Debunking Terrible AI Email Marketing Advice

18 March 2021Ashley Maxwell11 min read

With the help of veterans from the Vertanet team, I compiled information and advice that I put into the article, “Most Common AI Email Marketing Mistakes.” As a point of interest, I took a look around the Internet to see what other people were writing on the subject, and I was horrified at the terrible AI email marketing advice that was out there. Having recently written “Most Common AI Email Marketing Mistakes,” which was the collaborative effort of nine seasoned AI email marketing experts, I was annoyed by how many articles were passing off terrible advice and trying to push it as usable information. So, here is the advice they offered, and my efforts to debunk/counter-argue their points.

Terrible AI Email Marketing Advice

To clarify, the headers in this article are all terrible AI email marketing advice that I have found in other articles. In this article, I will explain why each piece of advice is terrible.

There are some pieces of advice I have read online that are obviously created by people who have no experience with AI marketing, but who think certain ideas seem good on the surface. Like the schoolboy with no dating experience who thinks telling the 45yr old dinner lady she is pretty will get him a date.

Don’t Communicate Everything in the Subject Line (Terrible Advice)

No! The opposite. Do the opposite and communicate enough information in the subject line. If you have something to hide, then deal with that first. If your offer is the best offer on the planet, then why are you hiding it? It makes no sense whatsoever that you hide something by not giving people enough information via the subject line.

Think about the scenario. If you give the biggest details of your offer in the subject line, and somebody opens your email, then you have a warm lead right from the start. On the other hand, if you give all the information in the subject line, and the user doesn’t open the email because it is not something that the user wants, then what is lost? All you have done is “Avoid” wasting somebody’s time. That person may be less inclined to block you if you have respect for his or her time.

Don’t Send Irrelevant Content (Fruitless Advice)

Who would? What sort of person does? Who sends content about their cats to their DIY service customers? Why does this sort of advice gather traction on the search engine results?

It ranks up though the search engines because it is simple. It is bland, easy, and generic, and that is the stuff that Google ranks up its results. If content is competent, detailed, and complex, then it is rewritten twenty times by different writers until only the blandest, weakest, and most shallow points emerge at the top of the Google search engine results. It is not Google’s fault, but it is an inherent flaw in their ranking algorithm.

The Problem With Google (Why Googled Advice Won’t Help You)

When I Google the phrase, “AI Email Marketing Advice,” the old Google magic happens where the first six articles say pretty much the same thing. This happens because when writers create these articles, they Google their information and steal from the first article they see. Ergo, six clones of the same low-quality advice on top of the Google search engine results. In fact, the only article I saw with any value was by MailChimp, and it was number 13 on the search engine results. Unless the answer you are looking for is simple, such as looking for the symptoms of Gall stones, then the results you get on the first page of Google are often Baby’s first results. They are often oversimplified, lacking in substance and low on details.

Writing Unengaging Subject Lines (Poor Quality Advice)

Your regular Google fodder always contains the most generic advice, and this is a classic example. Not only is this advice too vague to mean anything, but it is also too generic to matter. Telling people to write engaging subject lines is like telling them to write in a real language, or telling people to write emails using fonts rather than Morse code.
Your Emails Should Have Stuff In Them

Your Content is Not Focused Enough (Generic Advice)

If you are writing baby’s first email marketing book, then perhaps this is good advice, but it is terrible advice when dealing with machine learning. Even if the content is not focused enough, the point is for you to use your automated tools and market testing methods to figure out what is focused, what is targeted, and what converts leads into sales. You use AI marketing tools, A/B testing, and good old fashioned experience to ensure your emails are focused. Telling you to keep your emails focussed is like telling a veteran driver which side of the road to drive on.

Your Email Should Pass The 7-Second Rule (Blinkered Advice)

There is a theory that if your email is to be effective, then it must convince the user to keep reading within seven seconds from first opening the email. I understand why this advice exists, and I understand why some people think it is useful, but working in this manner isn’t useful. It forces marketers to push the issue. It forces marketers to grab attention or forces them to take a very aggressive marketing stance. That isn’t what AI email marketing is all about.

You should be honing your email marketing organically. If, over time, if it turns out that your more aggressive messages do the job and get conversions, then go in that direction. But, you must come up with that methodology on your own through the numbers your campaigns throw back at you.

