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Before we get started, I have two apologies to make: one to every company featured in this blog post (my opinion obviously has little bearing on the success of your marketing efforts), and another for writing a post with a wholly negative premise.

In my defence, it’s often a lot easier to run your own emails against a checklist of ‘do nots’, as it arguably supplies some super-quick fixes.

Anyway, off we go.

Emails I did open...

1. One big image that doesn’t display correctly

I am lazy. If I’m just about convinced to open an email, I sometimes can’t then be bothered to click ‘display images’. And on my phone, I might not always be able to.

So you just need to mix up the images and the text. Here’s an example of an email that could do with a bit more text in it, from National Express.

And here’s how it looks with images enabled.

Beautiful, but perhaps feels a bit too flyer-esque because it’s one big pic.

2. Stock subject, stock images

Are you ready for 2014? Ready how? What solutions do you provide for what problems?

Who is this man that looks like a healthy, corporate incarnation of Samuel Beckett’s Molloy? Are balloons a sign of the future?

Again, snarkiness aside, we’ve used Regus services, and I find some of them valuable, but I don’t want to see stock subject lines and stock imagery.

 

3. Content below the fold

Regus is good after all: here’s tons of good content further down the email we’ve just discussed.

But all the content is below the fold! Get it up top guys, it’s the best bit.

4. Lack of information

Pullman Hotels are great, let me say. I’ve used the company before for meeting rooms and training. But here’s a good example of an email lacking information.

I am given no indication of what ‘Art Night’ is, and the link to register doesn’t offer anything further either. Of course, I’m curious and I googled it a few weeks back when I received the mail, but to no avail.

I like art, and might have attended but for the lack of detail. 

5. WEBINAR!

This is just personal taste. I hate webinars, but I love hearing about in-store tech. This email below would have been of interest, but I rather hastily deleted when I saw the word webinar. 

It’s your subject matter that’s compelling, not the medium. Put the subject first then add the word webinar on the end if you must, or simply add in the body. As I say, personal taste perhaps. 

 

And emails I didn’t even open..

6. Gimmicks: icons instead of characters

This is a bit ‘2000’. No longer impressive.

7. My good friend, admin

Make sure your email is sent with something touchy feely in the ‘from’ field.

Not ‘admin’.

 

8. Win an iPad!

These competitions were successful at the launch of iPad 1, due to its huge cultural cache at the time. Now, I think we agree that the iPad seems like an arbitrary prize, much like offering hard cash, it doesn’t say anything about your business.

Offer something that ties into your product.

9. Subject = sender

Here’s another example of an email where the poor work in the ‘from’ and ‘subject’ fields stops me from opening the mail.

In this case it’s a subject that is simply the name of the sender. It’s a shame, because this email was Devono’s survey of what makes London great, which I’d conceivably have contributed to, as a lover of this fair city.

10. Unpersuasive subject line

I don’t know why, but I get emails from EET Europarts, who provide electronics and such.

The gist of this email is ‘we have great micro batteries in stock’, as you can see from the opened email. But the subject is truly deathly.

Don’t automate this stuff.

Get someone who can write with pith to add their own micro-battery micro-copy.

 

Thanks for reading. Let me know pet hates in the comments below.

Ben Davis

Published 28 October, 2013 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (25)

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Steve Fair

Fantastic article - my thoughts exactly.

almost 3 years ago

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Bianca

Very informative and well written article. I agree with most of it with a small note on the stock imagery. It depends on the type of stock images (and image bank) you use in my opinion. Of course I (think I) get the point. Don't make it stock obvious but keep it real.

almost 3 years ago

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Paul

Some excellent observations Ben, and many basic lessons and cardinal sins that we should all remember from time to time.

I particularly agree with the comments regarding National Express. I'm constantly amazed at how companies just don't realize how many people are viewing the mail on a smartphone and won't needlessly load images as it eats up their data allowance.

I'm also surprised as to how many 'corporate' mailings are not formatted correctly for displaying on a smart phone in portrait mode.

almost 3 years ago

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Jordie van Rijn

Ben, you did nail a few no-no's. :)

There is a lot of things that companies could do to improve upon their email marketing, just go through your inbox and taadaa! Plenty of examples.

You could actually split them up into two camps (or even three):
1. The mistakes
There is a checklist here, you could use. ttp://www.emailmonday.com/emailmarketingchecklist

2. The no-no's:
Just go through these 25 no-no's and spot if you are a "bad sender".
http://www.emailmonday.com/the-comprehensive-list-of-email-marketing-no-nos

3. And then..
There are the invisible problems, everything looks alright but it actually isn't yet. Silent conversion killers.

almost 3 years ago

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Duncan

I do believe there is a time and place for characters or unicode.

They render very well on iPhone, but should be used with caution and not overused.

almost 3 years ago

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Carolyn

My personal hate is also emails from 'admin' or 'info'. But also just as annoying are marketing emails from a person's name (no hint of which company they represent) and a generic title.

