Avoid These Common Email Mistakes
Email has been around for a while. Email passes the GLT (Grandma Litmus Test). Grandma has it. Sure, we pretend to be progressive. We laugh at the ‘email is so passé’ jokes. Then we excuse ourselves…and go check our email. We use it multiple times every day. So it’s easy to assume we understand email and know everything there is to know about the ol’ inbox.
We also drive our cars ever day. I can check the oil and the battery. Then I’m out. Ask me how the drive shaft works or get me to explain internal combustion and my answers would sound like the hilarious bit by comedian Tommy Johnagin helping his mom get iTunes.
My mom asked me,“How do I get iTunes?”
I said, “Go online. Find iTunes. Download it. Create a username and password. And you have iTunes.”
She said, “Are there spaces in that?”
She asked if there were spaces in a sentence I said out loud to her because she was typing it all into the browser bar as I spoke it…www.GoOnlineFindiTunesDownloadItCreateAUsernameAndPassword…And was going to hit “.com” and just fling all of that into the internet._
In spite of everything we know about email, I see these common email mistakes from church planters and pastors (and Grandmas) all the time. Here is how you can avoid them and one up your Grandma!
Mistake 1: Accidentally Spamming Your Recipients
Spam is sending an email to recipients, usually a large group, who did not want it. The double-whammy is when recipients have no way to “unsubscribe.” By the way, that is not a super-simplified definition of spam for the techno-illiterate. That is spam. (Doesn’t sound much more enticing than it’s canned meat counterpart.)
This is how I see it happen with church planters and pastors. You have something exciting or important to share about your church plant, your life or the life of your church. You’re ready to shout this news from the rooftops. You have wonderful motives. You pen the email. Next, you head to your address book and grab the email address for every friend, every relative, and every human you have ever met. You paste those 146 email addresses in the ‘To:’ field and hit send. Congrats. You just spammed your friends and loved ones.
If you find yourself needing to send email to large groups, you need an email marketing solution like MailChimp or Campaign Monitor. This includes an email about you, your church plant or your church. If you are a more established church, you may have Church Management Software to help you with this too (although I’m not a huge fan of how most CMS solutions attempt this). Whether you use an email marketing solution or your CMS, these solutions give recipients the option to unsubscribe or opt out of future emails. Good email marketing solutions also have built-in guardrails to alert you of any “spammy” behavior you may accidentally wander into without knowing.
Bottomline, avoid sending group emails from your regular, personal, email client (Gmail, Outlook, Mail, etc.). Get permission from people to send them email. Even if you are stoked about the email and positive they will want to hear from you, this is still spam. Give people any easy way to say “no thanks” to future emails. These steps will keep you from feeling unwelcome in inboxes…kinda like canned spam on your anniversary.
Mistake 2: Including a Picture (Logo) In Your Signature
Email clients are super dumb. Imagine Dumb & Dumber explaining the cosmos and human history. That is the IQ of Outlook, Gmail, Mail, etc. They are dumb browsers. And they all have their own preferences. Some are SEC college football fans. Some are die-hard duck hunters. Some are band geeks. They do not get along and read email exactly the same way. Messages get misinterpreted and jumbled up.
One huge mistake is to go through all the trouble to include a nifty graphic or image in your email signature. Common choices are your church logo mark or even a scan of your signature.
This is how I see it happen with church planters and pastors. You head to your email client of choice. You go to the signature settings. You spend the afternoon dorking with it and finally get your church logo pasted in the line below your name. You sit back and admire it as if you’re Picasso. You then assume this is exactly how it will appear when people read your emails.
The problem is, your dreamy signature with the nifty image is almost assured to fail in most email clients. It is hit or miss at best. Rather than try to explain it all, just trust me. The most you can expect is for some basic brand colors to translate and function in most email clients. While we’re at it, fancy fonts do NOT work either. Boring, I know (…I am a designer after all).
Mistake 3: Cc’ing When You Should Bcc
Let’s tackle these in order of familiarity. The “To” field is where you insert your email recipient or recipients. Nothing too mysterious there. The “Cc” field is for recipients you’d like to include in the email the loop (your indirect audience). I want to point out that every recipient in EITHER of those fields can see all included email address. For example, if you put Email Address A in the “To” field, and Email Address B and Email Address C in the “Cc” field, all three recipients can see each other’s email address and email any or all of those individuals. Often, this is on purpose and there is no problem. But sometimes one or more of the recipients does not want the other recipients to see or know his/her email address.
Get to Know the Oft-Neglected “Bcc” Field
Get to know the oft-neglected “Bcc” field. Use this field for recipients you’d like to include in the loop AND keep on the down low (top secret). Here are some common examples of when to use the Bcc field:
- Use the Bcc field to send email to larger groups (say, 10 or more)
- Use the Bcc field to send email to a group where the recipients do not know each other
- Use the Bcc field to protect the privacy of others on the list
Here is an example. Let’a say you have a special gift to send your top 8 financial supporters. These individuals are spread across the country and do not know each other. Take the 8 email addresses and paste them ALL in the “Bcc” field. Compose your message and send it along. Each recipient will receive your email. The only email address he/she will see is his/her own. If the supporter were to hit “Reply” or “Reply All” the email would come back to you alone.
Believe it or not, I have been on group emails where this was NOT practiced. I have been hit up by other recipients for something totally unrelated to the original email (and not something I wanted ‘hiting up’ on either). They lifted my email address out of the “To” or “Cc” field like a set of fingerprints. You know what’s worse than getting spammed? Getting two helpings of spam. When in doubt, protect people’s privacy and you will be appreciated.
Congrats. In a few minutes, you upgraded your email mastery. Next up, we will tackle the rotary dial phone (just kidding). See you next week.
Facing a challenge in your church plant I can help with? Just reply to this email. Chances are others are facing a similar challenge. Remember, you’re called to plant; I’m called to help.