Six Ways To Screw Up A Customer Email

Working with email as much as I do, I’m encouraged to see so many people doing the right things:

  • Getting explicit permission
  • Providing valuable, relevant communications
  • Building trust; treating subscribers like people (and not like numbers)
  • (the list goes on)

So when I get a marketing email from someone who isn’t doing these things, someone who’s doing all sorts of harm to their brand by breaking some of the “rules” (intentionally or not) of good email marketing, it hurts. As an email marketer, I find messages like this frustrating and offensive.

But rather than fume or shake my head about it, I figured it’d be helpful to show what they’ve done wrong, and how you can do better.

The Offending Email

Click the image below to see an email I received recently:

Bad Email

Note: the sender is a company that I purchased from on eBay last month. Names and other potentially identifying information have been blacked out to protect the… well, not the innocent, that’s for sure. Maybe the ill-advised?

Let’s Look At The Problems With This Email

  • They created and sent this email from their own computer, and simply added all of the recipients into the BCC field. While I did receive this message, sending out in this manner doesn’t bode well for their long-term email deliverability.
  • Typing the word “free” as F*R*E*E*. Again, this particular message happened to get to me, but you’re begging to get content filtered by putting unnecessary punctuation in your words (spammers do this). Plus it looks awful.
  • Order Now text is not a clickable link. How am I supposed to order? If you don’t want me to click that text, what do you want me to click? Don’t make me guess…
  • Gigantic whitespace after the sig file, clearly designed to hide the unsubscribe instructions.
  • Unsubscribe section starts out with “This is not spam. Our intent is not to spam.”

    Guess what? Even if I didn’t think they were spamming me before, you can bet I do now — why else would they put that? Seems clear that people have been calling them spammers. But instead of fixing their emails, they get defensive.

    Also worth noting here: they’re forcing me to unsubscribe by replying to the email. This is highly unreliable. What if my email back to them gets filtered? Or what if they just miss it?

  • No physical address.

    Aside from CAN-SPAM implications, this just makes me trust them even less. Are they afraid of me paying them a visit? (And if so, why? What does that say about how they do business?) They could easily put a P.O. Box.

You Can Do Better Than This

Don’t be like this company.

I can tell you that while I’m very happy with the product I bought from them, I won’t be doing business with them again. This email leaves such an awful taste in my mouth (especially the shady whitespace, lack of postal address and giant screaming F*R*E*E*) that I think they’d have been better off not emailing me at all.

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  1. Phyllis Tarlow

    10/4/2007 9:46 pm

    Thank you for the list of email mistakes people and businesses make. I’m questioning No. 6, needing to always include a physical address in your email. As a home-based business, I am hesitant to automatically include my physical address in all emails. I have had several experiences with fraudulent emails from people claiming to want to buy one or more of my paintings. I’m now very sensitive to the wording of such emails, but I wasn’t when I first received them. I would not have been happy to have these people automatically know my address because it was in my signature block.

    Do you feel that even with a home-based business, there should always be an address included in the signature block and that I’m jeopardizing my business otherwise? By the way, I am an artist.

  2. Chris

    10/4/2007 10:54 pm

    I find this comment scary: "Even if I didn’t think they were spamming me before, you can bet I do now

  3. Marcel

    10/5/2007 2:58 am

    Hi Justin,
    thanks for bringing this up! I have to admit I repeatedly made at least three of the mistakes mentioned above and would never have known.

  4. Justin Premick

    10/5/2007 8:18 am


    CAN-SPAM doesn’t require that the address you use be your home address… it just has to be a valid mailing address where you can be reached. A P.O. Box is just fine.


    My point there had to do with subscriber perceptions and what will increase the likelihood of your messages being reported as spam. While I’m quite aware that I am their customer, others may not be – particularly since, as noted, they appear to have BCC’d their entire customer list (without any apparent regard to when a purchase was made). Given the lack of other best practices in the email, I think it’s fair to suggest that not everyone necessarily purchased within the last month, as I did… how many of those people are going to even recall purchasing, and how many are going to find the email relevant?

