I got this doomsday Tweet in my feed yesterday:

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Since part of my job is to create and send an email newsletter for an email marketing company, this tweet ignited complex emotions. I spend half my day telling people to create email newsletters and how to do it. And yet lately I've made a conscious effort to unsubscribe myself from many email newsletters because I, too, am getting too much email.

I was surprised and pleased to see a non-profit email marketer respond to this tweet almost immediately:

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I had the same question. If email doesn't work, how, then, shall we communicate?

Shannon's reponse was:

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Seeing this, I felt relieved. Okay, I thought. It's not that people don't want to hear from marketers, they just want to hear from marketers via the channels they prefer. We know this already! But many marketers don't act on it.

I DM'd Shannon to ask permission to use her tweets in this post, and she followed up by saying that she feels she gets added to email lists after handing out her business card. She says she considers this spam.

I have to agree.

Stop recklessly building your email lists

Many marketers have been trained to believe that list size matters. But they're wrong. Size doesn't matter, relevance does. A list of 20,000 people doesn't mean anything if only 8% of your audience is opening your emails. (And, using some platforms, you're paying to store those contacts!) It's better to have a list of 5,000 with a 30% open rate and a 0% unsubscribe rate. You can assume most people on that list want to hear from you. They may not open every email, but your name in their inbox isn't making them grit their teeth.

Be where your customers are

Shannon's response also brings up another point: as a marketer, you need to be where your customers want to find you. This may not always be on email. Customers are increasingly turning to social media to get their marketing dose in a place where they don't have to take direct action on it.

Here's an example: a pizza place by my house regularly wraps its menus in rubber bands around my front doorknob, forcing me to deal with their advertising by removing it from my door and putting it in the recycling bin. It makes me not want to order from them. I'd rather just see their ad on a billboard, or find them on Yelp when I want to order pizza. Instead they're forcing me to deal with their marketing. Hanging something on someone's door is email. Billboards and Yelp are Twitter and Facebook. Advertising that's not in my face, but that's there when I want to see it.

How can marketers deal with email fatigue?

There are a few lessons to take away from Shannon's tweet:

  1. Never add someone to your email list who hasn't explicitly opted in. Don't add your Rolodex to your email list.
  2. A smaller, healthier email marketing list is better than a massive, ineffective one.
  3. Keep the emails you do send short.
  4. Segment your email marketing list so messages you send are targeted. Email your full list less frequently.
  5. Allow your subscribers to segment themselves by telling you their preferences and preferred email frequency.
  6. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe, but know where to find subscribers on other channels. Know their preferences.
  7. Branch out. Use channels like Twitter and Facebook to break up your message and reach more people.

In essence, you should always be listening for feedback on the way your customers prefer to receive your message, and be willing to evolve your marketing strategy to fit their needs.

What changes, if any, have you made to your marketing strategy to meet with cusotmer needs?

Katherine is the Community Manager at Signal.

Posted in Email Marketing, Tips, Trends and Best Practices