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How many "say nothing" emails do you get a day?
And how many of us are guilty of the same?
Every morning while my son watches either PBS Kids or Bluey (on Disney+ and highly recommend any parent to watch with their child cause it’s hilarious) to settle him after breakfast, before playtime, I check my emails. It was only last Summer that I reached the ultimate nirvana in my inbox across all of my personal emails: Inbox Zero! How I accomplished that can be read here:
And ever since that blessed day I make it a point to keep this nirvana going every single day. That typically involves these same steps:
Highlight ALL unread emails from my main inbox
Uncheck any emails that I actually want to read.
Delete junk emails. I have tried without any real results to “unsubscribe” or even set rules to send these daily unwanted emails to the trash or the junk folder and it simply does not work. But so far deleting these same emails from the same junk places every day hasn’t broken me down. Just a step that must be taken.
Check all the folders I created that contain unread emails from places I actually want to get emails from. This is usually 6 - 12 emails daily. I’ll get back to the content of THESE emails shortly.
Open the emails in my main inbox to see if they are worth keeping there (I keep emails that involve receiving something in the mail for tracking purposes mostly), archive once they are no longer needed, or delete if I’ve gotten all I’m going to get out of it.
I do these steps at least three times a day. Once in the morning (after breakfast), in the afternoon, and right before bed time. I feel like, even before I hit email nirvana I had been doing this ritual for decades. Rinse. Repeat.
Then today, I found myself reading what is likely the millionth email that contained the same “nothing” beginning before it got to the meat of what the writer wanted me to know or see or inevitably, click on. I find these beginnings are taking longer and longer to get to the meat and potatoes and after reading this email (from a person I admire and whose books I’ve purchased in the past) I feel like my patience is wearing thin.
Why is this important? Because I think of myself as a consumer. Let’s face it, I am. You are as well. And if you don’t do this exercise that I do on a regular basis then you are missing out on the most valuable test subject you could possibly have; yourself.
If I’m getting exasperated after decades of reading more of the same, how many have reached that point already or are likely to hit it soon? I’d love to know the statistics of those who receive emails daily that have just given up on reading them unless they are work related? I’m sure it would be the most rapidly climbing stat in the history of stats!
And yet, for all the annoyance the beginning fluff can be, it doesn’t stop me from reading emails altogether. It’s a time honored tradition to subscribe to a person or company with the expectation of receiving something that is worth my time. When it ceases being worth my time, or better yet, when it becomes more than 25% fluff/advertisement/click-bait then I’m simply going to check out. These days that percentage that I’m willing to accept from an email is steadily decreasing. I think my tolerance is closer to 10-15% at this point.
Is it too much for me to ask that 85-90% of an email I receive (especially from a person) contains content I want to read from beginning to end?
No one knows the name of the game better than me when it comes to the why for having a newsletter. Yes, it’s to build that connection and close relationship with our readers but it’s also to gain customers. The very nature of a customer is to purchase something eventually. And therefore, eventually, the emails we send will contain the proverbial “buy this thing I made” and we hope everyone clicks the link and buys that thing. But that doesn’t mean, or shouldn’t mean, the level of communication should shift drastically from “all personal” to “all business” in its content.
I try, or at least I hope I remember to, when I create something worth purchasing that it will simply be in addition to what I’m always doing and presenting in my emails and not a load of fluff leading up to the BIG SELL. And if you’re like me, a creative person, then you should aim to do the same.
If I’ve learned anything in my painstaking research over the decades of subscribing to hundreds of people (from varying backgrounds in the creative sector) and popular businesses it’s that the ones I unsubscribe from the fastest are the ones who are always trying to sell me something first and never caring to enough to make a connection. I’m tired of being sold something and 10 times of 10 I delete the email followed my a swift unsubscribe the second I even smell a whiff of it coming. The only time I give a pass on that is if the first sale is in the welcome email for something that was written long ago (a glimpse at the past portfolio) but if after that all you have for me is different ways to sell me the same thing over and over again, I’m out.
AN EXERCISE TO TRY OUT FOR YOURSELF
Think about what really grinds your gears with subscriptions you receive, write down everything you hate about them. Are you guilty of any of these things in your own emails that you send?
Now, do the opposite. Think of the emails you can’t wait to open. Why are you exciting to read them? What is it about that email that you love? Have you ever tried to mimic that technique in your own communications?
Two great exercises to try out for yourself. And if you’re not subscribed to any newsletters, might I suggest you go and subscribe immediately (especially if you are a creative person looking to build an email list) as it’s imperative to know how it’s done and how it should never be done. How else will we learn and grow from our mistakes.
Oh, and before you point it out to me, I realize this very email can be considered guilty of the very thing I hate: A lot of “nothing” in the beginning with the very last three paragraphs containing the real meat and potatoes of what I was getting at. There is a method to my madness if you just peel back the layers…