    When it comes to deliverability, permission matters, but it’s not all that matters. If you’re not providing relevant, valuable information in your emails, you’re going to run into deliverability issues.

  5. Rob Wendes

    10/5/2007 8:50 am

    Thanks for helping us out here. Whilst I hope that I wouldn’t do a tacky thing like a large gap between the end of the content and the unsubscribe, I didn’t realise about CAN-SPAM and the need for an address.
    When you put it this way I can see from a potential customer’s perspective that it would look pretty tacky. I hope I’ve learned from this. Mnay thanks

  6. Marcel

    10/5/2007 9:22 am

    Dear Justin,
    one thing that makes me thinking is that for example if we put the word "free" or the sentence "residual income" or "click here" into an email we most probably get caught by spam filters.

    But if we put "f.r-ee" or "res:dual :ncome" or "cl:ck here" we get caught just the same.

    It seems spammers already made it :mp-oss:b;le to deliver emails with certain content, such as within the health or internet marketing niches, no matter which way you try.

    I agree the punctuated solutions look ugly in addition. I think the only way to come around is to convince subscribers to whitelist your email address before you start sending them mail.

    I do this already and it helps, but most users seem not to even know what a whitelist is, respectfully do not know how to activiate it. To overcome I’ve given some advice on my "Thank You" page for subscribers which helps a little, but not for all.

  7. Justin Premick

    10/5/2007 10:22 am


    One problem with trying to obfuscate words to get around filters is that spammers do that. So if you do it, you look to your readers — and to ISPs — like a spammer.

    One assumption that I think people who intentionally misspell words make is that ISPs just keep a list of specific individual words or spellings, look for each of those in a message, and if they find one, filter it. These senders then try to guess what misspellings the ISPs “haven’t thought of yet.”

    In reality, content filtering can easily involve far more complex rules (example: why couldn’t an ISP just filter ANY word that had any of a number of different punctuations in the middle of it?). And the ISP community has more resources dedicated to beating spam than any individual sender has dedicated to getting it through. Trying to “outguess” or “outsmart” ISPs just doesn’t make sense.

    Having the word "free" in your message will not in and of itself get you filtered. Content filters can still affect your deliverability, but they’re only part of the equation. Your reputation as a sender plays an increasingly significant role in determining whether you reach the inbox or not. Avoiding doing things that hurt that reputation, write your messages the way you want people to read them, and you’ll be fine.

  8. Murray

    10/5/2007 8:23 pm

    Good stuff Justin – keep it coming.

    When I have to scroll down 2 page lengths to find the unsubscribe info, I just scroll back up and hit the block button. If you think this is mean – you’re right. I think placing your unsubscribe info so that everyone has to search for it is a show of dishonesty.

    As far as adding an address is concerned, I agree that you need to let your customers and potential customers know that you are a real company, but at the same time, I don’t want someone showing up at my door thinking that they can make a purchase there. That is the reason that my PO Box number is on every email I send out.

    Thanks for the tips. They are all very much appreciated.

  9. annalaura brown

    10/8/2007 10:53 am

    thanks for the helpful hints. Anything I can do to improve my emails is always appreciated.

  10. Erfolg

    10/9/2007 3:21 am

    thank you for the useful tips.

  11. Ricki

    10/9/2007 12:17 pm

    Great post.

    It is also an example of why you shouldn’t use public email accounts for mailing lists. Your delivery rate is reduced because so many people abuse the public accounts.

  12. Justin Premick

    10/10/2007 8:55 am


    I’m right there with you on the scrolling. It’s good to keep people subscribed — but do it by providing value and making them want to stay subscribed, not by making them jump through hoops to unsubscribe.


    You’re right – it’s best to use an email address at your own domain, rather than a free webmail address.

  13. James

    10/10/2007 11:32 am

    Thanks for this tip. I continually get offrensive emails like the one you got from a business I dealt with just once. They seem to think it is ok to just add you to a mail out "spamfest".

    It seems stupid to me that they don’t think about how the client must feel…..

  14. Maria Porter

    10/10/2007 11:40 am

    Hello Justin

    you obviously know better, but I thought Can Spam required a physical mailing address, so a mail box service with a full address plus a suite # would be fine but a P.O.Box at a Post Office was not.

