Stop Marketing.

Start Engaging.

Avoid The Cleanse: How To Keep Your Subscribers

If you don't know what this is, I'm not explaining it.I’ve been cleansing for the past week. Not one of “those” cleanses that your friends post about on Facebook that makes you cringe, but an inbox cleanse. I’m trying to clear my inbox and stay on top of it. I was at 1800+ a few days ago (emails that needed attention) to 140 now. One of the things I’ve been doing is unsubscribing from almost every newsletter I’ve been on. Only a select few have survived from the dozens, if not 100+ I was on. Why did they stay? Recognized, Relevance, Relationship.

I recognized the sender and remember signing up in the first place.

The content is relevant to me, not just relevant to the sender, like a sales pitch.

I feel a connection to the brand, like a relationship.

Really, there are three classifications of email that we all receive:

1. Spam/trash/not reading.

2. Will read later.

3. Must read/react.

Stay out of the first two categories, because “will read later” is latin for “not reading later, see it 3 months from now, feel guilty, delete, pretend I never got it.”

Here are some tips to get yours into category 3:

– Get them in the door in the first place. Having a box on your website that says “Sign-up for our free newsletter” is not enticing. Besides, since when was the “free” part unique? Are there a rash of crappy paid newsletters that are taking over the nation that I didn’t know about? How about “Sign-up for product updates and exclusive announcements” if you’re a product business. Or something like “Sign-up for weekly tips on how to save your business money.”

– When I do sign-up, send me a welcome email, not a confirmation email. Big difference. A confirmation email is “You’ve been added to the BoringAsPaint newsletter. 8490283HJF-94” or even better “You’ve been added, here’s the info you just entered into the form.” Someone signing up for your newsletter/blog update list is them raising their hand for a brand high five, and we’re leaving most people hanging. Do you know how stupid people feel when they’re left hanging for a high-five? It’s almost as embarrassing as tweeting about a juice cleanse. Welcome them. Talk to them. Start a conversation.

When you sign-up for my newsletter, my welcome email says:

“Hi there,

Thanks for signing up to the Un-Marketing newsletter. I know how an
inbox can get crowded and I appreciate you allowing my newsletter
to get through the clutter.

May I ask what line of business you’re in? It helps me tailor the
newsletter to you even better.”

Really, it does, go see for yourself and you’ll get emailed only when I have something awesome to say for your business (see what I did there?)

Go ahead, reply to it. I’ll see it. πŸ™‚

You know what that does for me? It creates a connection with the reader and automatically sets the tone for future emails. Most don’t reply, and of the ones who do, half are replying to say they just like the fact that I asked! For the ones that do, I read them. I get them right to my phone, and I reply to a lot of them. I used to have them go to my assistant, but then I realized that missed the point of the reason I was asking it in the first place: I wanted to know!

Not only does it create a connection and I’ve had awesome conversations with people because of it, it’s lead to book sales and speaking gigs. When researching speakers about “engagement” for a conference coming up, the booker subscribed to a few newsletters of potential keynotes. Guess who the only one was that actually engaged with her? I’m looking forward to keynoting that conference. For those of you saying “Whoa cowboy! We can’t handle that amount of email replies!” Relax. The 3 subscribers you’re getting a week won’t overload the server with responses. Even a big brand shouldn’t have a lot of issues. I had a newsletter in a different industry with over 350,000 subscribers, thousands coming in a day. Most people don’t reply, they just like the fact you asked.

Also, when you connect with them, your brand is no longer a brand, but a conversation they’ve had and when your name pops into their inbox again? They recognize you. Forget “best time of day to send email” if they don’t recognize you, it doesn’t really matter what time it is.

Check out this great example of a brand being awesome in a confirmation email that products are on their way.

Even my fave Tshirt company, Sevenly says this when they email to confirm you’ve bought a shirt and helped a cause:

– Respect your readers. I’ve said this many times in books and talks, but email them when you have something to say that’s useful for them, not because you “should” send weekly. I rarely blog, but when I do, people open the email about it because if my lazy-ass wrote something, it has to be good.

– Make it personal. I can’t stand automation, that’s no secret. When it comes to newsletters, when I say “automation” I mean the sending of blog posts and the copy that goes with it. The “Feed” looking notification that a new post is up, or even the cut-off intro to the post. I write a custom email to my list when a new blog post is up, just for them. It’s short, fun and I love writing it. And only they get it.

So which ones made the cut for me? Sideshow Collectibles (because I’m obsessed with comic statues, those are mine in the pic), Convince & Convert (Because Jay and his team have the best content around, and a new book coming out) and a few others.

So go forth and become a category three newsletter, and save the crap for the cleanse.

Which emails are category 3 for you? Are you on an email cleanse? Let me know in the comments below?

