The Four Commandments of Email

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Source: The Ten Commandments
Source: The Ten Commandments

Tom Monaghan held a slew of jobs before accepting his position as HubSpot's email product manager. He was a bike mechanic, an Autism researcher, and a startup founder. While working at his startup, Monaghan managed the email marketing and, initially, saw tremendous growth. He was able to organically grow his company's list from one person—“My mom”—to more than 77,000 people who were not his mom.

However, Monaghan's startup story has an unhappy ending: Closure.

“One of the reason we failed was because I failed at email marketing,” he admitted to the crowd at HubSpot's 2013 Inbound Marketing Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. “We're here to create email marketing that people love, and that's hard….I forgot it with most of the emails that we sent to people.”

But, like all great marketers, Monaghan learned from his mistakes and was able to concentrate his lessons into four commandments.

Thou shalt remember the third grade

No, not the boys-have-cooties and everyone wears braces parts of third grade. Third grade, Monaghan stated, is a time when students learn how to write a basic letter, consisting of a salutation, a body, and a closing. However, he argued that many marketers have forgotten this standard format.

In addition, Monaghan discussed how “psyched” kids used to get when they received a handwritten letter from a family member or pen pal. Just knowing that someone cared enough to mail a note made the whole experience special.

“I want you to think about old school mail when your write your marketing emails,” he said.

Thou shalt respect one's recipients

Everyone wants to live at the top of their customer's inbox, but it's important for marketers to understand that they're not their customer's number one priority. Customers' inboxes are constantly flooded with personal and work emails; hence, marketers must respect the notion that their subscribers have other things going on in their lives besides being part of an email campaign. So marketers should only contact their customers when they have something relevant to say. That's part of respecting the permission a customer gives a marketer to contact them.

“There's a contract between you and every single person you're sending an email to,” Monaghan said. “It's really, really [easy] to abuse that.

Thou shalt care about engagement – a lot

It's easy for marketers to get bogged down with open and click through rates, but what marketers should really care about is replies, Monaghan said.

“Replies crush opens. Replies crush clicks,” he said. “Replies tell email systems, tell spam systems, tells everybody that this person has a relationship.”

Thou shalt send less email

“More is not better when it comes to email,” Monaghan told the audience.

And while he urged marketers to send fewer emails overall, he also encouraged marketers to send more specific emails—emails that contain specific content for a specific person, to fill a specific need.

“Make sure that every single email is awesome.”

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