Enough (e-mail) is enough

It started out innocently enough.  The owner of a local business, a friend, asked me to “like” her Facebook page and subscribe to her newsletter.  Although I have visited this establishment, it’s frankly not my cup of tea, and I find their prices much too high.  Maybe that’s not fair, as I’m a devoted Walmart and coupon shopper, but I thought I was being a good friend by supporting her. Frankly, I’ve been too chicken to “unfollow” or “unsubscribe” living in such a small town.  It could make the local news.

At first, updates appeared here and there on my wall, and I would occasionally “like” them.  “Like” them as in I’d really like that $2,000 widget from your store, but sorry, hon, I can’t even afford the box it comes in.  And once in awhile, I’d get an email asking what time I’d like to come in for a special trunk show or how I could win an “amazing” prize by getting 10 new friends to “like” them.  Neither of which I did, although I applauded her one-woman marketing effort.

Unfortunately, the Facebook posts and e-mails soon ramped up.  A sale here, a special class there.  We’ll be on this TV show; look for us on the cover of that local magazine; we’re hosting an event for a charity–and another.  Soon, e-mails were coming from her partner sites–without my permission or my interest.  Sometimes, I’d get an email from my friend AND from the charity.  I now get at least one email daily from my friend or an affiliate; my Facebook wall gets three to four similar posts a day. 

And guess what I just did?  Unsubscribe.  Unlike.  And block (yes, even the charities).  I’m no longer running scared, I’m miffed.  And I’m sad for her, because she has broken all the rules of basic email marketing.

Don’t e-mail too often. According to CMO Council and InfoPrint Solutions (2010), 22% of US Internet users decided to stop purchasing from a company because of too many or irrelevant e-mails. Statistics show that companies that e-mail more than twice a month see drop-off rates rise.  For most businesses, a monthly or quarterly blast should suffice.

Don’t ever give or sell your e-mail list to others. This includes charities.  While giving back to the community is an honorable trait, remember this is a cause chosen by you, not by me.  Give me the choice to support them by answering your call to action.  If you think sharing e-mails is benevolent, never, ever double dip.  Decide who will send the e-mail and send ONE.  I do not need to hear the same message from both of you.

Mix content with promotion.  While I’m happy to know I can get your $2,000 widget for $1,700 this month, I’d like to hear more from you–the expert in the field.  Why are the widgets so popular?  What’s the best or most unusual way to wear/use them?  Can I see photos of other people using one?  What are the trends in your industry for NEXT season?  How will this help my health/well-being/reputation/financial status?  If you saw me at a cocktail party, would you sell, sell, sell?  Talk to me in your e-mail like you would in person. Teach me something valuable and compel me to desire your products or services.

Your goal in e-mail marketing is to stand apart from the in-box crowd, but in a good way.  Too many e-mails and too much hard-core selling turns simply customers off.  Tell us about your worst e-mail overload stories.

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