Email marketing is about right now

Clear-unread-Gmail-emails-1_thumbEvery morning, I open my inbox to a mountain of information. Some I care about, but most I don’t.

Hotels want me to book something. AppSumo wants me to buy something. Basecamp needs to tell me the milestones we reached the previous day. Amazon wants to tell me what new albums are out this week. Redbox wants to tell me what movies are now available. Papa John’s has a great pizza deal for me.

See the pattern? They are all about capitalizing on the moment. That’s what email marketing is about. It’s about getting my attention at that particular moment and presenting me with something that I need to take advantage of that moment – whether is reading more, watching a video or buying a product.

If your email marketing to me doesn’t have something I can take care of that moment, I’m going to ignore it and probably unsubscribe from your list. Don’t waste my time.

We seem to struggle with this idea in higher ed. I got this gem of email marketing recently. I’ll change the names to protect the innocent.

Dear Michael,

Like Ted Talk? Want to connect to your former professors from the Doctor College? Love Gallifrey University? Can’t make it to campus?

The Doctor Who College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts proudly introduces a new speaker’s series done through technology exclusively for Liberal Arts graduates. The Doctor Who Alumni Webinar Series will be launching soon and we’re interested in having you join us!

More details to follow in the coming weeks but we’re excited to launch this new initiative.

Hope to connect with you soon!


Dean, Dr. The Master

What is the point of this email? What is my call to action? In this case, nothing. I’m supposed to wait. This email leaves more questions than it answers. When will this series take place? Will it cost anything? What sort of topics will be covered? Can I sign up to get more information?

Why was this email sent? What was the pressing need to send me this information, with no actionable items in it?

This type of message is very higher ed. We often feel we need to say something just to stay it, rather than making sure our message is interesting and most importantly, has a clear call-to-action for the read of the email message.


Let’s use Apple as an example. They don’t promote anything or tease anything until they have a product ready to ship. Go back and watch past keynotes. They give a hard date, often the day of the announcement. If a product isn’t shipping that day, such as a Mac Pro, they’ve thoroughly explained the product, showed the specs and the price and given a date when the product will available.

What they don’t say is “We’re going to offer you a great computer to buy. Stay tuned!” They wait until they have something important to say.

A webinar series for alumni is a great idea. It’s a great way to connect with alums and drive some engagement. If I was promoting this series, I’d launch the series with gusto, sending out a coordinated print, web, social media and email marketing campaign showing off the speakers, topics and ways for alums to get involved.

This time, I think an opportunity was missed.