6 Reasons Why Your Customers Hate Your Email Program

  |  June 26, 2014   |  Comments

In order to engage customers and avoid the dreaded delete button, brands need to wow consumers with their email marketing. Here are six reasons brands' emails may end up in the trash.

Dear Brand That I Care Enough to Point Out Your Faults,

I just want to be friends but trust me, it's you not me. I opted in to your email program with high hopes and an immediate offer. After that, we drifted apart and every once in a while I wondered what was new with you but you seemed to be doing that same old song and dance. I could tell you were never into me. That is fine but I want you to be better. That is why I am going to tell you why your email program isn't good. In fact, you do enough wrong that I hate it. Here's why.

1. You Have Terrible Subject Lines - Either So Long and Confusing or Boring and Broad

The simple yet powerful subject line may be the most important piece of real estate in email marketing. Especially in today's world, where your best subscribers may read it on their smartphone in carpool line, you must make the subject line compelling. The subject line is the make-it-or-break-it part of the email that either gets someone to read your email or delete it. Too many subject lines don't tee up the email well, grab your attention, or articulate why the subscriber should give you another five seconds.

2. You Send Too Many Emails - and They All Suck

Email frequency is the top reason people unsubscribe from your email program, according to Blue Hornet. Makes sense, right?


The only way brands can get away with sending a high frequency of emails (which of course is very subjective and differs by brand) is that the emails are awesome. Again, very subjective, but if you send, let's say four times a week, your emails better have killer offers, unique content, and overall be true to your brand. Yes, if you send more emails regardless, the revenue may continue to be higher in the short term but many of your best subscribers will hate you. Understand the trade-offs.

3. I Don't See the Point of Your Emails

Julia Bray of BrightWave says long paragraphs are the kiss of death in email. Get to the point, she says, or you will lose her. She, of course, isn't alone. Too many emails land in your inbox crafted like 1980s direct mail pieces with the payoff at the bottom after seven paragraphs of copy. Think that works on mobile? Or even in 2004? Make it clear what the purpose is and what the value is in the first five seconds for the skimmers out there - which means nearly everyone.

4. You Don't Know Who I Am

B2B email marketers take it to a whole another level with creepy fake-out first sentences and acting like you were expecting their email or have a true relationship with their brand. Jay Jhun of BrightWave says that is a surefire way to get him to hate your email program. Many business-to-consumer marketers make the cardinal sin of fumbling the data or sending emails addressed to the wrong person or the dreaded "Dear First Name."

5. You Are Boring Me

Laura Giles of BrightWave says her favorite emails are conversational and feature brand-centric dialogue throughout all email content. It is no exaggeration that today's digital user has a short attention span, and that is being generous. Make it count, make it clear, make it interesting, and do it all quickly.

6. Your Emails Are Pretty Ugly and I Am Not

In this online space where Pinterest drives where we are going visually, email campaigns need to be compelling from a visual standpoint. They need to be functional yet attractive. Brands shouldn't have a huge disconnect from how their brand communicates by platform, meaning if Instagram is the present-day version of your brand, make sure email isn't the dorky middle school version of your brand.

Too many great brands have emails that are nothing more than website ads that land in the inbox. Or they haven't updated their various templates for years. Think mobile lowers the stakes? Blue Hornet reported that more than 80 percent of consumers will delete an email if it doesn't look good on mobile. Looking to add insult to injury? The same study found consumers are willing to act on mobile email with almost two-thirds (63 percent) saying they would make a purchase as a result of an email on their mobile device.

Chime in on what drives you crazy with underachieving email programs. Look for a love letter in the next column on why we love your emails.

Homepage image via Shutterstock.


Simms Jenkins

Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, North America's leading email marketing-focused digital agency. The award-winning firm specializes in elevating email marketing and digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs, and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a world-class client list including Affiliated Computer Service (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, Phillips66, Porsche, and Southern Company. The agency was recently ranked among the fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.

Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association for being the top agency marketer and the Email Marketer of the Year at the Tech Marketing Awards held by the Technology Association of Georgia. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is regularly cited by the media as such and called upon by the financial community to provide market insight and consulting.

Jenkins is the author of two definitive and highly regarded books on email marketing; The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson's Financial Times Press in 2008). Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news and commentary in the world, online or off. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers.

He has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Bloomberg TV, Wired Magazine, and scores of other leading publications and media outlets. Jenkins is a regular speaker at major digital industry and general business conferences.

Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of and, the leading authorities on email and social media metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media.

Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors among other civic and professional boards. He is also a mentor at Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech-based startup accelerator program. Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood with his wife and three children.

Follow and connect with Simms on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, The BrightWave Blog, and his book websites at and

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