Are rogue emails sabotaging your marketing?

I was on the receiving end of a rogue email drip campaign recently.  The first email (which I ignored) offered a product demo.  Then came the second and third – and that’s when I was sure these were rogue emails.

Rogue sales emails are a marketing person’s nightmare.  They’re the emails that someone (usually in sales) sends out to prospects without checking with marketing.  There are several types of rogue emails:

  • Frankenstein emails – patched together from other emails, creating a less-than-lovely result
  • Zombie emails – no matter how hard marketing tries to kill them, they just keep reappearing

Why do I suspect it was a rogue campaign, not one blessed by marketing?

Symptom #1 – Bad grammar/spelling

One of the emails had a major grammatical error, as well as several other smaller issues that might slip by someone who wasn’t an English major:


Symptom #2- Off-target messaging

The second email never mentioned what the product actually did.  The third, which was starting to feel like a harangue, had a ‘value proposition’ that I’m sure would make the company’s marketing department cringe:


Ah, the most features at the lowest price point.  Good to know – if only you’d told me what the product did.

How rogue emails hurt your business

I suspect that these emails were sent from a well-meaning salesperson.  You could argue that if I wasn’t the prospect for the business, then there’s no harm done, right?


  • From a branding perspective, off-message and error-filled emails can degrade your reputation.  If you cannot find and fix typos, what kind of effort do you put into testing your software?
  • From an email deliverability perspective, rogue emails can do lasting damage. Every time a recipient identifies one of these emails as spam, it hurts your company’s sender reputation. This means that future emails from your company are less likely to reach recipients’ inboxes.

How does marketing stop rogue emails?

I wish I knew – but here are some tactics that might work:

  • Give sales a wide range of proofed and appropriate emails templates to work with.
  • If a salesperson thinks they have a great idea for an email, listen to their suggestions and offer to do A/B testing on open rates and click-throughs. Maybe they really do have a great idea.
  • Make sure they understand the ramifications for everyone if the recipient marks the message as spam.
  • As a good business practice, insist that someone proof the emails before they are sent out.

Update: Rogue emails and spam

A friend sent me a link to a blog containing what may be the very first spam email ever –  sent by a rogue marketer for DEC. Marketing has to bear the blame for this one. In addition to being the first spam, it had the unique distinction of overwhelming the “to” address capabilities of mailers at that time and of being in ALL CAPS.

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