Respect Your Recipients’ Time

Earlier in the week, I mentioned MailChimp email marketing service and how much I like their service, one of the ancillary benefits is a genuinely terrific company blog that focuses on more than just obligatory best practices posts; instead, they focus on lessons learned along the way from their own mistakes.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-048Case in point was one of their posts from 10/31/2012 about reducing irrelevance by way of improved list segmentation and refined content creation. The post’s author, MailChimp co-founder Ben Chestnut, described being under pressure to get an email blast out in order to begin gathering survey data but instead of diving into the raging deadline rapids, he popped his head up and took a long, hard look at his desired destination. As a result, it meant thinking more about the people receiving the email

I was in a hurry, so the first thing I did was grab a pre-designed email template, then I plopped in some quick text along with a link to my survey. Then I stopped myself. Just because I’m in a hurry, and my team really, really needs this feedback soon, and even though it’s “just a quick survey” I need to slow down and respect my recipients’ time here. So I took a break and thought about what would make me actually stop my busy day and take someone’s survey.

Long story short, Chestnut ended up creating an email that produced far better results and useful data than if he simply jumped in and struggled against the current (you can read his entire post for details).

Currently, I’m on a few hundred email lists and as a result get no less than a few dozen e-blasts per day from various performing arts orgs. The sheer volume means I rarely do anything beyond scanning the email header and maybe the message body. But every few weeks I’ll take the time to go through everything in more detail and it is difficult to miss how many messages are geared toward the double barrel shotgun full list approach.

Even through I’ve never been to an event from the vast majority of groups, it isn’t uncommon to catch phrases like “as a regular ticket buyer” or “as one of our season subscribers.” Really? I don’t do any of those things so how does this respect the reader’s time? Did my email address make it into the organization’s list because I signed up, they purchased it, or I actually attended an event?

Based on the prep phrases, they don’t and the message was composed in a hurry with a specific conversion goal for marketing and/or development. In addition to messages coming in from groups inside the field, I also get hammered with messages from indie pop groups and unscrupulous PR agents/firms pushing junk performing arts acts.

The typical result is the sender’s address ends up in my blacklist; now, I can already hear the questions asking why not simply click the “unsubscribe” link? Good question, because that’s a trick used by unscrupulous senders to verify that a human being opened a message. Once they have that confirmation, they sell/trade lists of those confirmed email addresses via Black Hat SEO markets. As a result, I strongly recommend using your email client’s blacklist functionality unless you know the sender is legit and/or is using a legit service, such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.

But I digress; in the end, it pays to take some time and take a good hard look at your email lists and see if you’re getting everything you can out of segmentation and thoughtful copy writing.

And to reiterate my support for MailChimp as a superb email marketing client, not only do I use it here for Adaptistration’s Weekly Email Summary, but I also use it as a key provider for the Venture Platform by serving as the integrated email marketing platform.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

Related Posts

2 thoughts on “Respect Your Recipients’ Time”

  1. Good post, Drew. I’d be curious to know which email newsletters you like and why. I’m also a MailChimp user, and the service allows for some really beautifully designed emails, but are they more effective than text-based newsletters? I say “more effective” but what I think I mean is “worth the effort,” especially for someone without much html experience.

    • I’m a big proponent of “less is the new more” school of thinking when if comes to email designs (more on that here) and there has certainly been a trend in design that relies more on big visual elements. By and large, that isn’t bad but the bear trap is to avoid getting stuck in a template you use because it’s there. Beyond that, content overload is another problem I see in a lot of email messages; too much traditional newsletter design when just a short message would do better.

      Consequently, there are some email marketing platforms that simply make it far more difficult to create a good looking design that works across the majority of email clients (another huge problem). Meaning, you can cut your content off at the knees if you are saddled using an inferior email marketing provider.

Leave a Comment