Newsletters: A fine line between valuable content and annoying spam - 17th Jan 2011

In the run up to Christmas my Inbox was swamped with last minute Christmas newsletters from businesses around the world. Contained within them were some seriously irritating issues.

Here's how you can avoid these mistakes.

Newsletter Irritation #1

Putting all your contacts in the “To:” field
Unbelievably not less than three businesses emailed me and included all their contacts in the “To” field.

What was meant as a friendly Christmas Greeting resulted in those three businesses sending me both Christmas Cheer and their entire client/contact list.  This wouldn't have been quite as catastrophic if the email had simply been sent to me.  But, as it transpired not only do I have the senders client/contact list but every other recipient in the "To" field also now has the list in their possession.  I can only hope that those recipients discarded  the business' client./contact list, or paid it little or no attention.

It can almost be guaranteed that competitors will feature on your mailing list, and sending out something as simple and genuine as a Christmas Greeting using the wrong 'To' field can result in an error with dire consequences.   No business willingly wants to share their client/contact/prospect list with their competitors!  So, check, double-check and check again.  If you need to have a colleague confirm everything is in the right place before you hit the 'send' button.

Here's you can do it better
  • Firstly, and most importantly enter your own email address into the "To" field.  This means everyone receiving your email will only see your email address and not any other recipient.
  • Secondly, enter all your contacts in the "Bcc" (blind carbon copy) field.  This means that each person will get their own copy without seeing who else has received the communication.  Another useful by-product of this feature is that if a recipient replies to the communication it will be directed to the sender only and not the entire recipient list.  

Newsletter Irritation #2

Use of unnecessary attachments

Another email communication error highlighted over Christmas period  was the receipt of corporate newsletters with useless attachments to them e.g. a PDF created in Word with Clip Art graphics. 

Disappointingly, on opening many of these attachments I was exposed to a multitude of cheesy graphics depicting Santa doing all sorts of stereotypical Christmassy things coupled with bland Christmas greetings displayed in hideous Fonts.  With such ease of access to seriously amazing technology I fail to believe there not absolutely a better way to communicate via email.

Attachments have their place in email communication. They are a way providing a message better expressed in graphic form as opposed to text in an email.  Or it may be  that an attachment requires a specific look and feel e.g. a legal document.  They are convenient for the sender and they can be convenient for the recipient  but whatever you do please avoid using them in bulk emailing communications. 

Here's why
  • Convenience:  You've encouraged the recipient to waste precious time downloading and opening an attachment that really said nothing other than, for example 'Merry Christmas'.  This could be perceived as a subliminal insult that perhaps they have nothing better to do with their time.
  • Bandwidth:  If the file was 500kb or around half a megabyte in size and you just emailed that to 1000 people. That's 1000 x 0.5MB = 500Mb trying to get out of your office to it's destination.  Remember, you have to pay for this bandwidth so what you thought was an inexpensive eMarketing exercise has just accrued a cost more than your time creating the attachment in the first instance.
  • Junk Filtering:  As soon as you add an attachment your potential junk score goes right up resulting in your recipients not actually receiving your email until their IT department returns in the New Year! 
  • Black Lists:  The email communication may be perceived as a spam by some ISPs and be permanently blacklisted. 

What could you do differently?

If you really want to use an attachment to communicate with your clients/contacts upload your attachment to your website, and send a friendly text-based email out advising that it's available for download via the direct web link you will insert.  You've just given the receiver the option to download the file if they choose to do so. 

Given that the desired outcome is to simply offer Seasons Greetings then perhaps a friendly email with all your recipients in the "Bcc" field, and the body of text offering a Merry Christmas from you and your team would have done the job.

Don't become an irritating newsletter spammer!  Think about what the likely repercussions are before you click the send button. If you are after some really good info on how to communicate with your online audience, Turboweb recommend Debbie Mayo-Smith's book Professional Online Newsletters and Emails.

Item by Paul Southworth

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