Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past twenty years you’re probably hammered daily with emails.  In fact, you may even have so many emails that the “Unread” counter is going up on a daily basis and unfortunately, a lot of that email is probably SPAM and not directly targeted to you.

This was driven home recently when sending a single email to a contact and receiving the reply “Unsubscribe me.”  The email was relevant to the contact, personalized and they really should have found it interesting.  So what was the problem?

Email Tone

Although the email was relevant and personalized it was also promotional in nature.  We previously wrote about improving your email open rates and how you need to take care with your subject lines and opening sentences so that your message doesn’t appear to be junk.  Well, you also need to check the tone of your message.  Promotional messages all sound very similar and unfortunately spammers have really ruined the practice of targeted promotional emails.  Here are some things to avoid so you don’t trigger the delete button.

What to Avoid

Don’t point out that you’re unknown

Starting emails with “Let me introduce…” is a great way to get emails deleted in a hurry.  It’s also a good idea to stay away from using the recipient’s last name.  It isn’t that common to refer to people by last name in email these days.  This doesn’t mean you should pretend to know the person, but you don’t need to announce that you don’t.

Don’t Promote

Promotional language is easy to pick up on.  The moment you start promoting most recipients start reaching for the delete button.  Every SPAM email you get is promoting, we’re conditioned to delete them.  Whether the thing you are promoting is your product or yourself, you will have trouble when you start informing the recipient about something they never asked to be informed about.

So now that you’ve avoided the things you shouldn’t do, here are some things you can do instead of the above.

What You Can Do

Brag by Proxy

Have you ever noticed how people don’t like people who talk about themselves all the time?  It’s unfortunate I know, but there is a way to keep yourself likeable and still get the message out: Have someone else tell them how great you are.  Share a link with them in your email of some recent coverage saying good things about your products, especially if it’s from a source they would respect.  The mention may catch their attention and you’ll get better results than you would talking about yourself.  The key here is trying to link to a source that is very relevant to the recipient.

Keep it Short

Promotional messages also tend to be long, drawn out emails.  Differentiate yourself by keeping your email introductory and short.  After all, if you’ve followed the above step and are bragging by proxy there shouldn’t be a lot of content to put in your email.  If you can engage them with a short email and generate a response you’ve significantly improved your chances of being able to deliver “your pitch.”


Think of email as a conversation.  You wouldn’t walk up to someone you don’t know and go into a drawn out story about yourself and what you do (at least hopefully not).  Keep that in mind when you send your emails.  Ask yourself, does this sound too promotional?  Should I touch base first in a non-promotional way before sending my “information packet”?  Take a look at your inbox and find a few unsolicited emails that caught your attention and ask yourself why?  For those of us unfortunate enough to not catch everyone in the right place at the right time, try following the tips and track your performance so you can improve your chance of success.