Should You Worry When Your Email Subscribers Complain About ‘Too Much Marketing’?

Last week I wrote up an email for Simple Programmer about a topic all developers love to hate.

Namely, “coding puzzles.”

Coding puzzles are these annoying riddles they hit you with during job interviews.

Most developers hate these puzzles because they’re so far outside the type of problems you actually encounter day to day as a programmer, that even the best developers will sometimes squirm trying to design a solution.

Anyway, this email I wrote outlined a mindset shift that makes tackling these questions a whole lot less daunting.

And in the “call to action,” I included a link to a YouTube playlist with more lessons on solving these types of “stump the chump” problems.

A disgruntled subscriber replied:

I have been receiving a lot of marketing emails from you. I have unsubscribed from almost all of them.

Is there a way I ONLY receive “Last week on Simple Programmer” from you? That is the email I am interested in.

So let’s recap what just happened here, shall we?

Subscriber receives an email with *free* and *valuable* CONTENT…

Said email provides a link for the subscriber to (optionally) get MORE *free content*…

Subscriber replies and complains about “too much marketing.”

Did I mention there was no sales pitch anywhere in the email?

And no links to a product of any kind?

A lot of newbie email marketers start sweating bullets anytime they pitch a product and someone complains.

Hear me on this one:


Maybe they woke up on the wrong side of the bed after their colicky newborn kept them up half the night.

Or maybe they just started a low-carb diet and they’re grumpy.

Or maybe just been getting marketing emails from other lists they’re subscribed to and they decide to unload on you.

This will happen when you send a sales pitch.

This will happen when you send out free content.

It’s almost a law of nature.

It does *not* mean you’re doing anything wrong, or that you need to change your approach, or be less “sale-sy.”

So what to do here?

I *could* definitely accommodate his request for a special, gluten-free non-market-y weekly update email.

Technically it’s not that hard—just need to fiddle with some tags and segments in the email software and he’s getting exactly what he wants.

I have no plans to do that though.

Because inevitably what will happen is at some point in the future, we’ll do a product launch.

And someone (likely me) will forget to invoke the magic incantation of filters to keep the launch emails out of this guy’s inbox.

Then he’ll set his hair on fire and send us running around in circles and wasting our time.

No thanks, not gonna do it.

There’s an implicit “handshake agreement” that happens whenever someone opts in to your list:

“You agree to share your wisdom, knowledge and experience with me for free, and in return, I’ll agree to listen to what you have to say about your products and services.”

And I have zero patience for subscribers who want to renege on their part of the deal.