Blog post

The Fine Line Between Shock and Unsubscribe – From Your Reader’s POV

July 7, 2016

Why Writing for the sake of shock value could boost your unsubscribe rates.

I want to preempt this post with the idea that I am writing in from the perspective of a reader.  This post is NOT to tell you how to write your newsletters or blog posts…but simply to inform you of how they might be perceived.

I’m a little bit irritated right now…and I can’t totally put my finger on it.  I’m hoping that writing my feelings will help to clarify them a bit, so I apologize in advance if the thoughts are not strung together in a comprehensive way. (Truth be told…that also might just be the medication my doctor put me on today. *shrugs*)

A few minutes ago, I popped into my inbox to see what fresh hell I’d missed while I was out today…and sure enough, there was an email that stuck out like a sore thumb.  The newsletter was titled “Fuck this”.  Now, I’ll tell you RIGHT now, that is NOT what offended me.  I am actually QUITE fond of the word “Fuck”.


Yep…it’s the drugs.

Anyhoo!!  Intrigued, I gave it an open.  A short, three-sentence paragraph and two links were all that awaited me. To sum it up, it was geared towards the Black Lives Matter movement.

Before you all get bent out of shape…I actually AGREED with the politics of the newsletter!!  But that is beside the point.  I ALSO agreed with the “Unsubscribe” button at the bottom of the email.

Why? Because that is not what I signed up for.  I signed up for business advice, newsletter ideas, traffic tips…NOT a rally cry interrupting my business routine.  My mind was NOT prepared to make a decision on a political stance (which is what this newsletter was asking me to do)…it was prepared to learn how to boost repin rates!

So…what makes a shocking newsletter TOO shocking for your audience?  I’m no expert…so again, these I want to point out that these are all based on how I feel as a READER.

  1. A shocking title with crap content – Look…I GET titles.  I break down the importance of my title formula in this post. What I DON’T like, are titles that feel like a trap.  Titles that are intriguing and click-worthy…but lead to a pile of crap wrapped in turd paper. What do I LOOOOOVE? Content that lives up to what I clicked on!!  This is the reason I recommend writing your content FIRST!!  Your epic title will not only be click-worthy…but will lead to content I am expecting.
  2. A completely unrelated topic to your business – Oh MAN does this one piss me off!! The email I received today is a fine example. If I had signed up for a website that was politically geared…then this newsletter would have simply been opened and archived…or simply ignored. It would have been expected to some extent.  I imagine that, because of the title of the newsletter, the writer’s open rate was pretty good.  I also imagine, because of the political and completely unassociated topic of the email…so was her unsubscribe rate.
  3. No value to your reader – We give out our email addresses fairly sparingly…so to say it’s irritating when we get an email that gives us NOTHING in return for our time is an understatement.  I don’t know about you guys…but I get AT LEAST 100 emails a day, of which maybe I will open 10-15.  SO…if I open your email, I want something in return!  I know it sounds selfish…but I gave you my email address, damn it!
  4. You write to the wrong audience –  Look, I COMPLETELY understand the writer’s anger over the matter she was trying to bring to my attention…I just don’t think she expressed it in the right forum. Would you walk into a client meeting and start talking about your religion?  Or your stance on abortion?  Perhaps your ideas on the current political arena? No…because you don’t know your clients.  They are NOT your friends. I want to repeat that…THEY ARE NOT YOUR FRIENDS!!!  If you wouldn’t have these conversations with your clients face to face…don’t have them in your newsletters.

It’s simple…I expect a certain amount of professionalism in my inbox (SHINE THOSE “REPLY TO’S”, SOLDIER!)…so if you break ranks, I will simply unsubscribe, leaving you with less of a chance to make an impression or sell to me.

Yes…your newsletter audience is YOUR audience, and you should always be yourself.  That is what attracted them in the first place!  But at the same time, as a reader, I don’t want to be preached to…I want to be taught.

Until next week, my friends…keep it professional and fuckityfuckityfuckfuck!!  😀

Want to see the system I use to organize my (NON-click bate-y) emails?   Grab this 30-minute Airtable training…totes free!!!

  • I hear you, sometimes the shock value is a turn-off and will lead to me pressing the unsubscribe button… if I get that icky feeling about a share, it’s game over.

  • I agree and at the same time, don’t agree with you. First of all, let me tell you that I’m from a far, faaaarway land from the US, and the whole Black Lives Matter movement is something I just can’t relate to. However, since I follow a lot of US business folks, that’s all I’ve seen for the past week.
    I too, would’ve unsubscribed from that newsletter. I think that if someone gave me their address it would be because they are interested in something very specific from me.
    But I also try think that many of us are our own brand. And sometimes, when something like what’s happening in your country is very special to you, you can take a stance and let your followers know.
    Is your newsletter the right place to do it? No, not at all… from a business point of view. But it also gives a powerful message about where you stand with certain things.
    All in all, I think that you CAN take a political stance on something but the way the blogger did in her newsletter is not the right way to communicate it.

