Bad Marketing Emails: Examples and Lessons

 In Demand Generation, Strategy and Go to Market
4 Minute Read

Let’s talk about email again. According to Cisco Talos in September 2018, about 85% of email is spam. Of that spam, some say that about 36% of it is marketing-related. Wow. Marketing is partly responsible email crisis. People write books on it and whole websites dedicated to it. Heck, there’s even a Washington Post calculator to help you figure out how much time you waste on email. So before you hit the send button on another email campaign, make sure it’s not another batch of bad marketing emails contributing to email overload.

Like everyone else, we receive a lot of messages here at WaveLength, and not all of them are home runs. Fortunately, everything can be a lesson. This is true even if it’s a review of things to avoid, so you’re not part of the email overload problem. Check out three bad marketing emails – all blunders received within weeks of each other – to learn some lessons.

And please note: we used the magic of Photoshop.  Since we’re not in business of embarrassing anyone, we changed names to protect the guilty.

Bad Marketing Emails Lesson 1: Proof-Read!

Today on Adventures of the Unedited, we have an example of what happens when the rough draft becomes the only draft.

Image for bad marketing emails 1Oh, boy. Where to start with this one?

First of all, white text on a light blue background?   It’s a little hard to read. A quick once-over at the template would have fixed that.

And then there’s the text itself in the body of the email.  Take a look.It’s grammatically awkward to the point of word salad. With a few misplaced words, this whole message goes from zero to sloppy in ten seconds flat.

So the lesson?

Take a few minutes to skim your content, making sure it’s readable. Anything jump out at you, halting your pace as you read through the text? It’s worth a few seconds of editing to fix that. Nothing will make you look more unprofessional than rushing through the copy.

Bad Marketing Emails Lesson 2:  Personal, Not Invasive

Well, this next message gets one thing right: marketing isn’t easy.  Anyway, when you read it, remember that we’ve never met this person.

There’s a fine line between enthusiasm and desperation, alright.

This one steps right over that line, buys some land, and builds a house. There are ways to market your product without offering, say, your first-born son. You don’t need to bribe a prospect to hear you out if you’ve got something worth saying.

This message is a perfect example of a bad marketing email. This well-meaning soul tried to sound relatable and down-to-earth. The truth is, the forced familiarity is unsettling. Underdog stories are some of the most classic crowd-winners, but this is not the way to tell them.

Aim for a pinch of zeal, not a bucket.

This message runs the gamut from cloying, to friendly, to hopeless. Its tone grabs for every emotional angle. Being personal is important, but don’t go overboard! Clumsy self-deprecation is not a good look, and the aim is to intrigue, not to overwhelm.

People respond to authenticity, but desperation drives them away. This person could have an amazing story, and it wouldn’t matter: the only sound we hear is begging.

And lessons here?  There are many, but it all comes down to one thing. You can be real without sacrificing your dignity. Aim for it and don’t stop until you achieve it.

Bad Marketing Emails Lesson 3:  Don’t Be Dismissive

A prospect reaches out to you. They’re excited about your product and want to learn more. You ask them to choose a time in your calendar that works for them.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Read the first email in the thread because it’s a pretty good way to re-activate an old lead. But make sure you read our response and think about it for a minute. And then read hers.

See, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using scheduling apps to set appointments.

Anything that makes life easier is great in our book. But in this case, the prospect indicated that their schedule is tight. You, by offering your calendar, are delivering two distinct messages:

  • My schedule takes precedence over yours.
  • If you want to hear about my product, you need to take your time and put in the work.

Context is key.

It’s one thing to ask someone what time works best for them. Here, the prospect has indicated that they have limited availability. Responding with “Find some time on my schedule” sounds dismissive, at best. At worst, it’s deliberate and insulting.

If someone reaches out to you for more information, you should rejoice! This is a golden opportunity to engage them in your cool product or service. You might not need to roll out the red carpet right away, but don’t take that interest for granted. Being inconsiderate, even implicitly, might dump ice water on that flame.

Avoid Adding to the Email Overload

Every sad story in this article could have had a happier ending.

When you send an e-mail, automated or not, you’re reaching out to a human being. You’re asking someone to hear you out, and spare your message from the Junk folder. A bad marketing decision amounts to more than a misspelling and the use of Comic Sans.  If it’s worth the effort in the first place, it’s worth a cursory glance.

Remember the human element.

The next time you reach out to a fellow air-breather, ask yourself these four questions:

  • How is my content presented? Is it coherent? Is the grammar sound?
  • If I were to receive this message from someone else, how would it read to me?
  • Does this sound like an actual robot wrote it?
  • Is this something I am proud to send to others?

Simple enough, right? You’d think. But oftentimes, the simplest problems are the easiest to create. Thanks to technology, communication continues to redefine itself.

One thing remains constant, though. Our communication must remember the human to be effective. At least, until the robots take over for good.

Good marketing emails take time, practice, and a proofreader.

So if you’re guilty of making a bad marketing emails, relax. We’ve all been there. You’re in a rush, you’ve got a million things to do, you pump out a lazy e-mail or crappy copy. It happens.

Luckily, in marketing, it’s all about the journey. Making mistakes is part of the living process of learning and engaging. So don’t shy away from the setbacks – take a breath, learn from them, and grow. Paste in something you’re working on and edit away. Or, click the Write button and compose something new. But always, always, proofread.



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