Category Archives: Email Marketing

Bad News…. Or Bait and Switch?

A month or so ago I ranted about a certain marketer that sent out an email with a negative, misleading subject line. Apparently there were a fair number of other people out there who felt like I did, as I saw this topic discussed elsewhere as well.

Yesterday I received not one, but two emails (from big name guru’s) with the subject “Bad News…”

Immediately they both started off with “well, this isn’t really bad news” or: “the bad news is that I’m taking my offer down”

How bad is that?

One of them kindly went on to explain that he’d recently heard from some other guru that the most opened subject line was “bad news” so he was going to try it out.

Of course his email had absolutely NOTHING to do with bad news, of any sort. Even if you’re taking your offer down, does that really qualify as bad news?

The underlying issue in question here is what really ticks me off. The guy who explained why he was using the bad news gimmick said that people respond to negatives. That’s why the news is always negative.

There’s a sensationalism that is hard to beat, that’s for sure.

But is putting “bad news” in your subject line really going to make more sales? Sure, it might get your email opened, but will it sell? There’s a thing called framing your customer – putting them in a frame of mind to buy.

Personally, yeah, I’ll probably open an email that says “bad news” but I’m also probably going to be ticked off once I realize I’ve been mislead and that they’re trying a cheap trick on me to increase their open rate, of all things.

The same holds true for all those PPC ads you see “Product XYZ Sucks!” then you go through and they’re trying to sell Product XYZ. Huh? Anyone think that through?

So take it a step further – now you know what your absolute best performing (for open rate, anyways) subject line is. Are you going to use that on every email? That’s gonna get old REALLY fast. Are you going to put a negative spin on every email subject line, then flip flop to roses and daisies and buy now inside?

On a deeper, moral level, should we be buying into the “negativity works” mindset? Seems rather Machiavellian to me. I know it works, but so do positive messages. That’s been proven over and over.

Let me ask you this – long term, who do you want to be known as to your customers, or “herd” as Dan Kennedy likes to call them. A negative manipulator, or a positive, uplifting bringer of good things?

Can bait and switch be a long term strategy? I doubt it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you feel strongly about this, or is it just me? Is it ethical to market like this? Is it not even a question of ethics for you, and it’s totally fine, or perhaps something else?

Leave a comment and let us know.


EDIT: Apparently since I wrote this, the owner of nearly every list I’m on has come across this same information, and this morning alone I received 3 more “Bad news” subject lines… on top of another half dozen in the previous week. Seriously – is this stuff working? Leave a comment and tell us about it!

You Sir, Are a Lying Sack of Twit

Today I came across a blog post entitled “You Sir, Are a Lying Sack of Twit.”

A couple of things about that – first off, that title was the signature of a particular Warrior in the Warrior Forum. For some reason it hadn’t really occurred to me to link to my blog posts before from my forum signature, but now that I think of it, I think it’s a great idea, especially if the post provides great content or a unique perspective.

So thanks Paul, for that idea.

More to the point, the post is all about email marketers that lie in order to get attention, get sales, or get something else. Often it’s all of the above.

So I read Paul’s post this afternoon, and then I came back to my computer to see an email sitting in my inbox with a subject “Jason Katzenback is in the hospital” it was from Comment Kahuna. I don’t mind naming names, because hopefully it will help clean up this mess Paul’s talking about.

Now as soon as you see a headline like that, sure, your curiosity is aroused. I figured he was probably going to ask for donations or something. A similar event happened on the Warrior forum a month or two ago.

Instead, I opened it up and read this:

“Ok. Don’t panic.

JK is *not* in the hospital.

But, I know how crammed your inbox is with emails and I *desperately* needed to grab your attention.

Here’s what this email is *really* about…

As you might already know, perhaps the BIGGEST contest ever is about to happen here at…”

Ever heard the story of the little boy who cried wolf. You just read the email equivalent.

