What is it that makes people that specialize in not-email feel compelled to write about email? 

Wading through my morning Inbox today I noticed a post, “10 E-Mail [sic] Commandments“.  Having spent all these years in the email space I figured that maybe I should check it out to see if I’ve been living a clean email life.  Commandments? “Tips”, sure, but Commandments?  Not hardly….

Before I get too far along I have to say that I usually enjoy posts by the columnist.  Instead of dissecting the writer’s Commandments, let me just list what I think the Real Email 10 Commandments should be.

1. Permission is Sacred.  Email is permission-based.  You cannot legitimately buy or sell someone else’s permission, it comes directly from the recipient.  Permission may be revoked by the recipient at any time for any reason.

2. Respect the Recipient.  Each email address represents a person so treat it accordingly.  Honor opt-outs when they happen.  Be relevant in time and content to the recipient.  Live by the expectations you set.

3. Be Relevant.  Segment by declared and/or implied interests.  Ask questions of your subscribers and target to their answers.  Power boaters don’t care about standing rigging, and sailors don’t care about trim tabs, but both as boaters care about lifejackets.

4. Provide Value.  What information can you provide to engage the recipient and earn their trust? What are you promising the recipient and why should they care?  What is in it for them?

5. Call for Action.  Tell the recipient what you want them to do.  Ask for the order – Buy Now; Subscribe Here; Share with your Network – whatever it is.  Don’t waste time on subtly.

6. Tend Your Reputation.  You are known to ISPs by the mail you send.  Your recipients reaction to your messages – do they open it or click? do they mark as spam? do they filter it away? – will have impact in forming your reputation with ISPs; as will properly configured authentication, and reverse DNS.

7. Keep it Clean.  Your subscriber list, that is.  Promptly remove any spam complaints and hard-bounced records.  Set limits on how many times a recipient’s messages soft bounces before being suppressed.  If you can’t win them back, remove non-responders that fall outside normal buying cycles.

8. Benchmark Metrics.  Measure against your own benchmarks over time by recipient, by message, and by program.  Look at operational statistics, list growth and attrition, and financial value by recipient, by message, and by program.

9. Test, test, test.  Test against your assumptions; test subject lines; test value propositions; test calls to action; test with purpose and reason.  Apply the results as you continually test against your own benchmarks.

10. Follow the Law.  Be sure to follow any email laws of the country you are mailing in and to.  Following the letter of the law does not guarantee reaching the recipient.

So how did I do?  And without ever using the b-word….