On the other hand, if your numbers start to show that your emails convert best when they take a gentle path, such as by utilising a longer warm-up time, then follow that route instead and forget the seven-second advice. In short, the seven-second rule works for some people, but you are supposed to create your own rules based on your own testing and your own repeatable successes.

Stop Having a One-Way Conversation (Dumb Advice)

This one drives me wild because it looks like good advice. We have all endured University lectures with professors who have never stepped into the real world, telling us that marketing is about starting a two-way conversation. You are dealing with AI-powered marketing, you are not dealing with auntie Phyllis answering every question that comes through the copper wire. If you have people trying to reply to you, then you are doing AI marketing wrong.

You should be leading people to a thought, and then offering them a way to conclude that thought.

If you want to create a two-way conversation, then give people an offer, and give them four ways to respond, each of which involves clicking one of four links. Each link is rigged to an email auto-response that best deals with the issue at hand. That is how you use AI to make a one-way conversation look like a two-way conversation.

Make Your Subject Lines Innovative and Original (Terrible Advice)

This is terrible AI email marketing advice. By trying to be original, you always end up sounding like everybody else. When people try to be innovative, they come up with “Original” ideas that have been done thousands of times before. The only reason you think such ideas are original is that they crash and burn, and ergo are never popularised.

Dont try to be original

Don’t try to be original. Try to be you. Consider animated showed. The Simpsons was a Flintstones clone, and now the Simpsons is its own thing. Rick and Morty were direct copies of Doc Brown and Marty McFly, but Rick and Morty grew into its own thing. Do not be original, do not be innovative. Just be yourselves, and it will always work out better.

Don’t Bombard People With Offers Without Added Information (Pointless Advice)

Again, this is generic baby’s first email stuff. Yet, if you email the term, “Best AI Email Marketing Methods,” you will read advice just like this. This is generic, pointless, and vague advice that offers no real value to anybody except schoolchildren.

Obviously, you should not bombard people with offers without any sort of context, but such simple advice should not be as popular as it is. Just because dumb advice is true by the strictest definition…doesn’t stop it from being dumb advice.

Don’t Always Focus on Promotion (Just Plain Wrong Advice)

I almost agree with this message. I found a paragraph stating something like this on, and I almost agree, but it needs far more clarification. Always focusing on promotion is like the inexperienced boy always asking out the same pretty girl every time he sees her. He is always getting turned down and he can’t understand why.

Yet, there are many occasions were always focusing on promotion is the right thing to do. After all, when I get messages from a stationery store, I don’t want to hear about their office fun days or their expansion into India. I want to know which of their chairs roll the fastest down the office halls while also offering great lumbar support.

Fun on office chairs

Perhaps you shouldn’t always focus on promotion, but all your emails should have a goal. If you do not have a goal, you are wasting everybody’s time. Still, no matter which path you take, do not believe those who say it is wrong to always focus on promotion. Many of your email subscribers probably signed up because they want your offers, not because they want your life story.

Include a Clear Call-to-Action (Ignorant Advice)

Top tip…Don’t. Don’t include a call to action. I am not sure if this has reached the online marketing community yet, but calls to action do not work.

I have never been on the fence about buying a Mercedes, and I was going to click away, but a button said, “BUY NOW” and I was convinced to buy the Merc.

Promotional companies will claim that call-to-action buttons have the best conversion numbers, but then of course they do because if people have already decided to buy, they are going to look for the fastest way to complete the purchase. If you had a button called, “Here is where we sell them,” then that would be your best converter too.

You are a consumer yourself, when has a call to action ever had a positive effect on you? When has it ever swayed your buying decision? If it actually has, then buy my book now for £99999.99.

Don’t Send Remarketing Information (Slow-Witted Advice)

Remarketing emails are those that send offers to people who have already bought the product. Many online articles that offer terrible AI email marketing advice say you “Shouldn’t” send remarketing offers, and my question is, “Why?” I can understand if somebody just bought a robo-vacuum for £189, and you send them an offer for the same one at a price of £134 just a week later (this has happened to me btw, thanks for nothing Eufy). Yet, remarketing shouldn’t be avoided, it should be embraced. Selling the consumer a second cup of coffee is the basis of our consumer economy.

Turns out that even though I overpaid, I like my robot vacuum. I may want to buy the same device for my friend’s wedding, or perhaps I will give one to my vulnerable family members who struggle to do their own vacuuming.

