Avoiding Common Email Marketing Faux Pas

As email marketers, we are guests in the inbox of our customers. We have been invited to enter into their personal world and, much as you do when visiting a friend at home, you need to respect their personal space. Taking the analogy even further, when you move and enter a new neighborhood (which I did not too terribly long ago), it’s important to get to know and understand your neighbors. There’s already an existing dynamic there; having a firm understanding of it helps to determine the role you play in that ecosystem.

For example, it turns out that I do not want to serve as the free babysitter for someone in the neighborhood just because we both have kids that are the same age (yes, there is a story there -- multiple stories -- but I don't want to bore you with the details). The point here is that your email is bringing something to the inbox party, and you need to decide what it is and how it is going to jive with what is already there. So how do you avoid some of the most common (or annoying) email marketing faux pas?



The Too-Frequent Pop Over
Look, my neighbors are nice enough, but I do not want to see them every day. Having their five-year-old son ring my doorbell on a daily basis is more than most could handle. (I’m not exaggerating here. I mean every day, for more than a month now.) Often I turn him away because the kids are doing homework, or we are doing something as a family -- but usually once a week, I let him in the door.

Pay attention to the frequency with which you are sending email to your customers (ringing the doorbell), and the ratio at which they open the message (let you in to play). It isn't just the relevance of your specific email that is going to gain their attention. You also need to consider the possibility that your recipients would rather engage with a different message today, based on their frame of mind. 

Being Too "Up in the Business"

There are few things worse than a nosy neighbor. You know what I’m talking about: those neighbors who know who’s friends with whom, who is fighting, and exactly what you had for dinner last night. It is nice to leave some things to the imagination -- and quite honestly, having a neighbor who knows what day I grocery shop, when I clean my house and the exact time I leave to pick up my kids from school is a little, well, creepy. 

As marketers, we know quite a bit about the behavior of our customers. But just because this information is available, doesn't mean we have to use it. Be selective and discreet about how content is positioned and relevance is achieved. Otherwise you become the nosy neighbor, and people may start avoiding you. Completely.

Can You Pick Up After Your Dog, Please?
I have no pets – largely because I have three kids to take care of, and I pick up after them all day long. I don't need to deal with the dog hair in the house and the "presents" they leave in the yard. So one big annoyance is when a neighbor's dog does its business in my yard, and the owner just keeps right on a walking. It is not my job to pick up after your pet, my friend.

It's all about hygiene. And you need to apply the proper hygiene tactics to your customer list. What the specific tactics and rules are will vary by client, program and a number of other factors, but the point here is to be mindful of it. Cleaning up after yourself (your pet, your program, take your pick) is a good and solid practice to leverage on a daily basis. 

Next time someone leaves a present in my yard, I may revert to my childhood days and stick it in a paper bag, put it on the porch and set fire to it  -- before I ring the doorbell and run away. Your customers can do the same thing. They can light you up on the social feeds, report you as spam and delete your email communications forever more.

What other faux pas are as annoying in the email space as the nosy neighbor peeking in the window? I would love for you all to share.

4 comments about "Avoiding Common Email Marketing Faux Pas".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from, network, April 12, 2013 at 2:29 a.m.

    You lost my attention when you mentioned how annoyed you are when a five-year old neighbor stops by every day to see if your kids can play. In every neighborhood I've ever lived in, that was a very welcome part of all our lives, at every age. All of which has nothing to do with emailed ads, but just sayin'.

  2. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, April 12, 2013 at 7:19 a.m.

    What kind of person hates their neighbors son playing with their kids? This kind:

  3. Kara Trivunovic from Epsilon, April 12, 2013 at 7:50 a.m.

    So that we are all clear here, I never said I hated my neighbor's son playing with my children. It was an example to emphasize the point that everyone's personal preferences in communication are different. Just as a brand needs to recognize the individual preferences of frequency and cadence with their subscribers, people have different levels of preference on how often and closely they engage with their neighbors (or any other relationship for that matter).

  4. Jennifer Faber from GreenSigns, April 15, 2013 at 3:25 p.m.

    Enjoyed this post immensely! I enjoyed the analogies of a new neighborhood and common email mistakes. Point on!

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