How to Avoid the 9 Circles of Email Hell

Happy (almost!) Halloween! I love October — it’s definitely the best month of the fall season. All the leaves are just starting to turn colors, the weather’s perfect for a pumpkin spice latte (judge away, those things are delicious), and every marketing blog puts out their halloween-related email advice. I figured I’d join in with today’s post on the nine circles of email hell (modeled after Dante’s Inferno), what will get you there, and what will keep you out. Pull out your high school literature knowledge and let’s jump right in!

1. Limbo

In Dante’s Inferno, Limbo wasn’t really that bad of a place; it was just for those who weren’t really aware of Christianity. In that same vein, being unaware of the cleanliness or opt-in status of the prospects of your database would put you into this circle of email limbo. It’s definitely not a great place to be, but it can be easily avoided by ensuring you are actively aware of who your best subscribers are, what prospects might need a permission pass, and what prospects you should just be ready to give up on.

2. Lust

Lust is a pretty easy circle to fall into with email, but it’s also super easy to pull yourself out of this particular circle. You lust after the prospects that signed up on your trial page six years ago, and just keep spamming them with email in the hopes they’ll want you again. Instead of lusting after the prospects that clearly aren’t interested, make some easy adjustments to your sending, such as lowering the frequency of mailing or changing up your email content. After a certain point of no interaction, you should definitely consider running an opt-in drip campaign to see if those prospects are worth keeping. If they’re still not clicking or opening your email, they’re just not worth the time and effort to keep in your database.

3. Gluttony

In the same vein as lust, you also need to be careful not to fall into the trap of gluttony. As far as email hell goes, gluttony is your inability to give up on your gigantic list of prospects. You care about having the most prospects out of anybody, instead of caring about how engaged and useful your prospect list truly is. To ensure you don’t fall into the circle of gluttony, make sure you truly do remove the prospects that aren’t engaging after you run a reconfirmation campaign. Regularly clean your database and actually let go of the ones that just aren’t interested in your emails, so you can spend time really nurturing those who are interested and actively engaged.

4. Greed

There’s a great deal of temptation in marketing to be greedy. “Buy this list, get 100,000 guaranteed opted-in prospects!” “Instant ROI!”, list providers claim. By giving in to your greed and buying a list, you’re going against the permission-based marketing policy, the advice of the entire email sending community, and might even be going against your local laws. Purchased lists are also a significant trigger for blacklisting and reputation issues, so it’s just not worth it to give in to your greed and send email to a purchased list. Instead of focusing on a supposedly “easy” way to increase your lists, focus on attending tradeshows, building your brand, and providing relevant content in order to entice people to join your sending list.

5. Anger

It’s extremely easy to anger your prospects by sending email too frequently, thus inciting them to opt out (or worse!) report your email as spam. In order to avoid being caught in the anger circle of email hell, it’s important to do two things: set expectations up front and respect those expectations. Let your prospects know how frequently you plan on sending them email at the point of sign up, and reinforce that in your welcome email. Instead of risking the anger of your clients by opting them into email they didn’t expect to receive, make sure you are 100% transparent with your intended sending frequency and the content they can expect to receive.

6. Heresy

It’s known that in order to see the best possible deliverability through Pardot, you absolutely need to set up the appropriate email authentication. Going against that accepted knowledge just doesn’t make any sense, and it’s super easy to set up (all it takes is some copying and pasting!). This one’s the easiest of all the circles to avoid, just don’t go against the conventional knowledge and have your IT team spend the 5-10 minutes to get it set up properly.

7. Violence

The most violence I ever see in email compliance is in people wanting to retaliate against a perceived wrong. Generally, this is when a marketer winds up accidentally getting their IP address blacklisted, they get angry about it, and lash out at the blacklist provider. Blacklist agents are not required, in any way, to help you out. If they truly wanted to, they could keep you on their list forever and there would be nothing you could do to stop that from happening. Of course, nobody wants to stay blacklisted, so it’s important to take a deep breath and focus on fixing the issue instead of reacting with anger and violence toward the blacklist provider. You’re more likely to resolve the listing if you focus more on the facts and less on the emotions around being accused of being a spammer.

8. Fraud

Fraud, as far as email goes, is twofold: you’re either sending marketing emails with your unsubscribe link hidden in some way, or you’re sending marketing emails as an operational email send. While it is rare that someone will fall into this circle (most marketers know better), the consequences can be particularly dire. You’re definitely going against Pardot’s permission-based marketing policy, likely going against local laws, and are putting your overall sending reputation at risk. The email compliance team takes this one particularly seriously, and it’s just not worth the risk to commit fraud in order to keep a few subscribers.

9. Treachery

I’ve (thankfully) never had to deal with this at Pardot, but betraying your prospects’ trust by selling their email addresses is easily one of the worst things you can do to them. You’re opening them up to being spammed by anyone who buys that customer data. Those prospects have invited you — and only you — to send them email, so don’t disrespect that relationship by turning around and making money on their personal email addresses!

That wraps it up for today’s post on the nine circles of email hell. What do you want to hear about next? Tweet me @holobachgirl with your suggestions!