How Not To Do An Email Campaign: The Ultimate Guide

How Not To Do An Email Campaign: The Ultimate Guide


It can be hard work getting a cold email campaign right, but it takes a special level of skill to create a truly horrific campaign.

You know the ones I’m talking about - emails with zero opens, the kind people just can’t delete quick enough.

I’m Gelo, Oleg’s evil twin, and I’m here to help you sink your cold email marketing campaign to new depths.

Of course, if for some bizarre reason you want to run a successful campaign, you can always do the opposite, but I can’t imagine why you’d want to.

“Instead, follow these guidelines, and I guarantee your emails will generate pitiful ROIs.”


Wing it.

They say that failing to plan is planning to fail. Well, I’m not exactly sure who ‘they’ are, but they’re definitely right when it comes to email marketing.

The first rule of the bad email club is to assume everything will work out without any effort.

Play it by ear, do the first thing that comes to your mind and most importantly, destroy any trace of a strategy. Even a basic plan can increase the effectiveness of your campaign.


Email everyone.

You’ve made a great product or service, something that can help a lot of people.

You’re proud of it, so do what comes naturally - shout it from the rooftops. Go through your address book and make sure you let everyone know how awesome your creation is.

Buy any and every unqualified list you can get your hands on. Randomly generate emails if you have to. Send your campaign to every single email you can find.

For one, this is sure to annoy a lot of people.

You’re going to get tagged as a spammer, which will make your IP much more likely to be blacklisted, hurting your chances of contacting people who might actually give a damn about what you’re selling.

Then, even if you somehow get through to their inbox, you’ll have wasted a lot of resources for a response rate somewhere south of the gutter.


Don’t follow up.

If at first you don’t succeed, quit.

There’s evidence that people need to hear from you seven times before it makes an impact. And if people don’t know who you are, they’re not going to buy.

Statistics show that 80% of sales require five follow ups!

But don’t worry, you’ll be in good company. Turns out 44% of salespeople give up after one attempt. Do the same and you’re guaranteed to miss out on more sales.

Of course, you can always try doing the opposite...


Bombard without mercy.

This may seem like a contradiction to the above point, but it turns out you can also lower your chances of a successful campaign by emailing your prospects constantly.

Annoying your prospects by showing up every time they open their inbox will irritate even those who may originally have been interested in your product and have them racing to block your emails.

There’s a fine balance to be had between giving up immediately and overwhelming your potential customers, where you connect and engage without becoming a nuisance. To guarantee you miss that middle ground, aim for one of the extremes.


Ignore the rules.

You know who rules are for? When it comes to email marketing, successful people.

The most infamous of these are the rules of the CAN-SPAM act, applying to the USA, so if you only have time to disregard one set of rules make it these.

However, many countries have their own version, if you want to ignore those as well. On top of tripping every spam filter from here to Tennessee, you have the added bonus of actually breaking the law. Public enemy number one, here we come!


Forget to test.

You’ve heard what they say about people who assume, right?

You can read a million and one articles on sabotaging your email campaign, but your audience is specific to you. Every industry is different and every business is unique.

Successful campaigners use A/B split testing to check and refine every part of their email, from the subject line through to the colour scheme, so that it’s perfectly tailored to their audience. But hey, ignorance is bliss right?


Start from scratch.

Reinventing the wheel is a time-honoured method of wasting time and resources.

Sir Isaac Newton once wrote that if he saw further, it was only because he stood on ‘the shoulders of giants,’ the scientists who had gone before him.

But what did he know about creating appalling email campaigns? Avoid shortcuts and instead spend years making your own mistakes, making sure not to read up on latest best practices and templates from sites like GrowthHackers.


Sell sell sell.

Everyone loves a pushy salesperson, someone who gets in your face, ignores everything you say and pressures you into buying the most expensive item that doesn’t even meet your needs.

While smart salespeople might work on engaging with their potential clients, establishing their needs and providing value, time’s wasting. Every word of every email should be written (preferably in ALL CAPS) to sell your service.

So what if most of the people delete your message or mark it as spam? Find out how to avoid it here.


Demand perfection.

You may have heard of the Pareto principle, alternatively known as the 80/20 rule.

Broadly speaking, it states that 80% of results come from 20% of the efforts.

To crash your campaign, forget this and shoot for 100% every time. The aim here is to spend so much time working on your email, making it so perfect you never actually send it.

Paralysis by analysis is the goal - second guess every word, then triple guess. Tue masters of this can spend years on a single email without actually sending it.


Make the email all about you.

Every party has that one guy who’ll trap you in a corner and talk about himself all day, from how their first word as a baby was ‘success’ to how they have the highest IQ in the room.

The truly dreadful email campaigns follow the same model, except it’s a lot easier to delete an email then escape from a party. Every email should be an essay, all about you and how awesome you are.

