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Where emails fall short and doubt starts creeping in

Updated: Apr 30

“Do you have any availabilities in the upcoming week?”

I recruited my big-girl-pants voice and called one of the recommended hair salons in Seville.

“Yes”, the woman on the other side said with her heavy Spanish accent, “Can you come on Monday at 2PM”?

“Yes”, I said, putting the details in my calendar, “Gracia, see you then”.

And while this phone call may seem like the easiest thing in the world to do, it took every bit of my willpower (and a 10-minute meditation beforehand) to make it happen.

But after 3 months of neglecting my hair and only 10 days in Seville before an important meeting in Madrid, I decided to go ahead and give a few hair salons a call and try my luck.

And believe me, I tried every other means of communication I could before dialing in: WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram - I even considered emailing some hair salons instead (my favorite!), but got annoyed in the process.

Calling it was.

You have to understand, calling is something that my millennial heart prefers avoiding at all costs. And it’s not just my tender age, but the fact that in the past 7ish years, I’ve been staying in places where I don’t speak the language fluently.

For most of those years, while living in Berlin, I was continuously scolded for not speaking German fluently on the phone or not getting the message across well enough. In some cases, was even punished for it and got left on the line all by myself while the other side hung up.

But knowing that I have very little time in Seville, that my hair needs to look presentable, and that Spaniards are much more accommodating than ones in Berlin, I decided to take my chances.

Within less than 5 minutes I had an appointment.

That’s how effective a simple phone call was. Had I sent an email, I may have never had an appointment at all. And if I was planning on going there and making an appointment in person, their books may have already been filled.

So despite my love for emails, they aren’t always the most effective way to get your message across.

In fact, a Harvard Business Review study found that a request made through email is 34 times less successful than one made face-to-face.

In other words, you may have to send 34 emails to make sure that your request is fulfilled/accepted/read.

Sounds like too much, isn’t it?

Who would want to get 34 emails to get their message across (or make a sale)? And what brand would like to write and send as many emails?

That, of course, depends on the audience, niche, industry, and the cadence of the emails.

Don’t let this stat discourages you, or think that 34 emails would make your entire list vanish into thin air.

I’ve got some good news.

Emails and mental effort

Many small business owners I talk with have similar struggles with email marketing -

  1. Being consistent is hard

  2. The strategy + what-to-talk-about part is missing

  3. The lack of feedback can discourage even the most resilient of entrepreneurs

And while I can help with all of those through Email Muscles (the waitlist for the next cohort is now open - get in!), the third point is what I want to focus on today.

When you send emails and don’t get any replies or clicks, it can be heartbreaking. Business owners who don’t get such feedback may think “Why do I even bother writing and sending emails then?”.

One thing you could do to improve those is train your subscribers early on as a part of your welcome experience. You want to make sure that you set the expectations right and encourage your subscribers to interact with your emails when they’re the most engaged with your brand, which is when they first subscribe to your list.

But even when you do that, not all emails are going to be a hit.

Let alone if you haven’t set the scene right, which is the case with many small business owners and their lists.

Aside from the “Is it even worth it” question, such business owners ask themselves “Do my subscribers even like me?”.

The answer is yes.

Here’s why:

  • The mental effort of replying to an email

Let me ask you this - when was the last time that you actually hit reply and shared your thoughts on a newsletter that landed in your inbox?

Very few people would answer “last week”, or “just the other day”.

Replying to emails is much harder “mental heavy lifting” than opening, clicking, or even reading an email. The energy it requires leads many people to just not reply at all.

In fact, most business owners I know (including myself) have seen most of their sales coming from people who have never replied or rarely clicked on any emails.

So even though you want to have conversations with your subscribers (and I highly recommend you encourage that), the lack of replies/feedback isn’t always a bad sign.

  • The mental effort of deleting or unsubscribing from a list

Many brand owners are afraid of losing subscribers they worked so hard on getting on board, to begin with.

Some of them even send fewer emails than they probably need to because of the fear of “annoying subscribers”.

This attitude can’t be more wrong.

Most people don’t care about your emails, and I’m writing this with all the love and compassion I can virtually offer.

Deleting your emails is easy, and doesn’t require a lot of thought or effort.

Getting annoyed with emails, on the other hand, is maybe the highest level of a conscious effort for someone to pull off. On top of that, unsubscribing requires taking action, which is always a hard task (so if anything, I’d take it as a compliment!).

Another point to remember is that we, ourselves, give a lot of grace when it comes to unsubscribing from an email list. Most of us will give senders multiple chances before doing so. So the next time that you see someone unsubscribing from your list, remember - they’ve thought long and hard about it.

Unsubscribers are inevitable, even if you only send highly valuable emails and rarely try to sell anything.

You’re not for everyone, so your emails aren’t either.

And you don’t know where you met your subscriber in their journey when they signed up or where they are today.

They might not need your solution anymore. They might not be in the right headspace to read your emails right now. There could be 1001 reasons why they chose to stop getting your emails.

Last but not least, unsubscribes are a form of feedback, and a wonderful way to keep your list clean and hygienic - a win-win situation for everyone.

  • The Liking Gap

Let’s remember that email is a conversation.

A study from Yale’s Department of Psychology found a significant gap between how much people like us and how much we think people like us after having a conversation.

That phenomenon is called “The Liking Gap”.

And remember that emails are 34 times less successful in getting the message across than IRL?

So not getting many replies to your emails or not getting sales out of them can easily deplete you and make you think that your subscribers just… don’t like you.

Well, they do. Otherwise, they would’ve unsubscribed and blocked your emails by now.

So the next time you don’t get as many responses or sales out of your emails, keep in mind that your subscribers like you, probably more than you know or think.

They're probably distracted, stressed, and already overwhelmed as it is.

You, on the other hand, either don't send enough emails to stand out, or could use auditing your email strategy.

And if you had to make the same ask (a sale, for example) in real life, the likelihood of you making it happen would’ve been much much higher.

It's not always your fault, it's the medium.

All that being said, email is still the marketing channel with the highest ROI out there. Keep sending emails. Send more emails (if they provide real value and maintain a healthy balance between giving value and sales). And keep your head up. You’ve got this.

Wonder how you can see that ROI from your emails? Let’s chat.

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