Don't Drive Your Mass Email Campaign Off A Cliff

Don't do this

Warning. Road turns into bacon ahead.

Everyone is full of good advice. I get pummeled with it every day. My Twitter feed is undoubtedly one of the best in the country, because every day all I hear is The (insert cool number here) Best Ways to Succeed in (insert trendy web thing here)!

This is all very helpful… but why is no one telling us what not to do? Even though I’ve listened to some great advice, over the course of 10s of millions of emails delivered, I’ve also had to find some things out the hard way. Good advice doesn’t mean squat if you squandered it away by doing the wrong thing.

A top 10 list of what NOT to do in Mass Email Marketing.


  1. Don’t buy your email list. This seems like an easy one… but really, don’t buy your list. No matter how good it sounds. Big numbers on your list are enticing, but it won’t help your results, and it really won’t help your deliverability.

  2. Don’t stop cleaning your email list. “But I want the most people on my list as possible, because that means I’m reaching more people!” Did you read point 1? Big numbers don’t mean big success. In fact, a clean (read: SMALLER) list where you target people who actually WANT your content can/will result in HIGHER deliverability. Did you know that 20% of email doesn’t reach the inbox? Sending practices matter, and in the coming years, it will only become more important.

  3. Don’t send emails without the ability to analyze metrics. If your current sending method doesn't include a way to analyze results (opens, clicks, bounces, etc), then find a way to get there. See next point.

  4. Don’t fire and forget. Email Marketing doesn’t stop at “Send.” Analyze your metrics to see what is working and what isn’t. If something led to a poor(er) open or click through rate, stop it. Even if it was a “best practice” according an authoritative blogger.

  5. Don’t run an OPT-OUT email list. Just because of someone had a previous interaction with you is not a reason to start mass emailing them, nor is it good to add them to your list because of some subversive “agreement.” Get their permission. Would you like it if, following your first home purchase, you started getting monthly emails from your mortgage broker, the real estate agents (yeah, both of them), and the seller (because he runs an authoritative blog on social media), and their justification was “One of the forms you signed had an agreement on it where you said you wanted to hear from us, so really it’s your fault for not paying attention”? Make it clear and easy.

  6. Don’t go off topic. If you told people they were signing up for an email list where you were going to be reviewing good bourbons, don’t start branching off into movie reviews just because you are really good at it. That’s the type of thing that makes people hit SPAM.

  7. Email Complaints Hurt -- Don’t make it hard to unsubscribe. You aren’t doing yourself any favors. If someone doesn’t want to hear from you anymore, make it easy for them to get away from you. You want them to unsubscribe… the other option is them marking you as SPAM. That’s always easy for them to do, and that is really going to hurt you. A complaint rate surpassing .4% (that’s 4 people per 1,000) can really start to hurt (source: no-longer-existing ReturnPath blog post).

    Email Complaints Impact Deliverability

  8. Don’t operate as if email is free. It costs money. Really it does. If you are doing email marketing for free, send me an email because I want in.

  9. Don’t put everything you want to say in an email. Chances are you have a website. If you serve up all your content in an email, there won’t be a reason for them to go to your site. You can do much cooler things on your site, so try to get them there. Plus, click-throughs look great in metrics.

  10. Don’t rely on best practices. They are a great starting point, but adapt your strategy based on your results, your customers, and your needs. And then tell me how you succeeded… because I really need to know.

Do you feel like Nigerian princesses are running better email campaigns than you, or do you just have a mass-email horror story? Please leave a comment!