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The Reason That Nobody Is Reading Your Marketing Emails

Junkmail Recent statistics from email provider MailChimp revealed that on average, less than 22% of all emails sent even get opened. Specific industries, like marketing and advertising, fare even worse at 17.8%, followed by e-commerce at a dismal 16.75%.

Getting your emails opened is only the first objective. The second is to encourage some reaction. To that end, most email marketers include a trackable hyperlink somewhere in the email that the recipient can click on to indicate that they are engaged. Only about 2.5% of recipients, on average, do so.

Can you take a guess why the statistics are so pathetic? First, let me state that it has nothing to do with MailChimp. They are one of the best providers out there, and I give them kudos for publishing the statistics every year. The real culprit is ourselves.

“I Have Seen the Enemy, and He Is Us.”

As marketers, we are collectively responsible for the way people feel about marketing email. Because email is cheap and easy, we can send our communications at very little cost and even less effort. The Internet has given us the amazing power to amplify our voices, and we have collectively allowed that power to corrupt us. We send out messages even when we have nothing to say – just because we can. We send messages much more often than we should. We use “Marketing-Speak” and impersonal jargon-filled language that is way too salesy. Every communication screams “BUY-BUY-BUY!” People are sick of it.

The esteemed Hugh MacLeod of Gaping Void Culture Design Group:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/hughmacleod/ once posted graphically on his blog: “If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face.” https://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/

The Firehose

If you’re not one of these marketers, I salute you. But, since marketing automation tools became available to anyone that can afford 20 bucks a month, the roster of people that consider themselves “Marketers” has grown exponentially. There are millions and millions of them now. I compare it to handing an email machine gun to a child overdosed on caffeine. They blast the public with so many marketing messages, it’s like trying to take a sip of water from a firehose. Consumers react by tuning out everything that looks or sounds like a sales pitch.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

My inbox fills up with garbage every day, despite my spam filter. Sometimes, even the lists that I intentionally subscribe to make me regret the decision to opt-in in the first place. I originally subscribed to the list because I found the author’s content engaging. Then I get a series of emails containing pushy sales pitches, cheesy “Listicles” like “The Top Five Ways to (insert click-bait title here),” and assorted waste-of-time content that makes my eyes roll back in my head. I’ve come to believe that the marketer sent me the email, not because he had anything meaningful to say, but because it was Tuesday and that’s when his blast was scheduled. He had to come up with something, even if it was crap. I end up clicking the unsubscribe link at least once a week. I bet you do too.

If nobody is reading your marketing emails, maybe it’s your content. Or…maybe your content is awesome, and the sheer quantity of your communication is too much. Maybe it’s neither, and your email is getting drowned out by all the noise created by other marketers. If we as marketing professionals don’t do something soon, the-open-and-read rates on our email communications will go down even more. Email itself will lose its viability as a marketing tool.

 What You Can Do About It

  1. Change the Nature of Your Content

The first solution is to edit your content. Does it read like an ad? A sales pitch? If it does, then change it until it reads like a personal message from a friend or colleague. It’s not hard, and it will be much appreciated by the receiver. We all have a natural defense mechanism against being “sold.” Email clients like Gmail are getting pretty good at identifying what’s a promotion and what’s not. Try to make your marketing messages sound as personal as possible. Mail-merging their first name into the message is not enough.

  1. Less-Is-More

The second solution for legitimate marketers is to adopt a less-is-more strategy. We need to turn down the volume and the frequency of our communications. Make sure that you have something to say before you hit the send button. And never, ever, send a bulk digital message without explicit permission. Make sure everyone on your list still wants to hear from you. That means keeping track of those who didn’t open your last ten emails and asking them to take a proactive step (like clicking a hyperlink) to indicate that your communications are still welcome. If they don’t respond after a couple tries, then remove them from your list. Your stats will improve dramatically.

  1. Change the Channel

The third solution is to change the channel altogether. If the rest of the marketing universe is using email for their communications, try using something else. It’s hard to stand out in the inbox when your message is one of the hundreds arriving every day.

You have a choice; continue to depend solely on email, where your voice is one of many in a very crowded stadium full of marketers, or stand apart and use a channel where you’re virtually the only one speaking.

