How To Fail At Email Marketing In Seven Easy Steps

Hello there, my petite cabbage!

how to fail at email marketing


There are SOOOO many messages out there on the 35,987 steps you need to take to rock your email marketing, right?

You know the ones - they have titles like, "One small trick to getting a kajillion subscribers overnight!!1!!!@!" and to be perfectly honest, they're usually full of totally obvious or outdated ideas ("Offer an opt-in!" No duh, really?) or useless fluff ("Make sure your emails are interesting." OMG, so THAT'S what I've been doing wrong all this time?!?!?)

Well, this message is different. Instead of telling you "how to be an email rock star / ninja / guru / duke-or-duchess!", I'm going to give you seven easy steps to follow if you'd like to FAIL MISERABLY.

Here we go!


1. DON'T start an email list.

This is the most obvious one ever, so let's get it out of the way. If this is making you scratch your head and say, "Well, I was GONNA sign up at MailChimp the other day, but I dropped a crunchy taco on my keyboard, so I didn't", then CONGRATULATIONS - you are already failing at email marketing.

What, you don't like hearing this? WELL THEN - you know what you've got to do. Get thee to MailChimp (which is free) or ConvertKit (my fave) or any of the dozens of other services that can handle this for you. It's easier to set up than you think - block out an hour or two and GET STARTED.


2. DON'T try to add quality subscribers.

Look, you can just take the emails of everyone you've ever met and stuff 'em into your list, right? Or just CC them all - who really cares how this stuff looks?

Except... the former is actually illegal (and if I'm going to go to jail, it's NOT going to be for something lame like email fraud), and the latter looks so un-profesh I can almost guarantee you'll have a success rate of zero with it.

Furthermore, if you get a ton of unqualified people on your list, you'll then get to pay for the privilege of sending messages to people who will never buy! Now THAT'S total failure at its finest!

If you're trying NOT to fail, and you're really sure that step 2 isn't for you, take the time to build a great opt-in and target the RIGHT people with said opt in. This takes some thinkin' work, but it's well worth it.


3. Send the email equivalent of potted meat - Canned Copy.

Once you've got a few great people on your list, you can always bore them to sleep by using a service that writes barely-relevant content for you. Heck, go all out and add a boring stock photo while you're at it! There's a service in particular I'm thinking of - rhymes with Shmonstant Shmontact - and their stuff is just bland and lame enough that people will STOP opening your email messages in no time at all!

Are you thinking, "Holy Jeezwow - I don't WANT to bore them out of their chairs - whatever shall I do instead?"

Well, you're not going to like this answer - it involves work. Yes, the dreaded W word.

You cannot just set it and forget it like a Ron Popeil chicken. You have to create a plan and then actually write (or pay someone super smart to write) interesting, engaging content that fits your goals. I KNOW, I KNOW - super unpopular opinion, right?

That's ok - we're trying to FAIL, so you can go back to the Shmonstant Shmontact mindset and let it all fall apart if you like.


4. Sell to them ALL THE TIME. No Value + All Pitch = Red Hot FAILSAUCE

Man, oh, man. Those suckers will never know what hit them! Surely they're just walking wallets, right? Wrong. This hard-driving sales method is great - if you're a used car dealership - but nothing more than a set-up for email fail if you're not. So remember - if you want to fail, every contact is an opportunity to shove something for sale right. in. their. faces.

If you simply MUST remedy this, then try to remember Gary Vee's Jab-Jab-Jab-Right Hook approach - give them good content consistently and THEN go in for the close. Or you can think of it as my approach - you wouldn't try to marry that guy or girl in the first ten minutes of a date, would you? Woo, then smooch, then send flowers, then cuddle, then buy them a Shetland pony, THEN whip your thing out, ok? (And by thing, I mean the engagement ring, of course.)


5. NEVER sell to them!

I know, I know, I just said you can't sell all the time, BUT here's yet another step at failing. This one's kind of weird, but I myself learned it firsthand, so I know it's true.

You see, when you provide content, content, and more content without ever giving an opportunity to buy, readers start to think of you as "That chump with all the free goodies!" Never a good place to be. I know, because this is what I did at first with one of my blogs. And it was a glorious fail - after awhile, everyone thought of us as the finest resource for sunshine and rainbows, but when I eventually DID come up with an offer? It was all, "WHAT IN TARNATION? YOU WANT MY GOLD DOUBLOONS? WHAT KIND OF FREE WEBSITE IS THIS??!"

