Things I Don’t Get About Email

Email is one of those polarizing things that people seem to either love or hate. Most people seem to hate email, but personally, I think it’s still a viable tool.

In no particular order, here are some things I don’t understand about email — specifically, some folks’ attitude about email.

Why Do People Claim Email Is Nearing Death?

These days in the technology sector, it’s in vogue to say that email is about to give up the ghost and be replaced by newer forms of communication. While it’s true that tools like Slack, HipChat, Google Hangouts and Skype are all very useful, email is far from dying.

Here are just a few numbers so you can see what time it is when it comes to the popularity of email.

Email is the most personal medium. Users must give you permission to enter their inbox. Once you are there, they are more likely to read what you have to say.

Email is where people digest your messages. Social media is different. Messages move quickly in a user timeline, and are harder to miss. But everyone returns to their inbox.

Everyone Returns To Their Inbox

Not Having An Email List

Email lists are the most efficient way to market to your customer base. So why doesn’t every business work at building an email list?

To me, this is perhaps the #1 thing that the majority of businesses could do to improve their marketing efforts — but not doing.

It boggles my mind. People are asking for more information, and if they want to sign up for your newsletter — to see if there are deals, or just learn more about your products — why would you resist doing that?

Email is personal. People read email. You can start a newsletter for free using MailChimp, and there are other services (Aweber, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor) that don’t cost a ton either. At least not compared to the fat stacks of cash businesses seem willing to drop on AdWords right out of the gate.

If you want to bump up your marketing, do yourself a favor and start with some solid content marketing and start building an email list before you break the bank on pay-per-click. Cool? Cool.

Why Do Businesses Spend On Social Marketing And PPC While Neglecting Email Marketing?

Google can change their algorithm and make you vanish from search rankings, Facebook can throttle how many people see your posts, but you will always control your email list.

In other words, own your platform, or eventually, you’ll be at someone else’s mercy when it comes to customer acquisition.

Why Do Folks Let Their Email List Stay Dormant?

Having an email list is a good thing, but don’t let people forget they signed up for it. They may drop their subscription like a bad habit.

If you’re pushing out emails that actually help your subscribers on a regular basis, then they get to know and trust your business. They may actually start looking forward to your daily/weekly emails, because they are getting something out of them. They learn to anticipate those emails.

But if you drop off the face of the Earth for a year, and then suddenly reappear, all you’re reminding people of is how well they were able to get along without your email newsletter. Publish something at least once a month (once a week is even better), and subscribers will remember who you are and why they subscribed in the first place.

Why Do Marketing Firms Call Newsletters “Email Blasts”?

With the possible exception of a hot shower on a blisteringly cold day, no one anywhere wants to get blasted with anything.

Why in God’s name would you want to blast your customers with your emails?

Yeah, I know it’s “the lingo”, but follow my reasoning here. Police blast demonstrators with fire hoses. Pirate ships blast their enemies with cannonballs. Armies blast cities to rubble. Sandblasters strip unwanted cruft from a surface. Every connotation of the word blast brings to mind something I don’t want to do to email subscribers.

The words we use to describe things affect the way we perceive them. I prefer to save my blasts for people I dislike, not my customers.

Inbox Zero

Why Do People Gamify Their Inbox?

When Merlin Mann first published his 43 Folders method of getting through large reams of email, the term inbox zero became part of our lexicon. Since then, millions of words have been written on the subject, leading to the gamification of the inbox, with a perfect score being inbox zero at the end of each day.

In the last few years, scores of email-filtering apps and services have been created to ensure that busy entrepreneurs aren’t wasting unnecessary time reading email when they could be getting things done instead.

There’s something remarkable about people who still reply to email, in a timely manner, without ignoring legitimate inquiries. It’s remarkable because so few people attempt to do it. Yet people who are busier than you or I can manage to scale the unscalable, if they choose to do so.

While I agree that batching tasks, like reading email is effective, I fear many people forget that handling copious amounts of email is about making decisions, and not just ignoring or deleting potentially important emails.

Asking For Replies, Then Not Responding

Often times, people will send out an email to you and the rest of their list, asking you to reply with information like, “What’s the biggest problem you’re facing in your business?”. Perhaps the email will ask readers to respond to a specific question raised in previous emails.

Where list-builders really drop the ball is not replying to the responses they receive.

Call me old-fashioned, but if someone takes the time to subscribe to your list, and answer a question that you asked in your email, doesn’t it make sense to at least acknowledge that response?

We live in an age where you can be digitally connected with anyone. But we often forget that there are real people on the other end of our marketing efforts. People may be telling you to avoid writing email (unless it’s “important”), but isn’t part of the goal to turn email subscribers into loyal customers?

Ignoring subscribers when they email you (after you’ve asked them to) just baffles the hell out of me. It’s like telling those people that they don’t really matter to you.


These are just some of the things I don’t understand about email, and the misconceptions about email as a viable tool. Did I miss any?