The 7 Deadly Sins Of Email Marketing

Are you making these fundamental email marketing errors?

Are you making these fundamental email marketing errors?

The other day I got an email from a guy I didn’t recognise. I opened the email and immediately I thought;

“I don’t know this guy, why is he emailing me?

Upon a brief scan I saw that the content was completely irrelevant to me. I scrolled to the bottom of the email to see if the mail was sent from Mailchimp or Aweber or some other email marketing software.

And there it was - Mailchimp. I knew I hadn’t voluntarily joined his list.

But there was something familiar about the guy’s name although I couldn’t immediately tell what it was. So I read the email and low and behold there’s a reference to our connection on LinkedIn.

I shook my head. Meh…

I could have got annoyed but I didn’t, I just felt sorry for the guy because either he was completely ignorant of proper email etiquette or didn’t give a shit. Either way he was going in the spam bucket.

Needless to say the conversation didn’t go any further but this most recent unsolicited self invitation to my inbox prompted me to consider how wrong many businesses are getting the whole email marketing thing.

A Better Way To Email LinkedIn Contacts

There’s a much better, more effective and totally legal way to email message your linkedIn contacts. Stay tuned to Seolar for the upcoming article covering exactly how to do it.

I’m On The Throne, Do You Mind?

This wasn’t by any means the first of these. In the last month I’ve received 5 emails from what appear to be LinkedIn contacts who, in their ignorance, decide to add me (and others too I presume), directly to their email list without permission.

I’m not getting uptight about it, I just delete or mark the emails spam. It simply baffles me that people who should know better have no understanding or no care for email marketing dos and don’ts.

You see email is about the only realm in the online world that remains sacred. We get to choose who we allow inside this private place so for others to barge in without permission is like someone busting in the toilet door while we’re on the throne.

Some might suggest that adding someone to their email list and emailing them from there is no different to sending them an email directly from their email client.

Well I’m afraid it’s not the same. It’s very different in fact.

People know what email marketing is and they know if you’re trying to flog them your shit. Email newsletter software is marketing automation and international data protection regulations recognise the difference.

Here’s some light reading for you on the subject;

US Federal CAN SPAM Act

EU CAN SPAM Regulations

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The 7 Deadly Sins Of Email Marketing

So I was considering this and other email marketing schoolboy errors over the last week and I figured I’d put together a hit list of the 7 worst email marketing mistakes and what to do instead. In fact there’s way more than 7 but I figure these are the worst by far.

I’ve outlined others below which I will dig into in later articles. For now, check these out and make sure you’re not on the wrong side of the email marketing etiquette fence.

So in reverse, working our way up from #7 through to #1, here‘s The 7 Deadly Sins Of Email Marketing

Deadly Sin #7: You Don’t Stick To A Sending Schedule

Consistent communication with your email list is essential if you want to build a relationship and turn those people who volunteered to join your list into loyal customers and advocates.

Consistency is achieved by setting a schedule for your newsletter and sticking to it religiously. Too many businesses fall down on this regard, failing to understand the premise behind it.

That is, it’s easier and cheaper to keep a customer than to find a new one. Email list subscribers follow the same rule. Every subscriber you gain costs your business in terms of time and effort and to not follow through on your commitment to deliver you lose credibility.

Do This Instead: Go to your calendar in your phone. Go on, do it now. Open it up and set an appointment for once per week. Friday afternoon might be good. Enter in the description “create weekly email newsletter” and pick a time.

Set aside 4 hours where you isolate yourself for the sole purpose of creating your newsletter to publish on Monday morning (or whatever day suits your list). If you haven’t go a newsletter set up yet get one here free.

Deadly Sin #6: You’re Using Lame Email Subject Lines

When you scroll through your timeline on Medium or some other platform, what are you looking for? What grabs your attention first?

I know for me it’s the headline. It’s what makes me stop and click. After that the first paragraph has to grab me to keep me there. After that if I’m still not hooked I’ll have a quick scan, then leave.

If you don’t grab your audience with a compelling subject line then you’re missing out on clicks and customers. After a while your subscribers get used to crappy emails and before long you’re forgotten about.

