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7 Embarrassing Email Marketing Mistakes

  • Peter SandeenPeter Sandeen

Look around the Internet and you’ll see lots of attempts of attracting traffic. And more often than not, the goal is to get subscribers.

But then what?

Having subscribers doesn’t equal income – it only equals great opportunity. How well you use different email marketing strategies and engage your audience decides how well you cash in on the opportunity.

You can deduce how marketing savvy someone is based on their emails. Noticing the difference between good amateurs and true pros can be a bit tricky, but spotting beginners is easy; they make embarrassingly simple mistakes.

If you fall for those mistakes, you might as well stop collecting emails and move to asking your visitors for their shoe sizes and pet names.

Here are seven of the most common email marketing mistakes, and tips on how avoid them.

Mistake #1: Not Using Your List When You Have One

Given how much effort people put into building their lists, you’d expect them to eagerly use them once they have subscribers. But you’d be surprised by how often business owners who have lists with thousands of subscribers hesitantly admit that they don’t do any email marketing.

Daily emails might not be the right frequency for you, but if it’s been more than a month since your last email, many people have already forgotten who you are.

Finding the right frequency for your emails can seem tricky. If you send too many, people will feel overwhelmed and unsubscribe because you’re flooding their inbox. But if you send too few, people will forget who you are and are less likely to buy.

The perfect email frequency is how often your target customers want to learn about what you write about.

For example, if you sell shoes to shoe fanatics, you can send a daily email. As long as they’re interesting for your audience, the high frequency won’t be an issue.

But if you sell a complex training system for HR managers, you shouldn’t bug them every day about it.

That said, the more you vary your email topics, the more emails you can send before people want to unsubscribe. So, don’t be afraid to send a few more emails than you initially thought to be the perfect frequency.

As an aside, if you’re busy with other work, don’t stress too much if you can’t send out as many emails as you think would be ideal. Dropping every third email or so won’t have a massive impact on your results.

Mistake #2: Sending Non-Personal Emails

You might’ve received a few emails that start something like this:

“We here at XYZ Company believe in big-picture thinking. Because of that, our company has always been driven by innovative solutions…”

Corporate-speak like that doesn’t fit in email marketing. An email should always come from an individual -with the exception of invoices and receipts that can come from the whole company.

Much of email marketing’s power relies on the personal connection it allows you to create between you and your prospects.

People don’t connect with entities – they connect with people and ideas.

Don’t hide behind a company name. Even if you have lots of employees, all the company’s emails should come from individuals.

For example, sales emails should come from sales reps (ideally the one each recipient has been in contact with or will be in contact with once they move forward in the sales funnel). That way your prospects will start to form a relationship with their sales rep.

And if you have a new piece of free content to share, it can come from the person who actually created it, the person who’s in charge of all content creation, or even the same sales rep to further increase familiarity with that person.

Help your prospects create emotional ties with you and your employees. If your company has some “big idea” (e.g., non-profits), people can connect to that, too, but they still want to see the people who are the driving force behind the idea.

Mistake #3: Sending Non-Segmented Emails

Let’s say you’ve bought product ABC from company XYZ. And then they decide to promote the product ABC heavily through email.

You end up getting 20 emails over two weeks urging you to buy the product you already own. In their emails, they ask questions like, “Why haven’t you acted already?” and repeatedly remind you that “time is running out.”

You might not think too much about it. But some of your subscribers will get annoyed if you send them emails that clearly promote something they already own.

At the very least, poorly segmented emails will destroy the illusion that your emails even resemble personal emails.

Segmentation can get tricky if you want to get fancy with it. But the necessary basics are simple enough for anyone to grasp.

Try your best to segment your subscribers enough to reflect what you know about them. For example, if you know that someone already bought a product you’re about to promote, exclude them from the promotion (or at least remove the emails that are purely promotional and have no hard content in them).

Mistake #4: Using the Same Subject Line Multiple Times

Some email applications show all emails with the same subject line as a thread (when they come from the same sender), so your subscribers will automatically see that you’ve used the same subject line before.

In some situations that’s not really an issue. But the most typical reason for the same subject line appearing is in promotion email sequences. And in this case, using the same headline more than once does matter.

If you’ve spent hours crafting the emails for a promotion, you don’t want to duplicate the effort by rewriting everything the next time you promote the same product. And you don’t have to.

The reason this is such an embarrassing mistake is that it’s so easy to avoid. Simply modify the subject lines to completely avoid this issue.

Combine this mistake with the next mistake and you look really amateurish.

Mistake #5: Re-Using Message Content

If people notice that you reuse the same emails, you look amateurish. Especially if you tried to make the emails sound like they were timely, e.g., “I just made this video for you yesterday.” If people catch you lying (even if the lie isn’t significant), it gives them a reason to doubt everything you say.

By the way, that’s a mistake even some of the biggest names in marketing have done (and continue to repeat).

You should at least slightly modify emails to make it feel like you made an effort.

Note that in some cases it’s okay to reuse emails, even at the risk of people noticing it. For example, if you have an automatic “welcome” email go to all new subscribers, you don’t have to rewrite it every day. It’s clearly an automated email, so no one expects it to be different if they subscribe again.

