Leave My Inbox Alone! How to Drive Customers Away With Email Overload

Ginny Mineo
Ginny Mineo



good_shoes_cant_save_bad_email_marketingI love shoes. Bright ones, dull ones, suede ones, leather ones, pointy-toe ones, rounded-toe ones. I love shoes so much that after purchasing three amazing pairs from this one store, I voluntarily signed up to receive emails from the company. Every chance I got, I sang its praises. But then, six months later, I angrily unsubscribed from its email marketing.

Cue the record scratch.

Yep, I unsubscribed from my favorite shoe store’s emails. After purchasing three different pairs. After raving about them over and over again.

So what the heck happened? How could a company who I clearly was a promoter for turn me off so much with its email marketing?

What Went Wrong

Basically, my email marketing relationship with this company was taken from a mutual love affair to a creepy stalker level that I couldn’t wait to end.

When I first signed up to get its emails, I was excited. I had already bought -- and loved -- the shoes I bought from this company. I was raving about them in person to others. Why not benefit from it a little by getting special deals and the sneak peek on new shoes arrivals?

But then, I started to get an email every single day of the week. Monday: “BUY STUFF.” Tuesday: “BUY STUFF.” Wednesday: “BUY STUFF.” And so on and so forth. Literally every single day I got an email, and every single day it was pushing me to buy something.

But I continued to let the company’s emails land in my inbox in the name of company loyalty and, of course, fabulous deals on shoes.

The inbox assault continued. After the first month, this is how I felt about opening emails:


After three months, I just wanted the emails to stop. But, I still held on, getting upset every time I got an email notification from them:


After five months, I decided not to open an email from them:


Still, I rationalized, I might be interested enough down the road to open an email, so I’ll let them keep sending me stuff.

Then, after six months, I just got angry -- angry that their notification email popped up exactly every day at 1 p.m. I got irrational: "How DARE this company invade MY inbox after I explicitly gave them permission a few months ago!?!"

And then I realized, I had all of the power in this email marketing relationship. This company could only send me emails if I let it.

So I decided to take action. I still loved the company, despite the email deluge, but I just didn’t want them emailing me to "BUY BUY BUY" every day. I could deal with weekly email, though.

At the bottom of an email, I clicked on a link to change email preferences. I was taken to a landing page … and my only way of changing my email frequency was to completely unsubscribe. 

I had had it. Fine, company that I love, I WILL unsubscribe from ALL of your emails:


And since unsubscribing, my inbox has never looked so good. No way I'm ever going to subscribe to that company's marketing again.

So besides giving me a creative outlet to complain, this story has some takeaways for marketers.

What You Can Learn From This Company's Mistakes

Let’s make this complaining-fest productive. We’ve all tried our darndest to have engaging email marketing campaigns before, so it’s possible some of us have been in this same boat.

To make sure we’re at the tippy-top of our email marketing game going forward, here are three things you should do or not do when sending marketing emails.

1) Do be incredibly upfront about how often you’re going to communicate with your subscribers.

Honestly, when I signed up for this company’s emails, I thought I’d be getting an email or two a week from them -- not that many in a day. If I had known that upfront, I wouldn’t have gotten so angry to be bombarded with emails every single day. A good place to let people know how often you will be emailing them is on the landing page where they give you their email so they can have all the information at their disposal before giving you their information.

2) Don’t SELL SELL SELL all the time.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have the time or budget to buy shoes every day of the week. So why was this company focusing on a hard sell with every single email it sent?

Instead, try to nurture leads and delight customers with content -- just like you learned in the inbound marketing methodology. This company, for example, could have sent me tailored outfit suggestions based off shoes I already bought or even a guide on how to care for them to make them last. That is information I’d be glad to receive in my inbox!

3) Don’t make your email subscription options all or nothing. 

It’s okay for people who love your brand to not receive emails from you every single second. In fact, if they receive an email once a week, they might be even more engaged with you because they aren’t feeling bombarded. Offer multiple types of subscription options (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) to cater to different content consumption styles of your subscriber base -- you might just end up with a super-happy, engaged list.

The moral of the story? Be open, honest, and helpful with your email marketing, and your evangelists will continue to promote you -- and maybe even send you more business. And that’s something I know no marketer could refuse.

Image credit: Fotopedia

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