  • I feel sort of famous that you linked to my blog! And for the record, that email from Fluevogs still makes me happy. Customer service with an injection of personality does make a difference. They didn’t just take my money and then drop the ball. There was full follow-through through the entire customer experience.

    • I had your post open for days on my screen, just to remember to link to it, it’s that awesome!

      • πŸ™‚

      • Open for days? Hope the traffic you generated pays off for you messing her webstats! =)

      • I’m glad to see I’m not the only one with tabs left open for days just to revisit & write about LOL

      • writerlisamason

        Oops, I do that, too. lol

        • davemiller555

          oooo that done by me also …..:(

  • Michelle

    The Sevenly link is not working (yet).

  • Emails that are category 3 are relevant and useful – so tips on doing my business better and tips for how to make my life better WIN. or my favorite newsletter for the latest sale on my favorite products. Hey, we all have our ‘weaknesses’ mr collectibles fan. πŸ™‚

  • Nancy Marshall

    Thank you Scott. You make me smile. I did not have time to read your stuff this morning and I really should be staying on task here, but I can’t not read it and chuckle.

  • Hi Scott, Great blog post! I started cleaning out my email subscriptions about 6 weeks ago – I had so much useless repetitive crap coming into my inbox on a daily basis and it was really starting to get annoying. I have stayed on a couple lists – one is the Eat Clean list from Tosca Reno. It always has good recipe ideas (not that I use them often, but it is interesting, plus I never get spam from her). Anyone whose list I was on that then tries to sell me someone else’s stuff as an affiliate is immediately gone. And of course, I stayed on your list πŸ™‚

  • Hi Scott, Great post! I cleanse sporadically. My reason for reading your messages along with the few others is more often than not it makes me think and thinking is good.
    I also have problems with spammy subject lines, so many consultants say you need to be opened. Don’t BS a salesman, my detector works for me. I am tired of others that just don’t respect our InBoxes.
    Another peeve is the confirmation of unsubscription??

  • Marnie Hughes

    It’s because you are inconsistent (and say stuff I want to hear) that I stopped working on the tight-deadline piece I’m writing just to read your email. You’ve figured out how to be worth reading. Thx.

  • Hey Scott, you’re tops on my category 3 list. Actually, you’re the only one making the cut right now. Keep up the awesomeness!

  • Amen, brother! All these reasons and more is why I look forward to seeing an email from you pop-up in my inbox. It’s like Christmas for email!

  • “Heya my marketing muffin” Just your salutations always make me smile & grab my interest. The smile was much needed this morning. Thanks much!!!

  • Angi Harper Beauheim

    The having something to say vs. Schedule thing is key. I get a daily email from someone I like and respect but I read it once a month, tops. Yours I read every time I getnit, as soon as I get it, because I know it will be great.

  • MarieA

    What an amazing coincidence that I, too, am on an email cleanse. Really incredible, as in, straining credibility. Quit stalking me! Sure, I got the little wink-wink “Fluevog.” I won’t fall for that again, no sir. Do you think you’re too Internet-famous for the old Fickle Finger of Delete? I’ve got my eye on you, Mister. Yeah, the good one.

    Aw, you called me muffin though. All right. You know me. I could never unsubscribe you, baby.


    Scott I do love how I only get emails from you once in a while and they are always SMH simple ideas that get overlooked when people are trying too hard to be the best at something, guess thats why I actually bought your books and READ them. I get tons of newsletters and with the new Mailbox app I have, yours is truly only one of about five that doesn’t get the long swipe to the red right side of inbox DOOM!

    Thanks for the awesomeness!

  • nataliebrownmusic

    A lot of great points Scott. I have tried to personalize my newsletter subscription as much as I can and not be too wordy on my site. I offer a free Mp3 Download when someone signs up and I do sent a welcome note, but I will have to see if there is a way I can make it better for the reader, more fun and enticing. I think that is something I took away from this.. there still has to be more for the subscriber, even if it’s better wordsmithing! Sorry u were upset about the DM I sent the other day πŸ™ It is working for me though as far as mailing list signups because I am offering the free download. The only way to do it for my older Twitter followers is to automate to some degree. I know it’s a no-no in your book, but it is really working for this particular use. Thanks again for another awesome marketing muffin bite πŸ™‚

  • Pingback: Managing Big Data in Your Life | tishpiper()

  • Tom Smith

    As I am in career transition mode, I’m deleting all political cause email newsletters in which I’m interested. Generating revenue to eat and pay my mortgage comes before saving the planet.

  • David

    Scott you’re newsletter will always be Level 3 in my Inbox thanks for the insights and the laughs! πŸ˜‰

  • I think in most cases readers/customers want something relevant for them to keep them entertained or educated. If something doesn’t do either of those, then you lose them completely. And the internet is becoming such a social place. It’s definitely important to connect with your audience.