    • I do agree with you pretty much. I feel like you can, indeed, share your political stance in your business…you just have to do it in a way that makes sense with your business message! 🙂 In this particular case…it seemed as though the business owner was watching the news, saw a development in the movement, got mad and sent out a newsletter simply stating “F all of this!! We have to do something! Click the link to join the movement!” When it’s approached in that matter…it’s hard (as the receiver) to put your head in the right place to ACCEPT that email’s message. Like I said…I actually AGREE with her issues!! I just don’t want to get them in my inbox! 🙂

      Thanks for your wonderful and thought provoking response!! You make all the sense!

  • I don’t mind the shock, what I do mind is signing up for an informative newsletter only to be slammed with take my course to learn more. All of this get an unsubscribe. I give it 5-10 times and if that’s all I see, I’m gone. I have a pretty healthy newsletter subscriber base and I would never try to sell them anything. What I do give them is a peek inside of my life that I don’t share with my readers. My email subscribers get something others don’t. To me that’s what a newsletter is all about, not what you can sell. As for any political prose some may add into their newsletter, to me, it just shows another side to them, regardless if I share the same opinion or not. Try to sell me something, I’m gone. Share with me something your passionate about regardless if that’s against your brand, I’m sticking with them.

  • I come from a completely different school of thought where actually, the clients ARE your friends. And if your clients couldn’t be your friends because of too great personal differences, you have no business working with them, because after a while, it will become unbearable.

    When I say “clients”, I mean someone you spend a lot of time communicating with. I’m talking about deep, intense 1-on-1 work. I’ve been doing that for the past decade, and I know very well what kind of people I work with well, and what kind of people drive me up the wall (and I bet they feel the same about me).

    If your business model is to reach thousands of people who never get a chance to have a personal interaction with you, but only buy your products, then yes — keeping things “strictly business” may work much better. You’re going for the numbers here, so you don’t want to alienate anyone. You never have to talk to them, so what do you care if they’re red or blue, pro choice or pro life, hippies or industrialists… They’re not your friends. But they’re not your *clients* either, they’re your customers. That’s a whole different thing.

    Honestly, I appreciate the pure political rant with no pitch far more than I do someone masking their pitch under the guise of empathizing with the movement (which a famous online entrepreneur M.F. likes to do, and some people — me included — find it disingenuous and frankly, quite disgusting).

    I bet that email blast caused plenty of unsubscribes.
    I bet that the people who have remained on her list will now be 100 times more loyal to her business.
    Not all unsubscribes are for the worse — I manually unsubscribe inactive people from my list all the time.

    • Hi Nela! Thanks for chiming in!

      I actually agree (and disagree) with you on a few points!!

      I’ve been doing this for thirteen years with huge success as well…so I don’t think either of our opinions are wrong, we are just speaking to a completely different client base! You’re right…I do NOT see my clients and my readers as my friends. Just like in a 9-5, I see my readers more as co-workers. They are trying to get an ends to a mean, and I’m thrilled to provide that for them!! IF one of my readers reaches out to meet for coffee, start a weekly skype date, or do more than simply read my blog…then HELL yeah we can become friends!! For me, a friend is someone who wants to get to know ME (and vise versa).

      A huge part of a successfully blogging and doing business is to let your personality shine through your writing, work and brand…and I do that VERY well. My friends (actual friends) who’ve read the blog say that I write in the voice I chat them up with. I do NOT do one-on-one work, since that just isn’t the strongest business model for me…so if that’s the work you do, then it sounds like you’ve absolutely opened yourself up both professionally and emotionally to them. That’s tough to do! 🙂

      My business model IS to reach thousands of people…but it’s also to connect with them as well. That means “alienating” is absolutely something I want to do. This is why I’m so niched. This is ALSO why it would be frustrating for a reader who is expecting an email on Challenge Launching, to get an aggressive email on why I am pro-choice. It sounds to me that you’ve branded yourself to be more headstrong and open…which I LOVE. (Check out The Middle Finger project if you haven’t!!) If your readers receive an email with an off topic rant…then they probably won’t be AS surprised as I was!!

      This particular blogger used a title to pull me into what I thought would be a business discussion, but which turned into an early morning rant on politics. I have OTHER avenues where I get my political news and other venues where I discuss my frustrations. In an email to a list that has NOTHING to do with my views is not the place. I wouldn’t fault her AT ALL for putting the rant on her blog! That is HER home, HER forum and HER business. But don’t come into my inbox with it under the guise of something else. (Yep…I know who you’re talking about and it drives me UP THE WALL!!! Gotta love M.F. launch season. Head/desk.)

      I agree that all unsubscribes are not for the worse! In fact, I teach that getting unsubscribes is a great thing! That means you are starting to hone in on your audience and message. BUT, maybe I was her perfect customer. She lost me, not because I wasn’t interested in her business message, but because she jumped the track and went completely off topic. In today’s political arena…I want as little of that in my business as possible. If you put it on your blog, and I love what you say, I’ll join your newsletter because I expect your business AND strong political views in my inbox.

      Thanks again for chiming in Nela!! 😀

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