How NOT to use an email list

How NOT to use your email list (1)

I just unsubscribed from another newsletter today after reading it. I won’t reveal the name of the person or business sending it (while they’re alive, there’s still hope, right?), but I will gladly share the parts that made me think, “Oh, just stop! Trying to guilt me into buying something – because you don’t think I’m buying it quickly enough to please you – is a great way to get me to unsubscribe from your email list.”

I’m starting a newsletter blacklist – just so I don’t forget which people were high enough on themselves to try sales tactics that make me think, “Oh, now you’ve done it – strutted your clueless way right onto a landmine. Good luck keeping people on your email list with that move.”

Allow me to illustrate with some quotes:

“You still haven’t been able to pull the trigger eh? Well, not much else I can say about the course that hasn’t been said already … One thing I would like to offer you, since you are having such a hard time deciding whether or not to take <someone’s> course, is free access to my course, …”

And I thought, “Gee, that’s nice and all to offer me free access to your course, but did you really need to preface that offer with the assumption that I’m just over here wringing my hands, not sure whether or not to buy what you’ve been trying to sell me and having such a hard time deciding what to do with all the money I’ve got just sitting idle in my bank account.

“It’s not indecision. I have no interest in taking so-and-so’s course, and I’ve even less interest in taking yours.”

I might’ve become interested, if he hadn’t implied that I’m either too indecisive or too cheap to buy so-and-so’s class, which is probably a great class but not something that interests me right now.

I want to tell these people, “Learn to talk to your customers without making stupid assumptions about why they haven’t jumped at the chance to buy what you’re promoting.”

Here’s another pitch from someone whose email list I unsubscribed from a few days ago.

“Hello, Sarah,

“Call me crazy, but I’m a little surprised you still haven’t taken me up on my $1 guide, “<Title of $1 guide>”

“That’s right – it’s a buck.

“For one dollar you could:

“Get a cheap cheeseburger

“Vaccuum your car for about 30 seconds

“Get 4 shopping carts at Aldi


“You could have an entire year of blog ideas at your disposal!

“The choice seems obvious!”

And it totally does! I’ll have the cheeseburger.

Those four carts at Aldi are a close second, though.

Seriously, don’t do it. Do NOT play the “For $__, you could buy X or Y, or you could buy my product, which – I’m sure you’ll agree – is worth SO much more than X and Y!” card.

Actually, I don’t agree. And that’s why this pitch does not work.

I can’t be the only one thinking, “Really? You’re really gonna compare your $1 guide to a cheeseburger? Who is your target market, here, because I’m pretty sure I don’t belong to it.”

It’s just as bad as the “For the price of a fancy coffee drink from Starbucks (or your favorite coffee shop), you could buy my ebook, which will do you SO much more good than that coffee!” pitch.

That’s a bit of a gamble. I don’t buy a 12 ounce breve with an extra shot very often, but when I do, I won’t choose a stranger’s ebook over it just because he says it’s “so much more worth the money that that fancy coffee you’re thinking of buying.”

Here’s where my inner contrarian jumps in with, “Oh, I doubt that. Keep your ebook. I want my coffee. And after my coffee, if you haven’t annoyed me with another sales pitch insulting me for choosing coffee over a stranger’s book, I might let you tell me more about why you think your book is worth more than what I paid for the fancy coffee I buy a few times a year.”

While I’ll admit the language sounds reactive and, well, ranty, it matches my sentiment when I read the pitches some will send out, thinking, “My subscribers will read this, and they’ll know I mean business. I’ll scold them like naughty children, and they’ll line up to buy my stuff! Because they know they’ve been bad (selfish, lazy, indecisive, ungrateful), and they’ll be eager to make amends.”

Is this really how some people think? Do they really count on intimidating, scolding, or guilting people into buying their stuff?

I’ve met people who seemed strangely confident of their ability to manipulate people into doing their bidding.

Like many, I know when I’m being manipulated, and I don’t like it.

I know this probably qualifies as one of my rantier blog posts, but I thought it was only right, since I’ve written a blog post on how some of my favorite authors and bloggers use their email lists, to write a follow-up post on how NOT to use an email list.

I have to thank the people who gave me the material for this blog post. They’ve been very helpful in providing examples of what not to do.

What about you, dear reader? Have you ever unsubscribed from someone’s email list after reading an email that made you angry?

Or do you disagree with anything in this post?

I’d love it if you’d share your thoughts below, even if you disagree with what I’ve written or with the way I’ve written it.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, and have a great week!




6 thoughts on “How NOT to use an email list

    1. I’ve signed up for SO many over the years, and I’ve unsubscribed from the majority of them, but there are some that don’t use it to pressure me into buying their stuff. I wrote a post about some of them earlier (“Five favorite authors/bloggers and how they use their email lists” – partly to thank them for not being pushy (for being helpful and/or entertaining, instead) and partly as a way to give others ideas on how they might use their email lists. I still don’t have one of my own. If I had one, I think I’d probably just send out a monthly e-letter to provide information my subscribers might find helpful or at least entertaining. I might tell people about books I’d published, but not to pressure anyone into buying them.
      Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to this! WordPress put your comment in my spam folder, for some crazy reason, so I’m glad I checked that today. You are definitely NOT a spammer!
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post, and for commenting. 🙂 Take care, and have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not your fault about the spam filter thing. My work computer occasionally runs several minutes fast, and I think because of it, my comments end up in spam filters often. I’ve stopped commenting much at work, but sometimes I still do lol

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve deleted plenty of newsletters from people whose emails didn’t grab my interest from the first few sentences. I probably delete far more of them than I read, but it depends on the sender, how tired or overwhelmed I feel, my mood, etc. If someone emails me too often trying to sell me something or get me to join their class or exclusive group of writers/bloggers/freelancers/whatever, I usually unsubscribe, even if their pitches weren’t as obnoxious as the ones I included in this post.
      There’s still that nagging voice in the back of my mind that tells me I may have overreacted a teensy bit to these emails, but I hate pushy sales tactics, so that’s what’ll get me to unsubscribe every time (or every time I can remember, anyway). Maybe I’m just lashing out, while I’m still lucid. But it occurred to me, while I was unsubscribing from one of them, that I could use the material for a blog post on what NOT to do with an email list.
      I still don’t have my own email list set up, because I still don’t have a clue what to offer those who’d sign up for it. 😉 Thanks so much for commenting! Have a great weekend!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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