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July 8, 2011

Why We Secretly Hate Your Emails (And What You Can Do About It)

Ok, I admit it…I’ve been a militant emailer for years.

Whether it was requiring updates from employees, discussing strategy with partners, ordering from vendors, etc. I considered my emails as THE way to communicate and get things done, especially when working remotely. I’d get frustrated when emails were ignored or not comprehended and couldn’t understand why other professionals would take them so lightly. Yes, I’d read Tim Ferriss’s 4HWW and knew that some people were trying to cut back on their email consumption, limiting their time responding/sending emails, etc…but they shouldn’t do that to ME, I thought.

What I didn’t realize before starting was that some people loathed getting emails from me and their poor response rate was a secret rebellion in protest.

Others have been writing about this as well, including such well-known bloggers as Seth Godin and Chris Anderson giving us email checklists and setting out to create an email charter. We’ve recently begun to build our list of subscribers through Aweber and in doing so, I’ve signed up for quite a few email lists to get an idea as to what kind of information is provided, how often they sell products or services to me, etc. What I’ve found is that over 95% of the emails I receive through their lists are junk. It’s not just that they don’t apply to me or help me out specifically…it’s that they could hardly be considered helpful to ANYONE. I’ve secretly come to despise several of these unnamed sources…especially those who I haven’t yet taken the time to unsubscribe from and it’s hurting their brand much more than it’s helping.

I’m still a little militant about email and I DEFINITELY haven’t got down to checking my email once a week like Tim Ferriss, but I’ve found a strategy of rules I can follow without unintentionally building up a network of people who secretly hate my emails:

Would you want the email yourself? No? Will sending the email potentially make you money…would the person you’re sending this to find it to be valuable information.

If it’s someone with whom you’re looking to do business have you considered what they get out of it and would it be a good deal if you were in their shoes? If it’s to your list, would you really find the information useful or is it just another excuse to promote a product, affiliate program, etc. Be honest with yourself.

Are you including people on the email that don’t need to be included? Does your boss, co-worker, employee, partner really need to have a copy of that email in their inbox?

I’m cc’d on so many emails that I currently don’t even need to know about. This problem alone literally eats up 20-30 minutes of my day, minimum. This is especially useful for subscribers and lists…that email that took you twenty minutes to write and are sending out to a 2,500 strong subscriber base could literally be eating up 800 hours of people’s time or more

Are any attachments or links relevant, useful, and necessary? Expanding on the previous point, it may only take an extra 30 seconds to include a few extra links to videos and articles, but how much time are you asking of your recipients to spend researching that information. (2,500 hours worth in the above example if it takes an hour to digest) Is it really worth it? A few weeks ago I sent a video and associated article to my employees and asked them all to read, watch, and respond with any thoughts they had and told them to do this on the clock, because I knew it was important. Would you be willing to go as far as paying for the time your readers spend reviewing your attachments and links? If not, don’t send it.

So I can’t say I’m down to checking my emails once a week or that everything I send out is award-winning or always useful, but I’ve gotten much more respectful of others’ time. It can become infinitely more difficult to keep up the more successful you become, so remember that the next time you have a business proposition or question for someone that’s doing well and be strategic about it. If they’re respectful of you, they’ll respond…but it doesn’t mean they don’t secretly wish you would have been more succinct and appreciative of their limited time.

Justin Cooke is an author, business owner, and a general business enthusiast. In addition to running TryBPO, an outsourcing company in Davao City, Philippines, he also creates runs AdSenseFlippers a site devoted to promoting free, actionable information to build niche websites for passive income, providing easy to follow strategies and detailed income reports.