Text Message Marketing

Try using text messaging for your bulk marketing communications. Your subscriber list will be much smaller because it’s generally more difficult to build a text message opt-in list than an email list. (Maybe because email subscribers know there’s an 80% chance that they’re not going to read your email anyway?) Fewer people will opt-in for text messaging because they don’t want to give out their mobile number to a marketer, and that’s ok. Those that do opt-in are truly engaged. Building a permission-based text messaging list is worth the patience and effort. You will be rewarded by a whopping 98% open-and-read rate. That’s because there’s no decision-making involved in text messages. Text messages open themselves.

Text Messaging Can Do Almost Everything Email Can Do

  • Long Messages: Did you know that text messages can be as long as 500 characters? That’s plenty of space to get your message across.
  • Photos and Videos: Insert media to make your messages more compelling.
  • Trackable Links: Yep, you can insert those too.
  • Automation Marketing & Customer Surveys: No problem. Run an entire yearlong marketing campaign that changes based on customer reaction. Program different response messages based upon whether they clicked a hyperlink – or didn’t, answered survey questions or didn’t react at all.
  • List Segmentation: Use different keywords during the opt-in process to segment different populations or segment them based on customer response.
  • Loyalty Programs & Coupons: You can create both without using paper punch cards or coupons.

Text Messaging Does One Thing Much Better Than Email

It gets read at a ratio almost 5 times better than email. The stats are straightforward: 98% open rate vs 22% at most for email. From that metric alone, text messaging deserves a place in your marketing mix.

Art Jensen

Explore the possibilities to enhance your marketing communications with bulk text messaging. Contact me for a free 60-day trial today by clicking the button below.

Don’t Be That Guy

Don't Be That Guy

Don’t Be That Guy

Are you a Spammer? Do you send bulk email blasts with the exact same message to lists of complete strangers without their permission? Don’t do that anymore. Just stop.

Don’t be that guy.

It doesn’t work. It pisses people off, and it makes you look like a cheeseball. By cheeseball, I mean a plaid-jacketed, white-patent-leather-shoe-wearing, insincere, con artist. And guess what? It’s illegal, and it will likely get your server blacklisted. If you are using any of the popular marketing automation platforms, it will get your account canceled fast.

I’m not talking about sending a cold, one-off email to somebody that you had some prior contact with, such as a tradeshow or group event. I’m not talking about a one-off email to contact for which you have received a legitimate referral and can provide the name of the person that referred you. I’m talking about substantially similar messages sent in bulk. Here is a more in-depth article on the FTC website: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business

If the outcome you desire is a business relationship of some kind, then get permission before you send digital communications. It’s called “Permission Marketing.” People that give you explicit permission to communicate digitally are more likely to be receptive to what you have to say. They are much more likely to do business with you and more likely to give you referrals.

How do you get permission in the first place? Lots of ways. I’ll answer that in a future post. In the meantime, I invite you to read some of my other content. Browse the site and maybe watch a video or two. We’re offering a free 60 Day trial, no credit card required.

Art Jensen portrait

Art Jensen


Contact me for a free 60-day trial today by clicking the button below.

Confessions of an Interruption Marketer: An Ode to Seth Godin


The sign said NO SOLICITING!

In the beginning, interruption marketing was all there was

I began my career in “Interruption Marketing” back in 1993. The Internet was still young then, and it was long before text messaging and email use. Social media consisted of basic internet bulletin boards. My employer was new in town, just opening the San Diego branch office for the first time. So there weren’t any existing customers to work for referrals. I had to start cold. I was handed a yellow legal pad, a box of Bic pens and a stack of 3 x 5 “Lead Cards” of local corporations from Dun & Bradstreet. My employer told me: “You said when I hired you that you could sell…now show me.”

And so began my career as an “Interruption Marketer.” We didn’t use that phrase at the time – it would be another six years before Seth Godin coined the phrase in his book Permission Marketing.

Cold calls, bulk mail, bulk faxes, bulk email

The “Cold Calling” process went like this: dial the number on the lead card, ask for the decision-maker and try to schedule a sales presentation. So I was essentially interrupting people who were in the middle of doing something else, making my pitch, and repeating the process over and over again. If I was successful scheduling an appointment, I straightened my tie, got in my car, drove to the meeting and made my pitch. Sometimes I would call as many as 100 people before I got an appointment. It was a numbers game and my employer kept track of my success and failure rate. It went from 1 appointment per 100 cold calls to 1 in 50 cold calls, to 1 in 25 cold calls, as I got better at it over time. After I couldn’t find the will to make even one more phone call, I would walk through office parks and do my cold calls in person. Door-to-door selling is the epitome of interruption marketing, and it is brutal.

