Bad Email Marketing (and How to Fix It)

email list no sale

Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass

Is your email marketing doing more harm than good?  Email can be one of the most profitable marketing channels when it’s done correctly.  Bad email marketing can hurt your reputation, and get you blacklisted as a spammer.

Nearly every company has a mailing list. And uses it. But not every company uses it well. Are you one of them?

Signs of bad email marketing

The first key component of successful email marketing is a good list.  If you built your email marketing list the right way, it can be one of your company’s biggest marketing assets.  Imagine, a large built-in audience of people who really want to hear from you, and trust you with their time and email addresses.

Or, it can be a worthless compilation of names, the wrong audience, or people who don’t want to buy anything (and never will).

Signs of a bad email marketing list

  • A bunch of names you scraped from website email and contact pages.

First of all, if it says “info@___” or “service@___” it’s likely to be a low-level person with no authority to buy from you.

Secondly, they didn’t ask you to contact them with your offers. Those addresses are there to help their customers (or potential customers), not to field sales pitches.

Don’t start your relationship off on the wrong foot!

  • Names on business cards you’ve collected from networking events and speaking engagements.

Conversations with real people are great. So is exchanging cards. Follow up when you get them. Do it a year later, and those people will think you’re spamming them (not helping them).

It’s technically legal under CAN-SPAM to do either of these things.  CAN-SPAM isn’t opt-in, it’s opt-out (more about CAN-SPAM rules here). It’s not a good idea though. Do it too often, and your ESP (email service provider, like MailChimp or AWeber) will think you’re a spammer too; and they may threaten to suspend your account.

  • Names that you bought (and now “own”)

This applies especially if they were exceptionally cheap (such as $100 for 10,000 names), think services such as SalesGenie.

None of those people asked to be on those lists. Use them, and you’ll get labelled a spammer. There are some email lists available for rent (one-time use), but they’re expensive ($300 for 1,000 names). If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

  • No personalization

Sending out mass emails without any attempt at making a human connection with the people receiving them. At the very least, address them by name.

Addressing the same email to everyone, rather than separating the names by past purchases, what stage they are in the buying process, or even what topics they’re interested in.

How to build a valuable email marketing list

  • Add people you spoke to personally, who expressly asked to be on your list
  • People who signed up directly from your website, and thereby gave you permission to contact them
  • Your existing customers and prospects: people you already have a relationship with (ask them first!)
  • Attendees at your webinars
  • Make sure you ask everyone for permission to continue to contact them. Offer something in return (a recording, a set of slides, or a white paper).
  • Subscribers to your auto-responders. They’ve said they want to hear from you (repeatedly).

All of this can be a lot to digest. If you want to have a quick conversation about this, email me here (no charge).Inboxes are crowded, and people are pressed for time.  You want to build a relationship. Get them to know you, like you, and trust you.

Once those people are on your list, nurture them (don’t spam them with offers for expensive products right away).  You wouldn’t ask someone you just met to marry you, would you?

How to Increase Email Conversion Rates

email conversion

cash-register by kareszzz on pixabay, public domain

Have you ever noticed that some emails get more sales than others? Sometimes you get high open rates, and lots of clicks. Other emails seem to fall flat. What’s the difference? Is there anything you can do to increase email conversion rates?

Can you “train” people to buy more? Yes, you can. Well, not train exactly, but check, test, and measure what you’re sending the people on your list. Then adjust your marketing tactics accordingly.

How good is your email list?

The first thing to check is the quality of your list. Are you getting lots of bounces (undeliverable emails)? Check with your email service provider to see why.   The best email providers  have high deliverability rates.  The more emails get through, the better your chances of getting a conversion (or a sale).

Where did the names come from?  Did you buy a list from somebody? Exchange lists?  Is it a rented list?  Or a list you built yourself?  Your own subscribers should be more receptive to your offers, and the data should be “cleaner” (meaning fewer bad addresses, fewer bounces, and better deliverability).

Check your message for spam triggers

Run your messages through a spam checker before you send them.  You probably know that certain words can trip filters, but so can too many images.  People can’t respond to your email if they don’t get it.

Is the email helpful to your audience?

