Daily email blindness?

Philip Morgan

An excellent question from a TEI member, and an attempt at an answer from me, on the topic of daily email "blindness":

I wonder how the pattern of new CEOs having limited time to try bold things plays out in terms of a daily newsletter. Like, if you have a leadership team that is hearing from you in their inboxes almost every day, does the clock start ticking on potential impact you can have from day 1 that they’re signed up? Or from the first consultation and then the daily emails start to maybe slowly become noise?

IOW, how much time do you have before your writing practice starts working against you in a sense. Know what I mean? Or maybe it’s an unfounded concern.

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Such a great question. I think it's possible for constant presence in the inbox to lead to recipients setting up a filter, either physical or mental. I think this is more likely if the constant presence is irrelevant or unwanted. I think of pre-flight announcements on airplanes; what new thing am I possibly going to get from those? For me, headphones block them out every time.

This is why I worked for several years to make my emails entertaining ("infotainment"). I felt that it would reduce the likelihood of my emails getting filtered in that way. I don't mean spam filtering, but rather whatever version of "banner ad blindness" might happen with daily emails that aren't all that interesting.

My initial thinking about daily emailing was in the context of direct response marketing. In that context, the email is a response-getting tool, and so everything's optimized around that imperative.

Some time in 2018, I started to see daily emailing as a practice that accelerated cultivating expertise. Not in the same way stacking lots of similar client work can, but in a complementary way, by acclerating the point at which we hit the wall and quit or go deeper with our thinking, and accelerating the formation of points of view.

And in 2019, I started to see a tension between direct response marketing and the expectations around expertise.

All this has led me to a place where I see things a bit differently, at least in the context of selling expertise services:

  • Daily emailing's primary benefit is most likely to be cultivating expertise more rapaidly. It's less likely to be an ideal way of earning visibility, though it may be an ideal way of earning trust and offering a way for prospective clients to become actual clients. It's not that daily emailing can't earn visibility, earn trust, or provide a path by which prospects become clients. It's just that those will be secondary benefits relative to the expertise cultivation benefit.
  • When I think about my clients who are self-made experts and are successful at selling services that apply that expertise to "expensive problems", I model it this way: impactful/memorable experience of expert's expertise/POV + prospect's awareness of need/opportunity = engagement between expert and client.
    • This is more consistent with the brand marketing model, where something happenas to make the expert memorable to the prospect, and when the prospect becomes aware of a matching need/opportunity in their business, they connect with the expert. The direct response marketing model would operate by trying to agitate the prospect into taking action, and might use daily emailing the way password crackers try zillions of combinations of characters to attempt to crack a password.

This raises the question: what's the best way to create an impactful/memorable experience for prospects?

  • A good talk (IRL, remote, or via podcast) certainly works
  • A book can work
  • Can daily emailing work?

It can. Even if someone was on a daily email list for just a few weeks and then unsubscribed, that might be for them an impactful or memorable experience. Would it be equivalent to experiencing an impactful talk or book? Not exactly, but their time on a daily email list might have sufficient emotional/mental impact to live on in the memory of that person, waiting for the day that prospect needs the expert's help.

This brings up an interesting inversion of how we feel about unsubscribes. If you're giving a live talk, you're not dissapointed when attendees walk out of the room after the talk is over. It's expected they'll leave after the talk ends. Yet most of us feel a sting when someone unsubscribes from our email list. But what if they chose to "leave the room" of our email list after they've gotten what they wanted out of the experience? That's not much different than someone leaving after a talk is over, and not smething to feel dissapointed about.

I think there certainly are potential issues with daily emailing. Everyone in TEI at some point wonders what the fuck to do with all the output they create. :) If nothing else, it creates a content organization problem on their site if the emails also live on their blog.

If you use an infotainment style as I did for years, I do wonder how that might work against building a brand as an expert. It's fine for experts to be funny, but I don't know how silly they're allowed to be by the culture.

You mentioned the possibility that the "3-month CEO clock" might apply to us, and the clock might start the day someone subscribes to our list. Maybe. But when Marissa Mayer became CEO of Yahoo, did her years at Google subtract from how long she had to make drastic changes at Yahoo? (bad example I know because her impact at Yahoo might not have been very positive)

I think where I land is this: email daily for as long as you find it helps accelerate or sharpen your expertise. If you find that benefit tapering off, then start to think about how you use email to engage with your prospects from the perspective of brand marketing: how can email be the most generous possible gift to them? How can it create an impactful/memorable experience for some of them? That might lead you to a non-daily publicatiojnn frequency for your emails.

Again, this is all in the context of selling expensive services that apply expertise. If we're selling ebooks or low-priced digital products, we're playing more in the direct response context and can expect a different set of benefits and tradeoffs from daily emailing.


Reminder: I'm running a workshop on point of view next month. It'll make you smarter.

It's online, limited to 20 people, meets weekly at 10am Mountain time March 6 - April 24 (12 days from now!!), is introvert-friendly, gives you lots of support in exploring and formalizing your points of view, and costs $700. If this is of interest, you can sign up here: /pmc-csw-point-of-view