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From My Inbox: Gentle Critique of an Email Marketing Program Resurrected, Part 1

From time to time I’ll pull a message from my inbox and do a walk-through of its pros and cons. These gentle critiques are intended to educate; I hope that the companies mentioned as well as readers will keep that top of mind.

I received this email earlier this year from a long-time industry acquaintance we’ll call “Fred.” Fred is one of those people you see once or twice a year at conferences. You know what I mean, someone you’re friendly with but you’re not necessarily friends. The first thing about this email that struck me is that I haven’t received anything from him in a long time. I opened the email to find out it’s been at least FIVE YEARS…

Here’s the full text of the email — take your own notes on what’s effective and what might be changed to make it more effective, then scroll down to see my thoughts on same.

Here’s my gentle critique:

I am happy that Fred shares it’s been five years since his last email (above) but in the email world absence does not make the heart grow fonder. While it’s admirable for him to give lip service to this he isn’t addressing the problem. There are several reasons why you shouldn’t let your email communication lapse for this long.

  • It is risky to send an email to people after waiting five years. If the reader doesn’t remember you or your brand they may report it as spam.
  • A lot can happen in 5 years; people abandon email addresses all the time. Yahoo and other ISPs often turn email addresses that aren’t actively used into honey pots, a form of spam trap. Get caught sending to honey pots and you may be blacklisted.
  • Even if the address hasn’t been turned into a honey pot, there’s another reason not to assume an email address that you haven’t sent to in 5 years is still valid. In the business world, people leave jobs and, after a period of time, new people are often assigned these email address. Let’s say the writer was intending to send the email to Michelle Miller, VP of Marketing, but she’s left and Mark Miller, Junior Accountant, has joined the company. Mark now has Michelle’s email address, mmiller@xyz.com. Now Mark receives the relevant, targeted marketing email instead of Michelle but, since he’s never met Fred (and has zero interest in anything marketing related), he may report it as spam.
  • There’s also an opportunity cost to not speaking to your email network for five years. Email communications are a relationship. While there are some close relationships which can withstand a 5 year lapse in communication, most cannot. Fred’s lost any value that could have been acquired during these years and he’s eroded his relationship with all but the most dedicated members of this list going forward.

The five year silence is a big lost opportunity, but before we talk about what else he could have done better let’s talk about a few things that he did well:

  1.  Concise From Line: This is a critical part of an email marketing message because it helps determine whether a recipient will open your message now, later or never. Recognition is critical here and Fred does a good job of it – he includes his name and relays that he is an author.
  2.  Conversational Tone: Fred’s email has a pleasant, conversational tone that is engaging to read. This sounds basic but look at the emails in your inbox – how many of them are this readable? This is one of the most overlooked but important aspects of successful online writing.
  3.  Short Paragraphs: He uses short paragraphs, which also add to readability. My rule is 5-1/4 lines or less (not sentences, but line) per paragraph, which I learned from a study many years ago. Unfortunately, he loses the benefit of this by not including a blank line between each, which makes even these short paragraphs difficult to read.

  1.    Friendly Opt-out Message:There is a friendly opt-out (above) – but one that, as I read it again, strikes me as almost cloying and sad. I really want to like the guy because he seems so darn nice. I mean he is trying, right? But he’s so nice about this that it’s almost like a guilt trip if you do opt-out. But alas I opted out… quite possibly for the second time (more on that next week!).

Next week, I’ll return to this email and talk about what the sender could do to improve it!

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