FOMO – The wrong approach to email marketing

Maybe I’m just showing my age but I get frustrated by social media and the wider world of email marketing using FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) as a way to try to get me to read their content and engage.

Essentially it’s just a stream of people – some of whom I know – wanting to tell me stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an isolationist but if someone wants to tell me something then just tell me.

The problem has 2 distinct streams:

Stream 1 – I opted-in

Even though I have given someone permission to communicate with me (i.e they have stuck to the rules‘ and got my opt-in or even double opt-in permission) doesn’t mean they can have as much of my time as they like. These senders think that just because I have opted-in means they can do what they want!

I know, why don’t I just opt out? Often it isn’t that simple. Let’s take social media. The classic, fully opt-in platforms. First, let me say I spend very little time just browsing social media, to be honest, I don’t know where people find the time? Most of my engagement with social media begins with an email – and this is where my problem starts…

Here’s the scenario: I receive an e-mail that says. So and So has updated their status click here to log in and read more…

The reason they do this is because the sender of the e-mail (Facebook, Twitter, Blog owner etc.) wants me to stop what I am doing, switch to their platform (maybe even having to log in) before I can read the status update. Why can’t they just put the basics of the ‘Status Update’ there in the e-mail? With this knowledge, I can decide whether to log in and read further. As it is, I find myself increasingly simply deleting these emails. If the status update is that important, I will find out another way. Normally, it isn’t!

The situation is little better with many opt-in email marketers. Too often, they use the Sender Name and Subject Line of an email as ‘Teasers’; not trying to communicate anything useful, just applying FOMO to get me to open their e-mail. Normally, if I do open the message, I am disappointed.

Stream 2 – The unsolicited email

Now things start to get a bit more contentious. In theory, unsolicited emails should be a thing of the past. Data regulation and GDPR were intended to put the control in the hands of the data subject (i.e. you and me), yet mass email marketing continues. Here again, there is too much use of FOMO to try to make recipients open emails. E-mail marketers should have the courage of their convictions and let recipients know what they want as quickly and easily as possible. However, there is another side to consider.

Why unsolicited email can be a good thing

There has been a good deal written and debated about the problem of Data Bubbles. By restricting the ability to communicate only with those people who have expressed an interest in hearing from you means that people only ever hear what they want/expect to hear – whether it is true or not! Sure, if you have access to the mass media of TV and Radio then getting a message to a wide audience is pretty straightforward.

However, for most people without TV and Radio backing, even using Social Media and the wider internet, building an audience can be a slow process, particularly if your message is more niche and not designed for mass appeal. The challenges are exacerbated if you wait for people to find you when there are few opportunities for them to do so. If you have a message to communicate and you find one or more people where there is a clear fit between your message and these people, why not tell them?

For example, it may be reasonable to send an unsolicited email about your specialist technical service to a list of businesses who, because of the nature of their work, are almost certain to use that service. Not so to send a message about your marketing services to any business because they might need marketing services!

A better approach

When sending a marketing email, why not use the Sender Name and Subject Line (which I am almost bound to read) to let me know what the message is about? I might not click through to read as many but I am more likely to want to read the content of those I do.

At the end of the day, the key is 2 things:

Respect and Honesty.

You must always respect the fact that anyone you send a message to is giving you their time. Message senders should always make it as easy as possible for a recipient to get an understanding of the essence of the message and decide whether to continue reading. If the only way you can do this is to use FOMO then maybe you should think again about sending the message.

You must be honest with yourself about the relevance of your message to your target audience. The ‘send and hope‘ approach simply isn’t good enough. If you aren’t prepared to stand up and justify the (objective) reasons why your target audience has a fit with your message then maybe you should consider the merit of sending it.

Filed under: E-mail Best Practice, Social Media Marketing

About David Wright

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Every business has a brand. Building yours can be the best way of adding sustained value to your business. A strong brand also builds market confidence and creates a great platform from which to develop sustainable business opportunities.

I combine professional marketing qualifications and experience with a solid understanding of real business to discuss and advise on building your business brand using effective marketing communication in a down-to-earth, no jargon way.

As well as discussing plans and strategies I am keen to 'get my hands dirty' and work with clients to make sure things happen!

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My business goals are to achieve effective, long term relationships with clients, to deliver real benefit and to help clients drive their business forward.


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I work on clarifying your goals then developing and implementing practical marketing to help you achieve them.

Extensive understanding on the internet and web marketing enables me to tap into highly cost-effective tools to achieve effective, sustainable marketing at realistic budgets.

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