Don’t Kill the Romance: 7 Email Marketing Buzzkills to Avoid

It’s the age old story of subscriber meets email campaign. Sometimes it’s love at first sight. Sometimes the relationship takes a little warming up first. And sometimes, it’s just one relationship buzzkill after another.

Is your campaign irritating subscribers more than connecting with them? It could be if you’re making any of these mistakes. It’s time for email marketing couples therapy to save you from turning off your subscribers. Here’s what you need to avoid:

“Info” As Your From Name

Believe it or not, these emails are from two different senders. The “info” sender on top is a museum and the bottom “info” sender is a fire department. These emails just happened to send back-to-back on the same day. Without referencing the subject lines, can you tell which is which? I didn’t think so.

Come on, man. Who are you trying to kid? Info’s not your company’s real name! Why don’t you tell me who you really are? Otherwise, you’re just like all the other generic marketers out there. Don’t be like them. Connect with me using a legitimate company name. It makes you look more trustworthy.

Constantly Changing Your “From” Name

This one’s just as bad as the “info” shtick. A personal touch is one thing, but if you have that many people writing for your email campaign, just stick with a simple company name instead. Otherwise you risk confusing your subscribers and having your messages deleted – or worse, marked as spam.

There may be a few situations when you need to change your from name. But a from name that’s always changing says you’re fickle and not ready for commitment. Huge turn-off. Plus, if you’re always changing your name, how will I recognize you in the inbox? Keep it simple. Pick a good from name and stick with it.


OKAY, YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION! …but can we please stop yelling now? I have a headache.

Seriously, why the all caps? I get that you’re trying to stand out, but there’s a difference between building urgency and being obnoxious. Typing in all caps and using excessive punctuation falls into the latter category and makes me want to delete you so I don’t have to listen to you.

Now where’s the Advil?

Dear Friend/Dear Customer/Dear Member

Hi! Remember me? I signed up for your email the other day. You asked for my first name and I gave it to you. And you address me as “Dear friend?”

I thought our relationship meant something. I thought I was more than just an address on your mailing list. I guess it was all in my head.

If you ask for first names, use them. None of this impersonal-but-trying-to-be-personal “friend” stuff. My real friends remember my name. And you should too, especially since I gave you my name at sign-up.

No Content In Your Blog Broadcast

Emailing just to say you have a new blog entry is like calling just because you wanted to hear my voice, then hanging up. It’s weird.

An email blog broadcast is like a proactive RSS feed. The point is to push your content into your readers’ inboxes. Give them a reason to open your emails. Include some pictures and a teaser for your post. Something more than just a link and the title at least.

Anything less just makes you look clingy.

Mistargeted Messages

It’s like you don’t even know me any more! I’ve been on your mailing list for several years! Don’t you even remember which city I live in? I’m from Philadelphia, not Detroit. So what makes you think I’d care about a city in a state where I don’t even live?

Don’t clog your subscribers’ inboxes with emails that aren’t relevant to them. If you segment your subscribers by location, interest, gender or anything else, use those segments wisely. They’ll feel misunderstood and unloved if you don’t.

What happened to the magic?

Please Don’t Unsubscribe! And Please Come Back!

Look, it’s over. I’ve had enough of you in my inbox and it’s time for me to move on. It’s not you, it’s me. I’m just at a point in my life where I need less clutter in my inbox.

Thanks for the pre-selected radio button on your unsubscribe page to convince me to change my frequency instead of leaving your list:

It’s good that you want me to think things through. But really, we’re over. Even though your persistence on your second unsubscribe page is flattering:

Thanks for the reminder – again – but this time, I’m gone for good.

Oh, for crying out loud! I just ended this 5 minutes ago and now you’re back in my inbox begging for me to return? Now you just look desperate. And annoying. Delete.

What Kills It For You?

Confession time: What are your pet peeves when it comes to email? Dish about the email marketing mistakes that really get your goat.

Are these buzzkills enough to make you unsubscribe from a list? Where do you draw the line between “irritating but excusable this once” and “so maddening that I’m going to unsubscribe?”


  1. Ankur

    2/13/2012 11:55 am

    Nice list. i can relate to each one of those. Here are some more

    1) Marketers leaving huge amount of space between last sentence and unsubscribe link so that people cant “see” unsubscribe link.

    2) not testing messages to check whether personalization syntax is correct.

    3) when tracking is enabled try to have proper anchor text for links. otherwise for not so net savvy junta, links would look like a piece of junk.

  2. John

    2/14/2012 11:13 am

    I would personally like to see AWeber offer an email unsubscribe confirmation similar to the last picture above. Why – Because anyone who receives a forwarded email can unsubscribe the original subscriber just by clicking on the link at the bottom of the email. The original subscriber gets no confirmation of this or a chance to cancel the unsubscribe.

