National Clean Out Your Inbox Week is always observed the last full work-week of January.

It’s a time for all of us to handle the clutter in our email account that puts a drain on our mental capacity and causes serious IT issues for our computers.

(Ask your computer repair person about excessive emails and corrupt PST files. Their solution is to clean out your inbox.)

Clean Out Your Inbox Week began on Monday in the Be Media Savvy office by deleting more than 7000 emails…and unsubscribing from a dozen email lists to help cut down on unnecessary email in the future.

Email marketing is one of the many services we provide for small business owners, so we paid very close attention to why we opted out of those lists.

Do you want your marketing emails to survive the great purge of Clean Out Your Inbox Week?  They will, if you practiced good email hygiene last year.  If you see an uptick in unsubscribes or opt-outs this week, pay attention to these five factors in your email marketing this year.


Write better headlines

An inbox with a lot of emails in bold font, because they are still unopened, screams “delete” and  “unimportant.”

Email marketing can only be effective when it’s opened and read.  Strong headlines improve open rates.

“When you confuse, you lose.”  Email headlines must be digestible and actionable, because your reader will give you a fraction of a second of consideration before deciding to read or trash.

Headlines are not the place to be too clever for your own good.  Be as plainspoken and un-mysterious as you can.  No one likes unpleasant surprises, and clickbait (clever or misleading) headlines always deliver surprises – often unpleasant ones.

And don’t forget to write a pre-header message, too, if your email service provider’s templates allow you to do that.

Do you know the feeling of empowerment you get when caller ID tells you who’s on the phone?  A well-crafted headline and pre-header sentence do that for your reader.  They break down the resistance to opening your emails by addressing the fear of the unknown.


Get Permission

Always make sure you get permission from a contact before adding them to your mailing list.  This is not only courteous and ethical, it’s a legal requirement by Congress – CAN-SPAM Act of 2017 – because early email marketers were not acting courteously or ethically.  (THAT’s why we can’t have nice things!)

No business card-munching or harvesting addresses from CC distribution lists, event attendee lists, or email addresses published on the internet.  Just because the information is available to you does not mean you have cart blanche to send promotional emails.  Instead, email them once from your personal email account and ask them to opt-in to receive marketing emails from your business.

Imagine someone who’s cleaning out their inbox comes across a half-dozen emails from you and wonders, “How did this business get my email address?”  If none of your emails remind them why or how they gave you their email address – the least damaging thing they can do is unsubscribe.

The most damaging thing that can happen to you for spamming someone’s inbox without permission is a hefty fine of $16,000 per email message.  If you think CAN-SPAM is rigorous, you should look at the European Union’s GDPR Act of 2018!

Always gain permission, and always honor opt-out requests.


Segment Your List

Does everyone in your contacts list get the same email message every time you send a newsletter?  That’s another mistake that prompts people to unsubscribe.

Instead, you should be segmenting your list – grouping names by interests – so that you can send a message that is relevant to its recipients.

For instance, let’s pretend you’re an attorney who practices family law.  You don’t want to send your adopting parents newsletters about divorce, and your divorcing couples may not need to know about adoption issues at this time (although step-parent adoptions may come into play down the road).

Visit your ESP’s (email service provider) Help section for instructions on how to segment your list.


Send Quality Content

Ask yourself, “Does my email marketing bring value to my customer’s day?”

“Value” is the big qualitative factor that drives the decision whether to remain on your email list or not.  As long as your email messages offer one of the 3 E’s of value – education, entertainment, or endearment – your chances of retaining a reader during National Clean Out Your Inbox Week remain strong.

“How do I write quality content?” you may ask.

Begin by understanding your customer.  Marketing that is customer-centric will resonate with your readers.  Write to your customer about their current problem, need or desire.  Stay away from talking about yourself too much.  They don’t care about you right now, other than to evaluate if you have a solution to their problem.

Coming soon: Be Media Savvy will offer a short seminar on Branding and Messaging to Influence Your Customer.  We’ll talk more in-depth about how to communicate with customers and prospects in a way that brings value to their day – and to your revenue.


Monitor Frequency

Little Red Riding Hood chose Baby Bear’s bed because it was “just right.”  The same goes for your contacts this week as they’re cleaning out their inbox.

Did you send far too many emails too frequently?  Opt-out.

Did you send emails so infrequently that they forgot you between newsletters?  Unsubscribe.

What’s the secret formula for how many and how often?  There isn’t a pat answer to that question.

The best I can offer is to tell you to send as many emails for as often as necessary to claim your spot in your customer’s awareness.  If you have nothing valuable to add this week, skip the newsletter and send a short note.  You might get away with skipping a week, but you’ll be hard-pressed to make up ground after skipping a month without emailing your customers and prospects.

If you’re not sending emails because you’re afraid people will unsubscribe for sending them too many – you have effectively opted out of email marketing for them.  They can’t read what you don’t send!



Send emails with valuable content frequently enough for people to remember who you are and to anticipate receiving something of benefit. That’s the basics of surviving National Clean Out Your Inbox Week.

Ultimately, sales will grow as your contacts read your emails, remember your brand, and respond to your marketing.

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