8 things that piss me off about email marketing

Having worked in email marketing for the past 7+ years I have learnt a lot, from mistakes I’ve made, advice from colleagues and Twitter (thanks!) blog posts and info-graphics to name a few!

If you are reading this blog post, you may work in email marketing and if you do you will agree there are more than just a few things about email marketing that pisses you off, so I’ve decided to blog about a few of things that really anger me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and love what I do; I just want to vent about some of the smalls things that could be avoided or fixed with email marketing that in this world full of fantastic technology.

We’ve now got people reading their emails on smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, laptops, computers, all around the world at different times of the day which we can track and analyse this information. The technology sending emails allows us to schedule the email in advance, compare the statistics of the email campaigns and helps businesses turn their subscribers into customers.

With all this technology at our finger tips we still have the frustration of updates to email clients – random spaces appearing or styles being overwritten and ignored. Human error like spelling mistakes being made or even emails sent with incorrect or broken links.

So without anymore going on I’m going to let loose with 7 things that piss me off about email marketing.


Yeah, this. One click unsubscribes, that’s all it needs to be. No logging into an account. No confirming your email your address (which by the way – YOU sent it to ME, YOU have MY email address already – duhhhhh) just a simple unsubscribe. Nor do I want to see all the lists you’ve put me on and be asked to “uncheck” from each list, JUST FUCKING UNSUBSCRIBE ME!

This kind of subscriber rage will only lead to complaints – infact in some cases it’s even easier to just hit “junk” in your email client to mark the email as spam, which can cause many complaints. These complaints could cause the email service provider to suspend your account or make you ask you to opt-in all of your data before sending any further email campaigns.

Don’t even get me started on “you’ve been unsubscribed” emails either…

No relevance

Another reason people loose subscribers is a complete lack of relevance of the email campaign to the subscriber. I have signed up for many lists over the years myself and this is one single reason that makes me unsubscribe or at least want to; for example; if I get an email from a clothing company targeted at the opposite sex. If you are a clothing company just ask for name, email and gender, it’s easier to collect basic data first and ask to update their preferences later or use behavior monitoring to target these subscribers clicking on certain links.

This is why collecting the right data is so important to your email marketing strategy and should be carefully thought through.

Not cleaning your list

Getting the same email twice really irritates me, it just shows poor list management and almost like someone didn’t put as much care into the email campaign, almost like “just send it out” without putting any second thought into the campaign.


If your email marketing platform is any good, sending to list A and list B, will combine and remove any duplicates, bounces and unsubscribes before sending the email campaign out, it’s always best to look at a range of email marketing companies first. I recommend checking – Email Vendor Selection to compare their features.

Image heavy emails

An email campaign doesn’t have to be several sliced images just to be image heavy, we’ve all seen them – yes they can be a great design in Photoshop but the justice is not done unless the campaign is coded and test to work correctly as an email.

Most of these image emails are not mobile friendly and having a high text to image ratio can cause the email to get marked as spam/junk and be disregarded by the email client before your subscriber even see’s it.

A great example of doing this right can be seen in this blog post by Mike RaganPizza Express: You’re doing it right.


Not testing/not mobile optimised

One of the first things you should do when sending out email is check how it views on a mobile not just on your desktop computer. By testing your email in multiple email clients and various platforms you can see how this displays first. You can easily setup Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail and AOL test accounts and use these specifically for your email campaign tests.

It doesn’t even have to be a mistake that the email client causes – testing the email is more than just looking good. Spelling mistakes or missing/incorrect links are also very frustrating both for the subscriber and the client sending the email. It’s always good to get a second pair of eyes on the email for you and check anything you may have missed.

Most email marketing platforms track your subscribers email clients so you can see what is the most popular email clients on your list and make sure the email looks good before sending it out, some now are starting to use an Inbox Preview feature. Otherwise I recommend using tools like Litmus or Email on Acid to test your email for you in multiple email clients devices and platforms.

Email Client issues

So you’ve designed your email, coded it, tested it and have a smile on your face of a job well done. A colleague tests it in Yahoo and the email breaks. WTF.

With the constant update of software and websites there always seems to be different email clients that cause random spaces or override formatting on your text or design. Luckily with the large number of #emailgeeks on Twitter you can always find out about these fairly quickly or ask for help/advice in Litmus’ community forum.

Too much content

With an email campaign you only have a short time to catch your subscribers attention and by filling it with too much content will only confuse or anger your subscriber. Especially reading on a mobile device – put yourself in your subscribers shoes; would you want to be scrolling down and down reading links to the 30 latest blog posts or 20 discounted  products? Probably not.

Gmail will cut your email short if the content is too long or too large in size, see this blog post by Email Design Workshop – Prevent Gmail from clipping your email

The content of the email needs to be relevant and brief, if you need to target your subscribers by their activity – send an email about certain products to subscribers that have shown an interest in them before and clicked a link.

Not collecting data

So you find a lovely new website for a restaurant or clothes shop and want to find out what offers they have on or even want to keep note of their updates, but they don’t have a email signup option.

Wait….. what?.. In some cases where I am unable to sign up for a companies newsletter I can’t be the only one who feels like this below?


This is such a basic requirement of collecting data from the start of your website or business launch, where you could be offering your website visitors something special for signing up, like a discount on their first purchase or a hints and tips guide.

Email marketing should not always be “sell sell sell” but more about what you can offer the subscriber in return for signing up to your updates and how you can give them something back for their loyalty.

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