It’s Spring time. I’m proud that some of my clients have become enthusiastic and are rejuvenating their marketing efforts. What worries me is all the email marketing mistakes being made by do-it-yourself-ers who have ignored my advice. I’ve had a half dozen people lament to me in the past month about the negative backlash they received when sending promotional emails to their contacts.

The Worst Email Marketing Mistakes Begin With Denial

Oddly enough, some business owners see absolutely nothing wrong with sending the crappiest email messages. The common response I get is that they haven’t time to do anything better.

Well, how is that working for you? Is the phone ringing off the hook within the first 48 hours after sending that email? Guess what the answer is… NO!

If you’re planning to start sending promotional emails for your business, please avoid the following email marketing mistakes…

Understand What Permission Opt-in Means.

Are You Sure Have Permission?

Are You Sure Have Permission?

Just because you have my email address, it doesn’t mean you have permission to send me promotional messages. Ideally, you need to ask me to opt-in to receiving promotional messages from you.

Complying with U.S. law, CAN-SPAM email guidelines, it is okay to send commercial email to someone you have a transactional relationship with. That can be interpreted as:

  • They inquired/requested information about something you offer — a Prospect
  • They bought something from you — a Customer

If found my business card at a networking event attendee list, but never met/spoke to me, you should not add my email address to your list.

If we’ve talked a few times and have formed some sort of relationship, than it may be okay.

The best is to always ask permission. Invite people to join your mailing list because you guarantee they will receive some information of value in return.

Read The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business.

Don’t Expose Everyone’s Email Addresses

I get very upset when someone sends a mass email with all the addresses in the “TO” field. You should never, never, never expose everyone’s email address like that. It often makes people angry to have their email address exposed to strangers and risk getting more junk mail.

Most importantly, you’ve lost my trust. When you collect Personally Identifiable information (PII) about consumers and businesses, you are expected to take reasonable steps to protect it.

Instead, a simple solution would be to use Blind Carbon Copy “BCC”.

Don’t Send Out Attachments

I guarantee this — I will never open any MS-Word document sent to me by someone I don’t know. Even if I do know you, I probably wont open the attachment unless it’s related to a project we’re actively working on. Opening infected attachments is a quick way to corrupting my software, so I often click


Similarly I don’t like receiving massive file attachments by email. If you have something to say, put it in the body of the email. Or put it on a web page and include the link in your email.

Use A Proper Email Marketing Delivery Service

This is the preferred method for managing your list and campaigns. You’ll get functionality to collect email addresses, manage opt-ins, plan your campaigns and measure results.

Many providers offer free trials. I’ve previously explained all about How To Select Email Marketing Service Provider. While Constant Contact may seem to be very popular thanks to their aggressive advertising, there are many others with comparable sophistication and functionalty. MailChimp is free for the first 2,000 email addresses and works great.

Yes, this does require an investment of your precious time. But your output will look so much more professional. Of course, you could always hire an Email Marketing Consultant like me to do it for you. 😛

Don’t Send Crappy Looking Emails

You know what I mean. I’m sure there are a few crappy looking emails in your inbox right now.

  • Hideous colors
  • Ridiculous images
  • Awkward layouts
  • Way too much information
  • Too many topics
  • Extremely self-serving

If you use an Email Marketing Service, they all provide dozens of free templates to get you started. Pick something clean and simple. Don’t make your emails so complicated that your primary message gets lost.

Graphical emails do not always render exactly the same across all the scores of possible web-based inboxes (i.e. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Optonline, Verizon, etc.), desktop applications (i.e. MS-Outlook, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, Entourage, etc.) and mobile devices.

In Summary…

  • Quality counts
  • Respect your audience
  • Get permission
  • Keep it simple and relevant
  • Use the right tools
  • Get help when you need it

What email marketing mistakes drive you crazy? Please share your thoughts and tips in the comments below.