HNT: Get your newsletters read

This is How Not To get your email newsletters read.

Whenever sending a newsletter via email, remember that it is very likely that the recipients are overwhelmed with masses of spam. This means that most will have some sort of filtering in place to reduce the amount of junk they have to wade through to get the communications they want. It is also a pretty good bet that your potential customers have little or no incentive to trawl through the trash to find your message.

With that in mind, here are some wonderful tips on how not to have your newsletters read:

  • Send your newsletter from a different email address each time and, as much as possible, be sure that address does not obviously correspond to your corporate identity. (Servers with multiple hosts and subhosts, all with cryptic two-character names, is best.)
  • Change the format of the subject line for each issue.
  • Never publish your newsletter on a regular schedule.
  • Always remind recipients to whitelist your newsletter based on a name that includes a special character (such as the trademark symbol, â„¢) that is not included in all fonts or any standard keyboard.
  • Make sure that your newsletter is only available in HTML format; do not offer an option for plain text.
  • Further to the above, be sure that the layout formatting depends heavily on many small graphic files that have to be downloaded separately from your server. This assures that your content will be completely indecipherable in many circumstances (e.g., plain text, basic firewalls, or server issues).

Using techniques such as these, some companies (such as Intel), have managed to assure that their marketing messages successfully avoid my positive filtering and reliably end up in my junk folder. Of course, newsletters are only part of an email campaign, so after successfully fouling up the above, one could also (as Hewlett-Packard has done) employ the following advanced techniques for destroying good will:

  • Add a corporate customer to a newsletter list targeted at (computer illiterate) home users, based on the need to get a replacement part for a different type of product.
  • Implement ‘user profiles’ for newsletter configuration and email all subscribers (and the forcibly subscribed) separately to notify each one of this important development.
  • Finally (and here is where the art really comes into it), track profile modifications and assume that the failure of one to make changes is an indication of ignorance, so email a reminder about user profiles. Greet a continued lack of response with increasingly frequent reminders.

One has to wonder how some of these companies managed to get as large as they did with such marketing ineptitude. Consistency and useful information would make these newsletters so much less challenging.

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