This is awkward. I thought we were just keeping it casual.  It’s okay that you are in my life, I like that you are, but sometimes you are a bit too needy. It’s getting uncomfortable. We need to have “The Talk.”

 I’m talking to you, email automation.

More and more businesses are (smartly) integrating email marketing into their automation strategy. There are so many good reasons for it — it creates efficiency, it helps you stay top of mind, and it makes it easier to present relevant offers and content to customers. But if it’s not done right, well, things can get weird. Fast. 

No one wants to give up on love because of one bad relationship and no one should. Nor should we discount the effectiveness of marketing automation simply because it requires a delicate touch.  So if you don’t want to be the the email version of “That Ex” here’s a few things to avoid.

Overly Dramatic Subject Lines

Is Anyone There?

We Miss You…

We Want You Back…

These are actual subject lines from my inbox. 

We didn’t break up. We didn’t even date, there’s no need for this.

Writing a subject line that gets noticed above the noise is an art. Sure this is one way to get attention, but it comes off as a (more than a) little desperate. Whatever your offer is, if it’s really special or attractive, lead with that. Evoking ethos is an art, when you do it well you are genuinely connecting. When done wrong, it makes people feel misled.

Focus on cultivating content that is really interesting and encapsulate that in your subject line. Just be straightforward and cut right to what you’ve got for me that makes this email worth my time. Don’t play games. No one wants that in their email, or in their love life for that matter.

Obvious Stalking

We get it. Automation platforms tell you who got your email, if they opened it, when they opened it and where they clicked. We all have a vague awareness that this goes on, but please don’t get creepy about it.

Digital communication leaves a lot less to the imagination. The iPhone has “read receipts” for text messages. Facebook tells us exactly what time our message was seen.  We’ve all sent a message and then obsessively watched for a delivery confirmation.  

“I know she read my text  why hasn’t she responded?”

“He was active on Facebook 20 minutes ago. I sent my last message 40 minutes ago, he definitely saw it, what’s wrong?

Everybody has been there, wrestling to tame the gripping insecurities and mind-swirling doubt that come with being unanswered. We accept these human flaws in one another, but it doesn’t make them any less annoying. We might, however, expect a little more from the brand communication we opt into.

Automated emails that tell me you know I haven’t opened your emails or that I haven’t “engaged” with your messages are uncomfortable.

Knowing how people interact, or don’t, with your content is extremely valuable as a marketer. It can teach you, it can guide you in the right direction. So use that insight to refine your content. To change the approach you’re taking, the content you’re serving, the timing and frequency of your messaging.

But for the love of everything holy, don’t use it in an attempt to shame me into action.

If your emails have gone unopened, try changing up your subject lines and delivery schedule. See above though, and keep all of your variations focused on the offer or the problem you’re trying to help solve. Emails on Friday night aren’t getting my attention? Maybe try me on a Tuesday after lunch. Take the data and study it. Interpret the analytics and use them to your advantage. Using your knowledge of my actions for anything else only makes you seem like someone who drives by their ex’s house at night with no headlights (not that I’ve ever done that…maybe).

The Tragic Farewell

Having spent some time in door-to-door sales, I’ve heard of several techniques for closing deals. Things like creating a fear of loss or a ticking clock are effective tactics. There’s no mystery there and even though consumers are somewhat attuned these schemes, we still fall for them.

That’s why we see lines like:

“This is your final email”

“We’ll never contact you again”

“Last chance to click this link”

It’s tempting to use these threats because they’re so tricky they just may work.

They’re also probably completely untrue. When you’ve been given a “last chance to act” four times in the last two months the words start to lose some of their impact.  

So the options here are don’t say it or mean it when you do.

I’d only ask, why cut someone off at all?

The one and only reason to take action to pare down your email lists is if you are paying per contact. If you can have unlimited subscribers, hoard them. Hoard them like lonely women hoard cats.

This is not someone who broke your heart. You do not need to distance yourselves from them so you can heal and move on. Let’s keep some perspective here, it’s an email marketing contact. If someone doesn’t open emails from you for a year, unless each email is costing you money why unload them from your list? That person could open an email in year two. But you wouldn’t know that now because you got impatient.

There’s an “unsubscribe” button for a reason. It’s legally mandated. But beyond that it means that users who really want to dump you will dump you. If they are too lazy or apathetic to click the opt-out, then that’s great for you! As long as they stay on your list your name will continue to pop up in their lives until they decide they need you.

A business does not have emotional needs. It has financial needs. A person on your list is always a potential customer whether they are acknowledging you in their inbox or not. Getting rid of anyone because of inactivity (or threatening to) is just emotional manipulation and hurts you way more than it hurts them.

So keep sending your promotions, latest blog post, new ebook whatever your content is until the recipient decides it’s unwanted. But do it without the ultimatums.

I Hope We Can Still Be Friends

With all of the many benefits of automated marketing, if you’re not at least experimenting with it, you’re missing out. Don’t be afraid of email automation, but when it comes to your messaging don’t try SO hard that you wind up coming off as desperate.

Avoid bringing petty, unnecessary drama into people’s lives that only makes you look silly. Strive for compelling subject lines that don’t sound whiny. Acknowledge my actions by responding with better content, not by turning into a creeper. Grow your lists whenever you can rather than culling them unnecessarily or worse, pretending to.  These strategies may appear appealing in the moment, but no one wants to feel like it was a mistake to get involved with you in the first place. Instead, play it cool. Don’t be regrettable, be remarkable.