Hands up, who hates spam? Who associates email marketing with spam? Yes, and yes?

Me too. But only because email marketing is poorly executed 9 times out of 10, especially when carried out by folks who are either well-intentioned and don’t have much experience with email marketing… or the folk who are more interested in casting a wide net through dubious means.

Why use dubious email marketing tactics to squeeze those extra sales through the gate?

Well, the ‘extra sales’ part sums it up. Though for a legitimate company, the damage to the brand and business reputation can be catastrophic. Imagine your internet service provider cutting off your internet access on a typical Wednesday morning; it’s happened to firms in the US and Europe. How much more damaging would it be if you were in the middle of a crucial project that had a certain time sensitivity attached to it?

In the spirit of keeping you on the right side of the email marketing police, here are five big ‘no-no’s’.

Email Marketing No-No’s

1. Buy an Email Distribution List.

No matter what the company you bought this list from has promised, you’ve been conned. How could the recipient opt in to your list and your content without knowing who you are or what you offer?

2. Add people from your address book to your distribution list without asking their permission.

Wouldn’t you be irritated if all of a sudden you started receiving impersonal advertising in your inbox without your consent from a business acquaintance? Don’t sour a business relationship by doing this.

3. Send your email marketing messages through a free, web-based provider.

You simply don’t look like a serious player if your business address ends in @gmail. Unless you work for Google – though I suspect even their employees have an @google address. Also, the reputable free providers want to stay reputable – they’ll often flag and blacklist you for sending bulk outgoing messages (some won’t even let you send a message to more than ten or fifteen recipients at a time).

4. Don’t include an opt-out mechanism in your email marketing messages.

In Canada, this is illegal. The US and Europe too. ‘Nuff said.

5. Don’t design your messages with mobile devices in mind.

Something on the order of half of all global internet traffic is now through mobile devices. But, let’s ignore that for a second… are you a B2B business? Think about your current clients who you know well. How many of them are constantly on the go, and get most of their email on a BlackBerry or an iPhone? Cursively looking through my own inbox right now, I see about 3 of every 5 non-MB emails marked with the tell-tale signs of having been sent from a smartphone.

In the spirit of staying positive (my personal mantra), let’s end on 5 best practices for email marketing.

Email Marketing Best Practices


Seriously, ask permission! With email marketing, this means utilizing a double opt-in mechanism and including clear, consistent messaging on why the recipient is receiving your messages. Every time. Also, have a clear opt-out mechanism (so that you’re not exposing yourself to the stiflingly draconian penalties proscribed in the recently-passed CASL legislation).

2. It’s the content, man.

Reach, open rate, clicks, and other metrics are worthless if you have poor messaging and a non-relevant or unclear offer. As with everything else persuasive, the message is the most important thing to consider in execution. Well, that… and targeting. Trying to sell the the folks in Whitehorse an ice cube maker discounted 20% in January will probably flop.

3. Measure. Analyze. Improve. Repeat.

Measure everything. Both on your website and in your email marketing campaign. Unless you know what your benchmarks are, your next campaign won’t be better than this one. Also, pay attention to the metrics that clearly matter to the bottom line success of the campaign (and your business).

Do not… I repeat… do not build real time analytics into your reporting process, as bright and shiny as this technology looks. Your strategic decision making process isn’t real time, so why does real time data matter? Hint: it doesn’t; unless you can affect meaningful, well-considered changes in real time… which you can’t.

4. Consider mobile form factors.

For all of the reasons in number five above, and even more reasons that aren’t even a thing yet.

5. Think about the funnel.

Where do the leads go? Are they queued into some nondescript customer service type person’s inbox? Or do your landing pages segment the leads and deliver them directly to a hungry accounts person who actually specializes in the product or service being offered through your email marketing efforts? The former choice might work out for you, the latter choice definitely will.

Have some thoughts of your own on email marketing hits and misses? Chat us up on the Twitter or leave a post on our Facebook page.