    Am I wrong?

  15. Internet Marketing Singapore

    10/10/2007 11:40 am

    Yes, this is interesting. I have seen many headlines that shout "This Is Not Spam!". It’s really dumb. Great tips. I have seen lawyers using free email addresses. 😉

  16. Debbie

    10/10/2007 11:54 am

    I was taught that you cannot use a PO Box … that you have to use a physical street address, in order to comply with CAN SPAM.

    Can you advise which is correct?


  17. Realitology

    10/10/2007 11:59 am

    RE: "Even if I didn’t think they were spamming me before, you can bet I do now

  18. Justin Premick

    10/10/2007 12:17 pm

    Maria & Debbie,

    While we can point you to the text of the law, it’s prudent to review laws that affect your business (such as CAN-SPAM) with your legal counsel for their interpretation and advice on what you should use. You can get a PDF copy of CAN-SPAM from the FTC. You may also want to refer your counsel to the proposed rulemaking that followed shortly after CAN-SPAM was enacted.


    Like you point out, there’s a big difference between how people may perceive a well-worded permission reminder and one that says “this is not spam.” Fairly or not, people will form opinions of senders based on things like this, and it’s in our best interest to word our permission reminders judiciously.

  19. Mike Hayden

    10/10/2007 12:37 pm


    Regarding your home address…I recommend using a MailBoxes, Etc-type service (with a street address so you can receive UPS and other packages).

    In this day and age, I don’t use my home address for anything. Nothing! This eliminates most if not all junk mail and stuff that fills home-based mailboxes.

    Plus, I can travel with carefree abandon without worrying about stacked up mail and packages attracting burglars.

  20. Customer Relationship Management

    10/10/2007 1:53 pm

    I concur. Even before I started learning about email marketing, spam, etc. those kinds of emails always looked fishy to me. Mainly because of a couple reasons.

    1. They didn’t look like real emails. It had tons of whitespace, spelling errors, and sometimes the text was in an image.

    2. I had no idea who sent me the email. Why would I follow a call to action from some stranger sends a message to my inbox?

    3. Alot of times the email was for stuff I had no interest in.

    Over the years it just got easier and easier to spot them. Definately not the way to go if you are really focused on customer relationship management.

  21. Keyword Research Tool

    10/10/2007 1:54 pm

    I see a lot of "gurus" using variations of words like f*r*e*e*, and it does raise a red flag in my mind.

    Hiding their unsubscribe link with a bunch of space is rather unprofessional.I do wish all emails had an unsubscribe link though.I get spam from unscrupulous marketers many times a day. Quite annoying.

    Good tip Mike, on the alternate address using MailBoxes Etc or the UPS Store. They can hold your packages in a secure location for pick-up at your convenience or forward them to you, wherever you are. A good solution if your office is at your home.

  22. John Anderson

    10/10/2007 5:03 pm

    Ok good info even if I do agree that that I will still buy from vendors and customers that do make mistakes. I just tell them what is wrong. Most people are appreciative.

    My question is this. Is there a quick way to copy or set up the response as you posted. It would help my newbie customers. If not, we can set up a couple of examples for them.

  23. Justin Premick

    10/11/2007 7:34 am

    Hi John,

    Could you clarify what response/text you want to set up/copy?

  24. S. Kumar

    10/11/2007 10:45 am

    Hi Justin,

    Great inputs.

    Here is a Strategy That I adopt on my site with paying customers what I call *Sustained Customer Satisfaction Strategy*

    There are four simple steps inovolved in this

    -Step 1: I give an unannounced surprise bonus IMMEDIATELY on sale. This puts the customer on a positive frame of mind as more value has been added to his purchase.

    -Step 2: A "Personalized" thank you email is send to my customer mentioning the support email Ids and BOLDLY reminding him that he is under 100% refund cover.

    -Step 3: Exactly after 4 days I send one more email to him with a simple subject line: "Customer Name, Just Checking on XXX Product".

    Inside I give him one more SURPRISE Gift as well as enquire how the product is being useful to him. His suggestions and opinions are invited for further improvement.

