5 Ways to Prevent Customers from Marking Your Emails as Spam


In our last post, we talked about how to ensure your emails don't land in the Promotions tab. Fortunately for businesses, about 1 in every 5 customers check this tab regularly, so the Promotions tab isn't a death sentence for your campaigns. But for emails that land in the spam folder, it's a totally different story. We couldn't find any statistics on how often people check their spam folder. Probably because they don't check it that often. Unless an email they were expecting to land in their inbox somehow got lost in cyberspace.

Before we dive into today's post, we need to make an important distinction. Your customers marking your emails as spam is totally different from email algorithms flagging them as spam.

A customer must manually mark an email in their inbox as spam by using the "Report spam" option within their email provider. This tells the provider to redirect all future emails from you to the spam folder.

Meanwhile, email algorithms will automatically move emails they deem spam into the Spam folder. This process means your emails will bypass the inbox entirely.

Both situations pretty much are a death sentence for your campaigns, in more ways than one. If a customer marks your email as spam, your complaint rate increases. What is your complaint rate? In a nutshell, the number of spam complaints your emails have received divided by total number of recipients.

Email providers take this complaint rate into account when deciding where to place your emails. So it makes sense to keep the complaint rate as low as possible.

Why do customers mark emails as spam?

According to a 2015 study by Technology Advice, customers mark emails as spam for 3 main reasons:

  • Emails were sent too frequently
  • Receiving marketing emails despite never subscribing to them
  • Receiving irrelevant content

You might be wondering, "If that's the case, why don't they just unsubscribe?"

This is a fair question, but there's no clear-cut answer. 99% of people probably would simply unsubscribe in the above cases. But some choose to mark such emails as spam instead.

5 ways to prevent customers from marking your email as spam

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to prevent your customers from marking your emails as spam.

Don't spam them

This one seems pretty obvious, right? As long as you make every effort to avoid spamming your customers, your emails are less likely to be marked as spam.

Here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Don't send emails too frequently. Once every week is more than enough. (We actually recommend local home service businesses send an email once every 2 weeks.)
  • Have a transparent unsubscribe page. Give your customers the opportunity to unsubscribe from every list they're on in one place if they hit that unsubscribe button.
  • Deliver only relevant content. (We'll cover this in more detail later.)

Make sure your emails comply with the CAN-SPAM Act

Disclaimer: The following information is for general purposes only and is not legal advice.

We can almost guarantee your customers won't read this lengthy legislation. But complying with it is essential.

Failure to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act could result in hefty fines. We're talking $40,000+.

So before you send your first campaign, brush up on the CAN-SPAM Act to ensure you're compliant. Regulations include, but aren't limited to:

  • Providing your company address in every promotional email
  • Avoiding false or misleading information
  • Identifying advertisements as such

If you have any concerns about email compliance, consult your attorney.

Avoid words often flagged by spam filters

Email providers are pretty smart. Their algorithms can analyze subject lines and email content in a fraction of a second to identify phishing and spam.

As a general rule, avoid using pushy or hard-sell language in your email content. This kills two birds with one stone: it tells your customers that you're trustworthy, and it increases your chances of the email algorithms placing your email in the inbox and not the spam folder. There's no magic list of words to avoid, but here are 5 examples of "spammy" words and symbols:

  • Free
  • Credit card
  • Act now
  • Percentages (50% off)
  • Dollar signs

You're probably wondering, "But how am I supposed to promote my discount or sale if I can't use dollar signs and percentages?"

A perfectly valid question. Remember, this is just a general rule. Not every email with a dollar sign in the subject line lands in the spam folder. Experiment to discover what works, and make the right choice for your business' needs and goals.

Keep things educational

According to the same Technology Advice study we referenced earlier, nearly half of customers wish emails from brands were more informative. That's because educational emails provide more value than a sale announcement. This shows your customers you're committed to helping them, not just selling them. Plus, educational emails are a great way to generate revenue because they might remind your customers of a job they need done.

For example, let's say you're a small, locally-owned home service business. You probably receive a lot of the same questions from the homeowners you serve:

  • What's the average lifespan of an HVAC unit?
  • How often should I clean my air filters?
  • How do I know when it's time to replace my AC?

Answer those questions in an automated email campaign. It's a great way to anticipate and address these questions from new customers before they even think to ask them.

Segment your lists correctly and intelligently

Chances are you've got more than one email campaign running at any given time. Sending every campaign to your whole list is a great way to tank your engagement.

Let's say for example you're a local home service company running a special promotion for customers who spent over $2,000. You wouldn't want to add any subscribers to that list who spent less than that.

Imagine for a moment that you're that customer who spent less than $2,000, but you receive that email anyway. You might get excited that you're eligible for a major discount on your next service.

You open the email, only to find out you're not eligible after all. So you'll probably do one of two things: either unsubscribe or mark the email as spam because you're clearly not the intended recipient.

Slip-ups like these can harm your business' overall reputation. People might think you're pushy or you lack attention to detail. Before you send out a campaign, segment your subscribers carefully to ensure your message doesn't end up in the wrong inboxes.

Final thoughts

The good news is, you probably won't have to worry about this as long as you're authentic and helpful. Consider what kind of content you'd want to receive if you were the customer. Then, the rest will fall into place.

Just getting started with email marketing for local business? Our done-for-you email marketing content is tailor-made for local service industries and has generated thousands of dollars in revenue for our clients. Contact us today for a sneak peek at our email marketing playbooks on your no-obligation demo of the Engagement Engine, our email marketing software!