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Why aren’t more people responding to your emails?

Every day I get dozens of emails from public relations firms pitching me stories. And, I am grateful. Yes, grateful. I am always looking for things to write about and PR firms are helping me to do my job. Whether you’re in PR or not it’s no different. Your marketing is, of course, intended to sell your products. There is no shame in that. You are doing a good thing. Your products will help your customers. There is honor in selling.

That’s the good news. The bad news? Your emails aren’t getting answered. Sure, some people are so rude that even if they personally know you, they often blow you off. There’s no excuse for that. But the real reason why more people aren’t responding to your emails is that you’re just not trying hard enough. With just a little effort you could be doing things much, much better.

How? Here are five ways.

1. Your bulk emails look like bulk emails.

I know when you’re sending me a bulk email. It’s cool. My firm sends out bulk emails, too. You’re pitching a story or selling a product to a big audience, and you want to get it out there to as many people as possible. But please — make a little effort. Your customer relationship management system or bulk email service will easily let you insert my first name from the salutation field in the spreadsheet you uploaded. Use that so, at the very least, it’s slightly personalized. Don’t just say “hello” or do the thing where you bcc everyone in an Outlook message. If you don’t care about the recipient, even just a little, then why should the recipient care about you? And for God’s sake, check your work. Don’t send me an email addressed “Dear James” or “Dear Phyllis” when my name is Gene. It’s certainly attention getting, but it’s not the kind of attention you want to get from your email marketing.


2. You keep sending me irrelevant emails.

Take a look at my picture. If your company sold hair products would I be on your email list as a prospect? I think we can agree on that answer. So why are you sending me emails on topics that have nothing to do with my expertise? I write about small business. I run a small business. I don’t cover fashion, sports or entertainment. I’m not interested in George Zimmerman, Justin Bieber or whether or not the UK’s National Health Service will be able to properly take care of the nation’s mentally ill. Yes, I received story pitches on all three of these topics yesterday and okay, maybe I’m interested in Justin Bieber a little. But when you send me emails on these topics I usually delete them and am prone to add you to my spam list. Sending a “blast” email is so 2006. In 2016 you must segment your database into many databases and send multiple emails to those lists of people where the information is relevant. Having a list of 100 people who are interested in your emails is much, much better than having a list of 1,000 people where 900 people are not interested.

3. Your subject lines are boring me to death.

I know, the client who hired you to do their PR work has figured out a way to make dog biscuits more nutritious and you’re tasked with getting someone in the media to write about it. So what do you do? You send out an email with this subject line: “ABC Company Makes A More Nutritious Dog Biscuit.” ZZZZZZZZZZZZ. I don’t write about this stuff so I’m definitely not going to open that email. And even if I did cover that topic I still wouldn’t open that email. It’s so boring! What’s in it for me? For my readers? Why should I take 10 seconds away from looking at this unbelievable video of rats leaving a restaurant to look at your email? I need more motivation. How about a subject line like: “Your Dog May Die Young Because You Didn’t Read This” or “This Food Is Probably Killing Your Dog And You Don’t Even Know It.” What? Killing my dog? My little Penelope? You bastard! I must read this!

4. You don’t care about what’s most important to me. And that’s…me!

You’re a PR firm, right? You’ve got expertise in PR, right? So instead of pitching, pitching, pitching why not send me just a monthly email that educates me how to better brand myself or my company or share some other PR advice that you share with your clients? Improve me. Help me make more money and better my dreary life with the expertise that you have. Believe me – you’ve got lots of good advice to share with me that I can use in my profession. Ask yourself, “how can I help Gene?” instead of “how can Gene help me?” Giving me good, free, consistent advice opens you up in my heart so that I’m more willing to pay attention to your client pitches (or your products and services) when you send them. You can’t put a gun to my head and say “buy my product or write about my client.” But if you’re sending me helpful, educational messages once in a while I’ll be more inclined to consider your offer.

5. You’re long-winded.

No one likes to get unsolicited emails, particularly if they’re just a sales promotion for a product (or a client you’re pitching). But if done the right way, a straight sales pitch via email can work. So here’s the rule: Keep it short. Really short. Like five sentences short. An intro at the beginning. A call to action at the end. And three reasons in between for why your product or service can help me. Don’t patronize. Don’t be long-winded. Just cut to the chase. You’re just fishing for bites and every good fisherman knows that putting too much bait on the hook can work against you.

Yes, I’m interested in your pitches, your products, your services. So please don’t stop your email marketing. Just take a few moments to do it a little better.