The 4 Biggest Sins You Can Commit With Email

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It's good to send personalized email, but you better get the spelling right. 

That's one message from a new study on email by Adobe Insights. In the study, 17% of the respondents said misspelling their name in a marketing email could end the relationship. That ranked fourth on the list of sins that businesses can commit with email. First was sending emails too often (45%), next came not recommending products that match their interest (33%), and third was sending offers that have already expired. (That is frustrating.)

"Our survey validated the importance of personalized marketing, revealing that consumers are most frustrated with brands that recommend irrelevant products, send offers that expire and misspell their names. As brands strive to deliver the right experience to each individual, it's more important than ever to engage with consumers on their terms and preferred channels," said Kristin Naragon, head of Adobe Campaign.

Here are seven more takeaways from the study:

1. People want information. Top wishes from people for emails they receive are:

  • They should be less promotional and more informational (a priority for 37% of respondents);
  • They should be personalized to the recipient's interests (a must for 27%).

2. Email is still the preferred way that people want to hear from you (50%). But it's down a little. Up is direct mail which is now at 20%. Tied at 7% are phone, text, social media and a brand's mobile app. People "are comfortable opting into email relationships with brands—it's a familiar sort of a handshake," Naragon wrote. "They know they can make choices, such as how often they receive messages. And if brands slip up, [they] know it's easy to unsubscribe."

3. Work and personal continue to mix. Time spent checking personal email is up 17% year-over-year. Consumers are checking personal email an average of 2.5 hours on a typical weekday. On top of that, they're spending an average of 3.1 hours checking work email. That's a lot of email checking.

4. It can't wait. Eighty-five percent check their email before they get to work, and nearly a quarter take a look before they even get out of bed in the morning. (Guilty.) People even check personal email while watching TV (60%), talking on the phone (35%), working out (16%), and yes—I see it every day—driving (14%).

"Why is email so ingrained in our lives?" Naragon asks. "One reason may be that it's so manageable—we can sort, file, filter, and generally get things done."

5. The rise of face-to-face conversation... This year, for the first time, email and face-to-face talks tied as the preference for communicating with work colleagues. They tied at 31%. Previously email was always ahead.

6. ...Except for the toughest conversations. Among those 34 and under, 48% say they'd have a face-to-face conversation to quit their jobs, compared to 77% of workers over 35. Maybe not burning bridges is more a midlife thing.

7. Be up front and ask, don't accuse. And when asked what the most annoying phrase people use in email with colleagues, the winner by almost double was, "Not sure if you saw my last email." There's some inherent stuff in that phrase that just doesn't come across well. Probably better to be more direct.

So "how do you thoughtfully, productively remind someone about a task?" Naragon asks. "How do you leave the job without burning the bridge? We've mastered a huge range of technologies for sending words to each other, but we might need still need a bit of guidance on how to get our meanings across."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…