Do This Instead: Getting your email subject lines right is a bit of a black art. However there are some basic rules of thumb you should follow;

  1. Make it personal by using merge tags i.e. *|FNAME|*, have you read the latest paleo food craze?

  2. Don’t promise something in the headline that’s not in the newsletter

  3. Avoid sensationalism.

  4. Focus on benefits not features

  5. Keep your subject lines short and sweet

  6. Use emojis where suitable

  7. A/B test your subject lines

Discover more about email subject lines from Mailchimp, Sumo and Wordstream;

Mailchimp Subject Line Comparison by MailChimp

Sumo Clickable Email Subject Lines from noah kagan

9 Best Email Subject Lines from Larry Kim

Deadly Sin #5: You’re Selling In Every Email

This one is a big passion killer.

If you’re selling in every communication then you’re telling your subscribers you are spam head used car salesman. Selling in every email is falling right in to the negative idea of the email marketing stereotype.

If you’re already selling your ass off over email then your open rates are likely on the floor. That’s just a guess mind you. You might be doing very well taking this approach.

If you are then you are an exception to the rule. Most of us mortals occupy a niche where our subscribers resent being sold to every time.

So we must take a different approach.

Do This Instead: Use a ratio of 5:1 or 7:1. For every seven (or five) emails where you provide free and valuable information related to your business, provide one email where you make an offer. Make that offer relevant to the contents of the previous seven emails.

For example, you may have a course for sale. Take seven key points from the course and flesh them out in email form for your readers. In the seventh email make them an offer to find out more by buying your course.

The overwhelming importance here is that you position your offer in terms of your subscribers needs. Focus on benefit not feature.

Including the same store links in every email just creates blindness on the part of your reader. If it’s there all the time they’ll simply ignore it. Go with the 5:1 or 7:1 ratio instead.

Deadly Sin #4: You’re Being Way Too Formal


Feckin snoozefest! Technical fact after fact bores the pants off people. Despite your love of technical jargon, I’m afraid your subscribers don’t love it half as much as you.

Now there are exceptions to this. For example if you are a Java developer and your subscribers are java developers too then happy days, off you go. However, if you are an accountant and your subscribers are business owners, talking all day about boring accounts related stuff will turn your readers off.

Do This Instead: Make it personal. Make your intro casual and loose. Tell them something about your weekend and ask them about theirs. Remember, you’re communicating with people, not robots and the more they get to know and like you then the better chance you’ll have of doing business with them.

Include a left of field topic from time to time. Try to use the permission your subscribers have granted you to make a personal connection.

Deadly Sin #3: You’re Using The Default Subscription Pages

Meh: The Default Mailchimp Signup Form

One of the biggest oversights of many businesses using email marketing is they don’t customise their email sign-up page within their email provider account.

Noice!: Seolar Customised Mailchimp Sign-up Page

Customising the default sign up page is entry level stuff and even though customising this for your brand is important, you shouldn’t rely on it.

After you customise your default sign-up page, you’ll need to build a specific page on your website for readers to sign-up and place a link in your header too.

Subscribe link in the header menu

There are other pages you need to build/customise in your email marketing process in order to maximise subscription potential and move beyond amateur levels. To begin, here’s what you need to do.

Log into your mailchimp account and go to;

Lists > your list > signup forms > general forms > forms and response emails

Click on the down arrow and the following list of options will open;

Mailchimp pages/links to be customised

This process is a lengthy article in its own right so look out for this one in the coming weeks. Other pages under “unsubscribe” and “update profile” will need to be customised also.

This isn’t too difficult to do once you know how, but if you haven’t done it for your email marketing yet then it’s critical you you.

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Deadly Sin #2: You’re Always Talking About Yourself

This one is almost as bad as #1 on the list…but not quite.

You love the sound of your own voice. You’re constantly updating your email subscribers (and social profiles) about your company news. Who you hired, why you hired them, who hired you, new business you’ve tendered for and so on.

You think this makes you look good don’t you? Well it doesn’t.

Bottom line is your email subscribers don’t give a shit. They care about their problems. They care about reaching their goals and making their dreams come through. They don’t care about your business news.

You might argue there’s some value in telling your subscribers about these things. Well I say there is not. All this practice does is serve to lubricate your own sense of self importance and will never get you a sale.

Do This Instead: Get to the heart of the matter. What is it that your subscribers crave most? What’s their biggest itch? Is it making sales? Then tell them how they can increase their bottom line.

Are they facilities managers? Then talk about how they can lower the costs of running a commercial building by 15% with a simple tweak in operations.

