Carrie Stiller Says: "Are You Smoking Crack?…

emailgirlYou always ask that question to other people so now I ask you, ARE YOU SMOKING CRACK? You told my boss that we shouldincrease the number of e-mails we send out? You were joking, right? You know our company. We can barely do one e-mail every other week and now you want us to dosix times that? SHOOT ME NOW.”
Dear Carrie.
Nope, not smoking crack although I must say that it should accompanymany clients’ first payments these days. (“Here’s your retainer fee and a little something extra for the stress we know we’re going to cause you…”)
As for SHOOTING YOU NOW, I know where you work. That’s torture enough for you.
The problem with your company is that youfolks approach every e-mail like you are creating the next Sistine Chapel.
Last I counted, there are eight departments and over thirty people involved in every e-mail and that’s BEFORE it’s deployed. I get that you are a REALLY big organization and that a lot of people need to be in the loop. However, I’ve also seen the comments that go to your creative team and most of them are nit-picky, “move this 1/64 of an inch so it lines up exactly” scrawls written by some wackadoodle-run-amok that feels they need to mark their territory like a dog, er, with a red pen.
A couple quick facts about e-mail –
E-mails are meant to be acted upon IMMEDIATELY, not saved and/or printed out to read later. The cold, harsh reality is that e-mails have a very short shelf life (typically less than 48 hours) so the faster you get thereaderto your site (or on the phone, if that’s your preference), the better. That requires strategy, not the random navel pontification of design tangents.
E-mails are NOT meant to be wall art. I know. I know. Your dreams of millions of customers printing out your e-mails, framing them and hanging them over their fireplaces have just been shattered. Spending days and days developing and honing the “perfect” e-mail is a complete exercise in futility. People who feel the need to change the red burst from cherry to fire-engine colored should be shot public-execution style. Period.
Most of your e-mail success will happen outside the envelope. The majority of your e-mail success will come from the To, From, Subject Line, Format, Deliverability and the first 1-2 inches of your e-mail. In other words, perfecting the “guts” (aka the body of the email) is often a colossal waste of time. I’m not saying that creative isn’t important — IT IS — but you’ll likely get more bang from your buck by getting the six things I listed above right.
If you focus on what’s really important, getting out e-mails will be so MUCH easier and as an added bonus you’ll reduce your need for bullets and/or cocaine.
Please note: the six times frequency that Carrie describes above is not meant for all companies. It could be more or it could be less for yours. If you need help figuring out how many times you should be mailing, write us today at


  1. DJ Waldow says

    Amy –

    I agree 100% that an email does not need to be “perfect” but at the same time, one must be sure to not get nominated for the “Oopsy Hall of Fame” ( as Chad White calls it. As a guy who helps clients think through their email campaigns, I always preach the following: Send timely, targeted, relevant emails to those that have subscribed. Simple phrase, yet not always simple to implement.

    Finally, how do we get all email marketers to print this baby out?

    “The majority of your e-mail success will come from the To, From, Subject Line, Format, Deliverability and the first 1-2 inches of your e-mail.”

    Love it.

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community at Blue Sky Factory

    • says

      Thanks for commenting DJ. As you know, I am a big Blue Sky Factory Fan.

      Your “how do we get all e-mail marketers to print this baby out?” made me laugh out loud. Since I am a firm believer in e-mails being acted upon, not just read or saved for later, perhaps we can just tattoo it into their right arms or something? I’ll hold ‘em down while you brand ‘em, ok?

  2. Luke Glasner says

    Hi Amy,

    One thing that many of those people that send time moving things a 1/64th of an inch don’t seem to realize is that how an email looks on their screen is not necessary how it will look on the screen of the subscribers receiving the email. A good email marketer will preview it across platforms and clients either manually (not advisable) or with a tool.

    Also they might want to consider that most email clients block images by default, so they should also take into account what the email looks like with images off. Sometimes you should just get it out already and stop nit picking it apart. Timing matters.

    Your six items above probably determine about 90% of the success of any given email. As for branding that statement on email marketers, if they’re any good it should already be branded in their heart.

    Talk Soon,

    Luke Glasner
    All the News Fit to Send

    • says

      Luke — FANTASTIC points! A sincere thanks for making them. I always find it amusing when I get a blank e-mail from one of those super big companies you just know spends $10,000 an e-mail through their agency. E-mails definitely need to work WITHOUT any images.

  3. @JamesFowlkes says

    The best email marketing messages I receive(i.e. the ones I actually open and read rather than deleting) contain no graphics whatsoever. The steps go similar to what you mention:
    1) From – I know this person, I wonder what she has to say today
    2) Subject – This is KEY, The subject lines must be good convince me to open the email
    3) First 1-2 lines – have to be almost headline worthy, which gets me to continue reading the email body

    I could push delete at any one of these steps if I my interest wanes. This what goes through my mind. I imagine this is how most people’s brains work,… or not and I am totally insane. Muahaha! Thanks for sharing your e-mail “Secret Sauce”, Double-A.
    Posted at 03:30 pm on August 04, 2009 by @JamesFowlkes

  4. DJ Waldow says

    Amy – Thanks for being a BSF Fan! We love you too…I like your tattoo idea. Want to go in together?

    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community at Blue Sky Factory


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