May 29, 2019Comments are off for this post.

Is it time to rehab your email list?

Two people buy fixer-upper homes. Both homes are in rough condition. In one of the bedrooms, each home has several enormous holes in the drywall around the closet.

If Ben decides to patch the holes, while Leslie decides to pull the drywall off the 8' of wall and replace it, who's likely to be done faster with the more seamless job?

Reading that over, it sounds like those old math word problems, doesn't it 😊. In my experience, it's Leslie. Most people can't patch a hole in drywall worth beans, so when they patch several large holes, the wall nearly always looks lumpy; it's almost always easier to start from scratch. Sure, it seems like it'd be easier to work on the holes one at a time, but that's very seldom the case.

What on earth does a home improvement project have to do with your newsletter?

Think of the subscribers you add weekly as a sort of patch—they come in to plug up the holes left by unsubscribers and by people who haven't unsubscribed, but who have quit reading. You can see where they come in compared to your other readers—there's an adjustment period.

Usually it works. The old subscribers leave, the new subscribers come in, and things wind up fairly level.

But, over time, your list becomes like an over-patched wall.

Lumpy. Uneven. And showing definite signs of wear and tear.

And that's a sign it's time to undergo a major rehab project.

How do you know it's time? Look for these signs you need to clean your email list:

  1. You're not getting enough response, respective to your list size (expect to hear from about 2-10% of your readers on any one issue).
  2. You've been getting more emailed unsubscribe requests than usual (as opposed to people just using a link, if you offer it, to unsubscribe themselves).
  3. You've noticed a lot of email addresses on your list that don't have other information you've asked for (or that contain obviously bogus information).
  4. You just aren't feeling motivated and inspired when you write to your list--and you know it's time for a "spring cleaning."

If you've noticed any of these signs with your list, consider a full scale rehab of your newsletter list.

How do you clean up your email list?

Step One: Reconfirm your current subscribers. Simply send an email to your current readers saying that you need them to confirm they would like to continue receiving your newsletter. Be clear that if they do not follow those instructions they will be removed. Give them a timeline, and lots of clear guidance on what they need to do. Don't offer them anything else in this email and don't send it as a regular issue—otherwise you'll risk readers missing out. It's likely that at least 50% of your subscribers won't join you on the new list, but the reduction will be worth it.

Step Two: Send out one reminder invite. Yep, just one. You don't want to be annoying, but even more important, you don't want to "coerce" people onto your list. This new list will be full of people who are there 100% voluntarily. People who want to read what you have to say. Don't clutter that up with people who weren't sure, but "didn't want to hurt your feelings."

Step Three: Tell your list how much it's shrunk and how they can help you grow it back. Perhaps offer them a great freebie for referring the newsletter to several friends. By being up front with your readers about your desire to have more subscribers, you'll find they become powerful allies.

Step Four: Plan a massive campaign. Dedicate one full month to taking one action a day to grow your list. You don't have to spend a ton of time on this (or any time at all, actually). Submitting articles, setting up Joint Ventures, and offering teleclasses are all ways that take relatively little time, but have big payoffs in terms of the number of new subscribers you may attract.

Step Five : Bask in your clean list. This is a group of people who are all excited about what you have to say, looking forward to their next issue. They're going to be extra responsive, supportive, and fun to work with. So, don't spend a lot of time thinking about all those people who aren't with you any longer. Rather, focus on all the people who elected to stay.

It sounds daunting, scary, and even, perhaps self-destructive. After all, don't all the other marketing gurus talk about how crucial the size of your list is?!

This advice contradicts what you've probably heard so often.

And I don't know about you, but I know myself, that I'd much rather write a letter to someone I know will read it than write 1000 letters that will wind up in the trash. And with the *larger* list sizes, that's exactly what happens. Sure, it may be more profitable, but it's also (usually) a lot more work. And, for most businesses, a list of 5000 dedicated readers can provide far more *profits* than 100,000 sometimes-readers.

