E-mail Marketing Lesson from Ghandi: Be the Change You Want to See

email marketing lessonThree more people decided to put me on their e-newsletter lists this week. These are fine people, one of them a friend of mine.

Still, they didn’t ask me. They just did it.

And that puts me in the very uncomfortable position of having to “unsubscribe” (gotta love that word) to something I didn’t subscribe to in the first place.

Technically, the button at the bottom of these people’s e-letters should not say, “Unsubscribe.” It should say, “I have put you on a list you didn’t ask to be on. Click here if you want me to remove you.”

Be the change you want to see in the e-marketing world

Okay, paraphrasing Ghandi here. But just stop and think, “How do I want to be treated?”

In our marketing with e-newsletter workshops we, always say:

Don’t just follow the letter of the law. Be better than the law.

Building a list is hard work. But wouldn’t you rather have people who want to be on it? People who eagerly await your next issue, rather than grumbling and deleting it every time it lands in their in-box?

Okay, now you are thinking, “But I have a very low unsubscribe rate.”

Does that mean that those people are actually reading your content? Well, no. Not necessarily.

I like to tell the story of a friend. Happens to be a printer. I was in his office one day and he was glaring at his computer screen.

“What’s wrong?” I said.

“Oh, just all these ‘newsletters’ I get,” he said. “They are badly written, worthless and full of crap. And I didn’t even sign up for them.”

“Why don’t you unsubscribe?” I said.

“Because they are all from customers and I’m afraid I’ll hurt their feelings—or lose their business.”

So this guy is frustrated and angry every time he gets another issue. But he is afraid to opt out. Not exactly what we want our subscribers to feel when they open our emails.

Respect your subscribers

Violating someone’s trust can happen without ignoring the loose rules of the U.S. CAN-SPAM law.

It happens when you forget about permission-based e-marketing and best practices.

It happens when you decide that getting high “subscriber” numbers is more important than working to develop a list of people who are truly interested in what you have to offer.

It happens when you follow only the minimum requirement instead of the spirit of the law.

There is such a huge difference between slapping someone on your e-mail list and offering resources they may need. Go ahead and send them one past issue with a note that if they find it helpful, here’s a link to sign up. Nothing wrong with that. In fact,
it’s a very successful strategy.

Just do not randomly add people to your list when the mood strikes you.

Do you get put on lists you never asked to be on?

Do you think it’s important to get permission first?

What are your core e-marketing values?

Make sure you don’t miss a post.


  1. Susan Templeton January 22, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    I thought was was going to be 'anti rant' so nice hook. (My particular rants are what my clients love that about me.)
    Question: if you review a list you have had for years and don't recognize an email address without a name attached…I'd be very hard pressed to toss it. IS annoying one person risking it all?


  2. Judy Dunn January 23, 2010 at 7:32 am #

    Hi Susan,
    Good to see you here!
    If I understand you correctly, you have a list you've been using for years and haven't looked closely at recently? Lists will naturally grow and evolve. People will unsubscribe for some reason or another (hopefully very few) and a few others will bounce back as undeliverable (person changed jobs, got a new email address and forgot to tell you, etc.) Those names you will weed out.
    But just because you don't recognize an email address, that doesn't mean you should toss it. Our list is growing (we do not require first and last names) and we do not recognize every email address on it.
    I would say, if they have taken that amazing step to opt in on their own (and that IS an amazing thing), you should assume they still want to receive it until they tell you otherwise. Because what if you took them off and they looked forward to every issue? That wouldn't be a good thing.
    I am a proponent of the opt-in system. But once you have gotten their permission, that list and that name is yours. Hope I read your question right.


  3. Lori Richardson January 24, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    Judy, this is a pet peeve of mine, and has been for years. In fact, even though I teach social media classes, I always make a point to talk about e-mail etiquette. It is wrong, wrong, wrong to meet someone and subscribe them to your list just because they gave you their card.
    Hopefully more people will "get" this –
    thanks for the rant.


  4. Judy Dunn January 24, 2010 at 8:26 am #

    I know exactly what you mean. Exchanging business cards, in my opinion, is the beginning step to developing a relationship with someone. Putting them on my newsletter list comes later, when they decide that there is value in my content.
    We market our newsletter in many ways, but it is never pushed at people and usually happens when they visit our Marketing Hotspots landing page, (reading a past issue or visiting the tesitmonials page,for instance) when they have been to a workshop, when they read a blog post they liked and click on the e-letter sign-up button, etc.
    Thanks for affirming what I truly believe is the best way to get subscribers.


  5. Ragan Corliss January 24, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    I've had a lot of people add me to their email lists after exchanging biz cards, and I have to say that I have never minded it at all, in fact I like it… (As long as there is an easy opt out button.) It's nice to see what people are doing, and it's so easy to just hit the delete button if I don't have time to read them. Mind you I am on many e-lists, but if I'm too busy, I just delete them from my Blackberry before I even open up my computer in the morning while waiting for my coffee.


  6. Judy Dunn January 24, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    Thanks for commenting, Ragan.
    It's nice to see that you don't mind deleting all those e-mails. I have so many other spam (uninvited) messages to open, so the newsletters I didn't sign up for just add to the clutter. Plus, I personally feel that they haven't bothered to develop any kind of relationship with me first.
    I'm glad that unsolicited newsletters are working for you.


  7. eeleenlee February 5, 2010 at 9:47 am #

    agree with this post, some unsolicited stuff is very unwanted


  8. Rachel Levy February 23, 2010 at 10:15 am #

    I couldn't agree more! It's called "permission-based marketing" for a reason. It's funny you point out that your friend doesn't want to unsubscribe because it will hurt their feelings. I feel the same way, and sometimes, even set up filters to put those directly into delete (shhh, don't tell anyone!)


  9. Judy Dunn February 23, 2010 at 10:26 am #

    Hello, my Twitter friend!
    Now where do I find a filter like that? Seriously.
    If I know the person who put me on their list, I send a kind note after I unsubscribe explaining why I did it and please don’t take it personally. Have actually got into some very good discussions with people who really weren’t fully aware of the awkward position they are putting people in.
    Thanks for leaving the comment, Rachel.



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    […] to get it out. Something is bugging you and you’ll just feel better if you spill it. I did that with my rant about people who put you on a newsletter list you didn’t ask to be put […]

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