Give your readers value. Talk about the things that they can use to reach their business goals and they will hold you in high regard. Talk about yourself and you’ll get tumbleweed.

Deadly Sin #1: Adding Someone To Your List Without Permission

Here we are, the #1 email marketing sin you could ever make…and unbelievably, many are still making it.

Email marketing can sometimes get a bit of a bad rap. Many see it as a less than honorable means to market goods and services and to a certain degree they’d be right.

Email marketing has in large part been misused and continues to be misused by businesses who simply don’t care or don’t know how to communicate with their audience. As such, the mere mention of email marketing makes the average person’s skin crawl.

Adding someone to your email list without their permission is perhaps the greatest email marketing faux pas you could possibly commit so that’s why it’s number 1 on the list.

Bottom line; It’s not allowed. It demonstrates a poor understanding of email marketing and shows no respect for people’s privacy.

Here’s what the EU Directive states:

The directive establishes an ‘opt-in’ regime: no direct marketing electronic mail can be legally sent without the express consent of the receiver, unless a pre-existing business or commercial relationship exists.

As a point of clarity, connecting with someone on social media (like LinkedIn) doesn’t constitute an existing business or commercial relationship. Whatever opportunity exists through connecting on social media, you kill it when you over step the mark.

Do This Instead: Only add people to your list with their explicit permission. If someone hands you their business card that is not an invitation to add them to your list. Instead, ask them.

Tell them what you do and directly ask them if it’s ok to add them if they’d like to hear from you. To do otherwise is bang out of order and downright unprofessional.

Follow the tutorials and tips I’ll be sharing with you here on Seolar. Subscribe to receive weekly email every Monday morning which will help you find, engage, retain and convert more website visitors.

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Other Email Marketing Mistakes

Here’s a few other pretty major email marketing errors that many small and big businesses are making. I’ll be covering these in future articles so make sure you get on board so you don’t miss that.

  1. You’re not using automation.

  2. You send at the wrong time of day for your list.

  3. You send on the wrong day for your list.

  4. You’re not capturing leads on your site with Sumo.

  5. You let your list go stale.

  6. You use RSS on every email campaign.

  7. You aren’t sending a final welcome email.

  8. You’re not using a survey to get to know your audience.

  9. You have no thank you page set up.

  10. Your emails are not optimised for mobile.

  11. You’ve no content strategy in place.

  12. Your emails are too long or too short.

  13. You freak out when people unsubscribe.

  14. You’ve not confirmed your domain with your provider.

  15. You bought an email list.

  16. You fail to include a single call to action in your emails.

  17. You don’t test and spell check your email before hitting send.

  18. You make unsubscribing hard or impossible.

  19. You're using recognised spam trigger words like “free”.

  20. You’re ignoring open rates and other stats.

It really doesn’t take too much to get these things right. But you run a small business, you’re tight on time and resources, I get it. Even if you are on a small budget you can implement the necessary fixes over the course of a couple of weeks.

If you do have the resources of a marketing department and a reasonable budget there is simply no reason why you should be making these schoolboy email marketing errors.

Stay up to date on new articles from Seolar and learn how to turn Email Marketing Pro.

Create Strong Relationships Over Email

Email communication shouldn’t be considered a cold transactional thing. Decide to embrace it as the powerful channel that it is. Email is a consistently better marketing channel for b2b and b2c over social media (for example), so as a business owner you’ve simply got to know how to use it correctly.

Use email marketing correctly = make more money. It’s really that simple.

Email out performs all other online marketing channels for ROI. for some recent numbers on this, check out these 2017 email marketing stats from Larry Kim over at Wordstream;

35 Face-Melting Email Marketing Stats for 2017
Let's face it: outside of denim shorts, Doc Martens, and home-sewn SLAYER patches, it doesn't get more metal than email…

Email Marketing is Permission Marketing. Receiving permission from readers to stay in touch is probably the strongest indicators of intent to do business that we can possibly receive so ignoring that permission is crazy.

In the words of perhaps the greatest modern marketing mind, Seth Godin;

Permission Marketing Seth Godin

“Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to receive them” — Seth Godin, Permission Marketing.

That’s it from me for now. Next week I’ll be back with another extensive article to help you do better email marketing. Get on board below to make sure you get it.

All the best for now, have a great week!


About The Author

Hi I’m Larry, creator of I publish weekly FREE marketing tutorials that help you build your audience and grow your business online. Get on board here for weekly updates

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