    -Step 4: After 7 days I send him one more email with a subject line: "Customer Name, Your valued recommendation".

    Inside He will be requested to RECOMMEND 5 of his friends informing them that he has actually BOUGHT from and they are trust worthy. And just for his valuable recommendation he gets one more " QUALITY "Surprise Gift!

    Please remember here that this " Recommendation" form is meant only for your customers and this is Not the usual " Recommendation " form.

    More than 70% of my income comes from my past customers -by repeat purchases or by joining for programs under me and I believe, it is due to the above strategy.

  25. The Extreme Fundraising Blog » What not to do with email

    10/11/2007 11:30 am

    […] Here’s a great blog post on how not to send an email message. […]

  26. Murray

    10/11/2007 2:33 pm

    I agree with S.Kumar’s tactics except for the 4th one. I have been placed on these lists before, and the spam poured in. I would never add a friend’s name and email address to such a list, just as I would never give out a friend’s name and phone number to a telemarketer.

    I have forwarded marketing offers to friends and suggested that they "check it out". It should be the recipient’s choice to take a look at a product you have purchased and are recommending. We all get enough email we don’t ask for, as it is. We don’t need our friends passing out our personal information.

    I recieved an offer just recently, for a free report in exchange for the names and emails of 3 of my friends. The report sounded interesting, and I would like to have been able to read it. I passed it up instead, out of respect for my friends. It could have come from S.Kumar – I can’t remember.

    This is my opinion on this subject, and I am very passionate about my privacy and the privacy of others.

  27. Lori Titus

    10/11/2007 9:32 pm

    I get hundreds of emails each day from people claiming that they received my email address from "a website where I opted in to receive advertising emails". Unless someone like Norton Utilities is selling their email list, I know this is an outright lie. There is no way I am going to hit their "unsubscribe" button, because then they will know that this is a valid email address. Instead, I hit "delete", or "blacklist" or "spam"…..

    What I am worried about is someone hijacking an email address of someone who may become a customer. I hate to think I may be blacklisting a current or future customer. For instance, I received a PayPal phishing email from a business that I deal with at a lot of festivals. Now, maybe he had a bad employee who was abusing online privelidges, but I’d hate to think that someone hijacked his site or spoofed his email address to send this message. I also hate to think that someone may be spoofing my address to send messages like these….

  28. Justin Premick

    10/12/2007 12:55 pm

    Great feedback all!

    S. Kumar, Murray,

    Word-of-mouth marketing is important, but there are a lot of ways to do it, and with the permission issues that abound when email marketing, you want to make sure that you’re getting direct, explicit permission from people prior to emailing them.

    I’m personally not a fan of offering a gift/bonus/freebie in exchange for an email referral. The problem is that when you do that, you skew your audience’s motivation.

    If you’ve delivered an exceedingly great product/service, people will naturally recommend you to their friends/family/business associates. When you change the situation so that you’re effectively offering to "buy" their recommendation with a gift, you run the risk of putting people off. You also risk getting bogus recommendations from people who do it for the freebie.

    A while back, we talked about an alternate approach to getting more people to sign up.

  29. Murray

    10/12/2007 9:00 pm

    For Lori:

    Thanks for the tip Lori. I have always just unsubscribed, which as you stated, tells them that they have hit "pay dirt". That’s probably the reason I keep getting unsolicited "junk".

    Just today, I have started blocking these unwanted email messages. I’m sure it will take a while, but eventually, maybe this tactic will free up enough space in my email box for more important information.

  30. Edmund

    10/13/2007 9:27 am


    The word FREE has been widely abused. Most email senders don’t even check whether their link is accurate before sending out emails.

  31. Jay

    10/13/2007 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the list Justin.

    I was equally disgusted at the email although I’m probably guilty of #2 myself.

  32. Justin Premick

    10/15/2007 7:55 am

    Edmund and Jay,

    Out of the 6 points above, properly spelling/punctuating your words is one that a lot of people seem to find especially hard to do. But it’s a key to getting your email delivered, and it’s one of the points that we make in our Email Deliverability Guidebook.

