Why do you click on an e-mail from me? Or from anyone, for that matter?

A lot of e-mail markers out there obsess about subject lines. How can a subject line capture a reader's attention? What can I say to make them click on it? I think there is a better approach, but first let me address these obsessions.

There is a lot of testing of subject lines to see which ones perform better in terms of Open Rates. But, this approach is flawed for two reasons.

First of all, the Open Rate isn't a particularly useful measure of the effectiveness of your e-mail. For starters, Open Rates are notoriously inaccurate because of the way different e-mail viewers work. Some people may have seen and read your e-mail without technically "opening" it. 

But more importantly, getting people to open your e-mail isn't the goal of your marketing. What do people find when they open it? Do they click on links within the e-mail itself? Are they reading the content and engaging with your business? If your subject line is causing people to click on the e-mail only to find it lacks useful content or has poor design, you have not accomplished your goal.

The second reason the obsession with Subject Lines is misguided is that there are so many reasons people do or don't open an e-mail. Some people say that it is affected by the time of delivery, or which mailbox it got delivered to. Individually, maybe someone got behind and their Inbox overflowed! But the best indicator of whether someone will open an e-mail is the person or business it is coming from, and whether they have a relationship with them.

That relationship starts at the very beginning of the e-mail marketing interaction. The first couple of pieces you send them after they sign up, or opt in. Those first couple of pieces usually have excellent open rates because people just signed up! And they are critical to establishing the expectation people will have when they receive e-mail from you.

After they have seen one or two e-mails from you, they have a picture in their mind of "what you send." Does it require them to watch a 15 minute video every time? Or can they glean some useful information within a few minutes? Do they feel connected to you, and find that the e-mails deepen that relationship?

That relationship and those expectations play the biggest role in whether people continue to open, or read, or stay subscribed, or engage with your e-mails.

I have a confession to make. When I sent out my first two e-mail newsletters, I forgot to change the subject line! All it said was the name of my company. Oops! But, in the end, it didn't really affect my open rates at all. The people on my list still found great content in the e-mail.

Now, let me just say that I am not talking about giant companies with millions of people on their list. They can look at statistics, and test subject lines all they want. But the same rules don't necessarily apply to small businesses. At that level, the most critical thing is the relationship your readers have with you.

So, if you have established a good relationship with your list, then they will look forward to getting your e-mails, no matter what the subject line is.

Having said that, I'm not recommending that you forget about your subject lines, like I did. Here are some suggestions for creating subject lines with a focus on relationship building:
- Don't obsess about it!
- Ask them a question that is answered in the e-mail
- Tell them what they will find in the e-mail (e.g. "Find out..." or "Learn to...")
- Mix it up - occasionally do a very short or more creative subject line
- Show your personality - its okay to use lingo, or abbreviations, or emoticons as long as it matches who you are and your brand.

Now off you go
 
 
Not you, of course. I'm not talking to the loyal subscribers who enjoy my articles, who get some value from what I share, who at least open the e-mails to see what I've been up to this week.

I'm talking to those of you whose Inbox is overflowing with marketing e-mails from every store you shop at, daily deals for things you don't really need, and advice from all the gurus you would like to emulate but never do.

I'm talking to those of you who get more marketing e-mails than e-mails from actual people.

I'm talking to those of you who just delete e-mails without opening or reading them because you don't have time, and you know they aren't relevant to you anyway.

I'm talking to those of you who are always trying to "clean out your Inbox" only to have it fill up with junk again. 

Just because you signed up for a list, does NOT mean you have to stay on it. In fact, it's better for everybody if you just click the link at the bottom to unsubscribe.

The businesses that are sending you those e-mails won't mind at all. If you aren't ever going to buy something from them, or if you don't get a positive feeling about their brand when you see their e-mails, or gain something from them, or read them at all, then they'd really rather that you unsubscribe.... please.

It will make a big difference for you as well. Minimizing unnecessary e-mail can save you a lot of time and stress. It may be difficult for some people to let go, but its critical to take control of your Inbox.

Your Inbox is like your living room. Now that we are many years past SPAM laws, the only people who can communicate with you via e-mail are people to whom you have given your e-mail address. It should be considered a privilege to be there. If someone isn't respecting your space or they are stressing you out, you have every right to ask them to leave.

These days, it is harder to manage than ever. There is so much content being created and sent every day on the entire planet that is accessible to everyone on the Internet. I've heard some statistics recently that are just staggering. Did you know that more written content is being published every 48 hours than was created from the dawn of mankind until 2007?!