If I don't know which company or organisation is emailing me, it's an instant delete.

almost 3 years ago

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Carla

Thanks - great read! I also read the majority of my personal emails on the go from my mobile (as well as some business ones) and i still just can't believe the number of companies sending emails that do not work on mobile/aren't mobile friendly.

I don't want to scroll across and along just to read something, constantly pinching and expanding and visa versa! Especially if i am traveling at the same time with other things in my hands, like a handbag etc.

Wish that emails would come simple and easy to access on mobile. I'd read more of them!

almost 3 years ago

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Barry Rutter, Digital Marketing Manager at Reed Exhibitions

Ok here's mine. Stop trying to open and close a sale in one email.

The email is the open, the CTA should take me through to the information that is going to persuade me. I am not going to register / buy / sign up of the back of one email. In fact I am only ever going to skim read it so get to the point and don't give me masses of uninformative marketing guff

almost 3 years ago

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Jonathan Mallia

I would have done the same. May I also add subject lines with funny icons - some companies think they work but they absolutely do the opposite. I've A/B tested this myself. Great article!

almost 3 years ago

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Karl Harris

I wonder how many people will read this and think, 'Whoops, I've done that.'

Good article ;¬)

almost 3 years ago

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Geoff Jackson

Or emails that you never asked for in the first place... That's pretty annoying!

almost 3 years ago

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Vaishali Patel, EMEA Marketing Manager at Pubmatic

Great article Ben, especially points 1,3,6,7, 9 and 10.

almost 3 years ago

Sydney Fleming-Gale

Sydney Fleming-Gale, Personal at www.FindGood.co.uk

I hear you with point 3 Ben - too much content slows down the reader and turns them off very quickly. Bitesize is better and make sure your CTA's are clear and appealing. This point is especially relevant for email opens on mobile. The mobile usability of an email should be a top priority.

almost 3 years ago

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AZ

Very insightful. The biggest vices for me are all images without showing text and content below fold.

almost 3 years ago

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Louise

My favourite email comes from Twitter, who grandly announces that 'x has some tweets for you' and the screen is blank!

Some great insight here though.

Louise

almost 3 years ago

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Shaun Russell

There's an interesting contrast to your National Express email in the emails Pizza Express send out, where before displaying images they try to draw it with tables. They seem to have mixed success, it's a bit gimmicky (and chefs end up looking like blocky robots...) but it always makes me curious enough to open their emails:
http://i.imgur.com/0sakhhF.png

almost 3 years ago

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Shmuel

Nice, and I like the simple mock-up screenshots to emphasize your points.

almost 3 years ago

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Lauren Munton

Good article. I'd add that powerful stock imagery can increase open rates if used in an emotionally engaging way. Problem is that not enough marketers place sufficient importance on the choice of imagery in their communication, deferring to whether they like it or not, and not whether it will grab the customer. Think of images as powerful content, not filler. You wouldn't use cliches as subject lines, so why use tired overused images ?

almost 3 years ago

Sarah Alder

Sarah Alder, Managing Director at Cranmore Digital Consulting Ltd

I quite like the icons, if used well. Not saying the email one was great, but I wouldn't write them off entirely. Completely with you on the images that don't display and the tiny little bit of text you have to click on a mobile phone to make them appear. TOO MUCH TROUBLE even with brands I know I like.

almost 3 years ago

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Olga Militsi, Marketing Manager at 2KM LTD

Ben, I always enjoy pointing out other people's mistakes and I am really good at it. If only others would point out mine...definitely have done some nice ones myself. I have bothered to reply to some of the emails that made me wonder what was the sender thinking. I even got a thank you reply once...May I add that bad timing can make a beautiful campaign pointless. I got a message today, beautifully designed (had to enable the pictures...very few designs display on Lotus), tailored to Halloween night. Hmmmmm wasn't that yesterday?

almost 3 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@Olga

A wonderful comment. Timing is everything!

almost 3 years ago

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Olga Militsi, Marketing Manager at 2KM LTD

Thanks a lot Ben. There are so many thinks we need to look at with email marketing. I'll take you to the very basics: clear, understandable content. Here is the first sentence of an email I received three days back:

"Hi,

Would you be interested in having your brand presented to this exclusive group of ABC1 Adult audience in serious shopping mode for Christmas by way of an insert into the official show goody bag at The BBC Good Food Show NEC Birmingham 27th of November to the 1st of December?"

If you managed to read it all, you get 10 points; if you remember what it was all about 50 points, if you want to read the rest you get a golden star and a high five!

I like the BBC Good Food Show....their email marketing...not so much ;-)

almost 3 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Senior Writer at EconsultancyStaff

@Olga

Love it. *High fives anyway.*

almost 3 years ago

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Georgina Colley

To be fair, even if 'admin' had come up with a more engaging sender name, the fact that the message preview starts with
'Greetings of the day!' would be enough to disregad it completely!

My personal bugbear is freelancers who contact me about working for / with my agency, but don't even take the time to include the company name (let alone a personal contact name, which in itself is pretty easy to locate) in their email. It just proves that they're C&Ping every time, and frankly, why would I trust them to research and write decent copy if they can't even take the time to address their correspondence properly?

almost 3 years ago

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