How to Handle Criticism from Your Email Subscribers

In the programming world, there’s this tongue-in-cheek term that gets tossed around a lot:


Bikeshedding means:

Obsessing over the trivial while ignoring what REALLY matters.

This happens because these small details are easier to understand than the big picture questions that actually make a difference.

Most people aren’t bold enough to venture an (uniformed) opinion about, say, nuclear reactor design.

But when it comes to what color to paint the bike shed, well, people have NO problem weighing in on why Pepto Bismal pink is the ONLY acceptable color.

Early in my marketing career, I noticed that copywriting attracts bikeshedders like honey attracts flies.

Because almost everyone knows how to speak and type, and they assume those skills make them an expert on WRITING as well.

When you start blasting out emails by the thousands, you’re going to hear from bikeshedders.

One of my subscribers recently started sending out weekly emails and writes:

The ladies at my office (none of whom are really clients) felt my email was too long. Lois (who’s a very sharp woman of 82) said she came back to it 4-5 times to finish reading the email.

Is that good or bad? Should it be shorter?

I can see how a longer email may trigger more “unsubscribes” from the uninterested or casual recipients, but the extended content gives the more interested some substance, enough to take action.

Does length function kind of like a weekly “racking of the shotgun”?

There’s a telling phrase in there—did you spot it?

It is: “None of whom are really my clients.”

Classic bikeshedding.

EVERYBODY will have an opinion on your marketing.

And the fun part is, somewhere between 90 and 99% of those opinions will be WRONG.

Now some marketers will say to completely ignore the complainers.

I don’t agree.

Instead you have to remember that the occasional loud complainer is just ONE “data point” out of thousands.

So don’t give their opinion more weight than it deserves.

What really matters here isn’t what one or two people SAY, but…

What did your list as a whole DO as a result?

What kind of response did your email trigger?

Did you make any sales?

Did you get any click-throughs?

Did you get any replies from grateful or excited subscribers?

If your email didn’t get the response you were after…

And you DID get hammered with angry replies and unsubscribes

Well you’ve learned a valuable lesson.

Figure out where you went wrong and correct it next time.

And on the flip side, if you DO see your subscribers responding and taking action…

Then let the bikeshedders complain.

You’ve got a reactor to build, and the *last* thing you’re worried about is what color to paint the cooling tower.