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According to unofficial studies, a marketing email that makes a prospect yawn is more than twice as likely to get marked as spam.

Q: I read that email marketing has the potential to bring my small business big prospects, so I fired up my computer and began sending missives to my list of prospects. A week later, my inbox is so empty that I’ve started reading spam just to comfort myself. What am I doing wrong?

A: After reading the email you sent out, we can definitely point you in the right direction. First, though, we need to ingest copious amounts of caffeine, because that long, boring, self-serving message sent us straight to snooze-land!

For starters, 2,500 words is far too long. Business owners are busy people. They don’t have time for the electronic equivalent of War and Peace. It’s going straight to the trash.

Secondly, your email sounds like it was written by a graduate of “Bob’s Discount School of Boring Business Practices.” Droning on and on in bland, beige prose is not going to earn you a single reply.

Finally, your email is a self-serving sales pitch devoid of value for the reader. You’ll be lucky to avoid a tsunami of “unsubscribe” requests.

Here are four steps to better marketing emails:

  1. Get to the point in the first few lines, and keep the whole thing short and sweet.
  2. Inject personality into your marketing emails. We’re not saying you should be inappropriate or flip, but neither should your prose sound as if it’s coming from an academic writer explaining algebra.
  3. Don’t overtly pitch your product or service. Readers want to know what’s in it for them, not what’s in it for you. An email should offer something of value, such as a bit of advice, a great deal, a free download or a product sample.
  4. Include a strong call to action. This will entice the reader to at least visit your website, if not purchase something from you.