Most people resented the interruption and they were not shy about telling me so. I got pretty good at ignoring the No Soliciting signs, and at getting past gatekeepers who were tasked with preventing me from interrupting top executives. This taught me how to craft my sales messaging in an artistic way. That’s a nice way to say I learned how to BS.

After couple years, I used this experience to get a lead marketing position at a company with a generous marketing budget. Again, a company without an existing customer base. This gave me new tools; specifically, direct mail to stimulate interest. The rules of successful communication tactics in this medium are different from those used on the phone and in person, so I became proficient in direct mail best practices too. I now could blast thousands or tens of thousands of people with my message. No more cold calling. Broadcast faxing, the first iteration of modern spam, was a favorite tactic, until the FCC made an example of a national restaurant chain, fining them $500 per fax, totaling millions. The FCC had made their point; don’t do that.

Whether marketing by phone, mail, or in person, with these methods you are interrupting people. People do not like being interrupted, but those were the only marketing tools at my disposal.

Later, email use became the norm, and I joined the ranks of marketers that blasted prospective customers with marketing messages. My email messages, just like my telemarketing and my cold calls, were uninvited. Nobody was expecting to hear from me. Cold calls, cold faxes, cold postal mail, cold email – they are about all the same. The only difference between them, in my opinion, is the expense and effort required to deploy them.

Enter Seth Godin

Godin’s 1999 book: Permission Marketing changed the way I did my job. Godin’s philosophy reinforced what I already knew; that people hate being interrupted. He counseled that if you ask permission to send marketing messages first, you will be more successful. Not everybody will grant that permission, and that’s okay. People that don’t want your marketing messages are unlikely to buy anything from you anyway. Focus your efforts on the people that might. This was revolutionary thinking for me. I had spent the last six years perfecting the art of interruption and got really good at it. I took great pride in my ability to blast through the barriers set up by gatekeepers and get to the decision-maker. It became a macho thing, and I was proud of my ability to absorb negativity and rejection without noticeable effect. It became my raison d’être. Many colleagues expressed admiration for my bulletproof persona, and my employer paid me very handsomely for my skills.

Here’s the problem with Interruption Marketing: it costs lots of money, and most of that will be wasted. Salaried employees spending most of their day on activities that will never result in a sale, and spending a huge chunk of the budget sending direct mail to total strangers that will never read it. Even today, a 99% failure rate is considered the norm for a prospecting mailing. Bulk email campaigns that are targeting people that have not given you permission to email them are by definition spam, and just give you the ability to greatly annoy large numbers of people for almost zero cost. Use this tactic in your marketing these days and you’ll end up with a blacklisted server in no time at all.

Back to Seth Godin. I must’ve read his book Permission Marketing 10 times. Eureka! I thought. Ask people if they want to hear from you before you send your message. What a concept! That will definitely improve the odds of success, and remove resentment from the process altogether. I wish Godin had written his book six years earlier, but maybe the words wouldn’t have resonated had I not spent so many years banging my head against the wall. Since I started employing Godin’s techniques, I’ve enjoyed unbridled success. I kept a Fortune 500 company happy as a sales and marketing consultant for over eight years and generated millions upon millions of dollars in new revenue. Now Permission Marketing is the only kind of digital marketing I do. We still use one-to-one direct mail, but never in bulk form. It’s the one method that doesn’t pass the cost of marketing onto the receiver.

Permisio is born

Permission Marketing is sort of a religion here at Jensen Unlimited. We named the service “Permisio” to highlight what makes our strategy and techniques different. We’ve perfected the art of asking permission – and getting it. Then we employ our messaging skills to craft a marketing campaign that works for virtually any type of business, in any industry.

The technology has evolved. We currently favor text messaging, with its unmatched 98% open-and-read rate, and we also use bulk email to reach people who don’t want to receive marketing messages that way. Both channels are permission-based. Every single recipient grants permission in advance before we send them anything in the digital realm. We use the power of social media to invite people to opt-in to these direct-contact channels. Finally, we use hyper-targeted direct mail; our only non-permission-based tactic. All the different marketing channels work to complement each other, producing amazing results. Give it a try.

Art Jensen portrait

Art Jensen


Contact me for a free 60-day trial today by clicking the button below.