What that means is that we must each be more diligent than ever when choosing what content we read and certainly who we invite to our Inbox living room. It can become overcrowded very quickly, and then all communication loses its value because it feels like everyone is just shouting trying to be heard over everyone else.

E-mail communications are a valuable tool when they connect you to people and businesses that you actually like and interact with. So, here are a couple of tips for taking control of your Inbox.

#1 - Identify your tribes
Because of the connectivity of the internet and the amount of content out there, it is possible to connect with like-minded people and groups. When you find your tribe, you feel connected and not pressured or stressed. 

Of all the marketing e-mails you get right now, which ones do you actually look forward to getting? Which stores do you love to shop at? Which e-mails feel like they are talking directly to you? Which ones do you enjoy reading? 

Identify and prioritize your tribes. Then pick the top ones to keep in your Inbox. I recommend no more than seven. The rest are going to have to go, or it will simply get too crowded.

#2 - Let it go
The e-mails that didn't fit into your list of tribes above -- let them go. If you have feelings of hanging on because you might miss out on something, or miss a deal -- let it go. Guess what? You are going to miss out on things. We all miss out on all kinds of things every day. We just can't get in on everything, and it will make you crazy if you try. But if you unsubscribe, you'll be surprised how much lighter and freer you will feel.

If you have more than seven (or maybe as many as 10) e-mails that you identified as possible tribes, some of those are going to have to be let go, too. It's harder to let go of e-mails in areas that you are interested in. But, honestly, if you get that many e-mails in similar categories, there is probably some repeat information. Pick the people and places that resonate most with you, and let the others go.

#3 - Give trials
Once you have minimized your current list of subscriptions, it doesn't mean you can't ever invite anyone else into your Inbox. You are always welcome to sign up for lists, particularly if you are getting something of value. The initial interaction always gives you a sense for what you will be getting. Then give it a trial period of a couple of weeks to a month. If you aren't benefiting from it, if the e-mails are piling up, if it doesn't feel like a fit for you, then unsubscribe.

I am passionate about good e-mail marketing, but that also means that I am equally as passionate about bad e-mail marketing. And the beauty is that the power is in the recipient's hands. I encourage you to use your power and take control of your Inbox today.

All the best,
Sarah
 
 
It happens all the time.  A small business owner starts an e-newsletter, or sets up a Facebook page, or builds a blog with the best of intensions. They are enthusiastic and have lots of ideas. They are determined to post or write something every week.

But, after a little while, a week goes by without a post or an article. Perhaps they catch up again, but then another week goes by and then another. 

This is such a common story. And it makes me sad because it is so detrimental to the growth of your business.

There are lots of reasons (or excuses) for it.... "I was too busy." "I didn't know what to write." "It takes too much time."

The killer thing is that, once you miss one deadline, it becomes easier to fall into a pattern of putting it off.

But, the truth is that content marketing requires consistency. Just like any relationship, if you don't communicate with your prospects, they are going to lose interest. To be honest, if you only have enough content to write something every few months, it may seem like you don't have enough value to offer.

If consistency is a challenge for you, you are not alone! As a small business owner, self discipline is critical. The only person holding you accountable for your actions and your output is yourself. If you expect to do your content-creation whenever you "feel inspired" or have some free time, it won't happen.

Consistency requires planning. You are much more likely to be consistent if you plan things ahead of time and set deadlines for yourself. Schedule your newsletters and posts in two ways:

First, make an editorial schedule that outlines your topics and post deadlines for at least the next 6 months. (Schedule the whole year if you can.) Know when you will send or post new content. It may take some time to fill the list of topics you want to write about. I keep a running list of topics that I add to whenever inspiration hits. That way, I can open it up when I need to write something and have a treasure trove of ideas to choose from.

Next, build time into your schedule for content marketing. Schedule your working days so you can prioritize your tasks, focus on them one at a time, and check them off! Plan for 2-3 hours per week (at least) spread over one or two days for creating new content. Don't schedule anything else during that time. This helps eliminate some common excuses and gives you the best opportunity to be consistent.

It is a bit ironic that I am writing about this topic today, after letting nearly a month go by without a new post! I have my own excuses, of course (summer, kids...). But the important thing is that I am renewing my commitment to consistency, and I hope you will too!

All the best,
Sarah