5 Deadly Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

5 Deadly Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

The mistakes about to be mentioned are, in fact, deadly.

Deadly to your brand, to your marketing efforts. To your dignity, maybe.

They’re the reason people hate emails and often ignore them. Even if one of the subject lines said “just open this email to get a million dollars”, they would still not open it. They’re exhausted at this point. Plus, an average of over 100 business emails a day means they’ve seen it all and some.

Email marketing can be a thrill at first. You’re discovering so many templates and innovative techniques, it feels like first-time Disneyworld all over again. Especially for beginners, going overboard with what should be avoided (ahem, spamming) is a lot easier.

But that ends now.

How about making these folks’ lives easier from here on out? Maybe even getting them back to reading their emails for pleasure while they sip coffee in the morning?

If you’re a new or seasoned marketer, it doesn’t matter. Stick around, there’s gold down here.

We’re going to have a deeper look at:

  • Why you should always greet your subscribers, no matter how useless it sounds.
  • The right way to create email preview panels, and what to include on them.
  • How not to manipulate your audience.
  • Why letting your subscribers have the upper-hand makes you a hero.
  • And lastly, how to avoid making your emails look like street signs.

Let’s dive right in.

Forgetting to Welcome Your Subscribers

Welcoming people is etiquette 101.

Still, 41% of brands never send a welcome email within the first 48 hours of subscription, according to Active Campaign. Two days gone by, and not even a “hello”.

You know what that looks like? Neglect. If you met that person in real life they might be one of those snobs who look at you with their nose up in the air.

Unless, of course, you’re one of them and have no idea they should be sending welcome emails in the first place. In this case, you’re forgiven.

If that’s “just who you are”, here’s something else for you to think about. What’s the email that consistently gets the highest open rate of all campaigns you’ve ever sent?

It’s not the one with the big discount or the one with the most clever of subject lines. It’s the welcome email.

Why? Because a welcome email comes right after someone has just converted into a subscriber, and they want to know what’s in store for them. Whether their subscription will be worth it or if they might as well unsubscribe while they’re at it. It’s really a decisive time, so your welcome emails should be well-planned.

The basic rules of a great welcome email are:

  • Say a warm, honest welcome. Tell them you’re glad to have them join the party, because you are.
  • Tell them what to expect from your content. Will they receive weekly exclusive articles? Special offers? Be crystal clear, and make it sound exciting.
  • If you’re in ecommerce, a welcome coupon won’t hurt anyone.

Take this perfect example from Headspace:


The guys from Headspace are congratulating you for making one of the best decisions of your life. They’re also letting you know what you currently have access to, how it works, and what to expect after you’ve tried it out.

That’s how you do it.

Not Using Email Preview Panels to Hook Readers

If you haven’t yet enabled your preview panels, you should.

As of now, you know the elements at the top of a page are high-priority when it comes to grabbing or deterring someone’s attention. The same goes to subject lines and the text that follows.

What makes a good preview, you ask?

Well, the best message previews (or preheader texts) are so sharp they could cut someone. Just like meta tags, they’re your “second chance” at winning a reader in case the subject line alone doesn’t suffice. In a few more words, you get to briefly expand on the contents of the email while enticing subscribers to open it.

On desktop, preview panes look like this:


While on mobile, they look like the examples you’ll see below.

You have between 40 and 130 characters to make a statement for both mobile and desktop users. Copy Legends founder Matt Bockenstette always seems to use this count wisely. Take a look.

“Just 361 words (and 20,000 customers per day)”.

Short email, big reward. Sign me up, Scotty!

As you can see, numbers play a leading role in grabbing a reader’s attention. Especially if it’s something that will be worth their time, such as:

  • Offers (up to 50% off, free shipping)
  • Large, shiny numbers (20,000 customers per day)
  • Clever, curiosity-driven copy.

Speaking of curiosity.

This subject line is curiosity-inducing. It’s followed by an even more puzzling preview panel. And this works incredibly well for people who are interested in Matt’s content. And if they’re subscribers, you’d guess they are. And boy, it works.

It works because let’s face it: this kind of subject line is a bit worn out at this point. The whip hand is what comes below.

If he’d just grabbed an excerpt of the content and used it as a preview it wouldn’t be as effective. This would be just the generic email you’d scroll by. Instead, he added to the curiosity by including something related to the subject line that builds interest.

