3 Ways to Sink Your E-mail Newsletter

June 20, 2008 by

That’s it. I tried to let it roll off my back, but no more. I’m sick of stupid mistakes in e-mail newsletters. If you want your e-mail newsletter to be effective, you’ve got to do it right. I’ve seen three e-mail newsletter mistakes in the last week alone:

Where Do I Click?
Offender number one is my VOIP-provider Vonage. They sent me an e-mail pitching their annual payment plan. Save $60/year. What a deal–where do I sign up? Turns out you can’t sign up anywhere in the e-mail. There wasn’t a single link in the e-mail, aside from privacy policy and unsubscribe (hmm … tempting) links. I felt like a web rookie, clicking all over the e-mail trying to figure out who was stupider, me or Vonage.

Give me the Details
Next came an announcement about Outreach magazine’s 2008 National Outreach Convention. Hey, that sounds interesting! Wonder if it’s been added to our Events Lab yet? No? OK, let’s add it. Wait–when and where is it? The e-mail didn’t include the date and location. So it’s not such an egregious error as not including the link–clicking just about anywhere in the e-mail would give me the answer–but c’mon, it’s an event. The most important thing you need to tell me is when and where. Don’t make me click for that. (To save you a click, it’s Nov. 5-7 in San Diego)

Make Sure it Works
With a wad of birthday money in my pocket I’m in the market for a new digital camera. I love my Canon Powershot, so I’m thinking of just upgrading to the latest model. And lo, one of Canon’s regular e-mails that I usually ignore showed up in my inbox. So I opened it up and clicked through to see what deals they were offering. And I got an error. Which prompted this rant. In the interest of fairness I just tried Canon’s links again and they did work. Maybe their site was down, who knows? But in most cases you’re not going to get that second chance. Make sure it works the first time.

I hate to single out organizations like this, but sometimes you need the nitty-gritty real world examples. Most people don’t even open your e-mail newsletter, but for the ones who do you’ve got to do everything right if you want it to be effective. And most church e-mail newsletters don’t have the resources of Canon or Vonage, so it’s all the more reason to get the little things right:

  • What am I supposed to do?
  • What’s the basic information?
  • Does it even work?
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

8 Responses to “3 Ways to Sink Your E-mail Newsletter”

  • Excellent Kevin. Yes, it is hard to pick on specific companies, but it does help to point out these specific examples. I had the exact same reaction when I received the Outreach e-mail.
    Even though churches seldom have the resources of these larger firms, it is very important to have your checklist above in mind and to get a review on the content by someone looking for grammar and spelling issues. I have to admit that I have been guilty of skipping these steps at times too “just to get it out”. The point is, that we need to be careful to not get lazy.

     | Permalink
  • Chad Wright
    June 20, 2008

    That’s funny. I just received an e-mail today trying to sell me something. I was interested so I clicked everything in the message that *might* be a link. Turns out there were no links.
    I’m interested, but not enough to manually type in your address. Get it right.

     | Permalink
  • Mike
    June 20, 2008

    I run a few spamfilter systems. There are a number of problems with links in emails.
    Most don’t realize it, but the vast majority of email is now automatically scanned for spam. Good email gets passed through, ‘bad’ looking email gets held up.
    (on filters I run, 89% of incoming email is spam)
    In some systems ‘bad’ email gets sent to a spam folder for review (ha), but in a corporate environment you can’t even do that. One ugly spam and you could have a lawsuit due to a “hostile work environment”. It happens. So most of the time it’s just dropped, sometimes silently.
    None of these systems have reached the self-aware-takeover-skynet level of intellegence needed to truly tell the difference between spam and non-spam. So bypassing these filters for legitimate purposes is kind of an art these days.
    One way the filters work is to score an email based on certain things. Links are considered a sign of spam. More links are considered a bigger sign of spam. Throw the phrase “Special offer” in there, and you’re headed to the spam bucket.
    Another thing is that companies–Vonage for sure–are experiencing real losses due to phishing, so many have a strict policy of no linking in official emails. The thought is that if people know you’ll never link, they won’t trust a phishing email.
    So the reality is that failure to put links in isn’t just an oversight. It’s on purpose for some valid reasons.

     | Permalink
  • Ben Pettit
    June 20, 2008

    great post!

     | Permalink
  • matt adams
    June 20, 2008

    I say the same thing about church websites.
    How do I get there, who are they, what service times.
    So often these newsletters and websites are designed around the makers thought process, not for the end viewer.

     | Permalink
  • Cameron
    June 21, 2008

    I’ve got to agree with Mike — I’d never sign up for anything by clicking a link on an email. That Vonage deal could be a scam.
    What Vonage should have done is tell people how to find their website (not just give a link) and make sure the deal is prominently advertised there.

     | Permalink
  • Laure
    June 23, 2008

    Putting no links at all in an email seems like a pretty elementary (and counterproductive) solution to spam/phishing problems.
    Here’s a useful article about avoiding spam filters:

     | Permalink
  • James
    June 24, 2008

    Most of our members don’t even know what email IS, much less an e-zine.

     | Permalink