When I remedied that the next time around, just offering a product for sale from time to time cemented my value in their minds. There was no hissy-fit - only the sweet cha-ching of the virtual cash register.

On a mission to fail? Never talk about the sale.

Want something MORE than a total fail? Let them know this is a bookstore - not a library - from time to time. Not only will it let them know your stuff exists (which will HELP them!), it will also help establish your authority. (Remind me to tell you the free sandwich story in the future.)


6. Sign up for Affiliate-O-Rama!

Here's one of my FAVES. It's a great way to make a quick buck and crash and burn AT THE SAME TIME.

First, sign up for every affiliate program you're even remotely eligible for - even the ones for products you've never used and/or don't really believe in! Next, write email after email - maybe 8? Maybe 43!? Depends on how bad you want to fail - about the thing you're schlepping. Ramp up the pressure accordingly no matter what - if they're not unsubscribing, are you even emailing, bro?

In a grand finale move, accuse all the people who didn't take you up on the "offer of a lifetime" of "not really wanting it bad enough" or "being a doodoo-head". They'll appreciate the tough love. Or unsubscribe and report your shhh as spam - one of the two.

If you're one of the few, the proud, the folks NOT in it to make a cash grab every time an "opportunity" comes down the pike, you can use the common sense method of not-ticking-your-list-off. First, only share products you truly have tried and believe in - or at least ones you've got real familiarity with. (I've got one pal who creates consistently fabulous content, and I'm happy to share what she's selling because I know what insane value she gives. Anyone else, though? It's a no-go for me.) Second, email with your clients in mind - don't waste their time with a 43 email sequence - that's just rude. There's nothing in the WORLD I'd sit through 42 emails for and then suddenly decide to buy on number 43 - how about you?


7. Overpromise and underdeliver!

Did you tell people you'd give great tips when they signed up? Well, you should probably only reach out to them sporadically, and when you do, make sure that email is full of selfies and a "personal invitation" to your $3000 retreat.

Or maybe you promised a comprehensive workbook as your opt in goodie. If you REALLY want to fail at email, just give them a lame one page PDF checklist instead - they probably won't notice the difference.

Oh, and if you said you'll update them regularly, just wait until you've got something to pitch - six months is NOT too long to wait between emails, especially when affiliate launch season is coming up!

Orrrrrrrrr you could always set aside time in your regular schedule to make CERTAIN your emails go out the way they're supposed to. Your call, really. I mean, if you're short on time, you could even find someone super smart to write them FOR YOU, and then it would get done while you're eating bonbons and watching monster truck rallies really working hard, right?

(If only you knew someone who could do such a thing... Hmmmm... )


All right, campers, that's the seven BEST ways to be an email marketing dumpster fire.

You got that? What happens next is totally up to you - you can choose one or choose them all!


Oh, and one last "worst practice" to keep in mind? Showing the people on your list any kind of disrespect - thinking of them as a number, as in, "I've got a list of 2300..." instead of 2300 PEOPLE who have lives and families and businesses of their own is a good start.

If you're a true overachiever (*sigh* you WOULD want to be fantastic, wouldn't you? I mean, you DID come here because you want to build an Uncommonly Good Biz, so here we are), I GUESS you can remember that every time you go to send an email.

You can remember to entertain, educate, care for, and respect the people who opted in to hear from you, I SUPPOSE.

(So there you go - even an eighth step. I guess I'm an overachiever, too.)

Next time you go to send your peeps an email, keep this stuff in mind. Dumpster fire failure? Or Uncommonly Good Email Allstar? YOU DECIDE*.

Until next time!

- Misha


PS Want to spread the good word of emails without FAIL? Pin this post so more small-biz marketers can read up. Thanks a bunch!

* I once wrote a term paper on various paranormal specters. I ended every section with, "Is the XYZ creature REAL or a figment of human imagination? YOU DECIDE." so I added that here because it amuses me. That's just the kind of weirdo I am. Thank you for tolerating me.

Misha Hettie