The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Email
8 reasons why your customers aren’t reading your newsletters
Customers can be a bit like Goldilocks when it comes to your emails. Some think it’s too much. Others not enough. Another wants something funny. That one person says you need more pictures…
Whatever you do, someone will have something to say.
As you hone your email’s voice, those remarks will become less common. Yet you might still run into the problem of having people just not read your lovingly crafted emails. Which is just as bad as them telling you your baby is ugly. How dare they? YOUR CHILD IS FREAKING GORGEOUS!
Calm down. Take a look at your emails (and the data) to see if you’re doing something wrong. I’m not saying your baby is ugly. I’m just saying maybe we could try this salicylic cream to get rid of his acne. But let’s fix your email woes first.
1. You pulled a disappearing act
Is this the THIRD time this month an officer’s shown up at your door? Maybe it’s because your subscribers haven’t heard from you in three months and they’re worried.
And if they’re not worried, they’re probably annoyed. After all, they formed a bond and signed up to be closer to you and your brand. Then you went out to the store to get some cigarettes and never came back.
Okay, they probably won’t send police to your door, but if you go for long stretches of time with nothing but radio silence don’t be surprised if your emails go unopened.
2. Your newsletter wasn’t what they were expecting
If I sign up for a newsletter promising the most innovative news in tech, I’m going to be very confused if the writer starts describing what they had for breakfast for four paragraphs.
This has less to do with the quality of your newsletter and more to do with misreading your audience. Give the people what they want. What do they want? I’ll tell you what they want, what they really really want. They want exactly what you promised.
Newsletters can be anything, yet before someone signs up they want to know what it’s about. So show them. Is it news? Personal updates? Funny jokes? Process photos? Ramblings?
You can also create an introductory email they get right after they subscribe. Showing them what to expect right off the bat is a great way to handle expectations and generate excitement for the next newsletter.
3. You’re not original
Oh wow! Another email just like that other email that is just like that other email which is also just like another popular influencer’s email.
Originality is the sauce that makes your email newsletter…well…distinguishable. It’s the reason someone signed up and let you into their inbox sanctum.
If they wanted to read an echo of what other popular people are doing they’d sign on to those. Look, I’m not telling you to reinvent the wheel. All you have to do is give it your own spin.
Consumers have limited attention to give. Reading cloned content for entertainment while trying to forget about murder hornets isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. Do your audience right. Create compelling content from your heart, not someone else’s template. That’s the real key to originality.
4. You’re only selling
Don’t be that weird online marketer who only sends emails trying to get people to purchase something. It’s like being that suspicious fellow at the park in a trench coat going around asking, “Hey dude, wanna buy an online course?”
Unless you mentioned you’d only send updates on merchandise or services, like some big lifestyle and fashion companies do, you won’t get readers to click or open your messages.
They aren’t dumb. Soon they’ll associate your name with the business who only wants them for their spending power.
5. You’re in the depths of the spam folder
This might ultimately be a case of “It’s not them, it’s you.” Ending up in a spam box is often the writer’s fault. Besides some high-tech spam word settings, most of the power lies with the sender to get their letter to the right place.
So what sin are you perpetrating? Why hath the inbox shunned you so?
First, take a look at your list, and see how many people engage with your emails on average. Systems like Google get this data too and when they see that few people are actually opening or clicking your email, they’ll assume you’re spamming.
So you have to – and yes, I know this sucks – scrub your list. Take the time to get rid of people who have not been reading your email for some time.
Once they are gone it will increase your open rate. This in turn will make it less likely that your hard work ends up going unseen by those who actually want to see it.
Another mistake to avoid is spammy subject lines that trigger a spam response. If you write, “I EARNED 1,000,000 DOLLARS,” those filters are going to lock onto you like Luke did the Death Star.
Instead of vague or cringey subject lines, try to be creative and write as you would to someone you know. Maybe you did earn one million dollars. So you could say, “I kinda made my income goals come true this year.”
Not only is it less yucky, but it also won’t be seen as potential trash fodder.
6. You’re boring
Do you ever get a long email that you intend to read but keep putting off because when you open it the scroll bar shrinks to the size of an Altoid?
Like taxes or cleaning, we will leave things we think are going to take too long, sometimes forgetting to do them at all. Think I’m kidding? You know that friend you said you’d catch up with? The one who tells long, rambling stories at parties that never go anywhere? When was the last time you set up a coffee date with him?
And long emails are fine if they’re riveting. Your newsletter should feel like a friend the reader can’t wait to see. To do that your newsletter has to offer some kind of experience. Depending on your style or business that could mean a variety of methods, from extra photos to personalized stories. But make sure there is a point.
Also check out some short story writing tips or creative writing courses, to improve your storytelling ability. You may have the most interesting thing to say, but if you can’t write about it compellingly, no one will care or want to read more.
7. Your emails are hard to read
Fonts are fun, graphics are cool, colors are awesome. Yet without some knowledge about how to use them, you will create a mess.
Think like Coco Chanel. Is it too much? Tone it down.
Think of your poor readers who just want to read and not develop an instant headache. If you’re unsure, run it by someone honest that you trust. Adding visual variety to a newsletter is a great idea, but only if you do it right.
8. You’ve got a case of good old-fashioned bad writing
At the end of the day, you’re sending letters. The writing needs to be solid. And by that I mean readable.
Think of author Samantha Irby. Her emails are personal and don’t even use capital letters. But they are well-written and very much on-brand for her.
And don’t send out anything riddled with typos. A mistake here and there may not bother some, but over time you’ll be seen as less professional and will end up unread.
On the flip side, it doesn’t matter how proper good you are with grammar if your newsletters are over-wordy technical jargon.
We’ve all dated people who want to show you how smart they are by talking like a graduate student with something to prove. Believe me, that graduate student is still alone. And you will have a lonely subscriber list if you don’t master conversational writing.
To avoid having a terrible, dysfunctional email list, work hard to create an enjoyable experience for your reader. The more people who open your email, the less likely you’ll get lost in spam, and the more likely you will build a responsive audience who can’t wait to receive your content.
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