    The word "Free" in and of itself is unlikely to get your message filtered (far less likely than F*R*E*E*) – ISPs’ content filters are more sophisticated than simply looking for that word and trashing any mail that contains it. Additionally, reputation factors into your deliverability as well, and arguably moreso now than content.

    Two other blog posts that discuss this:

    * Punctuation Reputation
    * Permission Is A Good Start…

  33. Daniel W Conduff

    10/15/2007 10:42 am

    While I certainly appreciate your comments since you are the expert, I have two items that I would like to get further clarification from you.

    The first is links in emails. When I send emails, the links are activated seemingly automatic. Am I doing something wrong?

    The second deals with CAN-SPAM. This congressional act (not to debate its relevance) requires a physical address. I, not being the only person, have no idea how to comply with the CAN-SPAM act. Can you elaborate?


  34. Justin Premick

    10/15/2007 10:53 am

    Hi Daniel,

    In plain text messages, you simply need to type out the full URL. But in HTML ones, to make certain text clickable, you need to make it an active hyperlink. In the above example (which is an HTML email), the sender didn’t make the "order now" text clickable.

    As for CAN-SPAM, take a look at my comment a bit further up. The specific language used in the act is “physical postal address” (see page 10 of the PDF). You should consult with your counsel for legal advice on whether to use a P.O. box.

  35. Suzanne

    10/15/2007 6:20 pm

    I just wanted to ask and hope this is the right place… Is a 3% unsubscribe rate good, bad or indifferent?

  36. Murray

    10/16/2007 12:16 pm

    For Suzanne:

    I think Justin could answer this one better than anyone. How about it Justin?

  37. Justin Premick

    10/16/2007 1:48 pm

    Hi Suzanne,

    It’s hard to pick out a percentage and say "this is good, this is not," because what you consider good or bad for you may be different than what could be good or bad for the next guy.

    That said, here are a few things to keep in mind when looking at your unsubscribes:

    How You Measure Unsubscribe Rate:

    If you calculate your unsubscribe rate as the # of people who unsubscribe in a given time period (or after a given mailing) against the overall number of subscribers on your list, I would expect that % to decrease over time (assuming your list keeps growing, you’ll be dividing by a bigger and bigger number). If that’s how you calculate it, and have been doing so for some time, 3% sounds kind of high to me.

    If, however, you calculate it as the total # of unsubscribes divided by the total number of subscribers, that number won’t trend the same way, and I’d be more inclined to say 3% is quite low (this would mean that you only had 30 unsubscribes per 1000 subscribers).

    What You Send (And How Often):

    Harder-selling campaigns may experience higher unsubscribe rates than ones that focus on providing a higher proportion of valuable information vs. sales pitches.

    Remember To Look At Other Stats, Too:

    It’s not just about your unsubscribe rate. If you’re selling a product, how many sales are you making vs. that unsubscribe rate? (If your unsubscribe rate goes up, but so do your sales, is that a bad thing?) Are you gaining net subscribers, or are you losing readers faster than you’re getting new ones? (If your content puts off a certain percentage of your audience, but brings in a group of people who would otherwise have not signed up, is that a bad thing?) I can’t answer those questions for you, but they’re worth thinking about when you look at your email campaign.

    Your unsubscribe rate is one potentially useful stat… just don’t view it in a vacuum.

    Hope this helps!

  38. Paul

    10/17/2007 8:26 am


    Do these kind of articles are always really useful, do you or have you guys ever considered offering a consultation service?

    I would love to be able to get one of you guys to subscribe to my list and offer me constructive criticism of my email chain.

  39. Justin Premick

    10/17/2007 8:29 am

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for asking!

    We don’t offer any consulting services currently, but I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of doing so at some point.

  40. Danielle

    10/17/2007 8:58 am


    About the PO Box : In our region (Europe) it is almost ALWAYS assumed as an improper biz. That is because we have not that habit to use PO boxes.
    So, I am fine with writing my address on the bottom. Building trust will not work here when someone uses ONLY a PO-Box.