    Great post, and points for showing off your comic statues! I take it you’re a Marvel fan. I’ve currently been geeking out to DC’s new 52: Batgirl.


  • It’s funny you mention this as I just was thinking about all the email subscriptions I’ve done in the past. The people who became so incredibly annoying by emailing me 4-5 times a week have ultimately either ended up with a filter rule in my inbox to mark as read and put into a folder, or been unsubscribed to because of the overwhelming amount of junk they flood my inbox with.

    I try to live an inbox zero life and when it gets filled with all that junk, it really bothers me and makes me want to run away to my happy place filled with unicorns and fuzzy kittens.

  • Angela

    I loved the email I got acknowledging my order for a custom phone case, that started:

    —Hi ,
    Thank you for using Redbubble.
    Your order has been received and is currently in production.
    We’d like you to now take a moment. Stare up at the vastness of the multiverse and understand what a splendid thing you have done. Somewhere an independent artist is cheerfully dancing in the knowledge that someone likes what they do. It’s a wondrous thing. You should feel good right about now.—

    and ended:

    —Big love,
Mr Baxter – Executive Sender of Emails and Chief Pencil Sharpener—

    You know? Maybe a bit cute, but better that than the boilerplate that comes with most online orders.

    (and my order showed up quickly, too). As Julie says, “customer service with an injection of personality” makes a difference.

  • I have been on an email cleanse myself this week. My bsuiness focus has shifted and therefore half of the newsletters and google alerts I receive, irrelevant to me. You always make the category 3 cut, Scott. πŸ™‚

  • Great article Scott! And Angela, thank you for sharing the Redbubble confirmation email. Excellent!

  • Patricia C Vener

    Well, yes it is time to toss those “read later” emails and newsletters. The content may no longer be relevant when I get to them and even if it is, someone will be reiterating the same thing later on anyway.

  • Ha ha, YES. That’s the picture you took for me of your office Geekdom after we met!! See? Relationships! They work!

  • another great post Scott- it is so refreshing to read- every time. I have so often heard that you should write emails 3x per week but honestly- I don’t want to say something to the people that have trusted me with their email until I have something that will add value and make them happy they opened it! Once again thank you for showing us how it SHOULD be done. you are awesome. period

  • I usually suggest a redirect page with a welcome message that also has some great resources too, rather than put another email in someone’s inbox. It’s all about giving VALUE.

  • Scott … I find it amusing that your just wrote about this, as I was going through a “purge” of newsletters over the past few days as well. Over the past few years (while I’ve been in search of gainful employ) I’ve snagged a lot whitepapers/ebooks to “keep up with stuff”, unfortunately, a vast lot of these are offered simply to get one’s name on a mailing list (it’s amazing just how much CRAP is out there!). A handful of these are worthwhile, but most produce an unending stream of “newsletters” which do very little than shill for OTHER “offers” (that I assume the sender is getting a cut on, were one to actually bite). I was in a cranky mood the other day, and was pissed about getting the third e-mail in 3 days from one of these and finally said “Oh, yeah, where’s that damn unsubscribe link?”. It wasn’t as good as hitting them in the face with a brick, but it did feel good … and I ended up repeating the process with about a dozen others.

    I’ve sat through a few “webinars” (infomercials?) that ADVOCATE that system (put together a crap ebook, get a list, sell stuff) … and it sickens me. I trace this back to Ferriss’ “4 Hour Work Week” where he suggests that to be an β€œexpert in the context of selling product means that you know more about the topic than the purchaser. No more. It is not necessary to be the best – just better than a small target number of your prospective customers.” … which seemed sleazy at the time, and has spawned the whole “information product” niche – whose lifeblood are those horrible newsletters. Bleh.
    – B.T.

    • I agree with you about how many smart people offer “flimsy freebies” to sign up for their list! A 15-page ebook that is really no more than an article, triple-spaced, 2-inch margins, with a title page, a “blank” page, a disclaimer page, and a “why you should buy from me now” page at the end — just doesn’t cut it anymore. You’ve gotta deliver VALUE – with content your subscribers can take away and use right away, some nugget they didn’t already know. Consider creating content via video, audio, infographics or a template — all great ways to convey valuable info to your peeps in an engaging way — and beef up the value of your freebie!

    • This is greet reply. Thanks to email list for sale provider for your nice information.

  • Steve

    I try to keep it in check by having multiple email accounts similar to your 3 classifications…every know and then I just go into one of the accounts and do a mass delete.

