When it’s acceptable to barge in with an email

We all know that effective emails to our customers need to benefit them, but are the ones we send actually doing that? It can be a frightening exercise, but take a look back at what you’ve emailed out recently. Most of those I receive fall into one of four categories. How would you categorise yours?

1. Useful information, brought to you by the company
I’d like to think that these emails fall into that category. It’s what I’m aiming for, anyway. This type of email does not normally sell the company’s services, but the idea is to make the sender seem competent by association. It’s playing a long game.

2. A description of a customer need and something which might help
This covers most conventional good sales emails. It takes the product or service being promoted, and flips things round to focus on why the customer might need the benefits which it brings. Best for an immediate response.

3. Product or service description
Just a weak and far less productive version of the above. The email is all about the sender, and at best just elicits the response “so what?”. Still, it’s by far the most common type of email out there. Poorly-written special offers fall into this category, when they so easily could be in the one above.

4. Impersonal, third-party description
I get these all the time, and I just don’t understand why companies send them. I guess they’re probably just sending out news items originally written as press releases. I’m not sure why a company thinks anyone would want to read an email which starts: “Company X has announced that it is…”, as if the email didn’t have Company X in the ‘From’ field. At best, boring. At worst, annoying.

People ‘own’ their email accounts and get very protective about them. If you’re going to barge in unannounced, you’d better make it worthwhile. Two of the categories will get the benefit of the doubt. Two most certainly will not.