So, if you've been eyeing that newsletter list of yours and it seems like things are getting pretty lumpy, perhaps it's time to rip everything out and start from scratch. So, pull out those gloves, and let's get to work!

Copyright 2006, Jessica Albon. 
Is your newsletter missing this key scientific ingredient 
Don't publish another issue before you know for sure—get your free report at

May 22, 2019Comments are off for this post.

They’re just not that into you: Email marketing

Updated 6/2021
Newsletter unsubscribes

I'll contend that business should be separate from personal feelings or disputes. And then I'll send out an email newsletter and a few unsubscribes will come in, and I'll get a distinct feeling: Did I do something? Say something? What happened?

Now I'm talking about people who actually remember who you are, who may have expressed interest in a product or service. Of course, the e-newsletters aren't spammy, but just fabulous, wrought with the sweats of my labor and sharing hints to the meaning of life. What's not to love?

It's actually a great sign if someone unsubscribes.

I've told several groups that if someone unsubscribes, it's a good sign: You're getting a clear-cut answer as to if this person is "into" you, or not. You can focus on the prospects who are actively engaged, and keep the communication lines open.

And then sometimes, it's not that clear-cut. I recently sent a newsletter, only to go to a luncheon the next day where a woman told me she was so glad we had connected. She had just unsubscribed. She continued to tell other mutual acquaintances she was glad we'd met and we'd be doing business.

So, what happened? Was she mistaken? Click-happy? Stupid? I knew the exact moment she unsubscribed from the list, and we work in the same field, so hopefully she had a clue as to email analytics. But frankly, it didn't matter: Not too long after, she disappeared out of my networking sphere altogether.

The answer was there all along, she was just too passive to say it. And perhaps that's for the best: The uninterested ones go quietly into the night, and I soon find other prospects who are into me.

It sounds glib, I'll admit. But what with all we have to steal our time, attention and focus, looking ahead works far better than focusing on what just didn't work. And who knows, maybe I wouldn't be into them either!

August 12, 2011Comments are off for this post.

Utilizing email marketing to your best advantage

We've all received the ubiquitous pornographic emails, or those promising riches if you open an account for someone in Burundi. Maybe that's what keeps many of us from pushing our businesses online—pushing our way into others' inboxes is often akin to a telemarketer's call during dinner. It's either ignored, or they might respond unhappily, right?

The truth is, no. Email marketing is on the rise: A survey of retail marketers by Forrester Research showed that messages sent to customer house lists yielded a 10 percent click-through rate. Of those who click, 2.5% buy. Unlike its print and web cousins, email marketing offers some possibilities that you may not have thought of, and an unprecedented way to reach potential and current customers alike. What's more, it can reach those folks you spoke to ages ago, but haven't had an opportunity to contact, with a legitimate and—if done well—engaging message.

Print vs. web

As a designer with strong roots in print, I'll never deny the power of a great printed piece. Whether direct mail or a leave-behind brochure, it's a physical reminder of your business. However, sheer cost often denies us the chance to send out monthly or weekly communications—which means our prospect lists are lying dormant. And that can equal thousands of dollars of business that passed you by, because your contacts simply weren't reminded of you. You can also see the results of these campaigns quickly, within hours and days of the first mailing. For mere cents on the dollar, individually addressed and targeted emails can reach your clients. Some examples:

  • A restaurant sends out offers to its customers for slow-sales nights;
  • An architect shares his latest buildings with past clients to spark repeat business;
  • A school sends its new course offerings to past students.

Reach your market—wisely

You can create various messages and emails that will reach specific target markets—former clients, potential ones, or those within certain demographics, such as new home buyers or new businesses in certain zip codes.

But what do you say?