    Using Free Email Services or not is very different in my experience. Did none of you ever get a spam email from your own domain !?? I did. The email didn’t even exist. Since then I only use my Gmail until the law will force the ISP to check every email if it exists on an existing domain. Hope the spammers won’t find a turnaround for that.

    As human as possible do I mean what i say here : make spammers’ life a hell ! They don’t belong here.

    To all: have a nice one 😉

  41. Jerry voyer

    10/17/2007 9:07 am

    Great information keep it up it’s very much needed and appreciated.
    Thank you.

  42. Henry Pope

    10/17/2007 9:12 am

    Justin Premick,

    1. I am not very savvy about all of this email marketing as I have never doe it.
    2. As a home inspector, I do not sell typical items, just a reminder and encouragement to use my services again or pass my name and number along to others.
    3. I would need some serious training to get up to speed.
    4. I recognize some of the grievous errors and others would get by without any recognition on my part.
    5. Do you have any samples of email marketing follow-up for home inspectors?

  43. Steve Hards

    10/17/2007 9:13 am

    There are ways of saying ‘free’ other than using the word, which can be integrated into most email texts quite naturally. For example:

    ‘…without cost…’
    ‘…at no cost to you…’
    ‘…without charge…’
    ‘…no charge…’
    ‘…at zero cost…’
    ‘…it costs nothing…’
    ‘…there’s no fee…’
    ‘…with no price tag…’
    ‘…no asking price…’

    and so on, Just try being a bit inventive with words too like ‘outlay’, ‘expenditure’ and ‘expense’. Most people will get the message.

  44. deborah

    10/17/2007 9:40 am

    Thank you for the excellent article on what a bad follow-up email looks like. It’s on my list to write follow-up emails for my new business, so this article arrived in my inbox at the perfect time.

    I’d last read that having extra punctuation in the word "free" would increase the chances of the email getting through. I used to place one little dash in there, so it did not look as tacky as the asterisks. Live and learn! Nice to know that the word "free" won’t cause my email not to go through. It’s also great to have a list of other words to use besides "free." I often use "complementary" myself.

  45. Fifth Grade

    10/17/2007 9:43 am


    All good points. My personal need for education on email is:
    – what percent of todays consumers are looking at email as text vs html
    – any good research on the best followup schedule for emails in an autoresponder (I do immediate, 3 days, 3 days, then once a week for 4 weeks, then every two weeks for 8 weeks, then once a month)
    – any great examples of using emails to trigger a dialogue. I have some emails with a link to discuss and item which takes them thru to our forum. It’s been a clever way for this work but I’d be interested in what other approaches people have used…..

  46. Di Chapman

    10/17/2007 10:37 am

    Re Mr Kumar

    It is illegal in parts of Europe to use ‘refer a friend’ scripts.
    Some countries have very very strict rules on SPAM. We are not allowed to send physical snail mail or faxes or phone for business for the first time unless we check with databases which have lists of companies on who do not want to receive these forms of advertising. There is a hefty fine for each breach. This is different for each country but will soon be EEC wide.

    You have to be aware that you have to abide by the laws of the country/state you are sending to. Makes life very difficult. As for addresses, if we are companies we even have to put our registered number and place of registration on each e-mail and other company output.

    I used to live in Nigeria – perhaps I should go back :)

  47. Justin Premick

    10/17/2007 10:39 am


    Spam emails that appear to come from your own address are pretty common, even when you’re using a free webmail service like Yahoo or Gmail. I get plenty of spam at my Gmail address that purports to be from me.

    A while back on the blog we discussed why you should send from an email address at your website, rather than a free webmail address.


    Good point – there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of words in the English language. Nothing wrong with trying out other ways of saying "free."

  48. Nick

    10/17/2007 11:15 am

    Chris, don’t be a chowderhead, hehe. The example of someone thinking it’s spam was not the writers feeling at Aweber, but a lesson about what others will think if you do that.

  49. Nick Usborne

    10/17/2007 11:21 am

    With regard to whether something is spam or not, the answer always lies in the perception of the recipient.

    As marketers we may not like it. We may stick to all the rules. But when Justin talks about some of the text in this email giving him the impression that the email is spam…he is simply reflecting the responses of millions of other people out there who react in the same way.

