How to use your email newsletter to lose friends and annoy people

How to use your email newsletter to lose friends and annoy people

Julia Claire Campbell Email, Marketing, Nonprofits Leave a Comment

How to use your email newsletter to lose friends and annoy people

Whether you believe that “Inbox Zero” is a fantasy or an achievable goal, there is no doubt that our email inboxes have become increasingly competitive places.

Survival of the fittest certainly applies when it comes to what emails get read, which get archived and which get (gulp!) permanently deleted.

So how do you ensure that your email newsletters and e-blasts survive the ax?

Just as importantly, what are you currently doing to send your email subscribers running for the hills?

Here are 12 ways guaranteed to get email subscribers clicking on the “unsubscribe” button.

1)      Send a one-size-fits-all email. There is no doubt that email marketing expectations have changed. People are now accustomed to receiving emails targeted to their specific interests and preferences. Knowledgeable email marketers are reaping the rewards, with sophisticated (but not complicated) email sign up forms that segment email lists by interest and preference.

2)      Don’t provide any specific value, offer or call to action in the email. When I get an email, I need to know what action to take – do I read it later, do I act on it now, do I ignore/delete it?  Is this a limited time offer? Will my donation be matched today only? Am I supposed to shop, to sign up, to watch a video tutorial? Many businesses and nonprofits are afraid of the “hard sell” and couch their requests in a lot of frilly language and long text. I’m a busy person – tell me what you want me to do and assume that I will make the right decision.

3)      Ignore what I am interested in. When I bought a baby gift recently from Target, I started receiving notifications when their baby department had a sale. sends me a notice when my favorite vendors (ones I have purchased from) are featured on the site.  Staples knows that I run a small business and targets their email blasts accordingly.

4)      Write a non-descriptive, generic subject line. How many emails do you receive that have some version of this subject line: “Our Nonprofit Newsletter Issue 3 July 2012”? Why would someone open that? A much better subject line would be “One click to save a whale today” or “5 tips to save on your AC bills”. Thinking carefully about email subject lines can make or break your email campaign.

5)      Write a really spammy, over the top subject line. Use of exclamation points, symbols (such as *, % or $) or all capital letters will surely be seen and grabbed by many email spam filters. Use this free email subject line tester to see where you stand. I know that you are excited, but tone it down in the subject line – keep it compelling but straightforward.

6)      Don’t provide “share” buttons at the bottom of the email. I can’t tell you how often I read a great email newsletter and I want to tweet or post to Facebook, but I cannot find any share buttons on the bottom! Constant Contact provides this as a free service, as do all the major email clients, so there is no excuse to overlook this simple way to spread your message.

7)      Include broken links and images that don’t load. Or, worse yet, make the entire email an image! Many email providers (Gmail for one) automatically strip out images from all emails. Including striking images in your social media posts and on your blog is vital, but the same does not apply to your email newsletter – one or two images suffice, and never make them the most important part of the communication since you are never sure if your subscribers will be able to view them.  (Tip: Make every single image a clickable link to your website, blog or social media channels.)

8)      Have huge chunks of unbroken text, no links and tiny font. Emails that I can’t read, with no bullets, no headlines, no paragraphs immediately get deleted. People don’t want to have to work hard to read your emails when there is so much in their inbox competing for their attention. Keep the email skimmable – many readers will just skim the headlines and main points.

9)      Don’t personalize the email greeting. I much prefer to read emails that say “Hi Julia!” rather than “Hey you!”

10)   Simply cut and paste content from your website. It’s one thing to send updates; it’s another to cut and paste the lengthy “About Us” section from your website into an email. Writing for email is different than writing for a website (both of which are different than writing for social media). Get training or hire a professional to help you understand the difference.

11)   Send emails too frequently. It’s hard to find that “sweet spot”, but I can pretty much guarantee that sending an email solicitation/advertisement out every single day without fail is not it.

12)   Send emails too infrequently. This is where knowledge of your audience comes in.  Have a process for everyone that gets added to your email list. Is it a new donor? Send them a specific email before the newsletter comes out. Is it a new client or customer, or a valued one? Send them a special, personalized email in between your regularly scheduled newsletter.  This will help you create “brand advocates” (also called brand ambassadors) who are willing to sing your praises to their friends and social networks.

A few frequently asked questions about email marketing that can be answered by simply reviewing email open, click-through and unsubscribe rates:

  • How many emails should we send out per month?
  • Should we always send on a schedule or should we mix up the days/times that we choose?
  • What types of content do our email subscribers like?
  • What do they want more of?
  • What do they want less of?

A quick analysis of your open, click-through and bounce rates, compared with others in your industry, will let you know where you are falling short and where you are excelling. Make improvements, keep testing and keep trying.

The “delete” button will always loom large, but if you take control of your email marketing efforts, you will reach more of your email subscribers and create happy readers along the way.

What drives you crazy in email marketing and solicitation? What makes you want to open an email? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments section. Thanks for reading! 

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