Or if people take some other action that prompts an automatic email follow-up (e.g., filling a survey), the message content can remain the same.

Mistake #6: Never Selling Anything

For some people, selling feels difficult and they want to avoid it at all costs.

And sure, some people – your most loyal fans – will go through your website with a fine tooth comb to find your products. But most people don’t do that.

You need to tell your subscribers what they can buy from you, how they will benefit from your products and services, and how they can buy them.

If you struggle with selling because you feel awkward doing it, then consider a different point of view. Instead of seeing selling as manipulating people into parting with their money, consider it offering them a way to get something they really want.

In other words, tell them what they stand to gain by buying what you sell. Don’t try to manipulate – just describe to them the best reasons for buying your products and services.

And that leads to the last embarrassing mistake, which can completely wreck your chances of succeeding.

Mistake #7: Filling Your Emails With Marketing Bladiblaa

This is the most typical problem with email marketing: people fill their emails with messages that don’t really make a difference to their readers. In other words, their emails are marketing bladiblaa (marketing messages that lack any persuasive power).

Your emails should be focused on your value proposition. That is, your emails should give people great reasons for buying what you sell.

Give people great reasons to do something, and they are much more likely to do it – happily and without manipulation.

So, what are the best reasons for your target customers to buy what you sell?

Note that they can’t be the same reasons that your competitors could use. Whenever you’ve written an email (or any other marketing piece), consider whether any of your competitors could use the same message if they just changed the name/logo. If they could, you need to make some alterations.

Even if your email isn’t directly about any of the best reasons to buy what you sell, it should support the idea you want people to have of you.

The Solution: Build Your List *and* Make Your Emails Work Well

When you spend time building your list, don’t forget to follow these email marketing tips and spend time making your emails work as well. Start by figuring out what are the best reasons for people to buy your products (your value proposition) and make sure your emails get those reasons across over time.

And avoid making a fool of yourself by falling for one of the embarrassing mistakes. 😉

Are there other mistakes you’ve seen that I didn’t list here? Let me know in the comments below!

13 thoughts on 7 Embarrassing Email Marketing Mistakes

Marcy McKay

Another great post, Peter. Straight to the point with the do’s/do nots. My Landing Page (which your Firepole video helped me create) has just gone live. Hopefully, your info will help my email get off to the right start. Thanks!

Naomi@business start ups

Hi great advice. We all have committed at least one email marketing sin!

Good reminders for me.



Sending Non-Personal Emails is not a part of email marketing and it must be avoided. All the tips you’ve shared seems really great.



Well I’m really new in email marketing stuff and I found this post really helpful.



i going to solve all my mistake which u have mentioned.thank for this post


great article very impressive…going shareit


I find this list useful as someone who has not even started an email list yet. Is starting an email list essential to growing and maintaining steady growth of a blog’s readership?

Peter Sandeen

Hi Jacqueline,

Glad to hear that 🙂

Yes, it’s pretty much a necessity. Some people get mediocre results without an email list. But even that’s tough. And getting really good results is near impossible (at least compared to what the results would’ve been if an email list was used). So, yes. Focusing on building your list is pretty important 🙂 But it doesn’t have to be really hard (at least not technically).



Thanks Peter, I always enjoy reading your blogs, as they appear to be very timely for me. As a recipient of several emails I find it annoying to be bombarded with emails every couple of days. I find that if they come too frequently or are a series of promotions, I unsubscribe and then go and read what I want from their site.

It is great to pay attention to your audience, but it is also good to pay attention to things that attract or detract you. If you don’t like something why would you subject it on your audience? I really like the personal feel I get from some sites and that is why I subscribe. That is what brought me here to Firepole Marketing and Danny.

Peter Sandeen

Hey Carolynne,

Frequent emails can work if they’re really valuable. But I get what you mean—most people just don’t make their emails useful if they’re very frequent, instead they turn into repetitive promotions.



I’m guilty of not segmenting, but my list also isn’t huge yet. The only reason I don’t experiment with segmenting is that I’m not super confident that I know how to do it well. I do have a separate list for buyers of my DIY Business Planner and when I run a webinar I keep a separate list and then migrate it over to my newsletter. That keeps most of my promotional stuff separate, but I often wonder if I need to be more conscious of segmenting my list by, say, location, when I’m doing a local event in Vancouver and telling people in Brazil about it. I’ve even thought about telecasting my workshops so people can actually participate from wherever they are!

Peter Sandeen

Hey Jessica,

Segmenting your list based on who has already bought a specific product is usually quite enough. It’s only really annoying when you get tons of promo emails about something you already bought (if those emails aren’t actually useful on their own).

So, don’t worry about it too much. Geographical segmenting can be a good idea, but it takes some planning…



I am finding the info you are providing via emails very helpful at this time in my business! I particularly enjoy listening to the Podcasts while I do my craft. Keep up the good work!
Denise Jones-Chu
Hello Beautiful Textile & Ceramic Creations
Vancouver, Canada

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