Is the email (and the offers in it) relevant to your subscribers?  Are they still interested in what you have to say?  If a large portion of your list is ignoring you, send everyone an email asking them to confirm that they still want to get your messages.  Cutting your list can be scary, but a smaller, responsive list will earn more (and have a better ROI) than a larger, unfocused one.

Work on your subject lines

Subject lines are like headlines, they’ve got to grab attention.  If they’re not interesting, they won’t get opened.  The best way to find out is to test them against each other.  The best subject lines will get more opens, more clicks, and more conversions (sales or opt-ins).

Check the frequency of your emails

How often do you send emails?  Is it more (or less) often than promised?  A barrage of email can turn people off (unless it’s extremely relevant).  Sending fewer emails may get better results.

Change the wording of your offers

If it’s a sales email, the wording of the offer can change how people respond.  Test different ways of saying the same thing. Do you get a better response to your deal of the day if it’s 50% off a $200 product? Or if it’s $100 less?  The final cost is the same in both examples, but readers will respond to them differently.

Use multiple links

Spread the links you want readers to click on throughout the email. Some readers are ready to commit right away, but others will need more details and information before pushing the button. When you get the results back from your campaign, see which email link had the most clicks.

Email Writing Tips from Spammers

email spam

Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

We all hate spam.  It fills up our inboxes, it takes time to delete, and it’s irritating to plow through it all to get rid of it.

Surprisingly, you can learn quite a few email writing tips from a spammer.

They may be slimy, but they are good at marketing.  And you can adapt their strategies for much less nefarious purposes.

What are spammers good at?

Heart-pounding subject lines

They write subject lines that immediately grab your attention and elevate your pulse rate.   I recently got one purportedly from Paypal.  It said, “Receipt for your payment to Avira.”  I’d made no such payment.

It was a trick to get me to open the email.  They wanted me to login to Paypal, through their fake link. This would give the spammer my password information and likely enable them to clean out my account.

I didn’t do it, but it certainly got my attention! And getting attention is the first rule of marketing.

Relevant and immediate messages

The message was relevant and important, since I do have a Paypal account and certainly want to keep track of any payments.

It had a cleverly disguised call for action. The idea was to look at it, think payment?! What payment?! And then click the link in a panic to run and check. Because who wants unauthorized payments? Nobody.


The email looked trustworthy at first glance.  The “from” field said “Paypal.” The subject line was in the same format as legitimate emails from Paypal.  People know and trust Paypal. The spammers were borrowing Paypal’s familiarity and trustworthiness in order to steal.

I certainly don’t recommend that you steal or lie, but you can adapt these tactics for more respectable uses.

  • Use your subject line to get attention.
  • Send relevant messages.
  • Build up your authority
  • Develop your readers’ trust
  • Create a recognizable brand so readers will recognize your name and open your messages

Why People Unsubscribe From Your Email List

unsubscribe button

image via Pixabay

A few weeks ago, a famous internet marketer had a problem.  The subscribers to his newsletter were complaining.  He didn’t say so explicitly, but I’m guessing from the tone of his email that his open rates, clicks, and sales were going down.

His readers were also likely unsubscribing from his email list.  Since he makes quite a bit of money from email marketing, this must have caused a significant reduction in his cash flow.

But why do people unsubscribe from email lists?

Too many pitches

When I signed up for this newsletter, I expected a monthly newsletter,  with an occasional pitch or an ad for something.   I got the newsletter, with some excellent content.  I also got six or seven sales pitches (at random intervals on random days, it seemed).  And, I couldn’t tell which was which.  It got to the point where I saw his name and immediately hit the delete button.

A megaphone, not a conversation

He got  caught up in all his new products, and didn’t realize that he was overdoing the sales pitches. As Dave Navarro says, “Free, free, free, sell.”  Not everything can or should be free, but too much selling will send people to the exits.

Not relevant or personal

He was talking at people (caught up in his new products) rather than to them.  The email promising news for people over 50 went straight to the trash folder.

I’m also signed up for newsletters from Sonia Simone and Copyblogger.  Their emails are personal, unique, and sometimes make me laugh.  I feel I know them, and like them, even though we’ve never met.  Most importantly, I look forward to reading them.  I bet other people do too.

To his credit, our guru has changed his approach.  His newsletters now spell out exactly what to expect, how often he will email, and take a softer tone.  He’s also offering more free material.

How often do you send your newsletter?  What’s your mix of free and sales content?