7 Mistakes That Hurt Your Email Relationship Building Efforts

7 Mistakes That Hurt Your Email Relationship Building Efforts

People will not buy your stuff on their first visit. The more expensive and/or complicated the product, the more time they need to think and decide.

People like to buy from people and businesses they know and like. This is why it’s a good idea to capture emails and build a relationship before you even ask them to buy anything. This post is about getting the most out of your relationship building efforts with your email list.

Mistake #1. You don’t use double opt-in

Double opt-in means that after someone subscribes, they get an email with a confirmation link ensuring they want to receive email communications from you.

While you do get a little less subscribers, you actually get people you want on your list. People who click the confirmation link are dedicated and interested enough to complete the subscription process. This in turn leads to higher open rates, clickthroughs, better deliverability and much less spam complaints.

My own personal experiments have shown that if your lead magnets is attractive enough, you’ll get pretty much the same number of subscribers as compared to single opt-in. When I switched T1Q over to double opt-in, I got maybe 5% less subscribers, but open rates shot up three times.

My hypothesis is that by having to work a little bit harder to join the list (one additional intentional click), there’s more engagement and thus you’ll get a larger stake in their mindshare.

Mistake #2. You think more interaction is better

First off, interactions don’t build relationships unless you have shared values. Talking to somebody you have nothing in common with does not make you closer (in fact, you just get more and more annoyed).

So it all starts with common interests and shared values. Once this is place, you can proceed to interactions. However, interactions don’t build relationships.

Even so, there’s no real correlation between interactions with a customer and the likelihood that he or she will become your loyal customer and a brand champion. Still, too many marketers behave as if there is a continuous linear relationship between the number of interactions and share of wallet. That’s why you see many brands sending customers over 300 emails annually (#overkill).

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What you need to know is that  consumers suffer from cognitive overload. They’re bombarded with messages and choices. The best thing you can do to your business is to keep everything simple.

Instead of relentlessly bombarding customers with emails and demanding their attention, treat the attention you do win as precious. Don’t waste the attention on a message that doesn’t add value.

Before sending out an email, ask yourself whether it’s going to reduce the cognitive overload consumers feel? If not, don’t send it. There is no universally best frequency to send emails to your list. You have to test it.

How to figure out the best email frequency

The simplest way to test email frequency is this:

  1. Set up 2 email lists (A and B).
  2. A/B test your email subscription forms, so that 50% of the subscribers are added to list A and the other half to list B. Forms itself can be identical.
  3. Now send different amount of emails to each of those lists (e.g. once a month to A and 4x / month to B).
  4. 3 months (and/or later) down the line check the stats: compare average open rates, clickthroughs, unsubscribe rates and if you can, most importantly look at the sales figures.

Mistake #3: You don’t know why people unsubscribe

This has been studied a lot. Long story short, people unsubscribe from email lists for 2 main reasons:

  1. irrelevant or boring content (e.g. mainly sales promos),
  2. too many emails.

That’s it. Hence 2 rules for you to ensure a long email relationship:

  1. Email only when you’ve got interesting stuff to say. Don’t send for the sake of sending.
  2. Don’t send too often. More than once a week might be too much (with some exceptions).

Mistake #4: You think using the subscriber’s name is personalization

I’m sure you receive plenty of “Hello, [YOURNAME]” type of emails. Do you feel personally touched? Didn’t think so. Internet is filled with email marketing articles from 2006 saying you should personalize emails with subscriber names. Whoever says that today is just re-hashing the old mantra.

According to a new study some 95% of customers respond negatively when an email starts off with a greeting that includes their name. The study drew from 10 million marketing emails sent to 600,000 customers. That’s a decent sample size. So stop doing it.

Not very personal:

Not very personal, is it?

Even when every now and then using people’s name in the subject line might boost your open rates, they will be disappointed when they see it was actually not a personal email.

People are not idiots. They know the difference between actual personal emails and mass personalization customization. Don’t try to fake being personal when you’re not.

Nobody expects you to email every subscriber manually anyway. True personalization is about relevant content. The more you can segment your list and send tailored emails to each segment, the better.

Mistake #5: You follow the rule of seven

All over the internet you will find websites stating this in one wording or another:

A prospect needs to see or hear your marketing message at least seven times before they take action and buy from you.

It’s referred to as The Rule of Seven. It’s a myth.

The truth is that there is no research to back this up. It’s a well-spread rumor. It’s an attractive idea and you want it to be true, since it’s a shortcut, a sure thing to do to help you to improve your marketing efforts.

It originates from the late internet marketer Corey Rudl who made this observation about his own business, and started to promote it. He even suggested the following schedule:

  • Immediate response
  • 3 day follow up
  • 7 day follow up
  • 2 week follow up
  • 1 month follow up
  • 2 months follow up
  • 3 month follow up

It’s outright silly to think this schedule is the holy grail of email marketing, or that a marketing observation from pre-2005 era would carry much weight today or that one size fits all.

Do your own testing and don’t assume anything about the magic number 7.

Mistake #6: You stop talking to subscribers once they buy

Relationship doesn’t end with the purchase, in fact it should be the opposite. Too often businesses focus on building relationships with potential customers, and ignore the existing ones.

Since it’s so much easier to sell to existing customers than new ones, I say that’s where your main focus should be at.

You won’t build a relationship strong relationship with emails only. You need them to actually use your products and services, and benefit from them. Once they do and you keep adding more value via email, you’re on your way to creating champions.

I like how Olark is starting the relationship over email. Once you sign up, you get this email from them:

Hi – I saw you just signed up for olark.com, let me know if there is anything I can do to help


It’s short and feels personal. Could have been even sent manually, but you never know :)

In any case, the very best thing you can do after they sign up / buy is to continue talking to them. Educate them about your product, give them know-how to get the maximum out of it.

Further reading:

Mistake #7: Your emails don’t add value

There’s no magic sauce to relationship building. Relationships get built over time by adding value to each other, just like in real life. This value can be many things – teaching and educating, entertaining and informing.

A guy that works in an email marketing company told me this story. He was reviewing the promo email his client wanted to send out and saw it’s a totally dull offer. “Would you yourself want to buy this?”, he asked the client. “Oh… so you mean it should be something people are interested in?”

True story, and not very uncommon. What happens is that marketers send out newsletters and promo emails that don’t add value to their subscribers. The results is that they will sooner or later unsubscribe, and that’s that.

If I had only one tip for building relationships over email, I’d say be insanely useful/cool/entertaining and you’ll do all right.

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Join the conversation Add your comment

  1. ahahaha I’m guilt of a couple of these. Thanks for the list. I’ll shape up!

  2. Thanks Peep for reminding these mistakes. I will check if the A/B mail test works for me.

  3. I will keep this and use it…love YOUR valuable content. Thanks!

  4. Great advice. The Olark example is on the money. I started using short open ended emails in plain text for new users and CTR soared. Short really is sweet. I also found that leaving the ball in their court is not always the best strategy so I end with a question that prompts a response.

  5. We stopped sending out product information in our emails and instead send reviews for items our customers may be using but don’t buy from us. Engagement has definitely increased, and now we actually hold conversation.

  6. I think single opt-in is good when you are selling your products because they “bought” into your system..

  7. I really just have to disagree with the first item, which is the double opt-in. At least for a retail store in which we collect emails from customers on the spot. Every time we had a double optin, we got almost no subscribers. However, once we abandonded the double-optin, our subscriber base grew, and we have been very successful with our email marketing and sales promotions. Do you think your rule applies only to online list building? Because I tell you, in person, the double optin is a game killer!

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7 Mistakes That Hurt Your Email Relationship Building Efforts