Carol Roth Blog
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

Why I Don’t Read Your E-mails


You are in a competition and you don’t even know it. You are one of the billion, jillion e-mails in my inbox, trying to get my attention. Most of the time, you aren’t succeeding. And no, it isn’t because of response rates, or spam filters, or me (I am very responsive to people I know).

It’s all because of you – or more specifically, the language you use. Here is why I never click on your e-mails:

You are shouting at me. You barely know me. We haven’t even been properly introduced. But sure enough, here you are ordering me around: “Don’t miss out, Rich!” “Are you coming to this event, Rich?” “Rich, this is amazing!” Here is what is really amazing: you think that I will respond to words you would probably never, ever use with your own mother.

It’s even worse when you use the formal name from my credit card. The only time I am ever called “Richard” is when my wife is mad at me, which thankfully, isn’t very often. All of the Gertrudes and Elizabeths and Reginalds out there would probably tell you the same thing.

The law of scarcity doesn’t work in my inbox. There is a special place in hell reserved for people who send me e-mails saying, “Watch this free video: next 48 hours only!” Do you know how busy my next 48 hours are? If you did, you wouldn’t send me an e-mail with a subject line like this.  Either that or you need to have a talk with whomever is only letting you post things for 48 hours.

There is more involved here than my time, of course. I’ve read Cialdini’s weapons of influence too. They might work for an end-of-year used car deal or some such promotion. But, if you are going to try the old false-urgency trick with me in an e-mail subject line, you are essentially saying that you don’t respect my time… And will probably try to snocker me into more time-limited deals forever after.

You blew it the first time. You dangled some freebie in front of me to get my name on your list. Say, “How to triple your speaking income in three weeks.” So, I signed up for it, read it, and it didn’t triple my speaking income in three weeks – usually because to learn your real secret, I have to pay to join your platinum circle or whatever.

I discovered something amazing years ago with my own free talks and webinars: taking my very best content and leaving it all on the field gets me a lot more business than hoarding “secrets” for the paying few ever would. If doing this would be like giving away the store for you, fine, but at least trade my time for something that keeps me coming back for more.

So, is there anyone whose e-mail I do open? Sure – lots of people. Usually, they either make me smile or teach me something that really helps me. For example, just about anything from Michael Port, Phil Gerbyshak, or our genial host Carol Roth is going to be an a-ha moment for me. They are all welcome in my inbox anytime.

So, here’s the good news: you have a lot more control over your e-mail click-through rates than you think you do. Just stop shouting, amp down the urgency, and find some way to benefit me. And please, don’t call me Richard.

Is there something that is an immediate inbox turnoff for you? Please share in the comments below.

Article written by
Rich Gallagher is a former customer service executive and practicing therapist who heads the Point of Contact Group. His books include two #1 customer service bestsellers, “What to Say to a Porcupine” and ”The Customer Service Survival Kit: What to Say to Defuse Your Worst Customer Situations,” both released by AMACOM. He has taught over 30,000 people what to say in their worst customer and workplace situations.

I didn't send you an email but I really want to. There is no easy way to get someone's attention, is there? I agree with your points whole-heartedly. There are enough ads, businesses and people out there pushing their "stuff" on you that when it invades your inbox it simply becomes spam. That and advice. I get more advice than i can shake a stick a stick is going to do anything anyway.


Nicely said Rich.

Latest blog post: I Want That Shirt


Great reminders @Richgallagher that real influence isn't manufactured by using the latest and greatest triggers - but by building a relationship over time. Intrinsically we know this - we'd never shout at grandma or at someone sitting next to us - but in e-mail, we worry about cutting through the clutter and look for shortcuts, when in reality, there are none.


Although I would say there is one: Be real faster. Stop with the crap, and start out with the goal of building a relationship with me. If you can be real faster, and do away with the crap, we can be friends faster and then I will open your email. And I might even respond to them. :)


To intensify your point, I must say that there is an established, unspoken, and deeply engraved custom, where unfortunately, untactful, aggressive and intrusive verbal mannerisms are considering good and an effective business.


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