    The problem I see is that most websites are too lazy to target their opt-ins and instead use a single opt-in form to catch everyone’s email address. Then they autopilot the list in hopes a few frogs will turn…

    I’m trying to decide what email to use with your list πŸ™‚

  • BB the Coach

    Love this! I did a cleanse a year ago, I felt so much lighter! time again as somehow i ended up on some I never said yes to!

  • deanrblack

    I did that a while ago and got rid of most of the emails I was subscribed to. There were to many and I could not read them all anyway. If I tried I would be there all day.

    When someone tells me they are “overwhelmed ” with the emails they get, I suggest they unsubscribe from all but a few of the ones they really resonate with.

    That help me and it is what you are talking about here too Scott.

    Dean Black

  • Good move, Scott. Takes a few weeks of “mark all emails as read” before I see the futility in my decision to click the email subscription, and finally unsubscribe. Great points on securing/respecting sign-ups too, which I will try to implement in existing and future email marketing campaigns.

  • Great

  • I’ve never thought about doing an email cleanse, but now that I’ve read this post, I’m inspired to do it. And yes, I signed up for your newsletter right in the middle of reading this post, and then came back to read the rest. Thank you for writing words that I want to read.

  • DMWC

    Wow, I do have a couple of cat 3 that I don’t often read. But they were paid subscriptions that my ex boss signed me up for. I can’t get them back without high ($) output. I save them & read you because I want to write, but need to lighten up a bit… love your humor. Sometimes I think mine is dead.

  • gitomer

    i started unsubscribing too. It’s amazing how much real live crap one receives every day. i’m about 150 “unsubscribes” deep – love your stuff – jeffrey gitomer

  • Brenda Bernstein

    Scott, thank you so much for this blog. Upon reading it, I
    immediately changed my initial message to email subscribers and today saw the
    first return on that very easy (and “why did I not think of that
    before?”) investment. A new subscriber thanked me for my email and told me
    all kinds of things about her job search needs. She asked if I do career
    counseling, which I don’t, but I offered her some other resources that will be
    revenue-generating for me if she follows up on them — which I think she will.
    Who knows what else will result from my new engaging and friendly email?

    THANK YOU!!! You are one of the few bloggers I read and
    now I know why.

    Sincerely yours,

    Brenda Bernstein, Certified Master Resume Writer

  • Erik

    This is great!

  • Unsubscribed in 2 – 3 weeks!

    Doing an eMail cleanse today and just had to share this massive fail — the unsubscribe guilt trip.

    Dear Company X: I don’t have interest in your business anymore as I have changed careers. It wasn’t personal, I’m sure you have a wonderful business. But now your unsubscribe blurb has me thinking:

    a) I didn’t sign up, did I?

    b) You emailed me too often .

    c) You didn’t offer me significant news value.

    I now officially feel like a prat for ever doing business with you!

    Here is what was at the bottom of your “newsletter” (let’s be honest, they are really sales notifications):

    “[Company X] respects your rights with regards to unwanted e-mail. This mailing has been sent to selected individuals and/or companies that were seen to have an interest in our services. We only send our mailings to people who have signed up either at [Company X] or by email correspondence. Mailings to this list will be infrequent and usually limited to items of significant news value. If at any time, or for any reason, you would like to unsubscribe from this list, simply email us with Unsubscribe in the Subject Line. An Unsubscribe may take two to three weeks from the time you request. Thank you.”

  • Awesome tips! I need to go cleanse as well, and these really are some things I look for when deciding whether or not to unsubscribe. I think it’s great (and super important) that you reply to your readers as well.

    Thanks for the awesome post!

  • Pingback: Blog Posts for Rainy Day Blues – Best of the Web | Firepole Marketing Blog()

  • Pingback: Marketing and Social Media Round Up - 4/14/13 | Fitness Marketing ResourceFitness Marketing Resource()

  • Great Post! Winners take heed….

  • Pingback: Why should I subscribe to your newsletter? | My Blog()

  • CurationSoft V2.0

    Hi Scott, you really made my day! I like the part of the three classification of email that you received, I feel guilty about it but I’m glad its not just me but many of us. πŸ˜€

  • Pingback: Keep Readers from Clicking the β€œUnsubscribe” Button Printing Hub()

  • Pingback: Avoid The Cleanse: How To Keep Your Subscribers()

  • Pingback: Using Newsletters with Your Website or Business « Sierra Fong()

  • I’m always unsubscribing from newsletters. I think they breed in my inbox. I avoid subscribing to anything so it’s a mystery how there are always more of them in there, like rabbits. Even the ones I am interested in I never read – there are far too many. By the time I check email and make myself reply to anything important (before it gets lost in the clutter) I’ve had enough with email.

  • ethan jose
  • Pingback: How to Push Your Subscribers' Content Buttons | Email Marketing Tips - Blog GetResponseEmail Marketing Tips – Blog GetResponse()