Become a part of the email addiction

If you’re like me, you probably check your e-mail right after you sit down at your desk. If there are no new messages, you probably go ahead and hit the button again “just to be sure.”

You probably interrupt your work every 10 minutes or so to check for new messages, even though you are completely aware that the computer will tell you as soon as a new message has arrived. You might leave the window open in the background for a while, so that the next time you have to check for mail it will take less time to load.

And if you do decide to close the window, you probably click the refresh button just one more time before you do.

My name is David, and I’m an Email Addict.

Most of the time, I just can’t seem to help myself. The good news is that this is now pretty much normal. Nearly everyone you know is doing the same thing, compulsively checking their e-mail every few minutes.

Now that we’re all getting smart phones, we can take our e-mail addiction with us everywhere we go. Got a free minute in between point A and point B? Time enough for a quick e-mail check. The other day I saw someone checking his Blackberry in a public restroom.

Most of the e-mails we receive aren’t even anything good. Most of them get deleted right away, and half of the time we decide to mark the messages unread and “save them for later.” So why should we be so obsessed with checking to see if there are any new messages?

Because sometimes you get one that’s really good.

Like a lab rat, you hit the button over and over and over again until you get a reward. And, like a lab rat, the conditioning is most effective when you don’t always get the reward.

Behavioral psychologists refer to this process as operant conditioning. When you receive a reward (or “reinforcement,”) you become more likely to repeat the behavior that got you the reward. But if you receive a reward every single time you enact the behavior, then you either get tired of the reward, or you give up as soon as the reward stops. So the most effective conditioning takes place when you are only rewarded intermittently.

While many are understandably looking for ways to become less addicted to the technologies they use, business owners and marketers can make it work to their advantage. Because when you understand that everyone is as addicted to their e-mail as you are, and that everyone is waiting for that one rewarding e-mail that will let them stop checking their e-mail for 15 minutes, then there is really only one question to ask:

How can I make my own email campaigns feel like a reward?

That’s the one question that can get your messages opened, read, and enjoyed again and again. It is easy to think about what you stand to gain by sending out a mass mailing, but often more difficult to think of reasons why your clients might want to open up another newsletter pitching your same old tired products and services.

What would you send out if your entire goal was to make the recipient look forward to your next message? Would you send them an amusing or inspirational story? A link to an obscure but hilarious YouTube video? Some kind of special gift just for being a subscriber?

Why not give it a try? The next time you launch an email marketing campaign, why not begin with an e-mail whose sole purpose is to make the reader feel rewarded, so that they’ll look forward to your next message? Or throw in something just for fun, a little treat just to let them know you care and to share a little of your personality and warmth.

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