The cardinal sin in email marketing

My marketing agency manages our clients' email marketing so you would think we know something about "opens" and "click throughs." Well, we do, but doesn't mean we don't "fall for it" at times.

The "it" are emails sent by amateurs, those that practice "sales of the worst kind" - and that gets me angry every single time.

This was the subject line for a recent email in my inbox:

"SPEAK at the New York City Small Business Expo."

A speaking engagement is an entrepreneur’s dream come through - every business owner I know, in any specialty. wants to speak in front of an audience. It's the most coveted of all marketing tools - an opportunity to stand in front of an audience and be "an expert for an hour"

Whoever wrote the email got it right - the ultimate "hook", "hot button" - on the subject line in an email targeted to entrepreneurs who salivate at a chance to speak.

Way to go! A notch in the belt of email opens.

And then I read the email body - the word "speak" wasn't even mentioned once. The entire email was about buying a booth at the expo. I was done before the first sentence ended.

Next came reporting it as Spam and blocking this individual and domain from ever getting through - "Go right to Trash."

Here's the thing: Email is still a very powerful marketing tool but clueless idiots like this sender ruin it for the rest of us - hard-working marketers that spend countless hours perfecting our subject-line, body copy and call-to-actions. Ruin it for those of us who recognize and work tirelessly to abide by the number rule in marketing:

Authenticity. Congruency. Integrity.

Teasing your way to email opens by a dishonest subject line - while it may fool a few - is a way to ensure one consistent outcome:

Delete. Unsubscribe. Block. Spam.

It is so easy to say goodbye forever but that's not the end of the story. - the price of being blocked is much worse: the lost of trust.

Achieving marketing results requires hard work, research, experimentation and patience. There are no shortcuts, hacks or secret formulas.

Coming up with cute subject lines is easy. Using dishonest subject lines is business suicide. Before you celebrate a few opens consider the ones that reacted as I did - potential clients who will never hear from you again.

Marketing is about intimately getting to know your customer segments. "Think like a customer" not someone who has something to sell. Real results, email opens that lead to engagement and conversion to a paying customer, only happen when we demonstrate that we understand customers’ pain points and that our product or service can make a significant and positive impact in their life or business.

Sadly, my experience isn’t unique - I see this on a daily basis and it’s not limited to just emails which frequently reminds me this brilliant commercial for Smith Barney, "we make money the old fashioned way, we earn it."

Old fashioned way doesn’t mean out-of-touch or irrelevant. Want an old formula for success?

Hard work. Integrity. Honesty. Humility.

Zev Asch