Bad Presents: Why Your Emails Aren’t Working

Presents. I love them. You love them. Show me someone who doesn’t love presents.

Whether it’s Christmas, Hanukkah or birthdays, we live for the moments when we get to rip the wrapping paper off of silly things and have one more knick-knack we don’t need, but really wanted.

You know what is really similar to those nicely wrapped presents? Emails. I know most of you are saying “that’s a lie, no one gets excited about emails.” But hear me out.

Bad Presents: Why your emails may not be working

Your Inbox is the New Christmas Morning

Every day, you unlock your phone or turn on your computer and check your inbox. Usually it’s spam, spam, spam, spam… rarely anything of note.

But be honest—each time you open your inbox you’re a little excited about the possibility of getting a really great email. “Maybe I won that contest I entered,” or “maybe I could book a cheap vacation,” or “maybe I’ll get a 60% off coupon to that online store that I love.”

Deep down we all remember the pure joy of opening that one awesome present, and we feel that anticipation when we open our inboxes. When was the last time you felt this much joy? Don’t you want that again?!

Nine times out of ten, you don’t get any of that great stuff you’re hoping for. Or worse yet, you do but don’t even know it because the email subject is so boring that it never caught your eye.

Now imagine that perfect present in email form… An email that grabs your attention so suddenly you can’t even calm down before you open it.

“Hey You! You need these cat socks!”


You open the email and see the most magical pair of socks you will ever witness. You click the link, go to the site and see OMG MORE CATS. Everything you could possibly want, decorated in cats. Sweaters, key chains, computer cases, bumper stickers.

You don’t need all these things, but oh, how you want them. You immediately join the email list to receive any special offers that you can, and look at that—when you sign up you get a coupon! Another wonderful present in your inbox today! 

Tomorrow, you will open your inbox with the giddy anticipation of a child, hoping for another present. And who knows? Maybe another cat will grace your inbox, or maybe they’ll keep you waiting. There’s no way to know.

Now, not all email experiences turn out like that. You may not ever get such a perfect email, one that creates a legitimate feeling of excitement for what’s inside and what’s to follow (maybe you don’t like cats—whatever, we won’t judge).

But rather than a boring inbox full of bad presents and spam, wouldn’t it be fantastic if every email you received at least included something that caught your eye? Well, as marketers and business owners, you and I can do something about that.

Avoid sending ‘just another email’ with a lame subject line and boring content that is more likely to put readers to sleep than drive traffic to your site. Instead, send your email list presents.

I can hear you now: “But I don’t sell cat socks! How?”

Here are the best tips I can share about sending effective emails:

Write like a real person

No one wants an email that feels like it came from a robot. No one. People want to feel engaged to the product or the service. They want to feel like they are important. So write to them how you would talk to a friend 

Keep it professional, but don’t make them feel like they are reading an automated message from a computer that doesn’t care what they like.

Make your emails mobile responsive 

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that 65% of emails are now opened on mobile devices. Because you need to cater to such a large mobile audience, it’s essential to make emails mobile-optimized. They should not only be developed using responsive design, but the entire content architecture should also be optimized for mobile displays.

A few pointers:

  • Don’t write a terribly long subject that will be cut off by the end of the phone screen.
  • Pay attention to what the first line of the email is and who the email is coming from. Those are the only things a mobile device will show, so you want to be sure these things are engaging the audience.
  • All graphics should respond to the changes in size between a phone, a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop computer. People will be frustrated if they can’t see the full graphic on their screen because the email is not responsive.

Ask questions

Have you noticed how many questions I’ve asked you in this article? People respond to questions, even when reading in their heads. It is engaging and brings their attention to the topic. It makes them feel like they are having a real-time conversation with you.

Ask questions in the subject, in the body, in the footer… every time it fits. Don’t like questions? Too bad. I’m just going to keep asking you more.

Incorporate social

Social and Email go hand in hand. Send emails to your social subscribers. Connect with your email subscribers on social. Keep them engaged any way you can. 

The more engaged they are with the product or service, the more likely they are to convert. Everything should be connected. You can engage people with social then get them to join your email list. Or you can get them to join your email list and they will in turn be active on social. Either way, your customers will get engaged with your product or service and bring more traffic.

Why it Matters

Taking steps to make your marketing emails more like presents can take time and effort, but in the long run it can provide you with presents of your own in the form of conversions and revenue.

It’s also important to remember that no one likes getting bad presents. While we’re all fairly used to scrolling past uninteresting emails, if you send enough of them you may lose subscribers.

So take the time and build a customer base that’s engaged by giving them what they deserve, and you can get what you want in return. Why should your customers be the only ones getting all the gifts?

Featured image via Flickr by Shari’s Berries

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