Email marketing is a great way to reach your audience and customers. But when using email in marketing it’s also really easy to exaggerate, or even lie. The best email marketing never exaggerates, in fact it’s a great example of a place you should underpromise and overdeliver. The problem for email marketers and email marketing is that they may have quotas they are trying to meet, or a performance review coming up, and so are pushing the envelope a bit and overpromising. But there may also be another factor at hand: People find it much easier to lie in email.

Two studies which looked at whether people are less inclined to be honest in email found that the answer is a big “yes”. In fact, based on these studies at least, people tend to lie a lot in email.

The studies, published jointly as a paper titled Being Honest Online: The Finer Points of Lying in Online Ultimatum Bargaining, found that people were likely to lie in email as much as 92% of the time! And that’s even when the stakes were relatively low, unlike email marketing, which may be not just the primary way a business is marketing, but for some is the only marketing that they are doing. (You can find the two studies jointly published here.)

In one study a group of MBA students was given the sum of $89.00 each through an online platform, and told that they had to split it evenly with a stranger at the other end of an email address. In their email to the stranger, a full 92% of them lied about how much money there was, indicating that much less than the $89.00 was available. In fact, on average, they only gave $29.00 to the person with whom they were corresponding by email.

Going on the theory that maybe if the person with the money was familiar with the person on the other end, the researchers created another study with a different group of MBA students, which revealed that while it was true that the more familiar the sender was with the recipient, the less likely they were to lie, they still lied.

According to one of the two authors of the studies, Professor Terri Kurtzberg of Rutgers University, “These findings are consistent with our other work that shows that email communication decreases the amount of trust and cooperation we see in professional group-work, and increases the negativity in performance evaluations, all as opposed to pen and paper systems.”

Email Marketing and Truthfullness

Now, of course, it may be that these studies only really show that MBA students tend to lie, but the issue it highlights remains: can people trust the content of your email?

More importantly for you, how do they know that they can trust what you tell them in your email?

And to put an even finer point on it, what can and will you do to ensure that the people to whom you send email know that they can rely on what you are telling them as being true?

Again, as with many aspects of business a good email marketing policy is to underpromise, and overdeliver.

Being truthful in email marketing

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