woman holding her head in hands, perhaps due to too many marketing emails?
Editorial

Marketers: Stop Abusing Your Email Lists

3 minute read
Ahava Leibtag avatar

What is up with email marketing right now?

Have you noticed the “whiny toddler” emails you’re getting lately? The insistent subject lines, the aggressive, wheedling tones, the shrill shouting for your attention?

I was recently at a conference and the amount of email I got from vendors was ridiculous — if you printed and stacked up all of the emails, they’d be taller than my nine-year-old son. And he towers above most of his classmates.

Time for Email Marketing to Grow Up

Also disturbing? The emails themselves sounded so high school: “Ahava, why don’t you get back to us?” “Ahava, did you get my last email?” and my personal favorite, “Obviously I don’t want to waste your time.”

If you didn’t want to waste my time, why have you sent me 10 emails about your product in the past two weeks? If I haven’t responded yet, chances are I’m not all a-flutter to get closer to you.

I get it. I’m a marketer. We’re in a more competitive marketplace than the waiting line for America’s Got Talent. But … we’re abusing our lists and our recipients are becoming exhausted. So tired that those precious prospects are hitting delete before they even read the beloved subject line you slaved over for three days with nine different authors at your company.

3 Steps to a Smarter Email

So what’s a smart marketer to do? With marketing automation and segmented lists and the continual demands of ROI? (Why that phrase doesn’t have four letters eludes me.)

1. Clean Up

Look at your lists carefully. Who are you sending to? Consider cleaning your lists. If someone hasn’t opened your email in a year (or two years, or whatever your sales cycle looks like), chances are you’re a forgotten sweater at the back of their closet.

If you take people off your list, you’ll have a cleaner list that’s easier to segment. What are the chances someone is going to open an email if they never have before? I don’t gamble, but even I can figure out those odds.

Learning Opportunities

2. Resist Hitting Send

Ask yourself three important questions before you hit send:

  1. Do I have a targeted message?
  2. Am I adding value?
  3. Do I understand this prospect’s needs better than my own at this moment?

If you can’t say yes to all of those questions, then DO NOT hit send. Are you going to get it right every time? Nope. (Secret: No one does.) But if you show more restraint, you may give your audience some space to get curious.

3. Revisit Your Goals

More questions to ask yourself:

  1. What are you trying to accomplish with email?
  2. Is it well-documented?
  3. Is it as translucent as my windshield after a car wash?
  4. Can you state it easily in two to three bullets?

If not, you need to revisit your email goals. (Don’t say strategy. I’m starting to think that should also be a four letter word.)

And one other thing — if people want to unsubscribe, make it easy for them. Don’t make them enter their email address and select which newsletters they don’t want. Nothing says poor user experience more than making it hard for people to unsubscribe.

So, fellow fabulous marketers, the future is in our hands. Stop abusing your lists. You’ll be a better marketer — and a better person — for it.

About the author

Ahava Leibtag

Ahava is the president and owner of Aha Media Group, a content strategy and content marketing consultancy founded in October 2005.