12 Ways Readers Respond to Your Email


In email marketing, one thing you learn pretty quickly is that sending your email is only the half of it. The next part (and arguably the most important) is what happens after the reader receives the email. You track opens and clickthroughs, as well as other metrics, but even this doesn’t provide the whole story.

There are many questions that go through the mind of a business: How did my subscriber feel about my message? Why did they open it? Was it brand loyalty and an eye-catching subject line? Was the message relevant to them and did they find it interesting? You should put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes, and ask what you would do if you received your own email. Whether the campaign worked or not depends on the many things your readers do when they get your mail. Here are twelve ways they can respond to your message:

1. Respond. Your message resonated with the subscriber and motivated a response (ie., purchase, order, donation, renewal, or some other type of action).

2. Subscribe. You’ve engaged them and have received their vote of confidence that you will continue to provide great content or something of value. When they want to continue receiving your emails, they’ll “subscribe.” This is the ultimate achievement.

3. Spread. They find the content interesting enough to “spread” to anyone and everyone via a blog, Twitter or other social networks they belong. Hence, the email becomes viral.

4. Forward. The content is not only useful to them, but also to other people they know personally. They simply “forward” the email to friends, family and colleagues.

5. Save. The content is so relevant that they “save” it to revisit at a later time.

6. Shift. They are so deeply affected, in a positive way, by the content of your email that it “shifts” some of their values and beliefs. In other words, they find the email content to be transformative.

7. Assess. They find the content interesting and “assess” its relevance and value for them personally and professionally.

8. Scan. They “scan” it for relevance, get right to the core of the content, and skip the rest.

9. Skip. They make an assessment that it might be worth reading at a later time. In this case, they have not necessarily written you off yet, but if you repeatedly send content that is worth “skipping,” the recipient might write you off for good.

10. Delete. Perhaps the subscriber no longer fits the demographic, the message isn’t relevant to them, email or subscription best practices weren’t followed, or frequency isn’t satisfactory.

11. Unsubscribe. They “unsubscribe” because the message is not relevant, useful or of value to them.

12. Mark as Spam. If your email is not relevant or interesting to them, does not provide a reasonable Return-on-Interaction (ROI), is sent too frequently, or is simply self-serving or useless, they will mark it as spam. Sending email that is marked as “spam” is the fastest way to ruin credibility and lose trust.

As you can see, measuring the success of your emails is much more than just looking at open and clickthrough rates. Readers respond in so many ways to the messages that you send. It’s always important to recognize the desires and interests of your subscribers and write emails that cater to these needs.

A good email message answers a reader’s question or changes their beliefs about your business. It’s not always best to focus on selling. Sometimes it’s good to focus on building relationships with our customers. This can be achieved by sending emails that focus on informing your customer of your business’s community action plan, for instance. Remember: Too many emails and the wrong focus can affect your business’s image.

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