Your web site is ready. You crafted your pitch. You just pressed the send button on the email describing the value of your fantastic widget. Maybe you even promised the moon and the stars.

You eagerly watch your dashboard for signs of response, but… crickets. Was that a tumbleweed rolling by? You suddenly have deep empathy for Charlie Brown waiting futilely by his mailbox for a valentine that never arrives. There’s no way around it: your emails aren’t getting the response you expected.

What happened? It’s easy to blame the offer, to chalk it up to lackluster creative, or even to assume that your customers just don’t like email. But here’s some tough love: none of those factors matter when it’s a case of getting back just what you give. An email relationship is a lot like any other, and in this case, it’s not them—it’s you.

Last Train to Splitsville

Email is a highly personal form of communication, and that’s one of the reasons it can be so effective as a marketing tool. If you put care, effort, and investment in building a customer relationship with email, you’ll find it a very rewarding channel. But the reverse also is true—your customers quickly will learn to discount communication that seems to show a lack of consideration for their time.

In other words, if you treat email like a low-cost/low-effort disposable medium, your potential customers will think of you in just the same way. Just a couple bad experiences are enough for many customers to learn they’re better off sending your messages straight to the trash bin, sight unseen. And once you’ve been pigeonholed as just one step above spam, it’s awfully hard to work your way back.

In the end, there’s no shortcut to building meaningful communication, but it’s awfully easy to convey that you’re not even trying.

10 Reasons They’re Just Not That into You

Here are ten red flags that warn your recipient that it’s not worth their time to engage with your message:

  1. The recipient didn’t opt in. Guys? Really? This is Email 101. Only send messages to people that actually have asked for them. Don’t buy lists. Period.
  2. You’re sending too many emails. Calibrating send rates is a tough job that requires a lot of empirical observation, but it’s a must-do. And if you’re ever unsure, remember the maxim “less is more” always applies to email.
  3. Your subject line looks like spam. We humans are pretty good at learning from experience and recognizing signs of danger. A subject line that looks even remotely like a spammy come-on will trigger a “don’t trust this” reaction.
  4. Your subject line is misspelled. Ain’t nobody got time for that. So take the time to proof your emails. And then do it again, backwards.
  5. Your inbox call-to-action is irrelevant. When done right, subject lines and preheader text snippets entice like a bow on a nicely-wrapped package. But when they’re off-message and off-target, it’s going to be a quick delete. So take the time to do it right.
  6. Your subject line is wishy-washy and unclear. Second verse, same as the first. It’s hard work for someone to read your mind and figure out what you want them to do. So make sure you do ask for what you want with a clear call-to-action in the inbox.
  7. Your from name isn’t recognizable. I have always depended on the kindness of strangers, but rarely have I read their email.
  8. Your message is addressed to “FIRSTNAME.” Nothing says you care for your customers like a blatant reminder that they’re just a record in your database, amirite? If your email template includes variable substitution to do simple personalization, be sure to get it right and include meaningful fallbacks when the data’s not available.
  9. Your email arrived too late. I’m sure I’m not only one who’s received an email promising a one-day sale… one day too late. The best way to ensure your email doesn’t arrive a day late and a dollar short is to use an email delivery service that can handle peak volumes without crumbling under the pressure.
  10. You’re cheating by using a gimmick like Re: or Fwd:. False familiarity is a particular pet peeve of mine. Don’t pretend we’re besties unless we actually are—any relationship, including the marketing ones we have with brands, is built upon the trust that comes from repeated interactions.

Get the Email Love You Want

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s no magic bullet to creating a high-performing email, but success always begins with putting in the effort to communicate and build a strong customer relationship. And attention to detail in your email is an important first step. Anything less is a surefire way to get your email deleted unread.

When do you automatically swipe left in your inbox? I’d love to hear what causes you to ghost your email marketer. Let me know in the comments below.


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