  3. Devendra Patel

    2/14/2012 11:39 am

    I really appreciate for tips and guidance provided by Aweber team, this is what as a customer we expect from best service provider. thanks a lot

  4. Jon R

    2/14/2012 11:42 am

    Excellent writing, Rebekah, with both great content and a timely and appropriate theme. Can’t ask for more!

  5. Malessa

    2/14/2012 11:52 am

    Great advice – reminds me of the funny “Opt Out” comic by Brad Colbrow:

  6. Greg

    2/14/2012 12:21 pm

    Great post, Rebekah! Well thought-out and well presented. I bet you’re pretty good at this email stuff 🙂

  7. Caroline

    2/14/2012 2:20 pm

    Some of my subscribers have filled in the name field with clearly fake names, even symbols in some instances. This has made me reluctant to personalize my messages because, for those people, it would look ridiculous. Any suggestions?

  8. roy emmett

    2/14/2012 2:54 pm

    Unless you’re trying to embrace an extreme liberal agenda, or to connect with a specific political audience of any stripe, it’s never wise to attach your identity to an extremist organization (e.g. move on). You could alienate a major segment of your audience or, possibly risk your credibility by making such a group your personal perspective when in fact it my not be. Valid and helpful information should be apolitical. Political sensitivities run high these days. I will forever see Rebekah as a liberal since she proudly identified herself as such by the examples she selected. We are all quick to make assessments like I just did, like it or not.

  9. Rebekah Henson

    2/14/2012 3:19 pm

    Thank you for your feedback, Roy. As writers who study and report on email marketing, we sign up for campaigns from all different sources to provide a wide variety of examples for our readers. The views expressed in any emails we use as examples don’t express the views of AWeber or any of its employees. We use campaigns from numerous sources to show our readers what to do – and in the case of this post, what not to do. I apologize for any misunderstanding.

  10. Rebekah Henson

    2/14/2012 3:27 pm

    Caroline – I’d suggest either skipping the personalization and opening with a salutation that doesn’t include “friend,” or continue personalizing in interest of your subscribers who do put in their real names.

    Using “friend,” or some variation in your salutation can make your email feel even less personal, as discussed in this post. The subscribers who use fake names should realize that what they see in your greeting is the name they signed up with. 🙂

  11. Liat

    2/14/2012 3:32 pm

    What a fun blog post! The way you included screenshot examples made it really easy to identify what it looks like on the subscriber’s end when businesses do stuff like this.

    Thank you!

  12. Susan Critelli

    2/14/2012 3:34 pm

    Worse than “Dear Friend” is when I get an email that has “Dear !first_name!” in either the subject or the body of the email. We know everyone uses autoresponders, but be a little discreet.

  13. Dr. Michael Haley

    2/16/2012 12:37 pm

    I must admit, I didn’t want the small list. But now that my list is bigger, my open rate is smaller! Time to clean house. I’m on my own list and my messages with a spam score of zero still end up in my spam box when I send them to myself!

  14. Stephanie Rainbow Bell

    2/16/2012 1:34 pm

    I love this article and appreciate its usefulness! I am very mindful as a mailer to treat my subscribers’ Inbox as I treat my own . . . “do unto others” . . . . which in my case means I put out a weekly newsletter that has XCLNT content with an offer or two, and then usually 1 additional email/wk that may be content or may be a promotion. For me, that feels reasonable.

    Yet, I have an internet marketing friend who sends as many as 3 emails a week (average 2 I’d say) that ALWAYS are an “offer” mixed with a bit of content to “justify/illustrate” the offer….

    Her theory is people should be on her list to BUY and it is her job to get them to that decision.

    My theory is that people are on my list cuz they are interested, and they will buy when they are ready if/when a specific offer appeals to them.

    Curious what research Aweber has come up with about this?

    My bottom line as a subscriber . . . I WILL unsub if I’m just constantly being asked to purchase!

    Looking forward to comments!

    Rainbow Blessings!

  15. Hal Hoadley

    2/16/2012 3:03 pm

    Nice list of do’s and don’t’s. I’ve been using email marketing for many years and now I belong to a “new” internet marketing group. They want more info on email marketing. So, I’ve been providing info in our forum and you have just given me some great idea’s to tell them. The next thing i will do is to send them this link with my affiliate account and try to get them to sign up.

    Keep up the great work,


    Hal Hoadley

  16. Frances

    2/19/2012 8:29 pm

    On how often to send (Stephanie), one way to find out would be to ask your recipients. I have occasionally asked mine about some aspect of my newsletter, and although the response rate is low it helps me get it right.