When small business marketers (I’m one) are the senders of marketing-oriented email, we love it.

  • We don’t have to pay for paper or postage to distribute it.
  • Everyone has an email address and they use it all day.

Yet when small business marketers (I’m still one) are the recipients of marketing-oriented email, we don’t like it as much.

  • Does anyone actually like email?
  • Does anyone want more of it?

It’s a dilemma. Email is baked into the DNA of how we communicate online. It’s not going away anytime soon. However, if you are going to use email marketing to build a relationship with customers, you need to think like a recipient of your email as much you think like a sender.

Remember: Email marketing seems to be less costly than other forms of marketing, but it can be the most expensive form of marketing possible if you use it improperly.

A customer relationship that you’ve invested in to find, create and grow can vanish with the click of an “unsubscribe button” if you think like a sender rather than as a recipient.


Here’s what I mean. (I’ve removed the names because my goal is not to humiliate anyone.)

A couple of weeks ago, I had to purchase a replacement item available exclusively at a big box retailer. I was at their physical store but I had a credit online that required me to spend a few minutes activating my account with a new password. And because the item was out of stock, I had to order the item online.

While I was impressed with the way in which the first few emails I received from the company were helpful and friendly in letting me know the status of my purchase, by email #5, I started to fear what I feared was in front of me. And then, my fears became reality: Over the next two weeks, the company sent me an average of one email a day. Day or night,  it kept flowing in.

After a two-week stretch of such email, I unsubscribed to anything I could find from the company. And just to be sure, I redirected email from their address to my trash folder.

Remember this when tempted to flood a customer with email

In a world where we feel crushed under the weight of marketing messages, the most valuable item a customer wants most is their time. Don’t waste it. Don’t send anything you wouldn’t want to receive.

Coming soon:

The kind of email customers want to receive.