email image is a poorly displayed email image. Many recipients only receive emails in plain text, meaning they can't see any of the visual elements in your message. So don't design your entire email as an image, and when you do use images, make sure you're using ALT text that's descriptive enough to fill in any blanks for readers that don't see your images displayed in all their glory.

    9) Don't Include a Call-to-Action

    So, my recipient knows that monkey wrenches are 40% off. I've done my part, and they'll take it from here, right? Wrong. You still need to invite your recipient to do something with the information you've just provided. Put a call-to-action in your email to get the recipient to sign up for a discount, to view the monkey wrenches for sale on your website, or to sign up for updates on new sale items. Email tools like HubSpot's makes it easy for you to include a call-to-action in your email message to get your reader to take the next conversion step.

    10) Don't Permit Recipients to Unsubscribe

    No matter how awesome your emails may be, the second most common reason that people unsubscribe from email lists is because the content isn't relevant to them anymore (Chadwick Martin Bailey). Maybe you're a Boston apartment rental service and someone from your email list just moved to Texas. No hard feelings but, they don't need you anymore. No matter what the reason, a customer shouldn't be tricked into getting your emails. If they want to unsubscribe, give them that option clearly. And once they've unsubscribed, for the love of marketing, stop emailing them, and stop emailing them fast!

    Ready to create a lovable email? Avoid these email marketing faux pas and remember that junk is a choice. 

    Image credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

    Topics: Email Marketing

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