Exclamation points and emails: Stop yelling at me!

Screen capture of email inbox with words superimposedGoogle invited me to try Inbox last week, so I’m testing it out. I don’t know that email productivity is my main issue at the moment, but why not give it a try? The idea is to have an empty Inbox because that means you’ve done what you need to with the emails. Either you’ve read them and responded if necessary, or you’ve snoozed them to deal with them later. As I’m flipping through old emails to archive them, I find myself in the promotions group. It contains hundreds (more?) of old messages from companies I gave my address to for whatever reason, many just because I bought from them at some point or maybe I’m a current customer. Others are from people sending me information because I signed up on their list / newsletter. Knowing that I likely will never look at the emails again, I barely pay attention to their subject lines, but a common trend stands out. They love to use exclamation points!

Example of behavioral economics in email subjectAttention is the most valuable currency. We have too much information, too many offers thrown at us too quickly, and marketers desperately want to get our eyes on their message. An email subject is a headline, and most of them fall into the clickbait category, which ultimately ends up right next to the spam category. They use every behavioral economics/psychology trick they have come across: scarcity, fear of missing out, risk aversion, inclusivity, personalization, etc. in an attempt to get us to see the pitch.

Example of email subject lineBut it isn’t working. At least, it’s not working for me. Because exclamation points don’t grab my attention, not enough to cause me to take action. A fiction professor once told us that (according to a teacher of his) we are each allowed one exclamation point. Not per page or per story. One per career. Obviously, there are plenty of cases against that strict a rule, but the idea stuck with me. The more you use them, the less they are able to make an impact. Like dropping an F-bomb. It starts to lose its punch after repeated use.

Sometimes I skim these emails but not in earnest. I mostly just look to see if they have anything useful on sale. So who do I give my attention to in my Inbox? Whose emails to I read? Those that have value. Example of scarcity in email marketingNot a limited time deal or a fear-drive pitch. People I trust. They don’t have to craft subject lines designed to force me to look at their message. They don’t yell at me. They just consistently provide quality information that is applicable to my life. I read Seth Godin’s blog every day because he writes a quality post every day, and he’s been doing it for years. I pay attention when I receive an email alerting me to a new No Sidebar post because they put some serious consideration into what they write. These are leaders who drive me to think about my actions: how I treat myself, my priorities, how I see others. They make me want to live a better life, and they often show me how.

Gimmicks can get you a few quick clicks, a few extra eyes on your content. But people don’t hang around for gimmicks, and they don’t come back for them or wait for them with anticipation. Consistently provide value, though, and your readers will look for ways to find more of your content instead of begrudgingly clicking a link to see why you’re yelling.

Who are some of the authors (or other content providers) you seek out? Who do you avoid because they keep yelling at you?

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