Info iconLetter I in a circle

By continuing to use this site you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy

Four essential rules for customer emails

Content Marketing, WooRank



When you get a signup from someone, whether for a product or an occasional newsletter, you are getting much more than just an email address.

They are trusting you to take a bit of their attention so you can show them what you’ve got. You are getting the responsibility of not flooding their inbox with irrelevant messages. Basically you are starting a relationship with someone and it’s important to behave how the other half expects.

What follows is a guest post from Javier Sanz, a marketing professional working for WooRank, the website review and SEO tool, which is also an Intercom customer.

Some days, with the amount of email I can receive, my email inbox looks really messy. Is that my fault, for subscribing to every service out there on the internet? Or is it the fault of the many companies that misuse the superpower that is email?

Like Des, I watched Spiderman too. I like to think that when Peter Parker says “with great power comes great responsibility”, if he was working in a more modern industry rather than a newspaper, he would have been referring to email.

Sadly I think too many companies don’t appreciate the superpower that has been shared with them. Here are some examples of what, in my humble opinion, are redundant emails that instead of commanding the interest of recipients, are actually bothering them.

1. Only communicate when you have something useful to say

The team at Intercom is making great efforts to avoid flooded inboxes. As a result at WooRank we have been able to decrease the number of emails sent to each user just by triggering appropriate in­-app messages. But you can do much more than sending messages in another format, that doesn’t hit overloaded inboxes. You can aim at sending emails that really inform, and not only notify about something.

At the very least you should make sure the emails you send are more than just a hook to drive traffic to a site. How many times have you received email just to tell you that there is something new happening in a web app, but they don’t indicate to you what is happening?

Companies: allow us to know more about what’s going on your sites without accessing them. At least then clicking on your email will not be in vain.

It’s always good practice to show, instead of tell, so the image below gives you an idea how we do it in WooRank. Any modifications or updates regarding the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) feature we have, can be found not only within the platform (as is logical), but also within the email itself. Here’s an example of what a customer receives.

2. Regular empty emails bother people

Many online products have jumped onto the trend of sending daily, weekly and/or monthly email alerts which gather together all the “important” information for their customers. As part of our features at WooRank we allow our users to set their own weekly and monthly email recaps.

I’m not going to list here the best practices for sending these kind of alerts. But if nothing has happened on an account you shouldn’t be sending these emails by default. The following sketch is based on a real-life example of a startup which sends emails even if they are blank.

Companies: Sending regular empty emails doesn’t communicate anything at all and actually bothers the recipient. Next time you send another email to that same recipient, you face a higher chance that she clicks Send to Spam rather than opening it. I’m pretty sure if you look in your inbox archive, you will find a bunch of examples like this.

3. Don’t direct people to parts of your product they can’t access

Above is another real-life example of a situation that could be avoided if marketing teams properly used the tools they have at their disposal.

Tempted by curiosity, I decided to signup for a trial of a product. I completed the inital setup and I played with it for the first few days of the trial, but after that I totally forgot about it. Some time later I was interested in exploring the product a bit more so I did a quick search in my inbox archive and found one of their email lifecycle emails. But it drove me to a non-working page where I had no further options than bouncing out of the site.

As a freelance marketer­ I have been able to assess several email marketing tools used by my clients and lately I have had the opportunity to play with Intercom. It’s easier than ever not to send excessive emails or to be ready for situation like this one. Don’t assume that your users will read your emails just seconds after you press the “send” button. Anticipate what might happen down the line.

4. Think about what’s valuable to the customer, not to your business

Another common error is bothering users for something you don’t really need from them. If you’ve bought online or entered your credit card to sign up for a recurring charge, you probably know what I’m talking about.

Almost all the online products out there in the Internet which are supported by recurring payments will reach out to you when your card stops being valid. Even if you are not using any of their paid services – you might be a freemium user or have an account but not actively using their services – most of them keep asking for it.

Would it not make more sense to trigger that email only if the company really needs that info from a user? Even a web notification or blocking access to the platform would be more effective instead of asking repeatedly for this information by email. And it’s not just that I’m picky about it, others are aware of the situation too.

PS I’m a fan & user of Heroku, just pointing out something that could be improved ;-).

Communicate When It’s Really Needed

Email has consolidated its position as marketing tool that drives quality traffic to your site. That’s nothing new under the sun there and I agree 100 per cent that it’s a useful tactic. But I have a weakness for using it only when it’s totally necessary. Patrick McKenzie, ­better known as @patio11­, tweeted about the importance of this.

In terms of email marketing, the future looks awesome: there are new challenges, but new tools are being developed to face them. But let’s not forget that marketing is just communication with the purpose of selling. When the message starts being repetitive, doesn’t make sense, and is not ­tailored for the user it becomes miscommunication.

Please, more communication when it’s really needed, but put your email bots on a tight leash. Don’t misuse my inbox, please.