So I wrote back and asked him if he’d ever considered how he was framing his customers with that sort of a bait and switch tactic. Framing your customer is a technique where you try to put them into a buying frame of mind. Many people screw this up routinely by making ads (you know you’ve seen these…) saying “Product X SUCKS!!!! Find out why” then you click on the ad and they’re trying to sell you Product X.

Well congratulations, you’ll probably get a few sales, but only because you’ve got volume on your side. The conversion rate will suck.

The problem is that you’ve setup the customer with one frame of mind, then you’ve pulled an about face on them. Typically people don’t adjust well to that.

How much worse is it when you’re expecting a plea for help and instead you’re told that some marketer “desperately” needs you to sign up for his big thingamajigger. Like who cares?

I mean, think of how the word desperately is supposed to be used.

Dying man in desert desperately needs a drink.

Broke father desperately needs a job.

Devastated lover desperately tries to make things right.

Desperate, according to dictionary.com is the following “reckless or dangerous because of despair or urgency”, “making a final, ultimate effort, giving all”, “accentuated by a feeling of hopelessness”, “having no hope, giving in to despair.”

I can’t think of a single one of those that applies to getting people to sign up for a contest. *Especially* when *desperately* is *accentuated* by these *little* **** things. I mean, that’s like *screaming* desperately. Like the boogie man is in the room with me here, and he’s going to kill a kitten live on YouTube if you don’t sign up for my contest.

To me, this guy just lost all credibility. I could care less about his contest that he desperately needs to build his list so he can make another few grand.

Give me a break. And yes, I unsubscribed.

Spammy Practices from Email Marketers

I can’t remember if I’ve posted on this before, but I’ve got a particular pet peeve that turned into a sore spot that has turned into an open nerve ending that leads directly to the pain center in my brain. It has taken several years to develop this – yes, you read that right, and all the pain has all come from primarily two organizations. 

What am I talking about? I’m talking about the absolute utter inability – or refusal – to unsubscribe me from their list. To be fair, I’ve not exactly suffered undue pain because of this, but over the years as I’ve become more annoyed with each of these groups, I’ve tried with successively more effort to get myself off their lists. Thus, each time I see a fresh email from them it just rubs the nerve a little more. 

So who are these miscreants? I don’t mind naming names:

The spammers are Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration Society and Bravenet.com. 

For one thing, it truly baffles me how I got on the VIBCS list – I’m not East Indian nor do I have any particular interest in participating in their local culture. Yet, sometime during 2002 or 2003 I somehow managed to get on their list. I’ve tried unsubscribing, I’ve tried replying with unsubscribe in the subject line, I’ve tried sending personal emails to every address I could find mentioned, I’ve tried going through their webpage, and I’ve tried threatening them with reporting to CANSPAM and whatever other organizations I could find that are concerned about email spam. Unfortunately, so far I haven’t been able to find any kind of actual method of recourse. 

So far as I can tell, if they don’t want to unsubscribe me, there doesn’t seem to be much that I can do about it. 

The other spam master is Bravenet.com. I think it was during 2001 or 2002 that I signed up for a free account there. Might have been earlier. One of those free webpage dealios. Well I quickly grew disinterested in using them, but for 8 years I’ve continued to receive their emails. I’ve tried logging into my account and disabling updates, I’ve tried unsubscribing, the whole story all over again, but they DO NOT LISTEN!

Now, as someone who actively engages in email marketing, I’d like to be treated with a little more respect, because I surely treat my customers with respect. If they want off, they’re gone! No questions asked! I know that people from time to time get ticked off and blog about things, and I don’t particularly care to be the recipient of negative publicity. However, groups like the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration Society (spam) and Bravenet.com (spam) have earned their right to negative blog posts. And yes, I’m hoping to get this post ranked for their names associated with email spam. 

Hopefully people read this and it makes some small contribution to keeping the net a cleaner, more responsible place. 

And then again, maybe there was something in my coffee this morning…