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Annoying Email Newsletters: Consider me ‘Unsubscribed’

By Sander Biehn | Jan 23, 2015

My friend Shawn and I are trying to schedule our annual holiday get-together.

Shawn is a business owner like me and we often debate marketing and sales techniques.  The relevancy of email in today’s market is frequently a hot topic when we meet.  By the end of our discussions he generally has me agreeing that email still has some role in marketing despite the fact that I think social media is rapidly filling that gap.

I can’t wait to see him this year because I want to talk to him about my new newest pet peeve: Email newsletters.

Is it me or have these things taken off exponentially with the likes of Pardot, Hubspot and Eloqua turning our respective email boxes into an electronic version of the big black metal mailbox that sits at the end of our driveways?

That metal box’s daily contents rarely make it past the recycling receptacle in the garage. In the same way, I am finding myself spending more and more time unsubscribing to email newsletters to reduce the clutter.  More and more they just seem like spam.

The Marketing Automation folks draw 2 key distinction between outright spam and these newsletters:

  • Newsletters are sent to customers you have already worked with or who have shown interest in you by visiting your webpage, filling out a form, etc.
  • You can conveniently unsubscribe to newsletters whenever you want via a handy (if not inscrutably difficult to fine) link at the bottom of the newsletter.

In short, there is an assumption you will want to read these newsletters and are anxiously awaiting the next round of thought leadership a company has to offer. The reality is a bit different.

When I traveled to Los Angeles a few weeks ago, I needed to rent a car. I used to go to LA a lot, and I remembered how spread out the rental companies were.  When I looked at the map online, I realized that the Dollar car rental was far more convenient for the direction I needed to go in town. They had a good deal on cars and I signed up for their online program in order to expedite the notoriously long lines in LA.

For the past month, I have been getting newsletters from Dollar beckoning me away on exotic car rental weekends. Not only are these emails not helpful to me as a business person, they actually slow me down. They clutter my inbox and make it harder for me to get my work done. Today I did something about it. I unsubscribed.

Today I also axed my Social Media Today subscription. While the articles in this newsletter are more relevant to my business, they hardly constitute late-breaking current events or jarring new ideas. If anything, they seem tired and recycled.  More and more I feel like they are thinly veiled sales pitches for other’s services.   This is no slam on that organization, many newsletters give me that feeling these days.

I don’t know how to put this gently, but the chances are that no one really wants to read your email newsletter. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you are writing about. This includes the people who ‘subscribe’.  Go ahead, check how many of these emails are actually opened.  The simple fact is that newsletters are an annoyance to most people even if they contain great content. Why? Because they create confusion in the inbox.  Keeping track of email communications is important business and confusing that business with news blasts makes it harder to manage our email.

So where does this leave me with Shawn? I sure hope we have a chance to get together and talk. As of today, I have not heard back from him on the email I sent last week. Perhaps this social media post will have more luck in getting his attention.


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