    In my seminar on email marketing I refer to this as "the human spam trap". If your email feel or reads like spam, then it is treated like Spam. You can scream and argue all you like. But it is the recipient who has to power to decide whether an email is spam or not. Not you. Not the government.

    So yes, avoid any language or punctuation usage that might give even the slightest impression that your email is spam.

    And just to scare you a little, here are some recent statistics from eMarketer:

    20% of users use the Spam button in their email clients as an easy way to unsubscribe.

    49% of users use the Spam button to unsubscribe from emails to which they subscribed, but are delivered too frequently.

    48% of users use the Spam button to unsubscribe from emails to which they have subscribed, but which they no longer wish to receive.

    In other words, the power lies in the hands of your recipients.

    The answer? The answer is not to scream and whine about your emails NOT being Spam.

    The answer is always to deliver value and to build an unshakable reputation with your readers.

    In email marketing reputation is everything. It’s the only thing.

  50. Justin Premick

    10/17/2007 12:12 pm

    Nick U.,

    Well said. Reputation and relevancy contribute to getting your emails delivered – not to mention opened and read!

    Every contact with your subscribers can either build, or chip away at, your reputation. It’s in our best interest to do what we can to make all parts of our message make subscribers trust us.

  51. Shari Smith

    10/17/2007 1:13 pm

    Very well said! I delete emails that have funky punctuation like they are the flu! They definitely demoted themselves. I really appreciate your evaluation because I never want to lose credibility with current clients through my email efforts.

  52. Jason Moffatt

    10/17/2007 1:21 pm

    To this day I still have never seen a Aweber email fall into the spam filter. NOT EVEN ONCE.

    Okay, occasionally I’ve seen the confirmation email hit the spam box, but not even once have I seen a email that was sent using Aweber land in the spam box.

    And I keep a close eye out. In fact, I’ve been waiting for the day to see one single email land in the spam box from dozens and dozens of marketers.

    To this day, I’ve never seen one!

    Thanks Aweber.

    You guys RULE!

  53. BillyWarhol

    10/17/2007 2:14 pm

    Some good Advice*

    Sadly when U try to Pump Up da Volume on yer Internet Marketing Emails they do tend to sound Spammy or MLMy*

    People love the word FREE too – i’m not sure how blathering on with other convoluted text is gonna get the Point across like it does?

    this is a little off Topic but i tried to get my First AWeber AutoResponder setup like U have pictured here but there was No Link for the FREE Report I wanted to provide?

  54. Murray

    10/17/2007 6:02 pm

    Re SPAM coming from your own website:

    This has been a problem for me, and I’ve found some things you can do that may help:

    1. If you get emails like FT%* coming to you (replace "FT%*L" with anything you like) it probably means you have a "catch-all" email address set up at your host. Go into your hosts site management, then to the email area. If there’s an email address set up as a catch-all then remove this option (not the address, if you need it, just the catch-all option). Then you should only receive emails using valid addresses on your site.

    2. Then you need to encode those valid email addresses on your site. A simple way that will work for all except the most sophisticated spammers is available here:

    Better, but more techie, solutions are here:

    3. Or just do what I’ve done on one of my sites: remove email contact altogether and send all contact requests via a "Contact" page that includes an anti-spam question, or "capcha"-type field (where a word is displayed as an image and you need to type it into a field before hitting the "send" button).

    4. Finally, especially if you’re just setting up a new site, it may be worth checking whether your domain name (URL) provider offers the option of a private WHOIS listing as spam-bots (see below) also use WHOIS to get email addresses.

    Serious spammers use spam-bots (like google-bot, but with nastier intent!) to trawl the internet looking for valid email addresses. If they find one on your site, they then check if you have a "catch-all" email address set up. If you do, then they’ve really struck gold!

    I hope the above helps a bit!

  55. Leonie

    10/17/2007 8:13 pm

    GMT: 01.58am 18/10/07

    Hi there

    I just want to know what to I typed at the end of my email to give some one the option to unsubscribe from my list.
    As I am new to this and would like very much to start the correct way without making any errors.

