14 Email mistakes that broke our hearts

If the mushiness of Valentine’s Day has you feeling down or you just can’t relate this year, you’re not alone. In the true spirit of brokenheartedness, we decided to ask our team about the emails that have hurt them the most. Because we’re big believers in learning from mistakes, we decided to share them with you. 

Without further ado, here are the email mistakes that broke our team’s hearts. May we be better because of them!: 

1. Mixed messages

“I recently received an offer to take an extra 20% off of a brand's sale via email, but when I clicked the provided link, it led me to a page that asked me to sign up to receive info about their next sale. So, make sure you align with your operations team before you deploy an email.” -Rachael Goodrich, Manager of Partnerships

Lesson: Make sure all of your peers are aligned and aware of outgoing emails, even if you think it doesn’t impact them. 

2. Too needy

“I hate when a brand I really love sends me too much email, and I see this a lot with retail brands. As if I could have possibly missed the three emails they already sent me earlier about their ‘huge sale,’ they continue to send more. This often ends up making me feel so frustrated that I unsubscribe, but I eventually end up back in the cycle once I purchase something from them again.” -Maranda Doney, Corporate Marketing Manager

Lesson: Be mindful of your send cadence and use A/B testing to determine the best time and content to send your subscribers. Choose quality emails over quantity. ( Pro tip: You can use Emma Insights to learn the best times and ways to send emails based on your specific audience.)

3. Too many emojis

“Emojis that make the subject line illegible have become a problem. I actually like when a brand uses 2 of the same emoji to bookend a subject line, but when they are just thrown in wherever, it makes it feel spammy.” -Cody Bender, Chief Product Officer

Lesson: Be intentional about your emoji usage! Choose emojis that complement your email and enhance it, not distract from it. 

4. Attention-seeking

“A brand keeps sending me subject lines that include the 🔷 emoji at the beginning of their subject line, which is the Mac equivalent of "unread.” Sure, their email stands out in my inbox, but not in a good way.” -Matthias Mueller, Senior Manager of Marketing Analytics 

Lesson: Not all attention is good. You don’t want to trick your subscribers into opening your email. Instead, encourage them with relevant content and beautiful images!

5. Reckless sending

“A particular large retailer constantly emails me to stock up on non-consumable items. Something along the lines of  ‘It might be time to refill that laptop charger!’ -James Fuston, Senior Quality Engineer

Lesson: When you create automated workflows, make sure you map out every possible scenario and plan your content accordingly.

6. Ghosting

“It makes me really sad when I sign up for a company’s emails on their website and they don’t send me a welcome email! I’ve expressed interest in learning more about them, but not hearing from them makes me feel like the interest isn’t mutual. Show your potential customers you care about them. Ghosting isn’t cool!” -Kaitlin Wernet, Content Specialist

Lesson: Create a welcome series to create a pleasant experience for your new subscribers. 

7. Lacks clarity

“It’s frustrating when the info/subject is so vague I can't possibly tell what it is without opening. Like when a political campaign fundraising email comes from ‘Stephanie’ and the subject is simply ‘A favor.’” -James Fuston, Senior Quality Engineer

Lesson: Clarity is kind! Remember: You’re not tricking your subscribers, you’re building relationships with them. 

8. Scare tactics

“I hate when nonprofits play dirty. If I see a subject line that is essentially a depressing news headline, like, ‘People are suffering every day,’ I probably won't open it. It's not that I don't want to help, but I'm afraid to open emails that might have graphic images inside. I'd much rather nonprofits use individual stories and hope than scare tactics.” -Kait Westbrook, Content Specialist

Lesson: Like Kait says, use compelling storytelling and authentic quotes instead of scare tactics. 

9. False alarms 

“A bunch of retail brands always have subject lines that say some sale is almost over. But it’s literally every email. So no, I will not be taking advantage of some ‘today-only’ sale when I know it’s every day. I’d much rather have them mix it up with other content or subject lines!” -Grace Miller, Content Specialist

Lesson: Switch up your content to see what other topics your customers respond to. 

10. Disregarding location

“I recently got an abandoned cart email that an item I've been looking at was on sale. I went to purchase it, and it was only available for pick....in Mississippi. [I live in Tennessee.]” -Mimi Hamid, Associate Manager of Existing Business

Lesson: Use segmentation to send this kind of updates only to your subscribers in the correct geographical regions. 

11. No inventory tracking

“I had a company email me 3x in one day reminding me to go back to my cart, only to see that the item and all their recommendations were sold out.” -Megan Fletcher, Global Director of Internal Communications

Lesson: We’ll say it again: Align! With! Your! Teams! Make sure you’re accurately tracking inventory before a big send goes out. 

12. Random recommendations

“I hate the ‘We thought you would like this,’ and then the email actually has nothing related to anything I have bought or looked at.” -David Downs, Sales Operations Coordinator 

Lesson: Recommendations only work if they are personalized. What do you actually know about your subscribers, and how can you provide value to them?

13. Uninformed asks

“Political emails always ask for money, even if you already have a recurring monthly donation set up or if you've just donated. The only one I still subscribe to had an option to opt-out of emails asking for money, and that has been a game-changer.” -Mimi Hamid, Associate Manager of Existing Business

Lesson: We love Mimi’s example of giving your subscribers the option to opt-out of emails asking for money. What other kinds of preferences can you allow your subscribers to choose?

14.  Taking mistakes too seriously

“I'd say it breaks my heart when a company takes an email mistake too seriously. We are all human and make mistakes now and then—It's how you learn from it that counts. You could be good sports like the Nashville Predators and print "Let's go Perds" tee shirts after an email typo was sent out.” -Kacyn Goranson, Director of Marketing Operations

Lesson: *Mic drop*

Wrap up

See, isn’t there something to be learned from even the most broken of hearts? Tell us: What email mistakes are you thinking about this Valentine’s Day? We’re in this together!

About the Author

Kaitlin Wernet

Kaitlin Wernet is a content specialist on Emma's marketing team. When she's not restraining herself from using too many exclamation points or grabbing one more La Croix from the office kitchen, she can be found working on her first book or planning her next big travel adventure.

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