Speaking E-mail

After being in the e-mail field for over 10 years, I’m often frustrated when e-mail doesn’t get the appropriate level of respect from executives in large organizations. While it returns the highest ROI (define), it stills seems to get the smallest budget allocation.

Many people have written on this topic before with all types of hypotheses. Last week, I was in client presentations that may have actually shed some light on how the e-mail industry may actually be doing itself a disservice when promoting this channel. The answer very well may be: we don’t speak a common business language. We speak “e-mail,” and it doesn’t make sense to our clients. Here are two examples:

  • E-mail “Huh?” 1: CAN-SPAM. When recently telling a client about the need to include an unsubscribe link to be CAN-SPAM complaint, one of my team got this response: “If they opted in in the first place, how can it be spam? Isn’t CAN-SPAM about putting a lid on unrequested e-mail?” (Insert puzzled look here.)
  • E-mail “Huh?” 2: Click to open. While I was proudly showing a client a report indicating trends in their click-to-open percentages, one person in the room gave me an odd look. “What do you mean, ‘click to open’?” I explained that with open rates being hard to accurately track these days and click-through rates differing by industry, we’ve adopted a general tracking of the click-to-open rates. (Insert head scratching here.) He still looked puzzled, asking, “But isn’t that the point of the e-mail? You click to open it?”
  • In both cases, I quickly realized the points we were attempting to make were critical to helping these clients achieve success with their e-mail programs. Additionally, these points required the client’s buy-in to change and to promote change for future messages. I also realized in both cases that the phrases used not only didn’t help my case, they actually set us back a bit. Luckily, both clients were bold enough to speak up when something didn’t make sense.

    This could be a great wake-up call for our industry. When we’re at industry networking events, we feel free to speak “e-mail,” but in general business settings we should rethink some of the terms we use and translate them into common business language.

    Anyone out there interested in helping me write a translation guide?

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