More than anything, you may worry about content. What can you say that others may be interested in? Even in an email, content still is king. Share pieces of interest relevant to your company [and your client base], or write articles that show your expertise in your field. Offer a deal to customers, or just share some personal anecdotes to which your clientele relates. Purchasing lists also has its own issues: If you buy one without knowing where it came from, you may inadvertently be contacting people who do not wish to be contacted. They may have signed up on a list, unaware that the company was reselling their contact information. Or, there are old addresses that bounce back, since the company hasn't "cleaned" their list in a while. Hence, you may run across some unqualified leads with some choice words for you and your business. It's important in these instances to know more about your list seller so you reach the right people, at the right time.

And how do you say it?

The question often comes down to text vs. email. The newsletter you may have received that led you to this article is both HTML and text, making it both readable for all viewers, and attractive to those who can view the design. Yet if you can't see the graphics, it doesn't become a liability to the message. This is the most important thing when communicating with your customers in any media: Let them know you can reach them, and tailor it to them.

The final pitch

Right now, it's probably not an issue of if you can do it, but when you will. Remember that Forrester Research statistic from above? Email marketing can yield a 10% click-through rate; on some lists, that number can range from 4-20%. What will that translate to for your business?

I won't deny the obvious pitch in this article. Forrester Research also showed in a recent survey that marketers who turn to email service bureaus with specialized expertise achieve purchase rates four times higher than marketers who keep all their email operations in-house. So our abilities can pay off not only in the long, but also in the short run, since results are often quickly visible.

October 4, 2004Comments are off for this post.

Tips for better email marketing

Updated June 2021.

I've written on the many great uses of email marketing, but since you may send emails now or are hesitant because of CAN-SP*M laws, I've created a quick primer on what could be holding back your mailings:

The CAN-SP*M Act of 2005 was meant to drive down dreaded spammers. It may seem like a pain, but complying with rules is much easier now that most email marketing programs (like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, etc.) ensure you comply, but your subscribers will be much happier. The main aspects of the law are:

  • Banning of false or misleading header information. Always identify the person initiating the email, the "to" subscriber's information and routing information, meaning the domain name and email address.
  • Subject lines cannot be deceptive. The subject of the email and the content must match up.
  • Recipients must have an opt-out option. You must provide a return email or another internet-based response mechanism that allows a recipient to ask you not to send future messages to that address, and you must honor the requests. You must process opt-out requests within 10 days after you send your commercial email. It's illegal to sell or transfer emails of those who choose to not receive yours.
  • A commercial email must be identified as an advertisement [if it is indeed an ad] and must in.clude your physical mailing address.

Penalties for violating these laws include fines up to $11,000, but deceptive advertising can also fall under false or misleading advertising. Other fines can be levied for harvesting emails off of websites, especially those that prohibit transferring emails in this manner.

My email is still not reaching my subscribers

Of course, you can do all this and still not get past sp*m filters. I have no more than 6-8% bounceback on my list, and the numbers are improving. I stick to these guidelines:

  • Pick a good broadcasting service that will not allow you to send emails without complying to the above rules (my favorite is Mailchimp).
  • Try to get "whitelisted."
  • Check that you aren't using words like "sp*m," "sp*cial," or "fre*" [of course, they are ok if not used in full, as I just did] anywhere in the email, including the from line.
  • Write your subscribers directly and tell them to put the email you send from in their address books, or to set up a rule to specifically let it through. I recently received a text email from a provider saying that my emails have bounced back as sp*m [not spam, it'll bounce back to you!] and to add them to my address list if I want to receive theirs.
  • Read your bouncebacks carefully, because some may have changed emails or exceeded limits. Finally, test out your email's content with ContentChecker before sending.

It also doesn't hurt to work with someone who understands the laws and can help you put your best foot forward with content and design. In that case, my contact information is below!

Can I tell you more?

What do others say?

My newsletter.

Quarterly updates, never sold or shared. 

©2003-2021 Gizmo Creative Factory Inc. All rights reserved. Chicago area freelance designer & WordPress developer. Located in Long Grove.