    I myself would like the "at no cost to you". This sounds much better than "free" which means gratis and I for one do not like to use gratis drummed down any one’s throat.

  56. Brian Hawkins

    10/17/2007 8:47 pm

    I would love to know what’s considered average or good as far as open rates and click throughs. What should we be shooting for as far as a goal?

  57. April Eriel

    10/17/2007 11:23 pm

    re. physical address vs. PO box, here’s what CAN-SPAM says about the address: "It also must include your valid physical postal address."

    I think a PO box qualifies as a physical postal address.

    I live in a small town in Lake Tahoe and we don’t have postal service, my only ‘physical POSTAL address’ IS my PO box. If you send mail to my physical address, it gets sent back.. so the only postal address I can give is a PO box.

    I don’t think CAN-SPAM would include a rule that some citizens can’t possibly follow.

  58. Christopher Rees

    10/18/2007 1:23 am

    Another great tool for automatically creating whitelists that you can use on your own sites, can be found here:

    Smashing Magazine ( has an article today on SPAM e-mail and creating bulletproof e-mails, might be worth a read. It’s a great site from a designer’s perspective (don’t know if it’s been covered before, but it’s a good site to put on the frequent visit list).

    Thanks for the great info!

  59. Projektet II » Blog arkiv » Hur man skickar nyhetsbrev framgångsrikt

    10/18/2007 3:02 am

    […] Här är en bra site att läsa mer på. Justin Premick skriver om “Six ways to screw up a customer email“. Justin arbetar på Aweber som är ett företag som enbart arbetar med email utskick. […]

  60. Justin Premick

    10/18/2007 8:19 am


    I have mixed feelings about ditching the catch-all, simply because of the possibility of someone emailing you a question and either incorrectly guessing your address (i.e. support@ yourdomain when your actual address is help@ yourdomain) or just mis-typing it.

    I definitely agree that the contact form is a good option. There are numerous form mail scripts (free as well as paid) online. Your web host may even offer one!


    We automatically include the unsubscribe link/text for you at the end of your messages.


    Ultimately, we should all be shooting for the same goal: better than we’re getting now. That said, we have some previous benchmark data here – I’ll look into compiling some more recent figures.


    That’s a useful tool, thanks!

  61. Brian Hawkins

    10/18/2007 7:55 pm

    Thanks Justin,
    That’s very helpful

  62. B Right

    10/29/2007 6:58 pm

    All the comments are helpful in their own way, and the sum of value enough that I will mark this for further study and to check all the links

    Thank you all for taking time to comment. It has taken me a long time to read it all, so I hope I will have time to put it to use.

    Is it advisable to use an email address I connect with my domain name but don’t yet have a website for?

    There is SO MUCH to learn, I wonder if I will ever get anything actual up and going.

    Troubled Head
    Lost In The Woods

  63. Justin Premick

    10/30/2007 8:13 am


    I’d recommend using an address @ your domain as soon as you are able, yes… and getting your website up! :)

  64. Jenny

    11/15/2007 7:08 am

    Thanks Justin.Thanks for the great tips.Cheers.

  65. Six Critical Email Errors To Avoid

    3/18/2008 11:12 pm

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    […] ripping apart some poor email examples, I think it’s high time we point out someone who’s doing an email […]

  67. Ash

    6/6/2009 10:46 am

    Great post! Lots to learn from this. I get these e-mails often from well meaning businesses people like local restaurants and other brick-and-mortar stores. I know they mean well but they just do it so badly. Every once in a while, I tell them they need to get on Aweber and do it right.

  68. 5 Reasons Email Marketers Should Give Thanks

    11/23/2009 11:04 am

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  69. H E

    8/4/2010 6:50 am

    Wow, as a fairly new marketer, I’m glad to say that we haven’t made these mistakes. We wanted to do it right in the beginning so we can keep our subscribers and not lose any.

    Actually, we haven’t lost one to date (hope we can stay on that track!)

    Another thing I hate is when these companies sign you up without asking if you want the newsletter, even if you have done business with them. Like you, I unsubscribe and don’t do business with them again.