Easy Email Inbox: Reply to 3 Types of Messages (and Don’t Sweat the Rest)

"Not responding is a response." – Jonathan Carroll

When you run a content marketing platform, you’ll get other types of messages from your audience in addition to blog comments.

You’ll get emails.

Many people have a love/hate relationship with email. When it’s good, it’s really good — but when it’s bad, managing your inbox feels like a huge waste of time.

But like the blog comment policy you can create for your community, you can also post guidelines about the types of emails you will and won’t respond to …

Because as you continue to publish valuable content on your website, you’ll often find that a lot of the emails you receive aren’t actually from your audience members.

The messages I’m talking about are essentially spam, but not necessarily from automated bots.

Spam can be from actual people who mean well but lack an effective strategy. Spam can also be from actual people who are clueless.

For email management, I like to borrow a sentiment from a sign many brick-and-mortar businesses use:

“We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.”

A digital business has the same rights, and the customer service aspect of your content marketing duties doesn’t necessarily include responding to every message you receive.

Messages worthy of your time are relevant to what you do, so here are three questions you can ask to determine if an email you receive warrants a response.

1. Is this relevant to my business?

Respond to emails from prospects about doing business with you.

Sometimes you’ll need to guide prospects to the right product for their needs or give them more information about your services.

If someone is genuinely interested in doing business with you, but they need some help before they can commit, provide details and overcome objections.

2. Is this relevant to my brand?

Respond to emails from potential partners about developing your brand.

Sometimes you’ll get emails about collaborations or partnerships from other content creators.

These can be tricky because, unfortunately, they’re commonly not related to your brand and come across as spam (more on that below).

But getting thoughtful, intelligent opportunities from your peers is a rewarding part of building an audience. If you get an offer from someone you respect, responding is a smart move (even if you won’t be able to take them up on it).

3. Is this relevant to my content marketing platform?

Respond to clear customer service inquiries.

These messages aren’t from prospects who want to do business with you (right now), but they are from respectful people in your community who need help with some aspect of navigating your website.

It could be a question about which free ebook is right for them or which email list they should sign up for, if you cover different topics.

Make sure they get the proper guidance.

What does “the rest” look like?

“Not responding is a response.” – Jonathan Carroll

Here are some examples of other types of messages that are tempting to respond to, but investing time in them doesn’t protect your energy and productivity.

Emails that prompt you to give free advice

"Work with your followers; don't be intimidated by them." – Stefanie Flaxman

Free advice in the form of articles, podcast episodes, or email newsletters will likely be part of your content marketing strategy, but you’re not obligated to give away all of your knowledge for free.

While crafting your email policy, it’s a good time to determine what type of advice you’ll give away for free and what type of advice is part of your paid services.

Sometimes these types of emails will be the customer service inquiries mentioned above, but keep an eye out for advice questions that ask for too much.

As Copyblogger community member LJ mentioned in a comment on 5 Types of Audience Members You Can Safely Ignore:

“How about the one who says ‘I love your content, can you point me towards more sources on X topic?’ Only X topic is something that’s only tangentially related to yours, and it would take time to pull together anything useful for them …”

It’s not your job to do someone else’s content marketing research.

However, if the question inspires you to create new content, you can let the person know you’ll address it on your platform soon. That way, more people will benefit from your answer.

Emails not specifically intended for you

"I can't tell you how many cold sales emails I get from people who demonstrate they have no idea what my company does." – Sonia Simone

Generic emails written with templates require very little effort, so they appeal to those who don’t want to spend a lot of time on their marketing … but they also have a 0.00 percent* chance of achieving the sender’s desired result.

I don’t understand why people still send them.

Nonetheless, if you have an online presence and an email address, you’ll get a lot of emails from people who demonstrate they have no idea what you do. And promoting Their Thing is more important to them than your time.

You don’t have to entertain junk ads or pitches.

*No clinical research was performed to get this figure.

Emails with favor requests from strangers

"Forcing a project to completion, you ruin what was almost ripe." – Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

In the physical world, holding the door open for a stranger is a nice gesture.

In the digital world, you’ll quickly exhaust yourself if you hold the proverbial door open for strangers who ask for favors.

It’s wise to be selective about any favor you commit to even if it’s for someone you know, so you need to be extra picky when you get requests in cold emails.

Occasionally, these cases might be great introductions to new relationships, but let them develop naturally. You don’t have to rush to assist someone with Their Thing.

Focus on serving your audience with Your Thing …

A resource to help you with your content marketing tasks

If you like guidelines and best practices, you might like something new we’re cooking up. We’re preparing a small but mighty resource to help you click Publish with confidence.

It’s a framework that lets you check off the most important elements of good content, so you know you’re producing your best work. Because even when we know what to do, we have to remember to do it … every time.

To receive a heads up when it’s ready for you, just drop your details in the fields below, and we’ll let you know!

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