The Right Touch

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan

Email is a cost-effective and simple way to reach out and touch clients and customers. But just because it’s cheap and easy, this doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea. When done wrong, email messages can alienate the audience you’re trying to cultivate.

Send Only Useful Messages: Many years ago I had the grand idea of using an email-marketing program to keep advertisers (those folks who make this magazine possible) and potential advertisers informed and engaged. When I began working on the next issue, I emailed them with the theme and deadlines. A week before the due date, I sent a reminder. When the magazine went to print, I dashed off an update and when it mailed, I was sure to let them know.

This lasted for two issues. Although sending the messages seemed free, it cost me time. Plus I worried about becoming a nuisance. And in those early days of email marketing, I couldn’t tell who was reading what I sent.

I wisely scaled back my messages to one per issue. It was that initial email letting them know the theme and deadlines that was the one that mattered. Besides, I figured if I emailed less often, they would be more apt to read what I did send.

What are the messages that matter most to your audience?

Segment Your Audience: I quickly fell into a rhythm of sending out one mass email per issue, but it wasn’t as smooth as I wished. It seemed that, no matter how carefully I worded my message, someone would be confused. This resulted in more communication to clear up my miscommunication.

The problem was that I tried to make one message work for everyone: regular advertisers, occasional advertisers, and potential advertisers. A message for regular advertisers might confuse the occasional ones and vice versa. Alternately, a message encouraging potential advertisers to run an ad might cause regular advertisers to make wrong assumptions about their status. To solve this, I divided my list into three groups in order to send specific messages tailored to a particular audience.

Your biggest client is different than your smallest, and both are different from your prospects. How should your list be segmented?

Send Only Wanted Messages: Twenty percent of Connections Magazine readers receive their subscription electronically. I email them when a new issue is available online to view, download, or read from our website. As part of their subscription, we also send an occasional email message relevant to the industry that has a high likelihood to be of interest. So that we don’t overwhelm or irritate readers, we send no more than one per month. If you’re like me, you’ve unsubscribed from publications you liked because they contacted you too often.

What type of messages does your audience want? Which ones do they just delete?

Allow Unsubscribes: Even though it’s a legal requirement to provide a means to unsubscribe, I’m shocked at how many publications don’t. Plus, a few let you try to unsubscribe, but then don’t follow through.

Allow for and honor unsubscribes.

Don’t Spam: Though I have no firsthand experience in this regard, it’s apparently easy to buy an email database. It’s also common for companies to harvest contact information and send you messages you don’t want. (I know because it happens to me all the time.) These messages are spam; no one likes a spammer.

Finally, verify that in your zeal to communicate you don’t spam.

When you send useful and wanted messages to your segmented list, allowing for unsubscribes and avoiding spam, you are ahead of most companies. You are providing the right touch.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.  Read more of his articles at

[From Connection Magazine October 2012]

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