Email overused Email is the communication tool we all love to hate. It’s fast, inexpensive, convenient and effective. It also is overused or used inappropriately. From sports teams to fashion retailers to political candidates, everyone, it seems, wants my attention and my dollars. And their efforts to get it become more aggressive and intrusive every day. My in-box runneth over with spam to the point that I sometimes miss what really matters to me. According to Talos, a division of Cisco Systems that focuses on digital threats, 86 percent of all email sent worldwide is spam. That is a stunning number.

Just because I visited your website once or made an inquiry about your services, doesn’t mean I want to keep hearing from you. Sending newsletters or notices about products and services that don’t interest only serves to anger and annoy. And anger may be good for stirring the pot on social issues but not for business.

If you really want to anger and annoy your customers and donors, ignore these tips:

  • It’s not about you—it’s about your customer. It is important to understand the customer and what kind of relationship they want to have with you. Instead of going on email auto-pilot, take the time to know your customers. Consider what kind of information might have some value to them. Look at buying patterns and demographic information to tailor your email to your customer wants and preferences. Our ability to mine data has never been greater. Use it.
  • Reach out to me in limited doses. While it is vital to stay in front of our targets, there can be too much of a good thing. Not long ago, I subscribed to what I thought was an interesting blog on social media. All of the sudden, two or more emails a day poured into my inbox. It didn’t take long to search for the unsubscribe button. It simply was more than I wanted or needed, and to my mind the numbing tirades damaged the sender’s reputation.
  • Ask me. Before adding someone to your mailing list, ask if they want to receive information from you. Explain the value you will bring them and why your content will be worth their time. Go back to your value proposition: what positive things you will increase for your audience and/or what negatives will be reduced or eliminated. Offering the chance to opt out may reduce the number of people you reach, but the ones you do reach will probably be more engaged and become stronger targets in the future.
  • Make it relevant. One thing companies miss is that sometimes your audiences do, in fact, want to hear from you. They want information they can use. Let’s say you sell running shoes. Sending information about how to become a better runner or naming cool races that your targets might enter is valuable information. Along with that content, you open the door for other messages you might want to communicate. And that information about new products or special sales draws greater interest because you will have established a relationship with other meaningful content.
  • Make it easy to opt out. Every week, I probably spend an hour unsubscribing from emails I don’t want and never signed up for. And sometimes, it is difficult to find the opt-out button. It might not be there at all or I might be required to fill out more forms—and go through many more clicks—just to get off a list I never wanted to be on in the first place. And here’s a reminder—making it harder to unsubscribe doesn’t win you any friends. On top of that, many marketers seem to ignore or maybe are unaware of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, a law that set standards for commercial email usage. This federal law requires easy opt-outs. And it mandates that those requests are fulfilled in a timely manner. And by the way, it’s not just the law—it’s good customer relations sense.

Email continues to be one of the best channels to reach our customers and clients. But like any other tool, use it wisely. For other tips on better communication and engagement with the audiences you want to reach, visit