Don’t Say This!

Don’t say what, now?

“We Hate Spam” and “We Won’t Spam You.”

You see it on just about every email list signup form: “We Hate Spam!” and/or “We Promise Not to Spam You!” It’s really, really stupid to use your precious form real estate to say this, and if you think about it, you’ll realize why.

It’s tough to get people to give you access to their inboxes. The vast majority of email is spam, and certainly they don’t want any more, and you want to assure them you’re not spammer scum. Yet what this “assurance” really does is remind them that they’ll be getting more email, and the obvious question is, do they really want it? Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t: but now you have planted doubt. Your newsletters might be fantastic, but they won’t know unless they subscribe and judge for themselves how useful your information is. Many potential subscribers hesitate, and move on. You’ve lost the opportunity to bring them value.

Setting the Tone

In other words, it’s a negative message, and why would you want to associate your product or service with such negativity? This stage of the game is all about setting the tone, and this kind of wording associates you and your site with irritation. If you’re going to say something, make it a positive message: remind them your newsletter adds value, you’ll be brief, and that you respect their privacy. All of those are great things in this harried world, while spam is a massive burden. Keep your message positive by showing you’re responsible and respect their time, rather than introduce worry.

That’s why my subscribe forms are very brief and positive — “Your Privacy is Our Policy.” — rather than a reminder of one of the things that really suck about being online. Those who do have worry in their mind can click through to see what my policy is, and be reassured. But I don’t use negative words that give them pause.


4 thoughts on “Don’t Say This!”

  1. LOL In Canada there is a law that prohibits spam although I honestly don’t know how it is enforced. All legitimate listservs require you confirm that you want to receive the mail.

    • There is such a law in the U.S., too. There are legitimate reasons to put someone on a list without an opt-in, though, such as a paying customer list. You don’t, for instance, have to click “Confirm” when you buy something from Amazon (but you can bet they honor it when you opt out of newsletters and marketing emails), and this is a “legitimate” function that ESPs usually allow. I’ll expand more on this later.

  2. There is a newsletter I follow called “Remember the Ice” that your post reminded me of.

    Bob’s simple premise is: Words such as “don’t” “won’t” and other negative terms can’t actually be processed in our minds. “Don’t think of a blue elephant” simply makes us picture that blue creature.

    The sign “Don’t Forget the Ice” didn’t help sales until Bob changed it to “Remember the Ice.” Then business picked up.

    You might like to see a person who is on the same path as you regarding better word choice and the power that eliminating negative terms can bring to us.

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