by Uncle “Judge” Alan R. Bechtold
Misleading e-mail subject lines are a pet peeve of mine. I want you to know that right up front. I’ve ranted more than once about deceptive e-mail subject lines. One of my “favorites”: the addition of the word “personal” in the subject line on any message being sent to a list of any size. For any reason.
To state it even more clearly … if an e-mail is being sent to more than one person, it isn’t personal. That’s about as basic as you can get — right?
Because this matter is close to my heart, I’m especially pleased to don my official robes and present to you my first case serving as Judge Uncle Alan on the Media Court bench. It’s an even worse case of subject line subterfuge. Worse than mass-mailed non-personal messages with the word “personal” in their subject lines.
This error in judgment occurred on October 15, 2010. At least, that’s when I received the offending e-mail in question. It was addressed as coming from Matt Bacak.
The subject line was:
“Ticket no 4JK94U - Outstanding Affiliate Commissions”
The e-mail started out like this:
“Hi Alan, WOW! THIS IS AMAZING G Sneak, the software tool that has helped rake in $86,143.08 in less than 30 days is on fire and getting incredible reviews already! http://yescheckit.com/GoogleSneak”
And it ended like this:
“Even if you are a total newbie with *ZERO* previous experience you can get started right away* http://yescheckit.com/GoogleSneak Kind Regards,
Nothing in between was any more personal than that, either. All of it directed me to this Website:
Matt’s a very sharp marketer. I know him and like him personally. I marvel at some of his copywriting and promotional prowess. He’s sent out many emails before and after this one that were dead-on excellent. That only made it worse when I saw this email land in my in-box. It’s just so wrong-headed, I did a couple of double-takes, to make sure it really came from Matt.
The subject line’s the obvious culprit here. There’s nothing wrong with the overly commercial nature of the e-mail itself. It’s mercifully short and to-the-point and Matt’s not at all shy about sending straight-up offers from time to time. He’s usually an artist at it.
This subject line, however, starts right off slamming a hammer against my forehead. The use of the “Ticket ID” number implies it’s a support issue of some kind. Even when I don’t know the sender, I’ll usually open these to see what they’re about. I might not remember the incident … but I’m sure as hell gonna’ make sure I’m not missing something important. Just in case. I’m pretty sure Matt was banking on me thinking that way.
The fact that the rest of the subject line indicates it’s a matter of commissions waiting to be paid just digs the hole deeper. Who can resist the possibility there are commissions they somehow misplaced? I’ve promoted for Matt before. There might have been a mix-up somewhere.
Upon opening the e-mail, however, it got worse. I instantly saw it had nothing at all to do with any kind of ticket system response or support issue. Or missing commissions.
The email wasn’t related to the subject line in any way. There wasn’t even a cutesy attempt to “tie in” the body of the message to the subject line. Something like “hey – you COULD be getting messages about where to send your money and I set it up as a ticket because this is an emergency – you’ll miss out if you wait any longer.”
Something like that.
With no tie-in whatsoever, however, it’s a completely disjointed communication that directly slams the door on my receptiveness to the sales message itself.
I opened the message. Matt got that part right. But I was instantly turned off the moment I started reading. Turned off by the tactic, and turned off to an offer that I otherwise might have at least paid more attention to.
Listen to the judge. The judge I’m referring to here ain’t me. It’s the market. The market’s tired of this sort of game. They reject this kind of trickery and it turns away more people than it sells.
Now – maybe Matt was thinking this is going out to his list and they all know him, so they’ll know what he’s up to and open the e-mail, to see the trick. Then they can all laugh with him. If that’s Matt’s defense here, I’ll listen – but I ain’t buying it.
What about the newcomers to Matt’s list?
Matt’s a voracious list-builder. He’s bound to have a few hundred or even several thousand newcomers recently added to his list. They’ll receive this and won’t understand what he’s doing here and how it just may be a marketing message in the form of a good-natured jab. An inside joke.
“I know you know what I’m doing, and I know you know, but isn’t it fun the way I made you open the e-mail anyway?” Something like that.
The fact is, I only opened this e-mail because it came from Matt and I know Matt. I’ve been on his list a long time now.
I might even doubt a “Support Ticket” email coming from an unknown source. If they’re from someone I know, however, they damned well better really be responding to a ticket I opened requesting assistance.
That’s why I’m declaring this move a huge tactical blunder and leaving it up to you, dear jury, to decide if I’m right.
Talk among yourselves. Matt – you’re welcome to dive in and argue your case on your behalf.
The clock is ticking.