So, how can you add a preview panel to your emails?

If you can code, good for you. It’s possible to add preheader text to your emails using HTML and CSS code. But why complicate things, right? Great email marketing software out there will let you customize your preview panels and be out the door in a minute.

Always make sure to preview your preheader before sending, by the way. Make sure it looks good, and ask yourself if you would open that if you were an oblivious reader.

Tricking Subscribers With Misleading Marketing Messages

This shouldn’t even be a caveat, but here we go: always deliver on the promises you make on subject lines and preheader texts. Don’t just make them frilly to encourage clicks and disappoint readers when they don’t get what they clicked for.

Marketing is one hell of a persuasion tool, you know.

Many of histories’ most powerful people were persuasive. Both heroes and tyrants, alike.

This is no joke. Some people know damn well how marketing works and use it to trick their subscribers, which is a cheap move.

And although some promises might look inoffensive on the surface, they’re still misleading at the core. And they could vanquish customers’ trust if they ever find out they’re being manipulated. You don’t want to go for that.

Here’s an example of a not-so-harmless type of subject line. There you are, deciding which emails to ignore, when you come across something along the lines of:

“Overstock: Fresh Titles For Only $8,99!”

Only, it comes from an ebook store. You can’t…you can’t overstock ebooks.

They won’t use up any “digital space”. So it’s clear that whoever came up with that is making a fool out of their customers.

They might win their business once, but never again if customers are smart enough. That was a subtle one, but crafty emails of this nature are why people hate emails in the first place.

Even if smart technology is making people dumber, they’re still quick to judge a cunning email because they’ve got so many of them already.

Don’t be that person.

Sending a Gazillion Unsolicited Emails

Here’s another winner in the “why emails suck” department.

Get a load of this:


Email unsubscribes due to too many emails verge 50%. Ouch.

Listen, emails aren’t half as exciting as a Twitter mention or an “@ commented on your post” notification. The less cluttered someone’s inbox is, the better. People might be ignoring actually interesting emails because some spammer made them grow sick of them all.

The good news is, you can be a Good Samaritan and let subscribers choose how often they’d like to see your emails. Using a subscription management center (or preference center) for your email list is a great way to do this.

A subscription management center is a separate page where subscribers have full control over the content they choose to receive in their inbox. It also allows them to unsubscribe to your list altogether. If they want to leave, set them free!


Again, email software like MailChimp have sections dedicated to helping you create preference centers in a heartbeat. No coding skills required or anything. Most of our favourite picks have this feature, as well.

Now, see the difference between someone who spams you and someone who’s respectful of your decisions? It’s like a weight has been lifted.

Making Your Emails a Clusterf*ck of Information

Some people are proud to make their emails look just like LA street signs.


It’s just too much. Whatever you’re asking people to do, they’re not going to do it if they have no idea where to go next.

Emails should stick to a single message that leads to one (or more) visible CTAs. And by visible, we mean relatively large. Colorful. Well-placed. Like in the following webinar invite:


This one gets extra points because:

1- It’s a double CTA. You’ll see it often in webinar invitation emails–typically one CTA at the beginning and another at the end. There aren’t too many, but also enough to re-enforce the desired action, which gives readers another chance to click.

2- “Register Now!” in red. Genius.

And speaking of littering emails, here’s some friendly advice.

A lot of people hate images like this one right here:

They can’t stand it. Why? Because I’ve seen it everywhere. If you use cheesy stock photos that’ve been around the block in your emails, your subscribers will figure that you didn’t move a finger to create something original.

Avoid using this kind of image. You can find more authentic and high-quality pictures in online libraries like Unsplash and JumpStory.

Your Email Marketing Success Depends on You Not Making These Mistakes

Ignore them at your peril. Don’t do email marketing if you aren’t willing to put your all into it–or pay someone to give their all. It’s one of the most inexpensive ways to generate leads and multiply your investment, so make it count.

Whether that’s a lead nurturing sequence, a welcome series, or a product launch, avoiding these email marketing mistakes will be key to your success.

So, congrats, you’re already ahead of unsuspecting marketers. Now that’s a fine job.

Are there any mistakes deadlier than the above? Let’s see them below.