Eight email failures (and questions for those that want to do better)

A friend sent out an email blast (I hate that word, for good reason) to his ample address book to promote a new project and got a lot of blowback for it. He asked me for my feedback…

  1. Just because you have had a previous relationship with someone doesn’t mean you have permission to email them. Permission marketing is anticipated, personal and relevant messaging. The simple measure is this: Would they miss you if you didn’t mail them? If not, then you’re fooling yourself into thinking you have something you don’t.
  2. Blaming the tool. There are a wealth of powerful email tools out there (like Mailchimp). If your email campaign isn’t working, it’s almost certainly not their fault. Don’t waste time looking for a better pencil–learn to write better.
  3. Your mailmerge is broken. Dear is far worse than no mailmerge at all. Here’s the simple test: if you’re not willing to spend fifteen seconds per name reviewing the list and cleaning it up (why did you email me six times?), then don’t expect that we have fifteen seconds to read what you wrote. If you have 4,000 names, that’s 1,000 minutes. Don’t have 1,000 minutes? Don’t send the mail.
  4. Text is what humans send. Corporations send HTML and pretty graphics. Either can work if expectations are set properly, but if you’re a human, act like one.
  5. Why are you emailing me? If you can’t tell me in six words what you need me to do, it’s unlikely I’ll be able to guess.
  6. The thing you need me to do better be fun, worth doing and generous. If it’s not, I’m not going to do it, no matter how much you need me to do it.
  7. When does this end? If you’re going to send me a series of notes to promote something, does it go on forever? Telling me what’s ahead is more likely to earn you permission going forward. “Oh good, the next one!” If people aren’t saying that, you’ve failed.
  8. Pinging everyone, at once. Why on earth would you hit SEND ALL? Send 20, see what happens. Send 20 different ones, compare. Send 50. Now send all.

If your email promotion is a taking, not a giving, I think you should rethink it. If you still want to take the time and attention and trust of your 4,000 closest friends, think hard about what that means for the connections you’ve built over the years. There are few promotional emergencies that are worth trading your reputation for.