5 Headlines That Make Me Delete Your Email Without Reading it

When Email Marketing tries too hard.


Martina Petkova

3 years ago | 4 min read

On average, about 21% of marketing emails are opened. Depending on the industry, this number could go even lower. Like 17% for the Marketing and Advertising industry, and 15% for the E-commerce industry.

The modern market is a cacophony. We all have learned how to filter out the noise descending upon us from every corner. Ironically, some marketers respond to this by amping up the noise even more.

But this doesn’t work. And it will continue to not work.

Good marketing is asking how to meet a specific need. Not how to force a click.

If your audience is exhausted and overwhelmed, amping up the tension in your email messages is akin to shouting “Do you feel better now?” at somebody who has just told you they have a headache.

The result is that people feel annoyed simply by glancing at your headline, so your email goes to the trash without even being opened.

Here are 5 headlines that meet this fate when they come into my inbox.


Oh, are you about to tell me a secret? Let me guess what it is. You want to sell me something.

Acting too familiar with your audience is a major turn off. It’s fine to aim for a friendly and casual vibe but go for an adult instead of a grade-school version of it.

We don’t actually know each other. I don’t want you whispering in my ear. And by the way, even people I do know never send me messages starting with “psst…”

“Thinking About You”

What a relief that this is a blatant lie, because if you were in fact thinking about me and sent me an email to tell me about it, I would be seriously creeped out.

Again, don’t be overly familiar. Your role as a business is to offer value to your customers. Focus on offering them something of value. Show them how you are thinking about meeting the needs that your business is designed to meet.

And this doesn’t need to be said, but I’ll still say it: Stop sending these emails during the pandemic or in any future mass upheaval. They always fall flat. Always.

“Before You Do X, You Need to Read This Email”

Maybe it’s just me, but this is just plain patronizing.

Before you start a business, before you write a book, before you start working out, before you even get out of bed, you have to make sure you haven’t missed this one, singular, make-it-or-break-it piece of advice. Usually, it ends up being something basic that even novices know about.

When a customer sees an email from you they should feel empowered or reassured or intrigued. They shouldn’t feel cut short and talked down to.

Assume that your audience can do its own research. If you want to send them guidance act as an advisor not as a parent telling a child they don’t know what they’re doing. Try to simplify things for your audience. Creating anxiety accomplishes the opposite.

“Last Chance”

Here’s the only time when this works: You run a big discount campaign that is either seasonal or otherwise truly time-sensitive and when it’s about to close you remind your audience that it’s closing.

Here is when it doesn’t work:

  • You run a campaign every single week
  • Your campaigns are about whatever you can think of: discounts, free ebooks, seminars, workshops, anything.
  • You bombard your audience with emails about it
  • You sound the alarm that it’s their last chance to seize this opportunity
  • Then you do it all again

Last week I received a “Last Chance” email from the same sender 5 consecutive days. Here’s another tip: When you say “last chance,” mean it.


My personal favorite. Your analytics show that I haven’t opened an email from you in some time and you decide to pull on my heartstrings.

You tell me all about how sorry you are that it didn’t work out and how you did your very best to send me the most amazing emails, but since I haven’t opened anything maybe something’s wrong? Maybe we need to part ways?

Let me tell you, even people who are obsessed with a brand would cringe if they got such an email from them.

If you resort to guilt-tripping your audience, it is indeed time to bid it “goodbye.”

Get with the times. Be chill.

Look around you. The most successful brands and businesses today are the ones who create simplicity.

Don’t force your customers, don’t try to manipulate them, don’t create artificial anxiety just so you can score clicks or sales.

Even if it works a little bit now, it will keep getting harder and harder. Human beings are adaptable, and they adapt to the ever-increasing clamor around them by learning how to block it.

Instead, focus on your business. Make it better, make it simple and easy for your customers to access it. Be like a port in a storm. Don’t be the storm.


Originally published on Medium.


Created by

Martina Petkova

Storyteller from Bulgaria. Veteran of the corporate world. Recovering simultaneously from Communism and Capitalism. Blog:







Related Articles