no-pavementEver have one of those moments when a family member does something that just makes you slap your forehead and think, "How are we related?!" Like when your Uncle Davy asks you very loudly when the wedding is the first time you bring your significant other to a holiday gathering. Yeah -- absolutely mortifying.

Well, that's how email marketers, such as myself, feel when we see other email marketers commit some serious faux pas.

Gimmicky copy, so many font colors a first-grader might have written it, deceiving subject lines ... we've all been unfortunate recipients of dreadful email marketing. And though we wish it wasn't the case, there's enough of it out there to give email marketers as a whole a bad rep.

So, my fellow email marketers: For everyone's sake, please, please, please don't commit these blunders.

7 Email Marketing Faux Pas


How do you feel about getting emails with subject lines like these?:




Unless that email is from a boss or mother and very, very urgent, the typical email recipient is going to react with annoyance when they see all caps in their inbox.

Yes, you're competing for attention in a probably already-full inbox, but SHOUTING AS LOUD AS YOU CAN to be heard over the din isn't going to get you any sort of positive attention.

Simply put: Using all caps can make recipients think you're inexperienced and unprofessional (and by extension, that your company does not have it together, so why bother?).

2) Using the Wrong Person or Company Name 

Sophisticated email tools will let you insert fields from your contact lists such as first name, last name, and company name. This can be great, as it adds a personal touch to your email and helps you better tailor each reader's experience.

Conversely, sending an email that starts with "Hi Jen" when your recipient's name is Taylor or using a subject line that says "8 Tips to Increase Sales for Cathy's Cookware" when their company is actually Startower Software Solutions is a surefire way to annoy them.

Make sure you take the time to clean up your lists to avoid duplicate, garbled text in fields (so you can avoid emails starting with "Hi INEF*FBSK"), and check that contacts match. One way to check a list's health is to randomly select a small portion of contacts and spot-check them.

Pro tip: If you're using contact data, avoid using greetings such as "Dear" -- if there is no data for a person's first name, the email tool will use a default, such as "there" so your greeting will read "Hi there" or some similar iteration of that.

3) False Promises

If your subject line and/or email copy seems too good to be true, it probably is. Empty promises in the form of email copy like "The One Thing That Will Fix All Your Email Marketing Problems!" and "Click Here to Increase Your Profit by 110% Now!" will only do you and your company harm.

While it's important to persuade someone to open your email and click through to your landing page, it's even more important to set clear expectations. Exaggerating benefits of your product or service, presenting skewed or out-of-context statistics, or providing an offer that doesn't match with an email's messaging can leave your recipients feeling deceived.

4) Using The Rainbow as Your Color Palette

Remember: Less is more. Highlighting one or two elements of your email in a different, non-brand color is perfectly acceptable, but when you've got red and yellow text, blue links, yellow borders around an image, and a distractingly bright background ... yikes.

It's overwhelming, unprofessional, and will probably give readers a headache, so stick to intuitive, easy-on-the-eyes design like these companies' emails.

5) Failing to Check 'Do Not Reply' Email Accounts

If you're sending emails from "Do Not Reply" addresses, you're not the first company in history to do so and there's really nothing wrong with it. Where you don't want to go wrong with these addresses, though, is not checking them.

Yeah, I know -- the whole point these accounts exist is so that you can send emails from them and not have to check to see if anyone messages them in return. But, that doesn't mean some of your recipients won't email these addresses from time to time.

So every once in a while (maybe once or twice a week), sign into your "Do Not Reply" accounts and see if anyone's chiming in with a comment or question. The last thing you want to do is ignore your audience, and while this may seem counterproductive, you may end up with some leads just by answering some queries sent to these addresses (think of it like finding extra cash under your couch cushion).

6) Sending Discount After Discount

Yes, it's definitely okay to send your recipients offers from time to time -- but you need to determine how often and at what times these emails should be sent. A/B tests need to be performed to determine this. Sending deals and offers daily like this ...

Monday: Today only! 60% off all tea cozies!
Tuesday: FLASH SALE: Get Discounts on All Tea Cozies in Store
Wednesday: Stock Up for Christmas with 20% off of entire line of designer tea cozies.
Thursday: SALE ENDS TOMORROW!!! Take 95% off all tea cozies!
Friday: Need tea cozies for your home? Shop now and save 40%

... will do you and your brand no good whatsoever. In fact, it may not only lead to unsubscribes, but also some pretty bad word-of-mouth spreading about your email marketing practices.

Too many emails promoting sales and discounts and -- worse -- falsely stating a sale ends and then extending it with a deeper discount in another email will make your marketing look gimmicky and untrustworthy.

Customers who see that a product or service has been discounted right after they buy will be, to put it lightly, rather pissed off. Other readers may assume that if they wait you out, they'll always be able to get a better deal, which further hurts your business.

The lesson here? Use your discounts wisely -- otherwise, they lose their appeal and value and you could potentially end up with extremely unsatisfied customers.

7) Incorrectly Jumping on Trends

There is so much wrong with this email there's a video about it.

In this example of a real email sent by an unnamed marketing company, the email marketer tries to make the copy personal, fun, and engaging by using popular memes and colloquial language. The key word here: tries.

First, there's a completely mystifying subject line ("Abracadabra or Abra-get-off-my-case-Ricky!") that leaves the reader confused. Is this a Halloween-themed email (it's December)? Is the sender telling you to get off their case? Who is Ricky? Then, there's the botched attempt at personalization.

Next, the marketer tries to be "hip" (for lack of a better way to put it) by using a currently popular meme. The problem is this marketer doesn't even use the right meme. If you're trying to appeal to an audience that loves its memes, you better believe they'll notice when you've messed it up.

And then, finally, there's this whole bit about pulling a "friggin' rabbit out of your tiny hat."

Just ... no.

Remember, email marketers: You're an ambassador to the world not just for your company, but for other email marketers. What you send people affects their opinion of not just your company, but can shape their perceptions about all email marketers.

Email marketing is a way to engage and delight segmented audiences with relevant and lovable content, so help a fellow marketer out and don't commit these faux pas!

What are some email marketing faux pas you think marketers should steer clear of? Share them below!

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Originally published Dec 19, 2013 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017


Email Marketing