You Could Make A Killing


When it comes to email marketing, it is quite easy to make a killing, especially in the short term.  It is the reason why, despite all the efforts to kill spam, we end up with hundreds of spammy messages in our email boxes daily.  As with most things though, just because you can make a quick buck from email marketing, doesn’t mean you should.

Email marketing is the great leveler of the playing field.  it is one of the easiest ways to reach your customers on a large scale and anyone can do it regardless of company size.  The problem is that it is just so tempting to do things that are unethical with email because the reward is often very significant.

We invite our customers to sign up for our email lists and then we proceed to make them rue the day they ever gave up their email.  We hide behind the “opt in” shield to justify our use of clickbait subject lines and questionable messaging.  We hide behind our impossible to comprehend privacy policy to justify renting our list even though we know that no one wants their information rented out. In the short term, you really can make a killing.  I’ve seen it happen.  If you choose that route though, in the long run the only thing you’ll be killing is your email list.

The purpose of email marketing is not to trick or scam the people that have trusted you with their email address.  Rather, the goal should be to deliver emails that feature topics of interest based on what your subscribers have told you.

Be Transparent

There shouldn’t ever be a reason why you would trick your customers into signing up for your list.  No good comes of it.  It angers your customers, it wastes your time and money (there are significant costs associated with email marketing) and most importantly, it kills the relationship you are trying to build with your customers.

Wondering how to be more transparent?  Try these simple tips:

  • Make your opt-in checkbox clear on checkout.
  • Tell your customers what they can expect to get from your emails (not the standard BS lines about “great deals delivered to your inbox”).
  • Have everyone who signs up for your email confirm through a double opt-in process.

Think of it this way – if you don’t feel like you can be honest about what you’re doing with someone’s email address, don’t collect it.  If you aren’t honest with your customers about what you’re going to send them, they’re just going to unsubscribe anyway (or worse, they’ll hit the “this is spam” button which gets reported to your email service provider).

Make It Easy To Opt Out

Nothing lasts forever.  Regardless of how awesome your emails are, people will eventually get sick of them.  With that in mind, make it clear and easy for customers to remove themselves from your list.  Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also has the potential to save this person as a customer.

I’ve heard the argument for making opt-outs difficult many times.  The general concern is that if you make it easy for people to opt out, they will.  Here’s the flaw of that argument:

If someone doesn’t want to get your emails and you don’t make it easy to opt out, you’ll end up losing a customer.

Seriously, why do you want to keep messaging people that don’t want to receive your messages?  Are you afraid that your list will shrink?  Well, the reality is that anyone who wants off of your list that you forcibly keep on is never going to change their mind and say “I know I hated these emails in the past, but I’m sure the next one will be worth my time!”.

Stop being insecure and let people choose to opt out.  While you’re doing that, ask yourself this one very important question:

“Do my emails live up to the expectations of my customers?”

If the answer is no (and for the vast majority of email marketers out there, the answer is no), how can you make your emails better?  It’s actually easier than you think.  Give your customers the freedom of choice.  Ask them what their individual preferences are and honor those preferences.

  • How often would you like to be emailed?
  • What topics do you want to learn more about?

It’s way easier than you think.  Take this example from one of my favorite stores, ThinkGeek:


ThinkGeek pretty much only sends me emails I want to receive because I’ve told them exactly what I like and what I want.  If something new from Game of Thrones comes out, I want to know.  If they release a new My Little Pony t-shirt, I really don’t care and I certainly don’t want to be emailed about it.

You can be both ethical and successful with email marketing.  You just need to have a little faith in your customers, ask them about their interests and most importantly, listen.

Image Credit: David Goehring

Why I Teach

Over the years, I have been asked by many people why I teach. The words of the answer may shift from time to time, but the message is always the same:

When one has specialized knowledge, it is one’s duty to share and transfer that knowledge to as many people as possible.

As a society, we must continue to grow and learn. The only way to do so is through the sharing and distribution of knowledge and information.  It is the reason why I will share what I have learned over the past 20+ years with anyone who wants to learn.  Some people pay me to share this information, others don’t.  Ultimately though, it is never about getting paid.  It is about helping others.

The way the world learns has changed drastically over the past decade.  Learning is no longer confined to the traditional classroom.  With the advent of online learning, the ability and opportunities to transfer knowledge have increased exponentially. Students are no longer tied to the traditional classroom environment. Instructors can be thousands of miles away and still create learning environments that are rich, meaningful and valuable.

While I do most of my teaching online, the reality is that teaching and learning is going on all over the web.  Recently, I took the family to Europe.  One of the stops we made was to Vatican City.  I wanted to know more about Vatican City before we left, and a former co-worker shared this Youtube channel with me (yes, Youtube).

As I have no idea how to make videos and am not artistic enough to make infographics or flowcharts, I write and I teach online at Southern New Hampshire University.  Telling people that I teach online brings up all sorts of interesting responses.  Most are very positive.  Some have even asked me to see some of the content I teach (as much of it is in the SEO/SEM/SMM realm).

It is no accident that I have dual interests in marketing and education. In many ways, the hallmarks of marketing (when done ethically) are very much in line with educating. In both, the goal is to engage and demonstrate value based on the needs of each individual you are trying to reach.  It is why I love marketing and it is why I love teaching.

If you are a marketer, you are a teacher.  If you are a manager, you are a teacher.  If you are a blogger, you are a teacher.  Simply put, if you are doing anything to share knowledge, you are a teacher.