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I Have A Question For You About eMail Etiquette

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There’s no doubt that how we communicate is constantly changing; be it through text message, email, Facebook, short codes, QR codes, watches, and even relatively new devices like Google Glass.  Back in the earlier days of the internet we had actual phone calls, spam that took walking to a mailbox to delete, and email (some of us were hip to ICQ but I think it now resides in an internet museum somewhere in Jersey).  What has consistently surprised me is that WHAT we communicate hasn’t seemed to change a whole lot.  Stay with me here, this is just the set up to my questions.eCard screenshot

Here’s an example of something I received from Hallmark.com back in 2004 (You can click on it to see it bigger).  Now, in their defense, most people didn’t know how to make things really pop in an email, inserting images wasn’t easy, and TinyURL hadn’t been around long.  Not only did they list out the entire link to the eCard, the message they created had enumerated steps to take if the link didn’t work.  The message contains missing spaces, no imagery or even a company logo in sight, and (no offense, Hallmark) it even has a spammy feel to the text.

bad emailI wish I could post a screenshot of a recent email I received from an entrepreneur that is trying to make it in the multi-level marketing business but, in order to black out the necessary info to hide the identity of the sender, the entire thing would pretty much be black lines.  Since that isn’t an option, enjoy this little rendition of what I received.  I’ve condensed it to make it a little easier to swallow.

Most people have been on the eMail bandwagon for at least a few years while some started in the 90’s or even earlier.  There are some do’s and don’t’s that have been pretty firmly established.  For example, if it makes your eyes hurt, you might want to select a basic color scheme based on one color you really like from a site such as ColorPicker.  My question is about those rules that have NOT been firmly established because society hasn’t exactly said “Enough Already”.

When you’re sending a marketing email, do you capitalize the first letter of every word like you would a professional email?

Clearly the answer to this would depend on what kind of content you’re pushing but I’m curious what others’ thoughts are on this topic.  Amazon, Facebook, and Youtube don’t do it.  You’re not posting a flyer on somebody’s windshield anymore because marketing has gone to a much more personal level.  Can I get a show of hands from anyone that received a cold lead from a phonebook ad this month?  Right, yeah…  If you’re marketing a personal product, you should market to the person personally and not to faceless eyes that are forced to pick up a book of advertisements out of their driveway once a year.

If you’re using a mass email system, are you utilizing the capability of putting the person’s name in the subject?

Here’s the tricky thing about this one: when I get an email from a friend or someone I actually know, they don’t put my name in the subject.  Why would a business or a marketer do that?  When I see this, I know that I’ll either be very happy or very annoyed with the content.  I’ll be happy if I open it up and it’s something that is tailored to my interests.  I’ll be very annoyed if I open it and it’s blatant company spam.  You may be wondering what’s the difference.  Subject to induce happiness: MyName, here are some recent novels you may be interested in; body of email: books I would actually read.  Subject to induce a new unsubscribe: MyName, have you seen this?; body: every product known to man from RandomSportsOutdoorSite.com that I ordered tent stakes from once.  But, you tell me.  Should the recipient name still be included?

Where’s the line between enough information and being spammy these days?

I completely forgot I had subscribed to the BestBuy newsletter with my junk account.  I logged in their today and found that BestBuy has been dutifully sending me their newsletters.  Every. Single. Day.  There’s more to being spammy than just acting like that co-worker that REALLY needs to show you the newest photos of their neice.  If I get an email and two scroll downs are not rewarded with some visually interesting content or catchy header, I’m more like to finish scrolling to the unsubscribe.  How are you engaging your customers?

Hey, thanks for scrolling! You win a kitten.

Hey, thanks for scrolling! You win a kitten.

What do you think should define the rules of email marketing?  The “Look around you and do what that guy is doing” method, the “It was good enough in ’04” method, or maybe, just maybe, sales professionals and content creators alike step back and take a good look at to whom they’re marketing.  People.  Personally, I think it would do our society some good if email creators took it down a notch and stopped trying to shove a billboard into an email message (whether that means so many visual choices you forget who it came from or so much plain text that it may as well be in binary).  But, that’s just one human’s opinion.

Feel free to share your stories, thoughts, tips, recipes in the comments!

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