Giving any consideration to the reader and what they’re interested is a big no-no.


Leave out the Call To Action.

When writing your email, you want to be subtle, really subtle.

In fact, you want to be so subtle you only appeal to the readers who can read your mind. CTAs are a prime example of this. When used as intended, they give your readers a clear idea of what to do next, and can make your email the first step in a carefully laid out sales funnel.

On the other hand, to frustrate and confuse your reader, finish off your email with no direction. For maximum effect and to annoy as many readers as possible, leave your last sentence unfinished, kinda like...


Use click-bait style subject lines.

You can’t throw a stick on the internet without hitting a swarm of click-bait headlines.

You won’t believe what these celebrities look like today.
Ten conspiracies that are actually true (number 7 will blow you away).

We’ve all seen them.

You’ve probably clicked a couple yourself. So if they’re that good at getting people to click, surely they should be part of a successful email campaign?

Quite the opposite. When it comes to emails, click-bait style headlines have been shown to negatively affect open rates.


Ignore personalisation.

If you’re emailing strangers at random, you’ve got a head start here as you won’t have any information to personalise your emails with anyway.

Even a properly used tag can make a difference, but successful campaigns take this personalisation further, segmenting the prospects and personalising based on a wide range of criteria, from geographic location through to job title.

People like to receive emails that are tailored for them, even if they are part of a campaign sent to thousands. However, if you want your campaign to sink, avoid any trace of personalisation.


Assume everything works just fine.

When the first draft of the email is done, that’s it.

Send it out the door straight away. Who has time to check for things as important as basic spelling and grammar, correct links, and that it’s correctly set up?

This is a great opportunity to sabotage your email at the last minute, ruining any hard work you may have inadvertently put in.

Small but obvious mistakes let your reader know you don’t care.


Forget about mobiles and tablets.

When 66% of people check their emails on a mobile device, a fantastic way to alienate them is to format your email strictly for desktop computers.

While most software takes care of this for you, I still regularly receive emails that require zooming in, scrolling across, or images that are too small to be of any use on the smaller screens.

All of this make it a lot easier for your email to be ignored.


Use as much jargon as possible.

Marketing emails are a great opportunity to show off your vocabulary and knowledge of your industry.

Okay, demonstrating expertise is a good thing, but confusing your reader isn’t.

Words that are commonplace in your audience’s industry are fine for a successful campaign, but if you want to fail hard then you’ll be wanting to use the most complicated words you can find in the thesaurus.

Not only will you confuse your reader but, as an added bonus, coming off as an elitist know-it-all will turn off any customer, whatever the industry.


Eliminate any trace of personality.

Following on, it’s been scientifically proven that businesses are run by actual people.

That B2B email you’re composing is going to be read by a real live human being. A lot of marketers seem to forget that.

A bad campaign means scrubbing every inch of personality from every email you send, ensuring you won’t stand out in your potential customer’s inbox.

Make it impossible to form any kind of personal connection; to make sure nobody gets the wrong idea, send your email from ‘noreply’ or something similar, to discourage the recipient from reaching out and trying to connect.



I love acronyms, and here’s one every marketer should know: W.I.I.F.M. What’s In It For Me.

That’s what everyone reading your email is thinking.

What’s the benefit to reading on, for clicking through, for taking action?

Good marketers are applying the acronym to the reader for every part of their email. Bad marketeers apply it to themselves, using every opportunity to talk about themselves like they’re the only ones that matter.

The truth is nobody actually cares, and your readers will quickly lose any interest they had.


Be vague and mysterious.

The most precious commodity is time, so make sure to waste as much of your reader’s time as possible.

While a good email will be clear and easy to understand, bad emails will dance around the subject, taking paragraphs to get to the point.

The very worst ones never get to the point, making the readers guess what the product/service even is. Make your email a puzzle to be solved, and you can rest assured no-one will ever get to the end of it.


Assume your readers are idiots.

Maybe you’re thinking that all this talk of being vague and mysterious and using complex language and jargons means that you should write as though your readers have mensa level IQ.

However, you can also damage your campaign’s chances of success by going the other way.

Using a tone of voice that implies your readers know nothing and that only you have the answers will leave them feeling spoken down to and patronised.

Newsflash: nobody likes to feel that way. No matter how good your product/service is, your potential customers will never click through to find out.

Let's Sum Up

If you’re determined to wreck your email campaign, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to do it.

As you’ve seen, it’s just a matter of missing the balance - making your emails too complex, or making them too vague. Settling for nothing less than perfection, or sending your first drafts out without checking the basics.

If, however, you want to create a successful email campaign, it’s going to take some effort.

Fortunately, the Reply team are here to help you with every step, from effective lead generation all the way through to comprehensive analytics and follow ups. Learn more and sign up for a free demo here.

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