6 common email-marketing fails that might be putting you on the "no fly list"

Kierra Leimert - Marketing and Research Coordinator 



"Hitting the delete button comes so instinctually that moving customers past the subject line is a victory on its own"


Imagine if for your customers opening up your emails were like breaking open a fresh novel.

They would open the promotions section of their Inbox and squeal with delight at its sheer volume of pages. Scanning its many subject lines like a preview of some enchanting journey that awaits them. Dedicating hours to each email. Pouring over each and every phrase…

All right, all right. That’s a nice dream but let’s be real.  

There is no “new book” smell to promotional emails. And I don’t know about you but I dread the volume of pages in my Inbox; cursing each and every time a store clerk or website convinced me to give my email; barely scanning at all, just instinctually deleting by sender with a vengeance, while adding to the ongoing no fly list I keep in my head of venders to unsubscribe to when I “find the time”. 

The email-deleting rampage pauses only for brief windows of curiosity; words like “free” and “winner”, venders I don’t recognize, venders I’ve had positive experiences with, or really cunning and leading phrases. But when that curiosity is let down? Straight to the no fly list.

Hitting the delete button comes so instinctually that moving customers past the subject line is a victory on its own. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the delete-triggering email fails I see time and time again.  Avoid these fails if you want to stay off of the no fly list.

The stage 4 clinger

Hi there! Hey! What cha up to? Hey, it’s me again…The stage 4 clinger has got to be the worst. In fact, it is! CMB Consumer Pulse cites frequent emails as the number one reason survey respondents give for unsubscribing from business or non-profit email lists.

It’s good to remind ourselves that we rely on our customers much more than they rely on us.

Your customers live a prosperous life beyond your business. Even if they really like you, they will become overwhelmed by a high volume of emails, stop taking any of your emails seriously and start avoiding you. Your emails will keep building up and building up until they have no choice but to unsubscribe. 

Tip: Don’t send multiple emails a day.

Keep your email count down and build trust in your customers. When they see your email they should feel assured that you have a good reason to send it and it’s in their best interest to give it a read. 

Classic case of incompatible

Nothing like being plastered with assisted living emails for making an online purchase for Grandma or receiving an invite for an event that’s already past.  Have you ever received an email offer that you can’t even claim in your country? Incompatible emails often spike curiosity and may even have some entertainment value but they’re not going to end in any leads. 

Irrelevant content is the second most common reason CMB Consumer Impulse survey respondents gave for unsubscribing from email lists.  You’ve spent a lot of time crafting the perfect email campaign, don’t let it go to the wrong place and don’t just blanket email all of your subscribers. 

Tip: Know your customer. 

Send emails that notify customers of information that genuinely peaks their interest. Collect customer information (with permission) and segment your email list so you can tailor emails around your target segments.  

Unsure how to segment your email list? Check out this Hubspot article and scroll down to the bottom for a free guide on email segmentation.  

The no fly scammer

Fool me once, fool me twice…You swear you’ve rejected this sender before but the no fly scammer has done it again. Be it a new sender name, clever subject line, or an unsubscribe policy that is just so cunningly framed it can’t be defeated, this master of disguises has tricked its way back into your Inbox, or even worse, your curiosity zone. 

The temptation to escape the clasp of the no fly list is real, but there’s a cost to trickery. If you’re going to trick your way back onto your customers’ radar then you better follow through and have something really meaningful to offer them. Break their trust and don’t be surprised if they resent you for it.

Tip: Don't be a scammer.

Get back on your customer’s radar with eye-catching subject lines and the follow through quality offers to back them up.  For ideas on how to grab readers with your subject lines check out this MyEmma article or try really shocking them by just being honest, even apologizing for the reason you ended up on the no fly list in the first place.  That’ll get their attention…

The great verbosity part I, II & III

You didn’t ask for a novel when you opened your promotional Inbox but there it is.  The great verbosity part I, II& III is an instant no fly, if not for the sheer unappeal of wordiness then for the time that may have been lost giving it a shot.

Keep your emails as brief and engaging as possible. Your customers are on the go, you don’t need to overload them with information. No one checks their promotional Inbox with their undivided attention, checking email is a task. 

Tip: Don't write an e-novel.

A promotional email should not be the end point.  It should notify and lead the customer to the point of true interest. Is there something happening on your website? Your blog? A new special in store? An event? Tell them what it is (briefly) and make it easy for them to get there. 

Promotional emails should also never be a downpour of words.  Your reader is most likely not invested in your content; they won’t sift through it for gold. Your email needs to grab interest in other ways. Let short clever copy and high quality engaging visuals tell your story.  

For more ideas on how to engage readers with your email content explore these clever email marketing examples by Campaign Monitor.

Playing hard to get

The last thing you want to do with a promotional email is play hard to get.  I mean, you’re a catch. I know that and you know that but unfortunately your customer is just not going to chase after you.

Make the offer so accessible that they might as well “check it out”. Avoid giving the customer detailed instructions or complicating the claiming process.  Chances are, even if they’re intrigued, they’ll decide it’s just not worth the effort and hit “delete”. 

Tip: Don't take customers on a wild goose chase.

A promotional email is not the end point but it does need to lead there. Take the time to test your emails before sending them out. Make sure any buttons or links provided in the email are working and leading to the right place. Make sure it reads and functions well on mobile devices.  Not everyone will be viewing your email on a desktop.

Happy… NOPE

Never, I repeat NEVER send an email to a customer on a holiday or on their birthday if you don’t have something exciting to offer them.  Just sending your customers a simple holiday greeting leaves a bad taste in their mouth. 

You are not the customer’s second Aunt twice removed. A simple “Happy Birthday” is not considered sweet and thoughtful of you, especially when it’s paired with an undertone of “hey remember me? You give me money sometimes, let’s do that again soon”. 

Tip: Don't lead customers on.  

I’m sure your intentions are pure but nothing puts you on the no fly list like leading on and disappointing your customer.  If you’re going to send holiday emails, offer the customer something unique or exciting that shows you really appreciate them and makes them feel special. If executed properly, special occasion emails can be an effective way to connect with customers on a deeper level.


On top of steering clear of email fails, keep away from the no fly list by paying more attention to your own Inbox.  Which emails strike your attention? Why? Start applying these qualities to your own emails.  

Keep an eye on current trends and incorporate that data into your own email marketing strategies. MyEmma’s infographic on must know email marketing facts and Huffington Post's "7 Stats That Prove Email Is Here To Stay" are a good place to start.