The Biggest Lie in Email Marketing (Why Most Email is Junk Mail)

This post is from Danny Iny, who markets naked and on firepoles.

Email is the third rail of online marketing.

Sure, Twitter, Facebook and RSS can be nice, but there’s just no comparing them to the raw power that comes with invited access to your prospect’s inbox.

Of course, with power comes risk, and the same is true with email marketing; do it wrong, and you’re toast – the moment you’re seen as junk mail, your open rates will plummet and your spam complaints will soar, your deliverability will drop and your account may even be suspended.

In other words, your emails won’t get through, and when they do, nobody will listen or care.

So how can you make sure that doesn’t happen to you? Probably not the way you think…

Your Awesome Messages are Still Junk Mail

Since people have been able to write, they’ve sent each other letters. And at one time, a letter – the ability to write, read, send or receive it – was an honor and a privilege.

That’s really not the case anymore. Soon after the invention of mail came the invention of junk mail. And it’s annoying.

And as marketers, we know this, so we do our best to NOT be labeled as junk mail. We get double opt-ins, offer one-click unsubscribe, and deliver the best content-to-pitch ratios that the sales people will let us.

These are all good things, but they don’t really matter.

Our messages are still, largely, being seen by the people on our mailing lists as junk mail.

Email only stops being junk mail when the recipient doesn’t just read it – but treats it as coming from someone they know and like. Someone they want to hear from, because previous interactions have been positive and rewarding.

If that’s not happening, then all of the double-opt-ins and amazing content in the world won’t stop it from being digital trash can fodder. Conversations over the Internet, as in real life, are only valid when they go two ways.

The Solution: Make it a Conversation!

This all changes the instant your communication becomes two-way. When people start reading, considering, taking action and responding.

It’s one thing to walk out of a movie you’re not enjoying, but it?s entirely another thing to ignore a person you’re having a face to face conversation with.

That’s the important word here: conversation.

Whether it’s face to face or via email, a conversation is when two people – you and the recipient of your email – exchange sentiments, observations, opinions or ideas.

So how do you do it?

Well, it isn’t rocket science, but it’s the kind of “common sense” that is really only common sense after you’ve heard it and tried it.

The first thing you have to do is make sure that the emails you send to your list are from someone; no-reply@YourCompany.com isn’t going to cut it! Get rid of the no-reply, and put a real person’s name there.

A name alone isn’t enough, though; merely giving the appearance of a real person reaching out is a cop-out. You’ll need to make a real person the recipient of all those email responses, so that when your list members receive an email from John@YourCompany.com there really is a John talking to them, listening to them and responding to them.

Depending on how much email you receive, you might even need to hire a person for the job.

Will this cost you something? Absolutely. But the expense will be small in comparison to the benefits you will accrue in terms of goodwill, and increased sales will more than cover the difference.

Now That You’re a Person, Give Them a Reason to Reply

Now that you have someone in charge of email, ask yourself – what makes you want to talk to someone? What are the qualities, the cues, or the lead-ins you look for that make having a conversation with someone face to face a pleasure?

Pretty high on the list is being asked about oneself. Also a sense that the listener is really interested in what you’re saying. Then there is the likelihood that you’re going to be treated with respect and opened up to new ideas… and that’s just the beginning – I imagine you could think of a lot more pretty easily.

Well, if you like these things, then it’s a safe bet that your audience will too!

You can:

  • Ask them to tell you about themselves and their work.
  • Ask them their opinion on the ideas you presented.
  • Ask for feedback on ideas you have.
  • Ask them to tell you what they’re interested in hearing more about.
  • Share the answers they give you through social media, your email campaign and your website.
  • Respond to everyone who takes the time to answer one of your questions.

People like to feel valued just as much through a computer screen as they do sitting in a bar with their friends.

What it really comes down to, at the end of the day, is remembering that your list isn’t just a list. It’s a list of people who all have busy lives and other things they could be doing with their time. That means you need to do everything in your power to keep them aware of the fact that you are also a real person, and are taking time out of your day to connect with them.

The connection between you isn’t going to be built in a day, relationships take time, dedication and a great deal of hard work. However, the bridges that you build now with your customers will stand for the rest of your lives, and benefit you both going forward.

Never forget that people generally want to do business with people they know and like. So be a person that the members of your email list can really know and like!

Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is the co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging,” and the co-author (with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, and many others) of Engagement from Scratch! (available on Amazon, or as a free download). The latest and greatest thing you can get from him (for free, of course) is his Naked Marketing Manifesto, about marketing that really works!