As 2013 winds down, the frenzy of email appeals is howling louder by the day.
Fundraisers for great causes (and likely crummy ones too, but I’m not on those lists) scramble to make their URGENT appeal signal louder, brighter, and catchier than the other dozens of appeals that are no doubt hitting our inboxes.
What I find stands out across the dull roar of “Last Chance!” and “Can we count on you?” subject lines, though, are the ones that miss, and leave me annoyed, alienated, or unsubscribed. Here’s a top five list of things that will make me opt out. (And hopefully we’ll get Steve’s more scientific analysis in a few weeks — if so, I’ll post it here).
5. Emailing me every day. Or twice a day.
This article about the Obama campaign’s email strategy claims that people have a limitless appetite for email. Maybe that’s true for senders who are running for President, but when I started getting the 12 day countdown to Christmas emails, I was unsubscribed before the three french hens.
4. Burying the ask
Maybe it’s true that some organizations really just do want me to know how much they appreciate me. But, if you expect me to also give you money, don’t call the email “Just Saying Thank You,” and then bury a donate link in a sea of text three paragraphs down. (Also, if you are asking me for money, then you’re not just saying thank you, are you? See “Lying,” below.)
You can go too far in the other direction on this also. If you put zero thought into engaging me, the reality is that someone else might beat you to the punch. Although I appreciate the straightforwardness of the subject line “2013 Year End Appeal,” I also think that the literal can be the enemy of the good.
3. Weird gibberishy text and mergefields
So this wasn’t a nonprofit, but is worth including. I still don’t know if the email that I got from the company who sells the password protection / encryption SaaS tool that I use was being ironic or made a mistake when they included “#52b0c19eb2061” in the subject — is this what encryption humor looks like? If so, I’ll never get the punch line, because I didn’t open it.
And I know that everyone makes mistakes and that it feels terrible to accidentally send out the test email or the one with the subject line “<FIRSTNAME>, are you with us?” I’ve done stuff like that and it’s an awful sick feeling to figure it out right after you hit send, but you get exactly one of these in your career, and then you should learn — test internally just one time more than you think you should.
ALL CAPS IS THE SAME AS SHOUTING IN SOMEONE’S FACE. It might make memories, but it won’t make friends.
Would you sit down for lunch with a donor and scream at them that you need money right now? Even if it’s URGENT? I know that the holidays can make you want to scream. Go outside and scream! Let it out! And then take your finger off the capslock button, please.
I know that the open rate is half the battle, but subject lines that are disingenuous or misleading don’t make me generous, they just make me grouchy. The fake “Re:” and “Fw:” subject line openers (seriously? that old trick still happens?) fall into this category for me, as do things like “Something terrible happened yesterday,” when the terrible thing is that I didn’t make a donation.
The truth is, people don’t like being lied to, tricked, or upset by some fake terrible thing. Getting someone to open your email might be half the battle — but unless you win the other half, you’re still taking $0 to the bank.
Trends and tricks will come and go, but the bottom line is that even in a mass email, people respond to connection, authenticity, and thoughtfulness.
Thoughtful multi-channel communication is a better megaphone than drowning out the email next to yours. STOP YELLING. Start listening.