If anything, when people buy things from you, it shows they have an interest in your products or your brand, so immediately calling a halt to all offers related to the item your customers have bought is inadvisable at best.

Make Sure You Optimise For Mobiles (Redundant Advice)

What is this, 2010? What automated program “Doesn’t” optimise for mobile devices? Are people building thinking computers out of toasters in their garage? I can hop online right now and find Cloud computing services that offer AI email messaging, and I guarantee there isn’t a single one that offers desktop optimisation only.

nokia C7 from 2010

Everything is responsive these days. Telling people to optimise for mobiles is like telling people to drive on the road rather than on rooftops. Again, when you read this advice online, it is true, but just because it is true does not make it less dumb.

Don’t Neglect Analytics (Obvious Advice)

If had only read this on one article, then I would have let it go, but I read it in more than three articles while I was browsing the internet. Who is using AI automated tools and ignoring the analytics? In fact, it is not even possible to ignore them because I don’t know a single tool that doesn’t have stats on its starting dashboard.

Sending Emails at the Wrong Time (More Truly Terrible Advice)

This one is frustrating because it doesn’t make sense as to how it is propagated. Surely, when people are rewriting article after article, they must look at this point and think… “Hmmm, why would that matter?” Don’t those rewriters look at this advice about sending emails at certain times of day and figure out it is wrong. Perhaps it matters with Twitter, but not with emails.

As a thinking person, can you honestly think of an occasion where the time an email is sent really matters? The time of day people receive your marketing emails has no effect whatsoever, with perhaps the exception of last-minute airline cancellation deals or in-play betting offers. However, in every other case, it does not matter what time of day a marketing email is sent.

One could perhaps see the value in sending emails in a suitable month. I mean, if you are doing silly things like sending Christmas offers in the height of summer, then perhaps you are a little misguided. But, the articles that claim you should send certain emails at a certain point in time, on certain days, in certain conditions, are just plain foolish.

Even emails with limited time offers are not affected by what time of day they are sent. I promise you, the sources that claim most emails are opened at 11am are lying to you. They are peaks that are born from large companies loading data through malware and firewall programs, so that the emails sent by customers over the last 24 hours may be read safely by people in 9 to 5 office settings. Around 11am is when office workers start reading all the consumer emails that have been sent. The myth that most emails are read at 11am is due simply to results being skewered by office workers whose business it is to open and read emails.

Remove Emails Recipients Who Do Not Open or Respond (Moronic Advice)

This piece of advice is terrible. They say you should prune your email list to get rid of the dead emails, but doing so is a terrible idea. The only conceivable way I can agree with this advice is if you are paying £300 to send 50,050 emails, and they offer a price break down to £230 if you only send 50,000 emails. That is the only suitable reason why you would prune your email list, especially if your list was built correctly through a double-opt-in process. On the other hand, if you bought your email list from Larry the VPN company janitor, then perhaps scrap the whole list and start building your own from scratch.

The reason you shouldn’t remove “Dead” (inactive) email addresses from your list is that you have no proof they are inactive. The user may have his or her Read Receipts function turned off. Perhaps the recipient enjoys your emails but has never had cause to buy.

For example, the woman receiving your monthly sock emails may like your socks but is always receiving socks from her husband and mother. Perhaps she even shares your emails with her family, and they run out and buy them for her. She never buys from your emails, so you remove her from your email list. Then, next month her mother dies, and she falls into a deep depression, so her husband leaves. She wants to make herself feel better with a bulk order of comfortable socks. But, to add to her misery, you pruned her from your email list and she hasn’t received offers in weeks.

Terrible AI Email Marketing Advice

Want Good Advice About Email Marketing Mistakes? (Take Our Advice)

Do you want advice that actually means something? Advice that wasn’t drawn from baby’s first AI email marketing campaign? Then read our article here: “Most Common AI Email Marketing Mistakes.”

Tony Robbins, the half-shyster/half-genius once said, “Listen to every bit of advice, even bad advice, because even if what you hear is 99% awful, there is always the chance that the 1% of good advice was worth learning.” I may add to that by saying, “Listen to every bit of advice you can, because even if it is 100% terrible, at least it reminds you what not to do.” Try to learn to recognise terrible AI email marketing advice when you see it, and perhaps your campaigns will do a little better in the future.